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  1. #1
    Legendary Angler
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    Default Bankside musings for surface fishing

    For the last six months (due to changed work situation), I have had the pleasure of having the opportunity to focus on predominately bank side fishing in mixed river locations for mixed species (barra, bass, tarpon, fork tailed catfish), but all on surface lures only. I got to fish on average of once a week for an hour or two in the late evening (plus a couple in the early morning). I have put up some general reports here during that time, however in light of Chewy's recent question on the type of report he gives, I have decided to put down my learnings from this consistent application as I kept a bit of a diary as I went. I am far from an expert or even any good, but there may be something there in the following ramblings. In the six months (to the day), the tally has been 69 barra to 99cm, 39 bass to 54cm, 45 tarpon to 55cm and 227 catfish in 31hrs (26 sessions) of fishing. All fish were released. Most of these sessions have been in the Bundy area, however I did include the recent Mary River trip as the same techniques were applied.

    Some key observations:

    Time
    For no other reason, but that is when I was there due to work and dinner commitments, I was fishing the last rays of light and into dark for up to an hour. There was a very distinct bight time for each species with Bass in low light, tarpon in change of light, catties at first dark, then the barra (plus catties). This allowed non targeting of species that were out of season to reduce bycatch. It worked most times but occasionally I got one non target species which was released without taking them out of the water.

    Moon
    As I was not able to work fishing sessions around particular phases of the moon or time them for rising or setting times, I fished the days I were there irresspective of the moon phase and just did my best and noted the reaction. Did the moon phase make a difference to the surface bight? Yes. My three hottest sessions were at near or full moon that rose about 30min-1hr after dark (when I was fishing), however there were no sessions at any other time of the moon phase where the bight was dead and no fish were caught. The lowest fish activity was usually at half waning moon, but still fish were caught.

    Temperature
    Having the opportunity to fish winter through to summer, I can vouch that it didn't make a difference to the surface bight. Surprised me, but the results were the there. What did make a difference were sudden changes (with associated barometer changes) in temperature. Again fish were caught, however big temp changes made fishing lean. So if it has been cold for a while in the mid of winter, don't discount a hot surface session at night.

    River flow
    The river systems were affected by post flood levels that dropped through out the time with small rises when a storm/release occurred. Again when things were steady, the bight was more active, however the first flush of new storm sourced inflow did give a very small hot session before going quiet again until things settled down again.

    Wind
    Wind did make a difference due to the affect it had on the retrieves. I found it necessary to vary retrieves to get the affect needed depending on the wind. More wind = louder presentation and retrieve.

    Gear used
    Two rigs were used. One was a Egrell S2 with a stradic 2500 and the second was a Tcurve 1-3kg with a freams 2000. These rigs caught all the above fish except the recent Mary trip where I used a 4-10lb matrix rod I built with a sol2500.

    Although consider light by some for barra, etc, the country I was fishing and lots of rodwork and at times bankside running to keep up saw the job down in all but six fish.

    Leader/line
    Freams runs 5lb pe and 8-12lb leader (yes plenty of the barra were caught on this)
    Stradic runs 10lb powerpro and 12-30lb leader
    Sol runs 8lb powerpro and 12-15lb leader

    When chasing the barra, I found that 20lb schneider was very good unless I was fishing laydowns, then I went to 30lb schneider.

    Over the whole time, I lost four lures only to line breakages.

    Lures

    All surface, but the main damage was down with:
    Bubble pop 65-88mm poppers
    Stiffy top dogs
    Heddon swaybacks
    Small fizzers (unknown brand)

    Colour made no difference.

    All with standard trebles. I did play around with different hook/treble upgrades, however most of these didn't work as they made slight changes to the action that made them less effective)

    Retrieves
    I do have a go to retrieve, which is a slow walk the dog of the bubblepops, however I found it was critical that I had an variety of retrieves that I could produce consistently in all conditions and in the complete dark. Some lures/retrieves require visual input to get them right (or does for me) so these were used at times where I could see.

    Other retrieves that worked well were fast walking of the stiffys, straight slow retrieve of the fizzer or poppers (yep no action neaded other than a retrieval speed that produced a small bow wave - found that out by accident), very slow erratic retrieve of the heddon, standard but consistent pop of the poppers.

    Depending on what made the hit for a miss hit, would depend on what I did next after the miss. Tarpon and catties, I would just keep on going with the same retrieve that caused the hit in the first place as they came straight back. Bass almost took the miss as a personal insult and so I would wait for a couple of seconds then give a couple of small jiggles of the lure and usually they would attack, but if they didn't, then I would recommence the retrieve after about five seconds. Barra were usually sooks, so I would allow it to sit for about ten or so seconds, start the retrieve for ten second, then stop for ten, the continue on again.

    Water depths
    Most important thing was variation where there was a step up or step down near by. Given I was working the low light times, I was surpised at how shallow water fish were hunting in. There were several spots I fished that held barra that their fin broke the surface when they moved thus allowing me to sight cast them in the moonlight (extremely cool = surface+sight fishing). In general though, I was never fishing in more than 1-2m of water.

