Do it easy or rough it
  |  First Published: November 2008

During the warmer months, a lot of fishing for bass is in the headwaters of our rivers and creeks. Bass will go as far as physically possible upstream and this is where those who are adventurous and physically up to the challenge will venture.

While some of these areas require excellent preparation and physical fitness, others can be as accessible as parking the car and walking the bank or slipping a canoe into the water. These accessible areas can offer some superb fishing at this time of year, proving you don’t need to have the athletic prowess of an Olympic athlete or the agility of a mountain goat.

There are easily accessible spots around the Camden area and further downstream around Wallacia, Tench Reserve at Penrith and Devlins Lane at Castlereagh – if the Salvinia weed problem has cleared up.

Downstream from Devlins Lane, Yarramundi offers plenty of parking and easy access to walk up or downstream and easy access for paddlers to water free from powerboats and jet skis. A gentle paddle downstream from Yarramundi takes you after a few hours’ fishing to the riverside reserve at North Richmond, where there’s plenty of parking and easy access to the water.

The sounds of a paddle slipping into the water, interrupted by the surface strike of an aggressive bass, ensure canoe fishing adventures produce memories that will last a lifetime.

If you’re thinking of walking into remote areas, you really need to ask yourself if you’re up to it. Sydney is ringed by rugged country with deep sandstone valleys lined with rugged boulders, often forming difficult barriers between pools. The lure is bass which see few lures.

A lot of anglers I know are an adventurous lot. Some of their stories are up there with the best you’ll ever hear, but these guys are confident in their abilities to venture into remote areas. I’ve been fortunate enough to fish with some of these guys in rugged, spectacular fishing locations.

But if you’re not physically up to walking into remote areas and you don’t have the skills required, be sensible and don’t fool yourself – fish somewhere safer.

Every year plenty of people become ambitious and go where they’re not able to meet the challenges. Sadly, some die, while others get lost or injure themselves.


The bass are certainly getting a lot more active on the surface. I’ve been buying Secret Creek Swinging Stuttras, which can be fished just below the surface or deeper. These lures can be worked really erratically and when the bass are active, they do well.

Catching a bass on a surface fly never loses its enjoyment. A timber or foam popper with some tail feathers for added attraction are a great choice, as are Dahlbergs.

I use a Loomis 5WT two-piece outfit with Scientific Angler Headstart weight-forward line for surface flies and Ultra 3 Wet Tip for my wet flies. It has a sink rate of 60mm to 110mm a second.

Fly fishing seems to have an unfair reputation for being too difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth for bass fishing and after a few basic lessons from someone experienced, you’ll be enjoying awesome surface fly action and after you’ve caught your first bass on fly, it’s a safe bet it won’t be your last.


Bass just can’t resist a slowly worked soft plastic. Let the lure glide and twitch and there’s not many species that can refrain from attacking.

I’ve found slow turns of the reel handle, slowly lifting the rod tip and making the plastic appear as lifelike as possible lead to probably the most consistent way of catching fish. If your retrieve starts to remind you of when you’re bait fishing, you’re probably going at the right speed.

Over and into weed, rocks or timber, under rock ledges or other bass hideouts, plastics are among the most likely presentations to tempt a bass when they have lockjaw. Berkley Power Minnows, Berkley 2” Gulp Baby Shrimp, Slider 3” Bass Bugs, Squidgy Bugs and the smaller Squidgy Flick Baits are excellent.

You can rig plastics a number ways. Weightless and weedless with a worm hook point sitting flush along the top of the lure, you can dance it right in among the weeds where the fish are. I love seeing a bass belt a plastic rigged this way.

Squidgy Bugs are excellent whether you want to use them sub-surface or on top. To get the Bug to swim on the surface, rig it with an unweighted hook and use a loop knot. Land the Bug as softly as you can and keep the rod tip high while reeling slowly.

If worked in calm water, the wake from a Bug arcs out, clearly giving away its location. With a slight ripple on the water, a Bug’s wake won’t be so pronounced but skipping the lure along the surface won’t go unnoticed.

A Bug also glides like a ghost when allowed to dive, whether lightly weighted or weightless. I love working this lure unweighted.

Bass targeted with the Bug rigged with a resin head have shown themselves to be a little tentative to strike at full force. I was recently chasing larger bass down deep in the Colo with soft plastics and larger fish were seen to slowly pick at the plastic, just like a pesky saltwater fish picking at bait.

The Squidgy Bug also skips really well, which is a great asset when trying to get to fish under low branches and into rocky lairs. Get the technique right and the Bug can skip like a stone and land well back into the zone.


With daylight saving giving us plenty of time to enjoy our favourite activities, why not surprise the kids and take them fishing for mullet. Not the most glamorous species in the river but they are plentiful and they’ll give even the most seasoned angler a real fight.

Mullet are shy, making them very easily spooked with loud and sudden movements and unless you have a keen eye, probably the first you’ll see of them is the swirl of water as they depart for safer water.

Mullet are typically found in shallow, weedy areas and you’ll often have them form up around the boat.

Because of their small mouths, hooks from No 6 to No 10 on line from 1kg to 3kg and a small float will do the job. Use a berley trail of bread but don’t overdo it.

Pinch a small ball of kneaded, slightly moistened white bread over the hook and keep the noise and bank movement down as much as you can.


If you find the fishing a little tough, pay attention to your retrieve pattern.

When the action is a little slow, it’s easy to begin aimlessly casting and simply going through the motions but it’s really important to keep your mind on your retrieve.

Knowing you have the right lure tied on is one thing but knowing how you were retrieving it when you caught a fish can mean the difference between a slow day and a hot one.

Those in boats should also pay attention to drifting timber. The quicker your boat, the more you need to be scanning the water ahead. I’ve been in boats that have hit submerged timber and there’s not much you do to avoid that but any tiny timber on the surface can be a clue that something much bigger is lying down below.

A nice day on the water can be turned to tragedy in the blink of an eye. A few plaques are attached to riverside cliffs that were the site of local boating tragedies.


The middle reaches of the Hawkesbury are producing a variety of species.

Small minnow lures, soft plastics, surface poppers and flies can all catch mixed bags of estuary perch, bream and bass, flathead and even tailor this month.

If you’re around Sackville, Lower Portland and down towards Wisemans Ferry, you shouldn’t be surprised if you catch a couple of different species in the one session.

I was kindly sent some Trollcraft Shrimps from Andrew at Trollcraft. If spending a lot on hard-bodied lures is not your thing, you’ll find these are affordable and going great guns at the moment.

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