DESTINATION: Lake Borumba, Qld
LAKE Borumba is found in the south east corner of Queensland and roughly 120 km north west of Brisbane.
The lake is more accurately described as a man made dam and was constructed in 1964. Unlike many of our stocked impoundments, Lake Borumba differs in that it does not carry the “open cow paddock” feel, being surrounded by mountains and breathtaking rainforest scenery. As the dam’s arms begin to narrow, revealing a maze of timber structure, the dam gives off the feeling that you are in some very remote part of Papua New Guinea. For the enthusiastic lure and fly casters amongst us, this dam will have you very close to heaven. Naturally the dam is also incredibly popular with campers, water-skiers, kayakers and even day trippers simply enjoying the stunning drive.
Lake Borumba is just one of Queensland’s many stocked impoundments and the list of available species include Australian bass, golden perch, silver perch, saratoga, catfish and Mary River cod. It is of vital importance to remember that being a “stocked dam” a permit is required to fish these waters at all times. Permits are available online as daily, weekly or yearly passes.
Although all species are very much sought after, saratoga would arguably be the most popular amongst sport fishos. The challenges these fish offer for lure and fly anglers are very real and many anglers come with the specific intentions to target these prehistoric fish. The beauty of such stocking programmes is the saratoga’s range has now been extensively expanded and are now within reach for many anglers throughout South East Queensland and even more northern areas of New South Wales.
Where to begin
It’s important to mention one very common misconception about our freshwater impoundments. It’s often heard (commonly from those rather inexperienced), that because fish have been stocked into our dams it’s like “shooting a fish in a barrel” and the fishing is somehow easy. I can assure you the exact opposite of this is true, and that targeting fish in our stocked waterways can be incredibly difficult.
The start of your problems can be that you are staring at a huge expanse of water without much knowledge of even where to find fish. It can be daunting in some instances and throughout those waterways that lack obvious fish holding structure you really need to rely on excellent sounder technology. Fortunately Lake Borumba is an exception and after passing through the main basin you are greeted with numerous options. A quick Google search will have you looking at a reasonably accurate map of the dam and those fortunate to have more modern sounder technology can very easily upload various maps directly onto sounders and chart plotters. Heading up from the main boat ramp with have you come firstly to the Borumba Creek Arm, which veers left, while further afield you will come to a maze of dead standing timber. It’s at this timber-scattered junction you are now able to head left into the Yabba Arm, while a slight turn to the right will have you heading down the Kingham Arm. All fish very well and as each arm narrows you are blessed with timber and lillie-lined edges, while the deeper sections feature beautiful rocky lined banks. The problem may now be you are spoilt for choice.
With hopefully a good idea of where to begin your search it now pays to consider the various weather elements at the time of year you may find yourself on the water. Factors such as wind, temperatures (in water and outside), barometric pressure, moon phases, time of day and the time of year play an enormous role and this simply reinforces that fishing dams can be very difficult. A “hit and miss” type approach very rarely works.
Lets start here with time of year and it is a general rule of thumb many anglers coming to Lake Borumba in winter will come with Australian bass in mind, while those coming in the spring and summer months will often be chasing saratoga. This is a generalisation but what we find each and every year is that the winter period sees large numbers of bass school up in their futile attempt to breed, while saratoga much prefer the warmer months where water temps and insect activity are both higher.
Time of day also plays a role and a classic example I often mention to newcomers is the spring time scenario where we are just snapping out of the cold weather period into a warmer time of year. During this time the afternoons fish much better than the mornings. During the day the sun has had a chance to warm the weed or lillie-lined edges and fish will look to move up and into these favourable areas particularly of an afternoon. A reversal of this scenario can be found during the peak of the summer time period. The outside temperature has now climbed well above thirty degrees and water temperatures will not be far behind. It’s now that the mornings are the desirable period as fish will be actively feed along the edges before it has the chance to warm (now unfavourably so), and the fish make their retreat to the cooler and deeper neighbouring water.
Wind direction, barometric pressure and moon phases are other factors that contribute massively to fish behaviour. My firm belief is that the lead up and few days after the full moon period is a very difficult time. While fish can be found easily enough it is all too common to see them really shut down and no doubt much night time feeding occurs in preference as the moon shines high above. Wind direction is another interesting factor and in most instances the smaller bays or edges that the wind is hitting are the ones to be focusing your effort. Wind blown edges are those where baitfish have been pushed up against and it is here you will often find the much larger predators you desire.
Lure casting strategies
With so many of us now carrying tackle trays that are almost bursting with every kind of lure and soft plastic that exists, the great bit of news is that Lake Borumba’s residents do respond very well to a long list of both surface and sub-surface presentations. While there are very obvious times when fish can be incredibly fussy and difficult to work out, species such as saratoga and Australian bass still possess a high level of territorial aggression and a willingness to hunt. A good all round luring kit should include surface lures, suspending jerk baits, spinnerbaits, smaller swim baits and of course soft plastics. This will have you well-placed with a lure type for any scenario and if of course fly fishing is your game then you can plan ahead with various presentations allowing you to fish the water column in its entirety.
