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FOR me, winter means sub-zero temperatures, frosts that freeze water pipes solid, and fogs so heavy at times they never lift throughout the day.

For anglers, many look forward to these first frosts as these fire up the Murray cod to feed voraciously and build up body fat to last them through the lean time of winter. Other anglers seek to escape the cold to warmer climates. I belong in this category.

In the early days our winter trips were mostly to the Darling River. A trip to Bourke or Brewarrina meant passing a never-ending procession of anglers with utes loaded with tinnies and gear either coming or going to the mighty Darling. Between home and the Darling River means a change in latitude of only around 3 degrees but this small change can mean warmer days and nights that are not frozen but still require a campfire of good river redgum. The first frost on the Darling was sometimes months after we received our first frost on the edge of the Blue Mountains.

The cod bite on the Darling was once legendary, but now just a memory. Unfortunately, the convoys of vehicles travelling to and from the Darling have now vanished as the river has become infested with European carp and starved of water and this brilliant fishery is now confined to the history books. Still further north just over the border the Currawinya National Park is bordered by the Paroo River. This fishery has suffered at the infiltration of carp and the occurrences of Murray cod in the Paroo nowadays is a rarely reported event.

Travelling further north west you will eventually come to the Cooper Creek. Funny enough the Cooper Creek starts with the joining of two rivers, these being the Thomson and Barcoo Rivers. You are now either in Queensland or South Australia enjoying warm days but still cool nights, the flies can be over powering but the fishing is fabulous.

The invasive carp are not in these waters and the fishing is still fabulous. The Cooper is unregulated; no dams holding back natural flows and no large-scale irrigation developments. Further North West and you will come across the Diamantina River, another unregulated river free from the invasive carp. Diamantina Drover is a song written about Old Cork Station and you can camp here on Old Cork waterhole. This water hole is around 7kms long and the fishing here can be fabulous. I have met southerners who camp here for the best part of winter enjoying the warm days and mild nights, spending their days catching golden perch, grunter, catfish, crayfish and red claw.

Further north the Burke River near Boulia looks fantastic. The weir pool in town can be clear at times in stark contrast to the muddy waters of the Cooper and Diamantina. I have still awoken to a heavy frost on the swag at Boulia so if you want warm nights, you still need to travel further north. Now you can dash north east to Cape York where daytime temperatures will be around 30 C and night time temperatures around 19 C. You have now arrived in that part of Australia where summer and winter cease to exist. There are just two seasons, the wet and the dry!

Cape York has many rivers creeks and billabongs to explore. National Parks encompass huge tracts of land . Boat anglers can explore up and down the coast fishing rarely visited water ways and enjoying a bounty of fish, crab and oysters. A trip around the Gulf of Carpentaria to Roper River has numerous fishing and camping opportunities. Karumba, where the Outback meets the sea is a great place to start. Moving west you will come to Burketown on the Gregory River another great fishing spot. Private cattle stations have ventured into tourism, offering fishing and camping experiences on their land. It’s worth sussing out these places. King Ash Bay, Lorella Springs, Cox, Limmen, Towns and Roper Rivers all beg to be explored before heading west to join the Stuart Highway and further north to Darwin.

If you don’t like the cold of winter, like me, I can only suggest you head north for a winter (dry season) escape!

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