Back country fishing with your smart phone

Technology is invading every part of our lives. From the moment we wake up and check a news feed and our friend’s facebook status, to navigating the streets of an unfamiliar suburb or even booking movie tickets for later that night, smart phones are quickly becoming an indispensable – I use the term loosely – part of our daily lives.

Back country rivers are beautiful, but often very remote
Back country rivers are beautiful, but often very remote.  Your phone can help you get to these places, but it’s your legs that will have to carry you out again.

Such is the relentless march of technological advance, nowhere is safe.  The world will never be quite the same again after my last trip to Wonboyn, one of the sleepiest towns on the far south coast of NSW.  For the first time, the meandering forest roads were sealed and when we arrived, full 3G mobile phone coverage.   At that moment, with google, youtube, email and SMS at our fingertips, the feeling of remoteness was gone.  The locals said they’ve noticed more people visiting on day trips too.  Even though it hasn’t moved an inch, Wonboyn is now closer to the rest of the world.

I’m too young to rant and rave about how things were in the “good ol’ days” however, after all I’m still in my 20’s (just) and I need to leave myself some options for when I retire.  Instead I’ve discovered that this amazing technology opens up a new world for fisherman. The subtle irony is that the technology can actually help us get to some of the most remote, pristine, and rarely fished waters in our backyards. We can do it pretty safely and with the confidence of a local too. Here’s how.

Get an app that lets you download topographic, street and satellite images onto your phone. Probably the most popular is MotionX and it costs $1. A buck.  Less than the cost of the suncream you are about to apply.  Another option is PDF maps which is even cheaper (free), but in many cases you then have to buy the maps.  If you’re in mobile phone range when you go fishing, you can download the maps on the fly.  More often than not of course, you will be out of phone range.  In this case, make the most of your high speed bandwith connection at home (or work!), and pre-load all the maps you might need onto your phone before you leave.

For example, here are three maps of the same stretch of river.  You can see public roads, fire trails, contours, height above sea level, green stuff and more importantly, a squiggly blue line.

Tracks, rivers and roads - what more could a curious fisherman need?
Topographic map
road maps are handy too
Road map
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Satellite image

In combination, these three maps have virtually all the information you need to find some great fishing spots.  How to get close by car, where the trails and tracks are, and how steep it is going to be.  This sort of trip is not for the faint-hearted mind you, it can be very hard work and you are a long way from help if something goes wrong.

I recommend familiarising yourself with the app before a trip. Or, like me, you will realise entirely too late that you downloaded a very coarse resolution map.  Once in the far reaches of a forgotten gorge, you will extract your phone from its waterproof bag to check your location.  Then you will squint like you’ve just finished eating your fourth lemon as you try to work out where you are in relation to pixelated blobs of green and brown on a screen no bigger than the back of your hand.  Lesson learnt … the hard way … again!

P1000429 Penno riding mountain bike (2s)
My fishing buddy Penno covering some miles on the mountain bike

Obviously these apps work best if your phone has a GPS receiver in it. For the Apple disciples, this means the Iphone 3S or later. The best part of the program is that you can turn on the GPS receiver and it will automatically show you where you are on your map. Still another 3kms to hike down to the river – no worries! Still about 2 hours of fishing before you need walk back to the car – great! Where the heck did I leave my mountain bike … You will experience piece of mind and confidence, which means you can relax and enjoy the fishing.

Back country fishing

Just after the trout season opened last year, we made a couple of trips to the back country.  On both occasions, we were somewhat frustrated to find that the banks of our ‘remote’ spots were lined with footprints and the fish well spooked.  Keep in mind these weren’t spots you could simply waddle out of the car down to the river’s edge with your drive-through soft drink cup still in your hand and a couple of undiscovered fries resting delicately somewhere between your shirt and your pants.  They required plenty of sweat to get to.

So a couple of weeks ago, we studied the maps again and set about finding a section of river that was even further off the beaten track.  It was going to be a big trip.  At least 10 kilometres up and down fire trails on the bikes just to get to the river.  Then we would wade up 2.5kms of river, push through some thick scrub back onto the fire trail, walk back to the bikes and ride the 10 kilometres back up to the car.  Did I mention it was hot too, well over 30°C.

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Working a lure back from the head of the pool

The reward for all the hard work? … bend after bend after bend of seemingly unfished water.  No footprints in the sand, no rubbish and generally no sign of any person having been there before – ever.  Brilliant! Anytime we had the slightest doubt, or questioned how far we had come, we consulted the phone.  After a few seconds the GPS signal was found and our location established.  As an aside, it doesn’t pay to leave the GPS mode switched on, it is a vampire on batteries and will drain its life in just a couple of short hours.

P1000435 Flueger Trion photo (1s)
Crystal clear water and blatant product placement – that’s what fishing is all about! Isn’t it?

The fishing wasn’t bad either.  After the first two likely looking pools we had a fish each, a modest 20cm long rainbow trout.  As the afternoon wore on the fish only seemed to increase in size.  We had a couple for the table and plenty of follows, dramatic mid-air ‘releases’ and bites to keep us entertained.

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A bend in the river offers the perfect ambush point for a hungry trout

Best of all, back country rivers make for some dramatic photos, and some happy anglers 🙂

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This beautiful Rainbow took a Celta next to the rock ledge in the background

So there you have it.  For a dollar, you can transform your smart phone into a GPS, download all the maps and imagery you need, and get out and see some of the best kept fishing secrets this country has to offer, both near and far.

It’s nothing personal, but in this case, I hope I don’t see you on the water!

Graz

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