    Stealth
    This is where my biggest learnings occurred, I always knew that it was important to be quiet when fishing and have experienced the lack of fish when boated up with chatter boxes or 'elephants' in the boat, but I was surprised at the effect it had on bank fishing. This was probably more critical given the shallow water, the quiet surrounds and the face that I was fishing surface. Things I observed was that I often spooked fish that were hard up against the banks when I walking quietly along or up to a bank, so I adopted both a much quieter movement, but more importantly I would stop well short (10m) of the water's edge, spend a few minutes observing the water and any movements and fish the closest edge first before moving up to the bank. ALOT of fish (including the biggest) were caught using this method. Other observations was that when I had to retie a leader/lure or unhook a fish, then the shine from my headlamp would spook fish if allowed anywhere near the water, so I got in the habit of turning around and squatting down before turning on the headland and it worked well. Occasionally I would come to an area that had a fisho operating there, so instead of setting up a bit away from him that allowed him to 'chat', I would set up well away and only after he had gone and things had quiet some time to settle, would I move quietly in to fish. Interestingly, his nothing session would end up being ok for me as he would be on the phone or noisy when fishing. There was one area that I fished that was very shallow and right near an overhead bridge. Every cast I made spooked fish on the lure's landing (Oh, how I wanted my fly gear there). By accident, I made a cast as a car rumbled overhead and there was no spooking as the car noise helped masked the lure splashdown. Every subsequent cast was made on a car crossing and it turned out a great session. I remeber years ago, Harro comment that barra in particular know that you are there way before you know they are. He was right.

    Locations
    The locations I fished were observed from the road as I drove around the district and then if they ticked enough boxes, I would get onto google maps and try and source a track/road to there. A couple of times I was given a lead, but most were self found. Given I would be fishing in low light or dark, the areas I would look for were different to those that I would seek if fishing during the day. I find that the need for heavy snags, etc is not needed as the surface hunting fish are on the prowl a bit more once dinner time approaches and so feed ing zones were more critical to find than snags. Also as I was fishing light, my chance of coping with a rampaging barra in heavy snags on silly string would be embarrassing. Cleaner country gave me more chance of landing the bigger fish (the 99cm was on 20lb leader 10lb main). The main features I looked for was a dropoff, compression of flow (funnelling food in an area), current lines, rockbars, large riverstone bottoms and eddies.

    Bit long winded (sorry Daz), but that is my thought/learnings from a rare opportunity for me to string consistent sessions together in the one area over varied climatic conditions over six months. As stated above, I am so far from being an expert or even reasonable that it is embarassing, so don't take the above as being authoritative, but rather thought provoking or even humorous if you like.

    I haven't included any photos as you would have seen some of them in the earlier reports and a barra is a barra, bass a bass, etc, etc

    Add your own thoughts/observations if you like, even if contradictory to mine.

    All the best for a fishy 2014

    Steve
    Now, I'm not saying we should invoke capital punishment for Stupidity, but how about we just take all the warning labels off everything and let nature sort itself out?

  2. #2
    Legendary Angler
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    Great stuff Steve,interesting about the car going over the bridge masking the splashdown. With surface,I find it so hard to pause and let the rings dissipate before retrieving. The urge to get winding is very hard to control lol,but with Barra and Bass you really have to chill out and go slow. Top read mate.

    Paulo
    "Its Five o'Clock Somewhere"...........(Jimmy Buffet).

  3. #3
    Legendary Angler
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    Well said Steve from a chatter box elephant lots of info in there

  4. #4
    Wahoo
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    i liked it ! cheers

  5. #5
    Legendary Angler
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    Good stuff mate. It will be interesting to see how it goes with cod. If I can get you out of camp at dark !!!

  6. #6
    Legendary Angler
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    Default

    Paulo

    Re the wait before the retrieve starts, I forgot to mention that. When I was targeting the opposite bank, the pause did make a difference, however when I was working more open area and feeding zone, it made no difference whatsoever. Often the best pause to make was about a metre or less before the step up in bottom. Usually the fish had been stalking the lure from out deep deciding whether to have a go or not and then as the lure made its break for shallower water, it got smashed.

    Cheers
    Steve
    Now, I'm not saying we should invoke capital punishment for Stupidity, but how about we just take all the warning labels off everything and let nature sort itself out?

  7. #7
    Barramundi
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    That's a report! Top effort Steve

  8. #8
    Giant Trevally
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    Mate thats a tremendous report and one that taught me a lot. I used a similar technique with vehicles going over a brindge on the goldy canals and found the fish scattered without a car going over and when I cast with a car going over the fish took the splash in their stride and I had more hits.
    Great stuff mate and thanks for sharing.
    Steve
    Finally got one

  9. #9
    Giant Trevally
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    Perfectly described Steve.Great read,thanks for taking the time to put this info up mate.

  10. #10
    Legendary Angler
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    Great peice there Steve, thanks for the efforts and the sharing of your experiences.
    I have to agree that structure is not a requirement in surface shallow water fishing, but nearby there needs to be some form of daytime haunt for them.
    I have also noticed that heavily fished areas like Scarby reef work best when the sky just starts to lighten in the east and the entire area is in shut down mode once the first rays of sunlight hit the water. Again, it only takes one noisy knob to shut the entire area down as they arrive.

 

 
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