Rivers in top condition
  |  First Published: November 2007

It’s great to see the excellent condition of the rivers and creeks after all that rain in late Winter.

The Colo River is looking as beautiful as ever, with plenty of changes in the river structure and wonderful water clarity that is a vast improvement from that of the past few years. There are plenty of new snags and changes in features in all our rivers and creeks since the rains.

Surface lures are now the most popular method of catching bass and topwaters that have largely sat in the tackle box during the cooler months are gaining favour again.

There have been some terrific bass taken, many caught on soft plastics and hard deep-divers. Plenty of fish over the forty centimetre mark have been landed, especially in the upper Nepean, but elsewhere in the Colo and Hawkesbury as well. It’s very promising for the coming months.


Fly fishing on the Hawkesbury is recorded as far back as the 1820s but the technology these days couldn’t have been imagined in the 1800s. From basic cane rods to high-tech graphite rods of great beauty and possessing power when needed, fly fishing has come a long way since the early days of the colony.

If you’ve never considered fly fishing before, find someone willing to show you how exciting bass on a fly can be. After catching your first bass on a surface fly, you’ll addicted.

Best surface flies for bass and estuary perch include the Crickroach, STP Frogs, Bass Ants, foam and wood poppers and foam beetle patterns. Some of the surface flies of closed foam or timber won’t need floatant but those constructed of hair and fur will. Sub-surface flies include Bass Vampires, Woolly Buggers and shrimp patterns.

I use a 5WT outfit for smaller rivers and a 6WT for bigger water. On the 5WT I use a weight-forward floating 6WT line for the surface flies and a 6WT sink tip for sub-surface flies. The floating line gets a lot of use, while the sink-tip is great for fish holding deeper.

On the 6WT I use a 7WT weight-forward line for surface lures and a similar sinking line for sub-surface. Unless you want to get down really deep, I couldn’t imagine that you would use a sinking fly line much but it can come in handy when you want to get your flies down deep. Going up one line class for a designated weight rod can help anglers load the rod more effectively.


I can’t wait to get into the surface lures this month, especially the challenge of heavily-fished waters with clear lures. Clear lures are a definite first choice, especially in places like the Nepean at Penrith, where angler pressure is high due to surrounding towns. Those after a quick fish after work visit the area in droves.

The fish become very wary of anything remotely like a lure and even the little bass are educated very early on in life. My three favourite clear lures are the Daiwa Cicada Pencil, Tiemco Pencil and Smith Towadi. Other favourites include the Heddon Tiny Torpedo, Teeny Torpedo, Baby Torpedo and Zara Puppy, Daiwa Cicada, and Lucky Craft Sammy.

If you’re in slightly discoloured water, any of those lures in darker natural colours are better than clear lures. If the water is really discoloured, go to larger black or a fluoro lure which makes plenty of noise and can be worked very slowly. The Taylor Made Fat Banger and Basscada, River 2 Sea Buggi, Kokoda Bugger Chug or the Heddon Hula Popper are great choices in this type of water. The Hula Popper can move a lot of water if required, but can be very subtle if necessary.

Another great Aussie lure company, East Coast, has produced some more classic surface lures for bass. Dave George was outfishing me with his East Coast Splutter Bug so I bought his spare off him and started catching fish.

The Rack Rat is designed primarily with bream in mind but has been braining bass. It’s a lot smaller than the Splutter Bug.

While it’s not that common to catch big bass in open water during the middle of the day, it can be done as Rod Cumming showed on a recent trip on the Colo. Targeting semi-submerged timber at 2.30pm, he worked a large surface lure across open water and back through the timber for a 395mm bass.

Earlier that day, another good bass had raced up from the deep to smash a Hula Popper in open water without a hint of nearby structure. So fish the retrieve all the way and don’t discount the possibility of a surface strike during the day.


The bass might not be as spooky now as they will be at the height of Summer but when you find they have gone off the bite, try a soft plastic. Fished slowly, a plastic appears an easy meal and bass just can’t resist a slowly worked plastic.

Slow cranks of the reel and gentle lifts of the rod tip make the plastic appear as lifelike as possible. If your retrieve is similar to when you’re bait fishing, you’re probably going at the right speed.

Cast among weed beds, in weedy pockets, rocks or timber or under rock ledges, plastics are the most likely presentation to tempt a bass when they’ve got lockjaw. Berkley Power Bait Minnows, Berkley 2” Gulp Baby Shrimp, Slider 3” Bass Bugs, Squidgy Bugs and the smaller Squidgy Flick Baits are excellent.

Rigged weightless and with the hook sitting flush along the top of the plastic, you can dance the lure among weeds right in where the fish are.

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

In calm water, the wake arcs out and gives its location away. Skipping the Bug along the surface also won’t go unnoticed.

When allowed to dive the Bug glides like a ghost when rigged lightly weighted or weightless. It also skips really well on the cast, a great asset when trying to cast under low branches and into rocky lairs.


There are good numbers of mullet through the rivers at the moment, which are great fun to catch. They might not be a glamour species like bass or EPs but these line burners can really go when they hit top gear.

Mullet can be taken from the bank, making them accessible to everyone. A little bread berley thrown sparingly but regularly will produce a steady trail to get the fish on the job. A pinch of dough on a small hook under a pencil float should do the trick.

Bream and flathead are also about in good numbers, with the flathead being taken on the drift, particularly from Sackville to Wisemans Ferry, on plastics around 100mm fished along the bottom, with vigorous double rips of the rod tip.

For bream, 90 minutes either side of the tide change is the preferred time. The prime bait is live Hawkesbury River prawns although fresh dead prawns are OK.

The East Coast Splutter Bug, top left, and Rack Rat, top right, are great bass surface lures. They might not be as expensive as overseas models but the bass love them. Home-tied flies don’t have to be fancy to be successful.

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