How to

Hit the Dirt!

I don’t do crowds well.

Whether we’re talking spinning for pelagics from the rocks, flicking lures for flathead or bass, sitting out the back of my local surf break or just stepping out to pick up the groceries, I’ll generally do whatever it takes to escape the madding crowds.

I know I’m not the only one to feel this way… In this age of forums, Facebook and seemingly omniscient connectivity, it seems our world is shrinking around us.

In a country of five million anglers, places that were once pristine and productive are now crowded out and choked with the litter and detritus of the unthinking masses.

The need to get away has existed since humans first looked to the horizon in search of greener pastures.

Concealing the exact location of your secret bass creek, livebaiting ledge or isolated snapper reef is a basic, if essentially selfish, survival mechanism.

We have a subliminal understanding that these special places can’t possibly stand up to the pressures of modern civilisation, and we do our best to preserve their inherent wildness.

At a simplified level, I know that my favourite spinning ledge can only fit four anglers at one time, less if someone puts out a livebait, so I refrain from posting reports and photos of this place on the Internet, in the hope that there will be room for me to fish next time I visit.

In some other corner of the human brain exists the urge to seek validation from our peers – in other words, to brag.

This need can manifest itself as simply as calling up a good mate to tell him about a successful session, but more commonly these days it results in detailed reports and photos being splashed all over forums and Facebook pages.

Herein lies the dilemma, as surely it is each individual’s right to publicise a noteworthy catch, so long as it’s legal.

Yet with the torrent of reports, photographs and information uploaded to the Internet each day, it’s little wonder that crowds are becoming a problem, at least within and around major cities and population centres.

We can’t change the times we live in, and complaining gets us nowhere. As anglers, the only way forward is to adapt.

We may have to search that little harder nowadays to find a place to ourselves, but these coveted wild places are still out there, and you appreciate them all the more if you have to search hard to find them yourself.

While the modern age has dramatically changed the way we approach fishing, we should remember that we enjoy many advantages that previous generations did without.

Programs like Google Maps and Google Earth are instantly available and can help us view, locate and access very remote locations.

High quality, super sensitive offroad GPS units, depth sounders and chartplotters are all readily available these days, and prices have dropped to very affordable levels.

Probably the greatest tool at the disposal of the modern fisherman, however, is a 4WD.

A good quality 4WD vehicle can take you places that are simply inaccessible to the majority of the population.

If you own a reliable 4WD and are prepared to put in some time researching potential fishing locations on Google Maps and tracking down GPS co-ordinates, you will never have to endure another morning spent fishing in a crowd.

4WD access opens up a world of fishing opportunities when it comes to accessing remote headlands and stretches of beach, isolated creeks, rivers and billabongs and offroad boat and kayak launching sites.

If there’s one situation where a 4WD will radically improve your fishing, it has to be on the beach.

Beach fishing is a perennial favourite  around most of the country, but once you try it with the aid of a 4WD, you’ll be wondering how you ever got by before.

It’s certainly easy enough to pull up at your local beach carpark and walk to the nearest gutter to cast a bait, however, these easy access spots get fished hard and there’s nothing worse than fishing at close quarters with other anglers on the beach and risking tangled lines.

A 4WD really becomes a useful tool on those longer beaches where vehicle access is permitted.

Once you’ve driven onto the sand via one of the access points, you can easily drive the length of the beach in search of your own private gutter.

In fact you’ve got the option to prospect the entire beach, keeping an eye out for deep gutters, surface action or any other signs of activity.

When driving the beach it’s important to be aware of the tide. It’s easier to drive on the more compact sand closer to the waterline, but it’s important to time your beach driving around low tide – you don’t want to get stuck on the beach with a rising tide as plenty of vehicles have been seriously damaged or destroyed this way.

You also need to remember to drop the pressure in your tyres down to around 15psi immediately before accessing the beach.

The lower tyre pressure allows a greater surface area of your tyre to maintain contact with the sand, which results in increased traction as well as reducing damage to the beach.

If you have limited beach-driving experience, it’s best to travel in convoy with another vehicle and remember to pack a recovery kit whenever you plan on going offroad.

As well as finding unfished gutters, beach driving allows you to get to remote headlands with no other vehicle access.

Some of my favourite jew, drummer and tuna ledges on the NSW Mid North Coast are best accessed via the beach.

You can generally trek into these places, but save yourself huge amounts of time and effort if you can drive the length of the beach and park right up against the headland.

Skinny Water
There’s something magical about spending an afternoon walking the banks of an isolated creek, casting tiny surface lures and soft plastics tight against likely looking snags.

The blaring cacophony of summertime cicadas eventually subsides to an almost subconscious hum, punctuated only by the occasional crack of a whipbird’s call or the crashing of something unknown amongst tangled mangrove roots.

Whether you’re chasing bass in a feeder creek of one of the big northern NSW rivers, flathead in a tidal lagoon or freshwater barra, saratoga and sooty grunter in a Cape Cork billabong, the sense of peace that comes from fishing these wild, serene waterways is hard to beat.

If this is your type of fishing, then you have to get yourself a 4WD.

This is the sort of fishing that requires quite a lot of careful research, but when a plan comes together and you find yourself walking a pristine creek teaming with life and with not another soul for kilometres, there’s little doubt that it was all worth it.

Google Maps is your friend, at least when it comes to researching and finding isolated, fishable bodies of water.

If you’re not already utilising this amazing and free resource to help plan your fishing trips, you need to check it out right away.

While the resolution is not fantastic and the images are often somewhat dated, this resource is very useful for giving you an overview of a body of water as well as the nearest road access points and 4WD, logging and fire trails.

If you feel that you have outgrown Google Maps, and are after more detailed, higher resolution imagery, you have several options.

