The joys of houseboating

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Enjoy the peace, tranquility and fantastic fishing opportunities that come with taking to the water on a houseboat.

WORDS John 'Bear' Willis

There’s a feeling of freedom generated by boating, in fact, it is more like an infectious disease. Combine fishing with boating and, like me, you’ll be hooked. Add a houseboat to the mix and you will feel more like Huckleberry Finn leaving the trauma of modern life behind in the rippling aquatic flow.

Boats extend your angling outlook and range exponentially, but houseboating brings the whole family or a bunch of mates to the soiree.

Sure, it’s exciting to go for a high-speed rampage in a mega horsepower sportsfishing weapon, maybe bust an oceanic swell in an offshore behemoth, challenge the short, sharp chop of our larger bays and estuaries, or even hike the High Country tributaries with a long wand and nymph. But there’s just something about rafting on a houseboat that soothes the soul.

LIFE ON THE WATER

I recently had the pleasure of houseboating, on Victoria’s Lake Eildon and it reinforced a love of many years. It was the start of winter in Victoria, a time when there is still colour from the autumn leaves glistening in contrast to the lush, grassy hills on the drive up through the central highlands.

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This is the time of freezing cold, star-filled nights giving way to thick, foggy mornings on glassy, calm waterways, broken only by the sounds of nature. Trout plip and plop across the calm, birds chatter and crow, occasionally you’ll hear the crack of a dead tree as it falls or, if you listen closely, there’s sometimes the crunch of a kangaroo, wombat or deer going about its natural routines in the dense bush or along the steep shorelines. The fog generally clears as the winter sun fills the sky with its warm embrace; however, you need to enjoy it while you can, as the days are short and thick snow clouds gather for their annual dump.

It’s always the right time to be on the water, but late autumn to early winter is a favourite as the maddening crowds have cleared, leaving you almost alone to explore every nook and cranny of the mystical maze of dead trees that border the shoreline and provide solitude in the hidden coves and inlets.

“How’s the serenity?” asked Darryl Kerrigan, of Lake Eildon, in the classic Aussie movie The Castle. At only one-third full, Lake Eildon is still twice the volume of Sydney Harbour. The huge outflow of the summer irrigation season spills massive volumes of liquid lifeblood down the beautiful Goulburn River, refreshing the agricultural heartland of the state and finally meeting with the mighty Murray as it meanders to the sea.

FISHING AT HOME

Houseboats are a glorious way to slowly cruise the majestic waterways in the total comfort of your own abode on water – sort of like an aquatic caravan, really! They are generally very slow and quite silent, reminiscent of a time when the race wasn’t run by rats and we had the time to simply slow down and smell the roses.

We most often choose a bankside destination where we can strike a campfire to ward off the winter chills and, perhaps, cook a spit or pot roast. These backwater coves among the dead timber provide an ideal habitat for the fish.

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You can simply soak baits with either weighted bottom rigs or floats, or maybe a combination of each, while you sit in the warm comfort of the houseboat warding off the morning or late afternoon chill. Most houseboats have upper entertainment decks, some even have spas! Imagine having your relaxing bubble bath interrupted by the sound of a screaming reel – oh, the pain!

The trout were quite void on this occasion, even though I threw every lure and bait in the book at them. We trolled up a small Atlantic salmon and were entertained catching smelly carp in the night lights. They tell me the goodoo and yellowbelly fishing is getting better and better but, alas, not for us. We didn’t care as we were quite mesmerised by the simple beauty of our surroundings, enjoyed from the comfort of our little home on water.

It’s nice to tow a small boat behind a houseboat for greater flexibility. It opens up the range for fishing and exploration sojourns, but also gives you an easy access for picking up guests from the harbour, or simply going down to civilisation to stock up with fresh milk and bread on an extended vacation – or maybe a Green Ginger Wine to ward off the cold!

FIND YOUR OWN PIECE OF HEAVEN

Eildon is only one of a multitude of Australian houseboat destinations. There are plenty of options to rent or buy your own aquatic caravan right around the country, including many inland lakes and larger rivers like the Murray, Hawkesbury, Tweed, Noosa and Clarence rivers, and Myall Lakes, Port Stephens, Brisbane Waters, the Gold Coast, Lake Alexandrina, and Tin Can Bay, among many other options.

Options start from not much better than a raft to party barges and right through to multi-million dollar luxury homes afloat.