I rank Borumba Dam's saratoga as second only to barra as worthy sweetwater fly rod opponents for the southern Queensland fly angler.
Not only do they inhabit one of the most picturesque dams in the State, but they seem to hit well above their weight when the fly takes hold, most times wiping out the angler's hopes in the blink of an eye. And if a predilection for heading into snags is not enough to make these pretty yet prehistoric fish a big challenge, their ability and willingness to jump when hooked is also part of the test. Ah, yes, and they also bite off leaders. These fish have teeth.
I cannot remember when I first fished for toga in Borumba Dam, maybe 25 years ago? And yet the dam and it's saratoga still have the same attraction as always in that the fish are unpredictable, rolling through the surface of an early morning or evening, yet refusing a hopefully presented fly. Other times a deeply sunken fly can be ripped straight off the leader by a horse of a fish that hits hard and sharp. That's the beauty of saratoga, you never knows how things will turn out but it's sure fun trying.
A boat of some form is essential if you are going to target Borumba's saratoga. A kayak will suffice as there can be toga for the catching in the first bay after leaving the wall (either right or left side) so long as the angler is there at first light or on dark, that is.
If all the saratoga in Borumba Dam were 50cm long we could rely on a 6wt fly outfit consisting of a floating line for low light times with an intermediate line for other times.
The reality is that there are much larger fish available. The best I've landed was over 5kg and 90cm plus but I've certainly hooked and lost larger ones since. These days I lean towards an 8wt outfit for saratoga on two counts. Yes, it's good to be able to bulldog a big fish when he comes along but there is another aspect to the whole business.
Because Borumba’s saratoga are under so much angling pressure these days they have become just like Monduran Dam's barra. Angler smart! A noisy group bumping and thumping in a boat, the petrol motor running when it's not necessary, or even just the presence of the boat with a sounder pinging can cause the fish to make a detour around what they may well see as potential danger.
To counter this wariness I believe that the further the fly is from the boat the more chance it will be taken so I opt for the extra casting distance gained with 8wt tackle to keep that fly in a strike zone against a standing tree or the edge of a weed bed that's well away from the boat.
My experience is that the tactic works well, just as it does on angler-educated barra.
I either roll my own leader using stepped down sections of hard mono (1.5m of 15kg, 1m of 10kg, ending with a tippet of 60cm of 7kg fluorocarbon line) or set up a twisted leader based on 7kg line the latter offering four sections of line, down to two sections down to one with the tippet the same 60cm length. Overall, both leaders usually end up just a little short of my 8wt Shore Stalker's length of 3m. I use the stepped down, more traditional leader for surface fly work the twisted leader for the wet fly.
Choosing the right fly for these very attractive and much sought fish still comes down to the old saying of matching the hatch.
During summer, big fat mudeyes (the larval form of dragonflies) will make up a lot of the surface tucker for toga, but with the weather curtailing this activity in April we need to look a little further afield. In April just about any insect landing on the water, whether it's a late season cicada, cricket or a big fat beetle, will be devoured which means the ever faithful Dahlberg Diver, worked with the slowest of twitches is a handy fly.
That said there are a couple of other surface contenders these days in the form of the Gartside Gurgler and Grabham’s Gurgler, both flies well accepted by the freshwater fly fraternity as taking virtually anything from barra to bass.
For a reliable wet fly it's hard to go past the Clouser in rust/white or chartreuse/white combinations. Saratoga don't regularly dine on really large items so flies tied on hooks varying in size from 2 to 1/0 are about right sized.
Like many other predatory fish saratoga are reliably active at low light times and even into the dark of night. That aside, plenty of these fish are hooked by anglers at other times of day but the most reliable fishing is during low light window of opportunity.
To catch a toga on fly there is no great need to head for the furthest corner of either Yabba or Kingham creeks (along with Borumba Creek these are the main creeks within the Borumba Dam system) as the fish can be taken virtually in any given bay at peak times.
On the last trip to Borumba in March we arrived at 6pm, had the boat in the water by 6.15pm and headed for the first bay on the right across from the dam wall. I had a toga in the boat within 10 minutes and had lost another.
Placement of the fly needs thought. Saratoga hang around areas that offer them tucker such as weed bed edges, overhanging branches, standing timber and the like so a fly worked slowly in such areas, whether a surface offering or a wet fly worked on a sink tip or intermediate sink line, will do the job.
Lastly do remember the clues on stealth tactics, it really is important for success with these fish.
If you plan to visit Borumba Dam for the first time, see my article on camping there for directions to this unique gem of a dam that lies in a magnificent forest setting.Reads: 1862