Until recently, the website was very popular with anglers, as it provides a very high-resolution map which allows you to zoom in close to the ground. The imagery is also updated every couple of months.

While the service is still available, it is no longer free for non-commercial use, and yearly fees are quite high.

An excellent option for the regular offroad angler is to invest in a dedicated offroad GPS unit.

I reckon the best units on the market are the Hema HN6 Navigator, the VMS Touring 700HDS II and the Mudmap M7, all of which retail for between $500-$700.

Another good option is to purchase a dedicated offroad GPS application for your iPad such as the Hema 4WD Tracks app or the Mudmap 2 app – these are worth $149 and $139 respectively on iTunes.

Offroad Launching
While a 4WD may initially appear to primarily be a worthwhile investment for the landbased angler, the truth is that the benefits they offer small boat and kayak fishos are very real.

Small tinnies and kayaks each have a fairly limited range once launched, due to fuel capacity and the limits of human endurance.

It makes sense that if you wish to fish a remote waterway from your tinnie or ’yak, you’ll need to transport the vessel fairly close to the area you wish to fish prior to launching.

A 4WD can be effectively used to launch trailered tinnies from the sand into surf beaches, although this is obviously an inherently risky process which should not be undertaken by the inexperienced.

Launching from the sand can allow you to access headlands and inshore reefs in isolated areas without boat ramp access.

Beach launches are also useful if you want to save time by putting the boat in close to the area you wish to fish, and saving a lengthy run from the boat ramp to the fishing grounds.

A 4WD is again useful if you’re interested in fishing remote waterways from your kayak. Most kayaks can be securely attached to the roofracks of your vehicle, ensuring that your vehicle is not hindered by a trailer.

Using Google Maps or one of the offroad GPS units or applications listed above, you can research the best launch and retrieval spots in your chosen waterway, and escape the crowds on the more accessible waterways.

Which Vehicle?
These days we are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a 4WD.

There is a huge range of vehicles on the market, many of which offer fishermen significant advantages.

Traditionally, the big three 4WD manufacturers have been Toyota, Nissan and Land Rover, although there are many quality vehicles being produced by other manufacturers including Mitsubishi, Ford, Mazda, Holden, Isuzu, Jeep and Suzuki.

The two biggest factors that should influence your vehicle choice are your intended use and your budget.

If you plan to be doing a lot of kilometres in your 4WD, a diesel engine can end up saving you money, as they run more efficiently over long distances and fuel is more accessible in remote areas.

Diesel engines are also known to last substantially longer than petrol engines, providing you keep up the regular oil changes and servicing.

Wagon style 4WDs are generally most popular with fishermen as your gear and valuables are more secure when locked within the vehicle than left in the open tray of a ute.

There are plenty of utes out there with custom lockable canopies which offer a great alternative and increased storage capacity.

Toyota LandCruisers and Nissan Patrols are generally thought of as the two most reliable vehicles on the market. An advantage with these trucks is that parts are common and cheap around the country and there is a huge range of aftermarket accessories manufactured specifically for both vehicles.

If you plan on getting a 4WD with beach driving in mind, it is definitely worth looking at some of the more lightweight vehicles on the market, as they are less prone to getting bogged in soft sand.

Suzuki Sierras and Vitaras and Daihatsu Ferozas all perform admirably on the beach and can be picked up very cheap second hand, although storage space is quite limited in these smaller vehicles.

As with any significant purchase, it pays to do your research, and if you know what you want and are not in a big hurry to buy, you can pick up some second-hand vehicles at bargain prices.

Many second-hand vehicles will have already been modified, which can save you a lot of money if you had planned on modifying the vehicle yourself, but can also be an indicator that the vehicle has spent a lot of time offroad, which can mean it is more likely to have sustained damage which can lead to costly repairs.

Make sure that you have any vehicle you’re interested in purchasing checked over by a qualified mechanic, or someone who knows 4WDs well.

If you buy well, a good 4WD will be one of the best purchases you ever make and can lead to years of good times, adventures and productive fishing trips.

Fact box: Recovery gear
Probably the most important rule of 4WDing is that you should never leave the blacktop without a good quality recovery kit (and some idea of how to use it).

Your recovery kit will vary depending on the type of terrain you plan on driving, but, at a minimum, it should include two 8000lb-rated snatch straps, two or three rated D shackles, a hi-lift jack with base plate and a long-handled shovel.

If you plan on doing much beach driving you should also carry a set of MaxTrax traction aids (one of the best investments you will make) and an exhaust jack.

If your vehicle is fitted with a winch, you should also consider a sand anchor, as trees to winch off are few and far between on the beach!

If driving rocky or muddy tracks it is definitely worth considering having your vehicle fitted with an electric winch.

A snatch block can be useful for particularly tricky recoveries and it’s always preferable to travel in convoy with at least one other 4WD when travelling offroad to aid in recoveries and seek help in the worst-case scenario.

Fact box: Pimp your ride
Probably the first modification worth looking at is a suspension upgrade.

The stock suspension on most vehicles will deteriorate quickly if driven on rough tracks and corrugations or used to tow a boat.

A quality suspension upgrade will improve your vehicle’s ride as well as increase clearance.

Good quality tyres are a very worthwhile investment which will help you gain traction offroad.

If your offroad use is predominantly on the beach and on dirt roads, a set of all-terrain tyres will be your best choice.

If you’re likely to be driving some very muddy, slippery or rocky tracks, a set of mud-terrain tyres will offer increased traction.

A bullbar is necessary to protect your vehicle’s front end from animal strikes when driving at night or on isolated roads and provides a mounting point for a set of driving lights and/or an LED lightbar for night driving.

This article was first published in the January 2014 issue of Fishing World magazine.

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.