For better or worse, lots of us who remain hard-wired into society’s rigid work and school calendar are stuck with taking our major annual vacation breaks during the aptly-named “silly season”.
Not so long ago, I’d have defined this period as a single mad month extending from Christmas Eve until the Tuesday following the Australia Day long weekend in late January. However, over recent years, the boundaries of the silly season have blurred and blown out considerably.
This crazy, busy, stressful and often expensive time of year now seems to run right through December and well into February. In fact, it could reasonably be argued that a certain degree of “silliness” nowadays extends from early October until at least the end of the Easter holidays in March or April!
This is the time of year when every second person in the country seems to be out and about, many of them wielding a fishing rod. Secluded spots that were blissfully peaceful and unpopulated a few months earlier are now buzzing with people, pets and powered contrivances of every ilk – from boats and jet skis to trail bikes and 4x4s… It’s a jungle out there!
Catching fish in the middle of this cacophonous summer melee of heaving humanity can sometimes feel akin to wringing blood from a stone. It seems as if the fish have donned their metaphorical stack hats and ear muffs. Their heads are down and their jaws are clamped firmly shut, refusing even our juiciest baits and sexiest lures. Empty Eskies are all too common.
There are a few sneaky tricks I’ve come to rely on for producing fish at this trying time of the year. Most involve doing my best to avoid the worst of the crowds by exploring a little farther and seeking out those paths less-travelled.
It’s amazing the difference it can make to your angling results by pushing upstream a few more bends in the river, or walking half a kilometre farther down the beach beyond the final public access point. Modern day folk are lazy beasts, and those who make even a modicum of extra effort typically reap rich rewards.
Going fishing early and late in the day, or even under the cover of darkness, can also pay handsome dividends at this time and help you to dodge the heat, sun and nagging sea breezes of high summer. After all, fish still need to eat… they just become a little choosier about when and where they do so.
At least as important as these basic tricks of space and time, is honing your skills, sharpening your subterfuge and using your angling nous when it comes to fooling fickle fish. More than ever, it’s well worth seeking out the freshest local baits (preferably alive and kicking). It’s also worth employing the lightest, finest and most subtle tackle, practical for any situation you encounter. In my opinion, finesse always pays off in fishing, and that rule is multiplied during the silly season.
In the end, what you get out of any endeavour is typically a reflection of the investment you put in. Understandably, not everyone wants to do the harder yards. Many summer fun-seekers are happy to smear on the zinc cream, crank up the cricket on the radio and drown a frozen prawn among the splashing swimmers while sucking on an ice-cold beverage. Good luck to them!
But if you actually want to score a few prime fish at this time of year, you might need to try just a tad harder than that. In the end, it’s your call.