It was Wednesday lunchtime and a young mate, Mark Bolger pulled into the driveway. He called me on his mobile phone from the front door, asking if I could let him in. He obviously hasn’t heard of a doorbell.
“Let’s go for a spin,” he said.
“What in, your rusty old tin shed of car?” I snapped back.
“No, for a trout spin”.
“Ah, that’s the best idea you’ve had all year young fella!”
So I went riffling through the nightmare that is my fishing room. Grabbing anything that looked remotely like a trout lure and stuffing it into my bum bag, I grabbed a light spin rod and reel, some 2kg Vanish for leaders and we were off.
“So what’s the destination my skinny young friend?”
“I don’t know, you’re the supposed guru, so you tell me” Mark said. Hmm, I could see this was going to be one of those days.
“Okay then, to the Murrindindi River we go. So Mark, tell me, do you like snakes?”
The Murrindindi River is located 70km northeast of Melbourne. It runs through both bush and privately owned grazing land and has many access points. The road crosses the river in several places between Murrindindi and Yea and any spot is as good as the next to tangle with a trout. So we pulled into a small car park, geared up and started fishing.
Mark is a keen trout spinner and to my surprise he’d never fished the Murrindindi River. It’s quite a small river for its length and can be incredibly tight in places, which means casting accuracy is paramount. Mark showed quite good casting skills, which is testament to the amount of this sort of fishing that he does. It wasn’t long before one of the many dark under cuts produced a nice little brown.
It was the perfect place for a trout to be sitting. A shallow riffle that ran into a steep corner from which it carved out a lovely deep (1.5 metre) gutter on the outside of the bend. An old snag lay in the middle of this 5 metre-long trench. It was only a matter of getting the lure down to the fish! The water had its usual tannin colouration and because it was early afternoon, we guessed that most of the fish would be fairly deep in their holes.
Using two types of lure, a Berkley Blade Dancer 1/16oz with a 2” Micro Minnow in pumpkin seed and smelt colours and a Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow we confidently fished every inch of river. We used the shallow running Pins Minnow to fish all of the fast runs and medium glides and the Blade Dancer to fish the slow to medium water, deep holes and runs. This worked incredibly well because the Blade Dancer had the added feature of a scent trail given off by the Berkley Micro Minnow. It seemed to excite the larger fish in those darker holes to strike! The Pins Minnow, with its rattle and flashy sides, seemed to ‘call’ the trout from out of the noisy runs and riffles.
In the end, Mark stuck with the Pins and I stuck with the Blade Dancer and we fished section for section as we worked our way upstream.
It’s sometimes hard to select a lure that you think will work straight off the bat. The best idea in this situation is to use the one you have the most confidence in, even if the old timer up the road has told you to use this type and in this colour. It’s quite often a case of how the lure is fished rather than what it looks like! Getting the lure into the ‘strike zone’ is what it’s all about. If you’re too scared to toss that $15 Rapala right into the middle of that snag for fear of losing it, then you might as well take it off and put something else on that you don’t mind losing! The less casts you make, the less fish you catch!
Mark fired a long and accurate cast up the middle of the river and worked the lure back just quicker than the current to give his lure a nice swaying motion. I, on the other hand, was working a lot shorter line, concentrating on casting accurately and watching for bites on the drop. The Blade Dancer has the ability to swim on the drop (as the lure is sinking) so it’s extremely important to keep a close eye on your line as the lure sinks, in order to detect strikes.
The retrieve I used for the Blade Dancer was slow rolls of the handle with an ever so slight twitch of the rod tip every 2 or 3 seconds. Mark also had some success feeding his lure downstream into the hard-to-reach spots and very slowly working in back upstream.
It always amazes me how when a tree falls, it nearly always falls over a river! It could fall anywhere in 360 degrees but they always seem to slam down smack over the river, occasionally making a nice bridge.
“Probably not a bad idea,” I thought to myself. If I go across the river here, then we can still go upstream together, and we’ll have the advantage of fishing from both sides.
However, it soon became apparent that this was a bad idea! The side I’d chosen was increasingly steep and covered with thick bush.
Just as I realised that I’d come too far to go back, I heard Mark call out, “Yep I’m on”.
“How does it go mate?” I shouted from the cliff above.
“It’s a goodie,” he replied. “Bring the camera down quick.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. What do you think I’m doing, making ham sandwiches, ya gumboot?”
Let me tell you that my old Horne wader boots don’t have as much grip as they used to and yep, you guessed it, I went down like sack of spuds! While in some sort of slow motion downward spiral towards the water, I decided to jettison the rod and concentrate on where I could stick the camera to keep it dry in the 2 seconds I had left before touch down.
Well, love the berries and hate the prickles. If I didn’t land fully sideways in the mother of all blackberry bushes, then I’ll bear my backside! Stuck up like a sideways Jesus on the cross just centimetres from the soup, I looked across to see Mark right there with tears in eyes, both hands on his belly rolling around on the ground in laughter!
“So where’s the fish?” I snarled.
“It got off,” he said.
Without a doubt, one of the most important things you need when trout spinning are sharp hooks. Mark made a very sensible decision to upgrade his treble hooks to lightweight Owners. These are by far the best of the best when it comes to trebles. I too had a little work to do on the point of my Blade Dancer’s hook. A little touch up with a good quality file made all the difference. We make a habit to check our hook points after every snag or fish.
It’s always easy to ‘pool jump’ your mates when you’re fishing small streams like the Murrindindi. That’s all well and good if there’s a few beers and a pie riding on the days outcome but if you want to fish the water properly, then you’re better off sticking together and working every inch as a team.
If you have a problem with snakes, then this is not the river for you! I’ve been stomping the banks for over 20 years and never have I seen so many snakes in one place at the one time. So be careful and always wear waders.
The Murrindindi River is a magical place (snakes and all) and can yield some quite good catches at times. Think ‘small water’ and ‘small trout’, cast with accuracy and take your time.
This is also one of the best grasshopper streams in Australia but that’s another story!
Murrindindi Lure Options
Mepps Black Fury size 0
Celta size 1
Rapala CD3 & CD5, F3 & F5
Rapala Husky Jerk 5
Rods, Reels & Line
Rod: 1.5-2m graphite spin rod
Reels: 1000 to 2500 in size
Line: 1-3kg nylon, 2-3kg Fireline or 4kg Fireline XDS
Leader: 1-3kg fluorocarbon
Footnote: Adam ‘Mad Dog’ Royter is sponsored by Berkley.