Small waterways like Tarcutta Creek can be real surprise packages
SECTION: freshwater feature
Tarcutta Creek is small enough to jump across as it begins its journey from farmland and pine plantations in the hills of the Yaven Creek area. Slowly, it gets wider and deeper as it works its way down through farmland to its final destination, the Murrumbidgee River between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai.
The top half of the creek is a small trout stream and can be fun to fish during the cooler months but it is the bottom section I would like to concentrate on here.
The area I enjoy fishing is the last 20km or so, where it is typically loaded with timber, 8m to 20m wide and a metre or two deep with the odd deeper hole – perfect for natives.
Most targeted species in this area are Murray cod, golden perch and, love them or hate them, carp. There is also a good population of the protected trout cod, especially around the mouth of the creek, and there is even the odd silver perch caught from time to time.
I became acquainted with this pretty piece of water at the beginning of the Murray Cod season about four years ago. The days were already very warm and, due to circumstances out of my control, I had to fish in the middle of the day – not what I’d prefer to do on hot days. I was dropped off at around 9am and expected to be picked up around 3pm, a good six-hour session.
The plan was to walk in one direction for around three hours and then head back so I could really work each snag thoroughly but still get back in time for my ride.
This creek is fairly small but has a huge number of snags so I chose to use spinnerbaits. Used properly, they very rarely get snagged when cast into heavy timber.
Intent on covering every nook and cranny of each snag, I managed to walk only around 2km downstream before I had to start heading back. Some of the snags that I had covered just screamed ‘big cod’ but after more than five hours of casting I hadn’t raised a scale and felt a little dejected.
As I got back to my pick-up point, I started to work the last snag of the day while I waited for my lift to arrive. It was a dead tree that had fallen straight across the creek almost to the opposite bank. I was a little early and had plenty of time to really work this snag and work it I did.
After around 30 or so casts I had all but given up hope and was starting to think bad things about this dud of a creek when a fish grabbed my lure and almost took the rod with it.
By the time I’d worked out what was going on, the fish had taken around 5m of line off my Pflueger Trion and was almost back in its snag until a bit of thumb pressure turned it back towards the bank and eventually I had my Boga grips firmly in its mouth. At 82cm, it was a personal best at the time. Alas. there was no one there to take a decent photo of me with the fish before I released it so I made do with snaps of the cod and my gear on the ground, which really didn’t do the fish any justice.
The next trip I spent two full days on the water camping with my better half and a mate, which meant I could do a bit of bait fishing as well. Using worms, we could not keep the carp at bay and they grow big in this system. Most of the first day was spent having fun with the carp but as the day drew on we decided to target the natives.
Big shrimp were the bait of choice. They can be caught quite easily in a shrimp net wherever you intend to fish. We rigged them alive on a paternoster rig to keep them both away from the carp.
It was starting to get dark when we heard the bells on one rod. By the time we got to it, the fish had already done most of its fighting and I slowly wound in an 84cm cod to the net.
To avoid the heat the next day we started early, casting spinnerbaits and big soft plastics but after about six hours we had managed only one golden perch of 50cm but had been blown away by a very large cod.
Recent trips have pretty much played out like my first two. You don’t seem to land heaps of fish but those you do catch or lose are big quality fish, especially for such a small waterway.
Bait and lures are really the only two techniques worth trying in Tarcutta Creek. You could cast a fly but there are lots of overgrown banks.
Bait works a treat. To have a ball catching big carp use worms, maggots or corn kernels, which can also be used as a berley to keep the carp in your area and feeding. Use a light running-sinker rig because carp at times can be quite finicky. It pays to use very light sinkers to increase your hook-up rate.
Although cheese works as bait, I’m strongly against it because there is a good chance that cheese could actually kill fish slowly. There is no scientific proof but until there are some proper studies done, I would advise against its use.
For the native fish, shrimp, bardi grubs, wood grubs and yabbies are your best options, used on a paternoster rig around 1m off the bottom.
Because almost all native fish love snags, your best bet is to cast very close to or into the snag. If you’re not game to cast right into the snag then cast your bait just upstream of the snag and as close as you dare.
Even when bait fishing it pays to be active. If you cast into a snag and haven’t received a hit after 10 minutes, move to the next until you find a hole with active fish.
Casting lures is my favourite way to target natives. You can cover so much more water and incite a fish to hit a lure even when it is not hungry.
Because Tarcutta Creek is very snaggy and has fairly big fish, I recommend a baitcasting outfit loaded with 10kg to 20kg braid and a short 20kg leader.
Spinnerbaits are my favourites in the snags and 3/8oz is the perfect weight for this creek. Big plastics with wed guards are also worth a chuck or jig around the bases of big submerged trees.
Highly buoyant hardbodies also have their moments, as do the Jackall Doozers, but expect to lose a few.
Tarcutta Creek is a good, fun place to go camping. There are a few big reserves to camp on but most access is via farmland so a quick visit to the landowner to get permission is advisable. If you do the right thing – take rubbish home with you, abide by fishing rules and in general behave yourself, then most farmers will have no problems in allowing you back.
There are a few sections that could be canoed but it would be very difficult in between holes because logs frequently block the creek. However, there is plenty of bankside access and you can get to most spots on foot quite easily.
You will have most fishing success from early December to the end of May but this strange little creek can still fire in Winter from time to time, making it almost a year-round fishery.
A lot of the fish in this creek are big breeders so I strongly recommend correct catch-and-release practices to ensure their survival. If you really must eat one, choose a just-legal sized fish, they have much less fat, are easier to prepare and taste much better then the big breeding parents, anyway.