The-5cm-skitterpopIt's this time every season when the rivers are flooded and the water reaches over the shallow floodplains.

While surface fishing with poppers is not generally accepted as a popular method of targeting trout particularly in the cooler months, it is very effective and I’ve been lucky enough to encounter a few big fish over the few past years.

Surface fishing is not just a summer option as many anglers would believe and the water is often cold and discoloured in winter, but they are still effective searching lures and because they float they would enable you to search water that is too shallow to search using any other types of lures without fouling the flooded grasses and shrubs.

Casting on a flooded edge of the lower Merri River

Casting on a flooded edge of the lower Merri River

Winter and spring of 2010 provided the perfect platform to try some new techniques as the region recorded the highest rainfall for over 20 years and all the coastal rivers broke their banks covering the floodplains for weeks on end.  This gave the fish plenty of time to move up on the edges and onto the flats and river edges in search of abundant food and provided the perfect opportunity to target them with surface poppers.

Surface fishing really opens up your opportunities and water that you usually walk past becomes a viable fishing option.  Surface popping is an ideal method of fishing hardbodied lures in shallow water when there is abundant and otherwise frustrating vegetation which causes fouling even when using floating diving minnow lures, but there are other advantages to the surface popper.  The noise and commotion caused by the popper in its own right is a valuable fish attracting tool, particularly in the discoloured water at this time of the year.

My favourite surface popper for this type of fishing is the 5cm Rapala “skitter pop” which makes a loud popping noise when retrieved and pushes plenty of water with its concave cupped head.  This model also has a fly treble with crystal flash for some added attraction. It is also reasonably heavy so you can cast it a long way and they are easy to fish off the same light spinning gear that you use for standard spinning.  I usually just use a clip connection to connect the lure to the leader so I can change lures quickly depending on the situation.

It didn’t take long to demonstrate the effectiveness of the poppers on the rivers edges.  I’d seen a few fish on the edges earlier in the week and with the water slowly starting to recede from the floodplain on the lower Merri River in southwest Victoria and my timing was perfect.  I cast across a drain thick with strap weed and flattened grass on the edge of the river and the strike was instantaneous, even taking me by surprise.  The fish crashed the lure and did repeated aerials in the very shallow water, digging its head into the grass in between leaps.  It was a good fish over 2kg and was well hooked on the rear set of trebles.  There were no follows or inquisitive looks at the lure just and aggressive crashing strike.  As it lay in the grass it regurgitated small gudgeon, large beetles and tadpoles of which many of the items were similar to the size of the lure I was using.

A pair of big popper caught browns from a shallow drain

A pair of big popper caught browns from a shallow drain

Taking the confidence of landing a good fish I tried another nearby stream in the following days after more heavy rain, but instead of fishing for fish feeding from water receding from the floodplain I fished a drain that ran into a rapidly rising river.  The drain was shallow and tannin coloured and the strap weed was just swaying in the current.  Just as the drain met the river there was a small hole and I focussed on fishing this small area.  I could just make out the shape of a fish sitting in the hole and cast the popper at it as there was no other way I could have fished this water with a diving minnow.

The result was the same as a few days earlier and the fish just crashed the lure within seconds of it hitting the water and after an explosive fight another 2kg fish reached the bank.  After a short break I continued fishing in the same location and too my surprise every 10-15 minutes a fish would appear from the discoloured raging river channel and swim up the drain and it wasn’t long before I managed to fool another smaller fish of around a kilogram.  Even better was the fact that I was fishing in the middle of a bright sunny day!

A classic run-off drain from the main river channel

A classic run-off drain from the main river channel

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just persist with a new method until you are rewarded, but when it all comes together it’s all worthwhile and it gives you new confidence.  Using surface poppers is a very exciting way to fish for trout so get out and have a go in your local flooded stream!

 

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