Surface lures: Fishing the surface with surface walking stick baits, crawlers, smaller poppers and soft plastics rigged weedless brings about some of the most exciting angling on offer. Casting surface lures in and around dead timber, alongside lillie beds and even up agains the dam edges is a very visual form of lure casting and when fish make that commitment to eat a lure; the explosive takes can be like nothing else. It’s adrenaline fuelled excitement at its finest no matter how many fish you have caught. It will have your heart thumping each and every time. Saratoga are known to be true surface hunters and two very unique features indicating this include the eyes which are positioned on top of the head and a flat back with the absence of dorsal spines. This body shape allows these fish to move smoothly under the waters surface without creating excessive bow waves or even small ripples which may advertise their position to potential prey. At times these fish are certainly able to stalk your lure without any angler awareness and the subsequent eruption on that take can very seriously leave an angler shaking.
My clear preference for surface work is for surface walking stick baits up to say 80 mm in length and it's the silent left to right darting action that is just so often the fishes undoing. The incredibly realistic profiles and actions on todays market are very hard to beat when casting at fish that may well be that little more fussy. In saying this, both surface poppers and crawlers can work with equal effectiveness and there certainly appears to be times where the added “noise” can be a bonus. What spurs the fishes interest at times is anyones guess but in the case of saratoga in can often be put down to territorial aggression that will see a fish slam a lure. In contrast Australian bass seem to hit a lure a full throttle with a more deliberate intent to feed.
Another surface presentation that have really made their mark over more recent years are soft plastics (such as frogs) rigged as weedless presentations. When rigged correctly these remain on the water’s surface and have the ability to replicate an amphibian so well, you could be very easily fooled into believing it was the real deal. Soft plastics frogs generate the same exciting fishing and while a single hook can most definitely be advantageous when it finds it mark, they can cause equal frustration with missed hook ups. The beauty however is that these can be cast amongst thick vegetation and timber snags and will penetrate areas which other lures simply cannot.
Suspending jerkbaits and spinnerbaits: Suspending Jerk baits (or hard bodied minnows if preferred), continue to retain their popularity and this comes about from constant success. Their ability to to be “twitched” or slow-rolled down to the desired depth and remain stationary imitates a wounded baitfish like no other. Lack Borumba has a massive population of small boney bream and these form part of the stable diet for nearly all predatory fish that are home to the dam. Matching the hatch and looking to cleverly imitate the size of a boney bream will have you casting an ideal lure. Deeper lure presentations like these can be very advisable when the sun is high and the fish have retreated deeper through the water column.
Spinnerbaits are often crazy looking contraptions with skirts, blades and some serious bling. They can often give off very serious “pulsations” and flash through the water and you just cannot deny their effectiveness. Are they my first choice of lure? No they are not, but they’re seriously worthwhile having amongst your tackle trays. Spinnerbaits will often be the difference between achieving a hard earnt bite or heading home with your tail between your legs. In particular colour combinations that feature red/black and gold blades seem to work very well throughout Lake Borumba and if you’re after bass or yellowbelly, a hint of green will very commonly achieve great results.
Soft Plastics: As you would expect soft plastics work incredibly well throughout the dam. There are many options when it comes to various types of plastics, methods of rigging and where you’re able to cast these presentations. As a general guide I like to cast or drop plastics to schooled fish rigged in the conventional way, and if casting around any kind of structure I will rig them weedless. Personally I also have a strong preference for paddle tail type plastics as I feel the tail beat (given off by quality fish profiles), is just hard go past. In saying this however there are literally hundreds of grub and creature bait imitations that will work and on some days fish will seemingly lock onto a certain type of plastic that will see way more fish caught. Then of course there are those days where no matter what you throw it will simply go ignored.
As with soft plastics used for surface luring work, fish profiles and creatures baits can very cleverly be rigged as weedless presentations and give you the immediate ability to cast absolutely anywhere. Many methods of rigging are available and weedless hook patterns come as both weighted and unweighted.
Swim baits: Largely due to the enormous popularity in cod fishing, swim bait lures have also made their mark with other freshwater species. Their effectiveness is impressive but what must be emphasised is that if you choose to cast a big lure you will also need a rod and reel combination suitable for the job. This I envisage as part of a problem throughout Lake Borumba as what it makes you do is fish far heavier to give the ability to cast such big lures.
You can of course reach a compromise here which starts by selecting smaller and lighter swim bait lures which you can fish off light to medium gear and retain a "sporting" element to your angling.
Many factors govern gear selection and it seriously comes down to personal preference.
I will often take two to three outfits which have me well covered for all scenarios. The first is a light spin set up over which you can fish the likes of 6 lb braid and in my opinion is an absolute must have. This outfit should see you with a rod in the 7 ft, 1-3 kg range in combination with a 2000 or 2500 size spinning reel and it is very much an "all-rounder". With this you are able to retain a great level of necessary “finesse” for soft plastic work and are also able to cast smaller jerk baits and surface lures.
My second outfit is a bait casting combination with a rod sitting at 6’4 rated 3-5 kg and bait casting reel to match. This outfit delivers seriously accurate casting and has the ability to cast slightly heavier lures such as jerk baits, spinnerbaits, smaller swim baits and larger 4 inch soft plastics. With the South East Queensland weather warming and fish remaining active right through to the Autumn months the time to plan a trip has never been better. Lake Borumba is one destination that will have you holding onto to many great memories.