THE YARRA RIVER: MELBOURNE’S HIDDEN FISHING MECCA
The Yarra River is one of Melbourne’s hidden gems for a variety of applications. Its upper reaches offer phenomenal fly fishing, but you can have some luck with just about any freshwater fishing style and application.
For this reason, I like to take my grandkids down here. It is where I cut my teeth on the freshwater applications, and the place holds a special place in most Melbournian fisho’s hearts.
JUST DON’T EAT THEM
Before we go into detail about the “wheres” and “hows” of fishing the Yarra, a note on eating the catches. The Melbournian community is somewhat divided on the subject. I know fishos who like to take their catches home and throw them on the barbie, but I personally wouldn’t.
The Yarra is an urban river system, and the fish that inhabit it have spent their days navigating through litter and murky, brown waters. In the 1900s, the Yarra was also used as a shipping channel for industries. As a result, the water had high mercury levels and PCB levels. This is now reflected in the fish, many of which have elevated mercury levels themselves.
Experts say the fish is safe to eat in moderation (avoid the eels, they have larger levels of chemicals). However, I don’t want to risk it. But each to their own. It is up to you whether or not you want to chow down on your catch, just make sure you have all the facts before you do.
In the Australian summer months, the warmer water temperatures get the Murray Cod biting. In the Yarra, the region around Eltham offers perfect Murray territory, with ample structure and snags for them to feast on yabbies and worms.
I use 3/8oz spinners and hit the submerged timber and rock bars for some action. Target Murrays in January for optimal feeding time. If you get your hands on a Murray Cod, it is best to release it. They were introduced to the river in 1857 and are not highly abundant, mostly due to the large presence of pest species. To keep these beasts around for our grandkids, we need to keep as many of them in the river as possible.
You can get your hooks into some pretty impressive Bream in these parts. I will take one of two over 1.5kg every year in the Yarra. For these, head to Melbourne’s industrial heartland. The old Victoria docks offer plenty of crustaceans for the Bream to feed on. You can also find them around the Newport Power Station. Tailor, Mulloway, Bream and Mullet all like the warmer water the power station throws out and are usually good for a bite or two.
Getting out of the city and into the upper reaches of the river, the cooler waters yield trout and are a major draw to fly fishos.
Fly fishos regularly practice their craft in the Yarra Ranges. I took my gear up to Warburton once to dabble in the fly applications. The Yarra’s waters up there come straight from the mountains, leading to some brisk mornings spent in waders, but delivering awesome fly fishing conditions and intricate battles with Brown Trout.
While I can’t give you too many details on the spots up there, the men and women fishos keep their fishing spots a closely guarded secret, there are some good locations around Marysville and Warburton. Beyond that, you will need to explore for yourself.
Devilbend Reservoir has a healthy Brown Trout population too. Hard-bodied lures are the order of the day for bigger Brown Trout, just try and time your fishing for the cooler hours of the day, as the snakes are less active then.
These pests are well established in the Yarra. They are easy to catch and make great target species for introducing kids to fishing. Find some holes or slack water between Warrandyte and Wonga Park, and you’ll find European Carp. A size 6 hook and small pieces of corn kernels will get the biting and hooked. Once the rod bends, set the hook, European Carp suck in their prey and if you set it too early, you might end up losing it. Just make sure you dispose of these fish properly. You’ll be helping the Yarra ecosystem.
Although you won’t be able to guarantee a catch every time out, Redfin can be a fun species to target on the Yarra River. Like the European Carp, they are also a pest, but are nowhere near as destructive to the ecosystem. Use the same setup as for carp, with a 4kg rod on 6-10lb braid and use some simple worms as bait. This should get them biting during the warmer spring and summer days. These are good to target because they offer a bit more fight than a lot of other species.
Although not super common, there are areas that have thriving populations of Macquarie Perch. They were introduced to the system at the same time as the Murray Cod, in 1857, and are easy to target.
Use a 4kg rod and the same line as you would for Redfin. Be wary, Macquarie Perch spook easily and you’ll need some stealth approaches (not one for targeting with the grandkids, the whole Yarra River system can hear them coming a mile off). The deeper sections around Wonga Park will have some decent numbers of Macquarie Perch. Fish them with worms, giving the bait plenty of action on the retrieve and you might just find a Macquarie Perch will ambush your bait.
Like the European Carp, they suck it in, so fish with some slack in the line. Once the line is tight, it should have taken the bait deep enough into its mouth to set the hook. Then the fight is on.
Like the Murray Cod, release Macquarie Perch to keep stocks healthy. They are a native species and need all the help they can get in this ecosystem.
The Yarra deserves its title as Melbourne’s fishing mecca for its variety. Few river systems in the whole country offer the same level of diversity and variety as the Yarra. Whether you are targeting Brown Trout with finely crafted flies, or doing battle with Macquarie Perch on worms, few rivers offer something for every freshwater fisho.
Do you have anything to add to this article? Do you have experience fishing the Yarra River? Let us know in the comments section below.