Bedford Weir – Blackwater – Saratoga – 23 September 2013

Over the next 7 days I had four more afternoon fishing sessions at Bedford Weir. I decided I should explore the skinny water of the Mackenzie River, below the weir and I had heard tales of saratoga lurking in the pools downstream. There is a fairly rough track that runs alongside the river, as it runs away from the weir wall.

There are a few turn offs along the main track that lead down to the water. There are steep banks with lots of fallen timber and neck high grasses. The fallen timber makes it almost impossible to walk continuously along the bank for any distance so you have to keep scrambling up and down. Its a good workout and needless to say you have watch out for snakes! Judging by the dug up banks and flattened tunnels in the grasses, there are plenty of wild pigs around as well.

On my first session I concentrated on a wide pool, about a kilometre from the weir wall. There was a steep bank and then a small gravel beach area, next to an enormous fallen tree. At one end of this stretch the deeper water was close to the bank I was on and at the other, it was across from me. The water was fairly clear. It was hot again – well over 30 degrees. The sun was behind me and I started fishing at about 4.45 pm. I started with a GULP 2″ Shrimp in the Banana Prawn colour on a 1/12th ounce, size 1 hook, jighead and 8lb fluorocarbon leader.

The first taker was a small catfish. Then a much larger one took the lure under a log and I could not pull it out. As I was tying on a new leader, a long thin narrow shape slowly swam up the middle of the river, a few centimetres below the surface – it was a southern saratoga. It was followed a few moments later, by another one. I scrabbled around and tied on the new leader and jighead as quickly as I could, but they were long gone by the time I hurled a cast in their direction. After a few more catfish I gave up at about 6.00pm.

The next session was few days later. I arrived earlier, at about 3.00 pm. It was super hot – about 36 degrees. I approached the river bank as quietly as possible and my stealth approach paid off. Two saratoga were cruising mid-stream whilst another was lurking under a fallen tree branch, near the far bank. I thought about my options. I would need an accurate cast, as I might only get one chance. I would be trying to emulate an insect or bug, dropping from an overhanging branch. I decided on a lightly weighted soft plastic lure.The GULP Crabbie shape had legs and arms flailing and could work as a bug but I had run out. It had worked well but I also wanted something bright in the clear water. I had a 3 inch Ghost Shrimp in the Red belly colour,so I chose this.

My heart was pumping as I crept forward to the bank. I checked the knots and got myself as close as I dared. I lofted the cast over towards the fish in the shadows and it plopped into the water, inches from the bank and inches from the fish’s nose. Then time stood still, for about 2 seconds. I paused and slowly let the lure sink, then bang, it all happened so fast!

The saratoga from the shadows grabbed the plastic and instantly swam forward with it. As it did so, it pulled the leader under a partially submerged log. The leader caught on it and set the hook and the fish then went crazy. It leapt backwards over the log completing a nice loop over it. It pulled back and forth and fought and after about a minute, settled down. I let the drag off to see if it could, by some miracle, free itself but it just swam off with the leader sliding up and down on the log. It was only 8lb fluorocarbon and after a few rubs, it broke.

The commotion had scared the others off so I moved downstream and tied on GULP Ghost Prawn soft plastic in the same colour. I cast it at a likely looking snag and let it sink. When I lifted it off the bottom there was a tension and the rod tip started wriggling. There were a few pulls then a long, blistering run right across the river to a submerged log on the other side. It was obviously a very big catfish. I tightened the drag and heaved but I could not pull it out. I loosened the drag and tightened it again and the line pulled free from the fish. When I retrieved it, I could see it had been a catfish – the leader and lure were completely slimed.

I put it back in and over the next hour, caught a few more smaller catfish but the saratoga had gone into hiding.

Over the next few days I found the saratoga at various points up and down this stretch of the Mackenzie. I often saw two or three fish cruising mid stream. I tried casting everything at them. Surface lures, shallow and deep divers (including my favorite DUO hard bodies) and every soft plastic lure I had with me. Occasionally one would strike, but only because the lure landed right on its nose. I had more success with the fish I found sitting under tree banks in the dappled shade. These would follow a shallow diver or popper out into the stream, if I could land the cast close enough. A few made a real strike, but I could not hook up.

Frustrated – I looked for help on the web and, coincidentally saw a brilliant post on “Micks Gone Fishing” on ‘spybaiting’ for saratoga. Mick’s blog is brilliant and often makes me consider selling everything and moving north! He achieved what I wanted too – maybe his saratoga were just angrier or hungrier

Bedford Weir and the saratoga, yellowbelly and catfish encounters had been a fascinating freshwater interlude – but it was time to get back to the briny.

