Stealth, persistence and adaptability
  |  First Published: November 2016

It’s the time of year to look forward to the awesome surface action that summer brings here in Sydney. From bass to bream, whiting to kingfish and salmon to tailor, there’s no better sight than a hungry fish engulfing your well-presented surface popper, walker or stickbait.

Bass will be in full swing with most fish converging on their summer hangouts in the upper reaches of the rivers, creeks and streams. Terrestrial insects form a large part of their diet when they’re found in the upper reaches – a small cicada or beetle imitation lure or fly will rarely be refused when cast close to structure or deep into that shaded nook. Be prepared for an instant take, as these fish are highly tuned into their surrounds above and below the surface, looking for an easy meal.

Surface fishing for bream with small poppers and stickbaits is an addictive form of pursuing these hard fighting estuary dwellers. Locate suitable flats with sufficient weed growth, gutters and drop offs to create ambush opportunities, as this is paramount to finding good concentrations of hungry bream in the Hawkesbury and its tributaries. Long prospecting casts are vital to get your lure to unaware, active fish. These guys are already on high alert for any predators, so your presence needs to be minimised by making as little noise as possible. If accessible, wading is a great option and gives you a lower profile to your quarry.

Whiting can be found on the same flats as the bream, but you’ll need to maintain a constant retrieve to elicit a strike from them, which is slightly different from the stop start retrieve used to tempt the bream most days. The addition of some scent may improve your chances if the fish aren’t committed and are just swiping at your offering.

Kingfish, salmon and tailor will be feeding hard on small white bait that will be around 2” long at this time of year. Soft plastics, flies and metal slices retrieved as speed across the surface through active feeding schools is very visually exciting, even if the fish aren’t committing to your lure or fly. Much the same as trying to get a visibly feeding trout in a gin-clear stream to take your offering, it can prove frustrating at times. The right approach coupled withthe right lure and accurate casting will pay dividends most days. Sometimes, slowing down the retrieve speed or allowing your lure to naturally sink through the school can tempt them, especially if they’ve seen angling pressure from others that day or in previous days.

Mulloway will be on the hunt through the brackish reaches and will be pushing as far afield as Wisemans, if the rains hold off. Live baiting will start to take over from lure fishing, with the smaller, more aggressive soapy mulloway commonly beating larger, more sought-after fish to lures and baits. Persistence is the key to success with mulloway, but don’t forget to have your best baits or lures in the water around the tide changes.

Mud crabs and blue swimmer crabs will be in good supply as the month wears on. Set your witches hats out of strong current and traffic lanes in the lower reaches from Spencer back toward the heads. Check them regularly, every half-hour to an hour, for best results. The mud crabs may be slow to start, but they’ll come on as the water warms. Set your pots in the mouths of smaller feeder creeks and if accessible, up in some of the bigger creeks like Mooney, Marra Marra, Berowra, Mangrove, Webbs and the Macdonald River.

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