Changing Plans Can Mean More Fish!

Luke Banner A long time believer in ‘walking the walk’, the term indeed was title of one of Luke Galea’s previous contributions here at Kaydo Fishing World. “What I mean by walking the walk is taking the time to identify a likely section of pristine watercourse off the beaten track,” says Luke.”And then implementing this plan by setting foot in the river bed and trekking for miles upstream, negotiating rapids, waterfalls and dense vegetation,” he added as introduction to this, his latest Kaydo contribution.   Trekking along the river bed, through water and the dense vegetation bankside can be extremely hard work but the rewards can be unimaginable once you are immersed in the ruggedly harsh yet beautiful terrain that paints a picture of perfection … a scene akin to those worthy of a National Geographic feature, not to mention the possibility of finding a honey-hole seldom fished. There is no greater motivation than this.
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A better than average sized sooty grunter snaffled an Atomic Shiner in the colour of black hot tail. Darker lures silhouette better in discoloured water.

Recently a good mate Rhys and I had the best intentions of taking another walk up a meandering creek bed into the wilderness, however, 150mm of rain a few days before the trip did its best to dampen our plans but far from dampened our spirits. Determined to make the best of a bad situation we came up with a new plan, one that I had been wanting to do for quite some time but had just been waiting for more suitable conditions. Those conditions had now presented themselves. The elevated river level was now at the perfect height to allow for a long canoe trip downstream with the flow. On previous land-based trips, I had walked and fished the larger waterholes within this stretch, but had not explored the expanses in-between. The river had now linked up with the larger pools which meant an unbroken river, an easy paddle downstream and a solid day of exploration.

Planning

Barra such as this 59cm specimen are a common occurrence in the freshwater reaches around Mackay. This fish was caught at the base of flowing waterfall.

Barra such as this 59cm specimen are a common occurrence in the freshwater reaches around Mackay. This fish was caught at the base of flowing waterfall.

We have all heard the phrase – poor planning equals poor performance. Most people would know that there is supposed to be another “p” word residing before the second “poor” but I chose to leave it out so as to not tarnish the reputation of this site. It rhymes with “hiss”. I’m sure you get the picture! The bottom line is that a multitude of factors need to be in your favour when attempting a mission such as this. As eluded to earlier, water height is critical. Too much flow will limit your time in the strike zone and not enough flow will see you dragging your canoe through the shallow riffle zones. Dragging your canoe through some shallow zones will be inevitable, however, continually have to do so can soon get frustrating as well as extremely tiring. There is a tool available to help read the water level at particular locations, but I must stress that this is not available for all locations. Across Australia there are thousands of stream-flow gauging stations which are owned and operated be either State Government or the Bureau of Meteorology (Federal Government). These gauging stations are found in freshwater reaches of usually first, second and third order rivers, creeks and streams. These gauging stations keep a continuous record of river height and updates are loaded online every few hours. To check this out, simply visit the Bureau of Meteorology’s home page, navigate to the ‘rainfall and river data’ tab and search the required catchment system to see if there is information present on the river you wish to fish. You can view this data in tabular or graphical format. It is certainly worthwhile keeping a record of the height from this site on a day where conditions were favourable so that they may be replicated on future trips. Research your destination
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Rhys fights a leaping tarpon which was hooked at the base of a waterfall where the water was churning with bait.

Another important part of the planning process is to predetermine your entry and exit points. Know your limitations based on your own level of physical fitness and don’t choose to canoe a stretch that would be too far for your own ability. If you plan on canoeing a long stretch of river, it is advantageous to take two vehicles so that you can park one at the entry point and park the other at the exit point. This is the only way to do this. On most occasions it will be impossible to paddle back upstream against the flow. I recommend taking plenty of drinking water and small snacks such as trail mix and muesli bars. A mobile phone in a waterproof zip locked bag is imperative just in case of an emergency. If you are in the north, it pays to be croc smart. I do make every attempt to kayak stretches of creek located quite a long way from the saltwater interface, however, it is always in the back of my mind that crocs can certainly venture far up river into fresh waters, so this needs to be in the back of your mind at all times. On to the Fish
Being large and stable, Rhys’s Old Town canoe is perfect for long trips downstream.

Being large and stable, Rhys’s Old Town canoe is perfect for long trips downstream.

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Smaller mangrove jack often inhabit the sweetwater. Once spawned, they move upstream into freshwaters where predators and fewer and their food source is more abundant. This one ate an Atomic Crank 38 in the new “Tristos Eagle” colour.

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It wont be long before the bank erodes further and this tree ends up laying in the river…and what a snag it will be!

The freshwater rivers and creeks around the Central / North Queensland region offer a diverse range of species to target via canoe. Barramundi, sooty grunter, tarpon and mangrove jack are just a few that are on offer to fisho’s willing to put in the hard yards. On this particular day, we actually travelled 12.7 kilometres in the canoe and came across some excellent structure in the form of large lay down snags, undercut banks and turbulent deepwater pools at the base of waterfalls Structure such as this should be fished as a matter of priority. We found that the large lay down timber and undercut banks were dominated by large sooty grunter and tarpon, whereas the deep water pools at the base of flow were areas where we found barramundi and sooty grunter schooling in an attempt to move upstream against the flow. Here these fish were thriving on highly oxygenated water and having their meal swept straight to them. The Gear Despite the fact I have a multitude of different rod and reel combos at my disposal, I still choose to take just one medium spin combo with me on these trips. Canoe capsize is a very real possibility so Iimiting the gear you take is certainly advantageous. I choose to use a 6-12lb Samurai Kestrel matched with a Shimano Stella 3000FE, 10lb braid and 14lb leader. Sometimes leader of up to 30lb is necessary though, especially when barramundi are present. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the water is clear, I opt to use small poppers and stickbaits across the surface. All of these fish will willingly rise to a top-water offering and catching them this way is certainly very entertaining. The water was very dirty on this occasion so little diving hardbodies were the preferred option. This was largely due to the vibration they omit beneath the water. Atomic Crank 38’s and Atomic Shiners were my “go to” lures on this particular day and both did the job well. I would recommend using darker coloured lures in the dirty water and would also advise upgrading the trebles. I didn’t upgrade the trebles on the lures initially and will admit I was very lucky to land a couple of the sootys. I then upgraded to Gamakatsu Wide Gap trebles and was pleasantly surprised by how sharp and strong they were. To wrap it all up When presented with the opportunity to canoe or kayak a remote section of freshwater stream, I strongly recommend giving it a shot. Yes, it may be hard work at times, but good things never come easy. The scenery can be spectacular and when you stop for a moment to take it all in, a fish is just a pleasant bonus.  

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