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – 19 September 2013


Flushed with freshwater success, I could not resist another session at Bedford Weir, on Thursday. I arrived below the weir wall at about 4.30 pm. It was the day after full moon and it was stinking hot, again – about 36 C with no breeze.

I was not going to change the winning formula of the day before. I dropped down to a slightly lighter jighead – 1/16th oz, size 1 jighead. I wanted the plastic to flutter down through the water column a little less quickly and with no wind, I could still cast fairly accurately. I stuck with the GULP 2.0 inch Crabbie soft plastic in the peppered prawn colour.

The session played out pretty much as it had the day before. At about 5.00pm I felt a few hits, as the sun dropped behind the weir wall. Over the next hour, I dropped four fish, but I ended the session with two nice golden perch/ yellow belly and several catfish.

I finally felt like I was getting the hang of the freshwater thing.

Bedford Weir – Blackwater – 18 September 2013


My freshwater adventures continued on Wednesday afternoon. I had a bit of work to attend to in Blackwater and decided to go and have a look at Bedford Weir, when I had finished. I was getting good at catching common catfish but I was really after something a bit more interesting.

Bedford Weir is about 25 km from Blackwater. There are saratoga, yellowbelly, sleepy cod, black bream, the odd barramundi and of course, catfish. There is a camping area beside the weir and a boat ramp. Above the weir there is a fair amount of boat traffic and it is a hard slog to find areas where you can fish from the bank, so I decided to try the pool immediately below the weir wall.

The area is drying out as there has been no significant rain for a while. I arrived at about 4.15 pm on a very hot, still afternoon – the car thermometer said it was 34 degrees. The moon would be full on Thursday. I started by fishing downstream of the weir wall. Water runs over the edge of the weir, down a horizontal channel and then cascades into a small pool, before running off under the road.

On the Burnett River, I had established that Catfish will get stuck into soft plastics, if they are left on the bottom for a while. The action does not seem to interest them, but I think it is the GULP smell that attracts them. I could see a few turtles around and there were a few swirls and bait scatters, as fish came up for a feed.

I decided to fish light, again. My light spin combo rod and reel with 2.8 kg Fireline, 8lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/8th ounce, size 1 jighead. I chose a 2.0 inch freshwater yabby style GULP soft plastic called a Crabbie, in the peppered prawn colour. I lost a few rigs as I felt my way around the snags on the bottom but also felt a few bumps and nudges.

I cast at the point where the water cascaded over the small wall and let my lure sink. I counted to about 15, very slowly and then gently flicked the lure off the bottom and let it sink again. The next time I did this, something grabbed it and took off. I struck too quickly and too fast and it was gone. This happened two or three more times over the next few minutes. The strikes were cleaner and more distinct than the Catfish, slurp, so it was something else.

I slowed everything down and cast as close to the wall as I could. I paused until I was sure the little yabby-like lure was on the bottom then gave it a gentle hop. I felt the bite and paused for a few seconds then set the hook. This time I thought I had it – its broad tail broke the surface but I was still not sure what it was. As I looked for place to pull it up the rocks it slipped off – bugger!

I swapped to a lighter 1/16th Gamakatsu, size 1, round hook jighead and put on a fresh soft plastic – these jigheads often hook up when the traditional pattern is having trouble. They are incredibly sharp.

The sun had now dropped behind the weir and I had some shade. I repeated the procedure from the last cast and after a few attempts; I felt the bite and hooked up. The fish tried to bury itself in the snags but this time I had it. It took a few minutes, but I soon slipped it out of the water at my feet. It was my first golden perch/ yellowbelly on a soft plastic. It was a chunky fish, just over 35cm long. After a few pictures I returned it to the water.

I continued casting, same spot, same technique and about ten minutes later I had another one. It fought pretty hard and headed straight for the snags but I pulled it out and landed it. It was another golden perch / yellowbelly. This one was shorter but a bit fatter than the first. I released it, things were hotting up.

It was now around 6.00pm. It was getting dark and the full moon was clear in the sky behind me. I kept getting bites but they were quite gentle and hard to convert. Suddenly there was a very solid thump, gentle pull and then powerful run for the rocks. This felt like a big fish. I could feel the leader rubbing on something so I loosened the drag and kept very minimal tension on the line. I waited about a minute and slowly the line started moving through the water. Once I was sure it was out, I tightened the drag and pulled hard with the rod.

A fat fish popped up on the surface. It looked a bit like a drummer or luderick. It was not particularly fast but it was heavy and had a powerful tail. After a check on the web I assume it was a sooty grunter, although it was quite a pale colour.

It was still stinking hot and as with all good fishing sessions, I was now getting eaten alive by midges and mosquitoes, so I gave up. I was very happy with my first freshwater session at Bedford Weir. The hot weather and the full moon may have had something to do with my success – I would be back.