Salmon turn up late
  |  First Published: October 2007

The salmon arrived late this year. Usually they turn up in good numbers in late July and can be found around Sydney coastal and Broken Bay headlands but this year they did not turn up in numbers until early September.

Most of the salmon have been caught on 6” soft stickbaits and small poppers worked very slowly through the schools. I have seen other fishos casting small metals without much success.

The first of the kingfish have turned up in Middle Harbour, where they have been feeding on very small baitfish. They’ve been refusing most lures but if you keep at it and cast your lure on there noses, sometimes they will have a go.

When kings and salmon are feeding on small bait, saltwater flies will outfish most other methods. Why? Because you can cast a small fly that is the same size, shape and colour as the tiny baitfish. You can also work a fly a lot slower than most lures and you can even let the fly just sit in the middle of a feeding school.

Most 7wt and 8wt fly outfits will do the job on tailor, salmon, bonito and small kings. You might need to carry a 9wt or 10wt with a fast-sinking shooting head with heavy leader if the kings are hanging deep in the water around reef or structure. In these areas it’s hand-to-hand combat.


October is also a great month to target bass and estuary perch on fly in the Hawkesbury and Colo rivers. I find that the best time to target the EPs on fly is when the tides are big and running out hard. The inside of a river bend that has a drop-off is good area to start. Often estuary perch wait to ambush bait that swims into these areas.

Anywhere you can find with quiet water with current running past is a good bet to look for estuaries.

I use a Loomis Crosscurrent 8wt GLX for EPs and bass because it can cast a heavy sinking line and has the power to pull the fish out of heavy structure. This rod also doubles as a great pole for small pelagics.

The most successful flies have been Clousers in black and brown, black and blue, black and purple or blue and pink. Although the fly purists will throw up their hands, I have also had success using unweighted soft plastics on my sinking line. Some of the best have been 2” Fin-S models.

When fishing for bass with surface flies I like the rising tide early morning and late afternoon, when the fish will be looking up for small crabs or insects that inhabit the tidal zone between high and low. However, I have had plenty of great days on surface fly on a falling tide.

I use a weight-forward floating line with a 2m leader of 8kg and a small popper. I cast a close to the shore, into snags, along weed beds or under any overhang.

When the fly lands I let it sit for a second or three before retrieving. Bass often attack just after the fly lands or at the first few strips. Don’t strike by lifting the rod, just pull the line straight back to set the hook.


When it comes to all-time favourite surface lures for bass, the Taylor Made Surface Walker, in big and small sizes, would be my first choice. They start to work at a very slow speed, have a great action, cast well and have caught thousands of bass for me. Other surface lures in my list include Heddon Jitterbugs and Crazy Crawlers and Koolabung surface lures.

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is another near the top of my list. These lures casts like bullets, can be worked fast by ripping to stir up the fish or can be left in the strike zone and worked very slowly so the blade only just turns. Other fizzers I use include Ozark Woodchoppers and Heddon Dying Flutters.

Small cup-faced East Coast poppers can be worked slowly using the rod tip to produce popping and splash and can also be popped on the spot without winding to stay in the strike zone longer.

All these lures should be cast close to structure, near the bank or in shadowy areas. Let the lure sit for a few seconds after splashdown before giving it a twitch. This is when most bass strike. If not, wind half a metre, pause and repeat until the lure is well clear of cover. Bass like to strike on the pause.

These lures can also be used in open water when bass are feeding on prawns and small baitfish hanging under debris in eddies.

Most bass anglers use surface lures only in the late afternoon or early morning. But on most hot days, surface lures will work through the middle of the day. Keep casting into shadowy areas and make the lure stay there as long as possible by working it very slowly. Bass find it hard not to strike if they are active and if your lure keeps in the strike zone.

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