Valley receives a drenching
  |  First Published: July 2007

In early June some of the Hunter received very strong winds, flooding rain and there was even snow around Scone.

However, the catchment area for Lake Glenbawn, which includes the Barrington Tops, received only a moderate 130mm, which raised the dam about 50cm from around 28% capacity to just over 29%, the same as it was in February.

The important factor with this rain, though, is that it rejuvenates the food cycle for the baitfish and adds plenty of dissolved oxygen, raising water quality which has been slowly diminishing in the recent drought. Think how much your lawn improves after rain, compared with just putting the hose on it.

Lake St Clair received a little more, with its catchment getting around 150mm and a rise of 50cm to bring the dam’s capacity to 30% from 24%. It also was 30% back in February.

Lostock also received decent rain but this dam is nearly always around 99.9% capacity. It went over the spillway by about 1.5m.

In recent issues I have written about the rivers needing a good flush-out before Spring but I certainly did not want it to be so extreme!

But when Spring comes around, it will be interesting to see how the fish reacted to such a huge volume of water through the systems. That is the time in the basses breeding cycle when they move down the rivers to the correct water temperature and salinity, to spawn and I suppose that would nearly be to Newcastle.

I have already seen numerous dead mullet, bass and carp floating around the banks but in the end I am sure a lot will survive.

The Hunter and Paterson were the worst-affected around Maitland because they both topped the levees, while the Williams was not as bad and fell quite rapidly.

It is a shame when you see the volume of water running down these systems and out to the ocean when it could have served best in the impoundments.


Frosty mornings and freezing cold westerlies make for some tough fishing in July but if you can plan your trip to the dams after some consecutive days of light winds and high pressure, you can have more chance of ‘catching’ than just ‘fishing’.

Up the valley, Lake St Clair shuts down very easily after these strong winds. I think it’s because it’s a very open dam and, before the recent Hunter flooding, very shallow. This allows the water to fall to below 14° very easily and especially when it’s cleared up, this tends to shut the bite down fairly quickly.

This is an ideal situation for a real finesse approach which goes as far as releasing the fish so you don’t put other fish off the bite. When the ramp was out of action before the ‘tide’ came in, there was still some excellent bank fishing. It’s especially important when bank fishing not to release fish back into the spot where you are working. Move away some distance before releasing your catch.

Spinning the banks with some of the newer Japanese lures, especially the jerkbaits and suspenders, can be very productive. I like using very sensitive rods like my Miller Finesse 7’ and light fluorocarbon line all the way through. Some of the lures include the Smith Direct (sinking) and the Jade (neutral) and Jackall Water Monitor (neutral), Squirrel (suspending) and Chubby (shallow and deep). In the Ecogear range you could try the CK40 and SX 48, and in the Megabass the Baby Griffon and the Live-X- Smolt, which is a suspending lure.

I have recently been trying some of the Dizzy Wax for salt and freshwater fishing and I have found on some days that the scent can certainly make a difference – but use it wisely. Anyone wishing for more info should drop me an email.

Bait fishing can also be very rewarding during July with the prime candidate being the worm.


Early reports after the big wet of early June indicate that not as much water went into Glenbawn, which could still be fairly low.

Glenbawn fishing can be very frustrating this month but on good days can be very rewarding. The quality of fish can be excellent but the numbers can be low.

The low water level before the rains meant there was plenty of timber for the bass, goldens and silvers to hold against as the water cools. It can get down to as low as 13° this month.

The fish like to hold in close to this timber because the trees transfer warmth into the adjacent water, attracting the bait and weed growth and giving food and cover in one.

When fishing close to the trees I firstly like to jig a lipless crankbait. Even if the fish won’t take it, it certainly stirs them up and you can see them very easily then on a good sounder, especially a colour version. You can then either drop a bait – a worm seems the best in July – a plastic (a Gulp seems to work best) on a very light jig head or even an ice jig.

For those wishing to spin for the fish I have found that downsizing lures is very important, especially in very clear water when fish spook easily when large lures hit the water. I have found that those Japanese lures mentioned above are excellent, especially in the more translucent patterns, worked slowly around structure and cover.

Downsize spinnerbaits from the more traditional 3/4oz and 1/2oz to the more compact 3/8oz and 1/4oz. I still have some of the original Fina baits, which were excellent but are no longer available.

To overcome the issue of needing a compact spinnerbait which needs to weigh around 3/8oz to 1/2oz so it can be cast rather long distances and to get down to around 3m, I have been adding tungsten sticky weight to the shaft just behind the head, where it does not upset the balance

Gold blades with clear skirts are best in clear water under clear skies.

The best bite period seems to be between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is overhead and the barometric pressure is at its highest.

As can be seen from fish in tanks, bass especially need to consume only around 2% to 3% of their body weight in food over a two-day period.

They do not travel too far in search of food but as the thermocline during Winter falls to its lowest level all year, the fish like to move vertically more than horizontally because the water temperature is usually the same from the surface down to around 15m because strong winds virtually turn over the dam water.

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