One of the more interesting challenges facing South Queensland’s fly anglers is to find some fish to take on fly tackle.
Understanding just how the system works can be picked up easily enough on the internet and, with practice, casting can be mastered as well. But the enjoyment of feeling a fish on the long rod can be harder to come by.
While there are plenty of saltwater fish in our estuaries and coastal creeks, skill levels required to take these fish can be well above the basics.
Weather and time constraints can also have a bearing on where and when to fish, increasing the difficulty factor. All of this can make moving to a freshwater venue a better alternative, especially when bass-stocked impoundments in Southern Queensland are so handy.
It’s just so easy to launch the boat and fly-fish for bass in Maroon Dam, just off the Boonah-Rathdowney Road. It’s compact in size and has a healthy population of fish, which greatly suits the fly angler able to get on the water in a boat or kayak.
In contrast to the likes of Somerset and Wivenhoe dams – and nearby Moogerah Dam – Maroon has very extensive weed beds skirting almost the entire shoreline, which brings the fish into easy reach of the floating angler.
Powered craft are permitted so all one needs is fly tackle and a Stocked Impoundment Permit – too easy!
While bass are plentiful and also easy to find in Maroon, they are also somewhat smaller, which means that a 5-6Wt outfit is fine. However, to make the most of this picturesque fishery, you’ll need floating and sinking fly lines.
The ever-present weed beds are a huge attraction to the bass, which can be found feeding around them from the first blush of morning light until the sun hits the water, at which stage they tend to move out along deeper edges or nearby flats – out of reach of the floating line.
Evenings are also very good, with fish coming in to the weed edges as the sun moves behind the ranges to the west. Fishing into full darkness is fine: bass see food items with ease long after we can’t.
With a dry fly, such as a size 4 Muddler Minnow, Gartside’s or Grabham’s Gurgler on 4kg tippet, the floating line offers excellent dry-fly opportunities for bass and the resident spangled perch.
The idea is to cast the fly close to the edges of weeds or lilies, give it the tiniest twitches for a few seconds and then simply let it sit. If a fish has not noticed it in a minute or two, simply recast it to another area after a couple of false casts to dry the fly thoroughly.
Maintaining a silent approach is important and an electric motor is almost indispensable for powerboats. The kayak angler can rely on paddle or pedal stealth.
Suitable areas for dry-fly work are out of the breeze so it isn’t difficult to keep the boat positioned or the fly in constant sight.
The best part about this dam is that if one area is not productive it’s easy to look around and note another spot where fish are obviously surface feeding with their small but quiet audible sips.
Once the sun is on the water, it’s time to swap the floating line for a full-sink model and change to a different style of fly and technique.
The ubiquitous Vampire or Clouser Deep Minnow come into their own but again, don’t go overboard with size. Small and dainty seems to be the credo for Maroon bass wet flies.
Colour is important; hints of red and bright purple seem to work best with Vampires, while other flies also featuring a bit of red (the dam carries untold numbers of fire-tailed gudgeons) are highly regarded.
A sounder is almost mandatory for locating schools of bass working deeper flats adjacent the weed beds. Move the boat slowly fairly close to the growth but in 5-10m of clear water and the sounder may pick up a school of fish holding away from the bottom or almost on it.
Make a long cast away from the boat, count the fly down to the bottom, according to the line manufacturer’s sink rate, then work it back with a very short, sharp retrieve.
A tiny tap indicates a fish has found the fly, a tug usually indicates that it’s hooked.
If a fish taps and then seems to lose interest, try quickly feeding back some slack line. This will often produce another more determined effort from Mr Bass, perhaps attacking ‘wounded’ prey.
With its Border Ranges setting, tranquil mornings and balmy evenings, Maroon Dam is a bass fishery that can bring back even the most seasoned fly angler time and time again.Reads: 1471