Headin’ North

Anglers willing to travel have some amazing opportunities available. All you need is the get up and go. Heading north, for well-known fishing writer Steve Cooper, is anywhere north of Melbourne as he explains in this article for Kaydo.

Victoria River Roadhouse

Having a caravan is only one of the basic requirements. You may also like to take a car topper, and a heap of fishing tackle.

One of my all time favourite destinations is the Murray River. The banks of the Murray reflect the free spirit of this country, a thought that came to me again as I looked across the river from Curlwaa, near Wentworth. It was Easter, and the opposite bank lined with holidaymakers taking advantage of the free camping sites that run for several kilometres downstream from the Abbotsford Bridge. There are many stretches of the Murray River where this is possible: places where people can pitch a tent or park a caravan without paying, or signing a visitor’s book, for the privilege. In a world of rules, regulations, and overbearing bureaucracy, it is one of the last bastions of freedom.

The Early Days

My early visits to this river were at free campsites at places like Robinvale and Tol Tol. Cosmic experiences every one; a wash was a swim in the river, and a nature walk taken with shovel in one hand and loo-roll in the other. These days my trips are more refined and I take my home, a Jayco Sterling Outback caravan, with me. Sometimes I stay in caravan parks with all mod cons, but free camps, like those along the Murray, are a cheap option. I can set up home for a few days, or weeks. It depends on how the mood takes me. Life is good away from civilisation.

Murray Memories

AUTHOR COD

The author caught this Murray cod while camping on the Murray River at Wentworth.

My last trip to the Murray started out at Wentworth, as so many earlier Murray cod adventures have. This time was different in that I parked my van on a site at the Willow Bend Caravan, along side the Darling River. Access to the Murray from here was via a short channel, in all a run of about 200 metres. The first couple of days I fished with Rod Mackenzie, then Gus Storer arrived, and we fished together. Old Mate and I hadn’t caught up for a few years. We caught a few cod, mainly smaller fish, and inevitably the talk turned to my life in a caravan. Most people ask the same questions, so here are some answers. Modern technology, mercifully, allows those of us who earn a living by hacking at computers to take our work away with us. So now, my office is a caravan beside a river, a lake or a beach. It’s the best residential option on the planet: no rates, no house repairs, no mains gas or electricity bills, and a million-dollar view every day. If you don’t like your neighbours, hook up the van and leave.

Life On The Road

FREE CAMP

Living in the comfort zone on the banks of the Murray River near Wentworth can be a cosmic experience away from civilisation.

I would never have believed this possible 20 years ago. Mine is the carefree life of mobile writer assisted by technology to combine travel and work: on good days I fish, on lousy days I work. If the fish aren’t biting, even if it’s a good day, I move on. Who said life wasn’t meant to be easy? The biggest task is setting up, not on site, but before you go. Fishing tackle has to be sorted and packed. If it’s a He and She trip you can guarantee there will be no room in the van for tackle. Feel lucky if there is space for you. But this one is a “me” trip, because I’m a selfish old so-and-so.
Shady Camp

The Shady Camp Barrage produces good numbers of barra, and is ideal for the land based angler.

The best place for tackle, in fact, is the vehicle – rod tubes and a carry pod on the roof rack, and some special places for reels. I travel alone, yet still find the car ideal for tackle. I don’t think of it as a car so much as an overlarge tackle box. It makes a solid case for a bigger vehicle, however, as bigger cars have more room and that means more tackle. And as every fisherman knows, too much tackle is never enough.

Getting It Right

DERBY PIER

The pier at Derby in Northwest WA is popular among anglers who prefer to fish from piers or shore.

People towing caravans who want to take a boat along need to have it on the vehicle roof. There are options: inflatables or boats that fold up, for example. Most travelling anglers do not take boats, and those who do often leave them on the car roof for the duration of the trip. In a motorhome it is easy to tow a boat. But launching it by reversing one of those bad boys down a slipway can be a problem. In far northern Australia, where crocodiles are part of everyday life in the estuaries, size is important. Forget the inflatable or the flimsy fold-up boat. Not even a 3.5m long tinny is big enough: the crocs at places like the Mary River System south of Darwin use boats like that for a saurian version of volleyball. In fact, they see them as floating lunch boxes.

All About Boats

Boat size or construction is not as restrictive down south. The only restrictions are weather. Small boats can be used on most inland waters, and in coastal bays. It all comes down to common sense. You have the car loaded with tackle, a small boat, a caravan and you want somewhere to go. What’s stopping you? Why not start with the Murray River like I did, and follow the warm weather north. As I write, Darwin is 35 degrees, the mullet are running upstream in the Daly River, and the big barra are snapping at their tails. Who could want more?
AUTHOR BARRA

The Daly River in the NT was a happy hunting ground for the author.

   
Steve Cooper

About Steve Cooper

Cooper is now a freelance travel and fishing writer with no fixed abode - his home being his cleverly appointed Jayco caravan which is packed to the pop-top with fishing gear. He has has towed the rig the length and breadth of Australia behind his diesel-powered Toyota Landcruiser which of course is topped with a small, flexible fishing boat.

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