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City refinements
  |  First Published: October 2009



With the best fishing of the year still ahead of us, I want to dedicate this month’s column to the subject of tackle and techniques.

Refining our techniques is something that is much more applicable in hard-fished city waters than in remote, fish-rich locations.

The incentive to experiment is diminished when fish are abundant and it would be fair to say that most advances in tackle and technique come about around our big cities.

d
espite their lack of versatility, the historic obsession with baitcaster reels still lingers across Australia’s
t
op
e
nd. I witnessed a classic example of this on a recent trip to the Mary
r
iver in the NT. We were fishing run-off drains for barra when we came across a junction loaded with threadfin salmon feeding on tiny prawns. We had been throwing minnow-style lures on baitcasters – a combination that has been the mainstay of ‘tropical’ sport fishing in the
t
op
e
nd since the day it began.

The threadies were feeding on clear prawns about 3cm long and showed absolutely no interest in our clunking 15cm minnow lures.

From past experience on this exact scenario I had learned to carry on all
t
op
e
nd trips some tiny, clear, unweighted soft plastics.

I was getting set for my 15 minutes of fame when I came to the sudden realisation that there wasn’t an outfit on board that would come even close to being able to cast my tiny unweighted offerings.

When I asked my guide why he didn’t carry some light threadline gear his response was blunt: ‘
b
aitcasters are more accurate for casting’ – which actually isn’t the case, but that’s another story.
VERSATILITY
Refinements in threadline gear, coupled with their far superior versatility, are slowly rendering the poor old baitcaster obsolete and I’ve got no doubt this trend will catch on in the
t
op
e
nd within the next few years.

With a good threadline, I could have worked the heavier lures for barra and flicked the light plastics for the threadies.

Furthermore, it takes about the same time to become proficient with a threadline as it does with a baitcaster and you can assume that anyone who tells you otherwise probably hasn’t tried it.

The fishing in remote locations is good enough, most of the time, that the effort to diversify and refine is overcome by simply moving to the next junction. The downside of this is that the skills needed to deal with a shutdown rarely get a chance to develop.

I’ve fished with more than one
t
op
e
nd guide who clearly had no idea where to turn when things got tough. In the big cities we don’t always have that luxury and hence, as the saying goes, necessity becomes (is) the mother of invention.

It’s not all clear sailing for the city angler, though. Until 30-odd years ago, the quality of fishing in suburbia was sufficiently good as to hamper advancement of technique.

Nowadays, time is the limiting factor and it’s often safer to stick to a known technique than waste valuable time on a theory that may or may not pay off.

The real advances in tackle and technique occurred with the advent of the career angler and we have followed the US in this trend.

Fishing guides, game boat skippers, full-time fishing journalists and tournament anglers have led the field and it’s a naive tackle manufacturer who isn’t consulting at least one of these.

Pro bass anglers in the US have conceived around 80% of the tackle used in the world today and I’m increasingly wary of the claim that something has been ‘made for Australian fish and Australian conditions’. Bottom line is, that on most products (particularly reels), Australia simply does not have the purchasing power to have any influence on design.

Not everyone wants tackle advances. A tiny percentage of fishos reach a point in their careers where they feel that they have become so efficient at catching fish that they need a new challenge and turn to fly fishing.

A larger percentage give it a whirl before they reach that point and the bravest of all take it up as their introduction to fishing. It’s the tradition or perceived elitism that lures them in and they want to keep it as pure as possible.

DEFAULT CHOICE

Sometimes tackle or a technique achieves such longstanding success that it becomes the default choice despite the availability of superior tools. The centrepin reel traditionally used for blackfish is a classic example.

When asked what is the best outfit to use for blackfish, most people, tackle shop owners included, automatically say the centrepin. This example highlights the need to examine the task at hand before deciding on the right tackle for the job.

The main criteria for blackfish tackle are the need to cast light, air-resistant rigs, to be able to freely feed line to a drifting float and to be able to quickly pick up slack line (belly) when its time to strike.

The traditional centrepin achieves one of these, being able to feed line freely to the drifting float, but the threadline achieves all three.

So when it comes to the crunch you would select the centrepin only if you wanted to maintain the traditional aspects of blackfishing. The threadline is the clear winner for practicality.

So what does all this mean for today’s suburban angler?

i
t highlights the need to think for yourself because, for a number of reasons, you will not always get the right answer. This includes some of the things I’ve mentioned above and things as simple as tackle shop owners recommending something because they achieve a higher margin, rather than supplying the best tool.

You need to examine the task you are trying to achieve and then select the tool that best does that job. Of course, this doesn’t exclude asking advice but don’t necessarily accept on the first opinion you get.

Don’t be scared to try new things, you will benefit even by your failures.

I spent a lot of time refining a theory I had of using neutrally-buoyant plastic worms on bream. It didn’t work but years later I tried it on some shut-down bass with huge success (the worm had turned, so to speak)

Versatility is one of our strongest weapons and we need as much varied tackle and techniques as we can get -- even if we don’t use most of it often.

MULTI-TASK

By this I’m not suggesting that you run out and buy one of every outfit in your tackle shop.

r
ather, look for gear that you can multi-task. You would be amazed how many options you can cover with a good small to medium eggbeater, a couple of spare spools with different line weights and a couple of rods.

I fish everything from light freshwater through the estuaries and harbours to light game and I reckon I could do it all with one outfit.

The benefits of this approach are particularly highlighted with travel fishing but there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple in the city as well.

Throughout your fishing life, you will be confronted by a number of revolutions in technique and tackle. Some will fizzle out but others will be genuinely ground-breaking.

However successful a new technique is, you can be sure that the person behind it has put in hundreds of hours perfecting it. But there are no ‘miracle’ techniques and despite what you are hearing about something, you will need to invest some hours in it yourself.

Lastly, there is no substitute for a solid grounding in fishing.

You must do the apprenticeship and basic fish-finding techniques with bait will form a solid foundation for any direction you choose to take after that.

I’ve seen way too many fishos jump in the deep end, believing that leading-edge technology will carry them, only to be let down by basic fish-finding skills. The phrase ‘all the gear and no idea’ springs to mind

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