Canberra is a city littered with bodies of water (I use that term loosely). New estate-styled developments with huge farm landscaped ponds, smaller wastewater run-off filtering into pools, river run-offs, urban creeks, suburban anabranches and the humble yabby pond.
You may walk your dog past one every day, stargaze as you drive past or simply share the same suburb. Many of us will remember pulling yabbys from the rural outskirts at old BMX Tracks/Woolsheds, but when more focused angling addictions take hold they are never given a second thought.
Half a dozen years ago I was invited on a fishing trip after work, where we ended up I would never have picked. A series of old, muddy ponds lay on the outskirts of one suburb with a creek running below. Fully expecting to hit the creek the first cast into the much smaller pond caught me by surprise.
Turns out we spent the next few afternoons hopping between ponds, losing count at the number of large redfin gracing our lures.
It was an eye-opening experience and I have to say that since those days I have never looked at a body of water the same, anywhere.
In a few short afternoons I learned a lot. Angling skills that stay with you for life, such as seeking, searching and reading water better.
Over the next few months similar sorties in polarising locations (more flow and activity) brought pleasing results, this time though the species differed. Schools of goldfish taking bread on tiny hooks with not an impoundment in sight, yet still coming wave after wave. Natives such as cod and yellowbelly well entrenched in such a setting one could only describe as truly lost, yet still visible to the trained eye. With even more research and a healthy fascination I received reputable intel on trout a mere stone’s throw from Black Mountain Tower. This was eventually put down as urban myth, but to this day I still have my doubts.
To think all these explorations mentioned above were nestled within suburbs, away from our larger impoundments and, back then, future planning. We started paying attention to certain areas with outflows and again not only found a diverse range of fish but healthy numbers too. With food being brought to them, specimens were incredibly aggressive. One thing we started to uncover was that we weren’t alone, seeing the tell-tale signs of previous angling "urbanisms".
With plenty of other fishing needs and wants in life, these areas of life were quickly forgotten. Then the drought broke. Seeing torrents of water gushing through areas neck high where you once stood made me mindful of many of the purposes of these areas. Warmer months brought the unwanted threat of snake bite. Suddenly I didn’t feel as compelled to seek recompense and sought my addiction elsewhere. People would ask me what the fishing was like in Canberra and. to be honest, I didn’t know how to explain what I had been up to.
Fast-forward a couple of years and I still glance at Canberra waterways, scanning for any signs of activity. Visually I’ve been rewarded but I haven’t been in any position to rekindle any past. Recently, though, I took an outfit and a handful of lures to a place I had never been before; the result was a brace of redfin (All under a major road). Though I did get some strange looks from passing pedestrians and cyclists.
But take note: that dodgy bastard hanging around the underpass with a fishing rod might not be so dodgy after all. He just may be onto something.