Chasing impoundment bass on fly tackle is a rewarding experience, especially with a few tips to guide the way.
In Part One of this article in last month's issue I discussed the importance of balanced seven or eight weight tackle, which fly lines are best for the job and the construction of the all-important twisted leader. Flies such as the common Bony Bream, Clousers and Vampires are favoured for dams like Moogerah, Wivenhoe and Somerset, with the Clouser with a bit of red in the tail a favourite when fishing Maroon Dam.
The next issue to tackle is exactly how to find bass in our impoundments. There are many factors to consider when searching for bass. For instance in Borumba Dam, and others with plenty of workable bank structure, keeping flies next to structure is a comfortable way to hunt for a hook up. Yet in quite large impoundments, like Moogerah, Wivenhoe and Somerset, different tactics are required. In these lakes fish are less likely to be near structure and will instead school in deeper, more open, water. A boat is a necessity in these cases, enabling anglers to search the deeper areas with a sounder and locate schools of fish.
The best time of day for bass flyfishing can vary. My personal records indicate that the majority of my bass captures on fly occur from 7-11am than any other time, with the exception of a few afternoon bites around 3pm.
Schooling bass are fairly reliable fish. In most of the big dams they tend to haunt the 10-15m depth range. The magic 10m depth of a flat dropping off to a section of deeper riverbed is well worth mooching about slowly and keeping an eye on the sounder to find fish. A good working knowledge of the boat's sounder and its operating systems is paramount. The operator should set up the sounder to find a balance between maximizing sensitivity and keeping excessive clutter to a minimum. Knowing how to interpret the images on the sounder is important, too.
Feeding bass show as lines moving upwards, downwards or across the screen in crisscrossing patterns. Such lines can be easily seen and interpreted if one is aware of what is going on. If the boat is moving slowly forward a number of blobs or arches in one area is worth further investigation. Try to quickly stop the boat and watch to see if the signals develop into moving lines, which will confirm the fish are actively feeding.
Feeding can take place anywhere from the bottom to within a few metres of the surface. When the sounder shows smudges of bait in and around the lines made by the bass it is very encouraging and virtually guaranteed success.
Patterns similar to that on the sounder is the best case scenario. There are a lot of other patterns that show up on sounders, which are the ones champion bass anglers can understand and make use of to get their names at the top of the leader boards.
At times bass will appear simply as small half arches right on the bottom. This occurs when the sounder has picked up the fish’s air bladder but the fish are stationary, having a spell. If I see several of these half arches on the screen of the Lowrance then I'm pretty confident there will be enough fish in that area to make a crack worthwhile.
Other times there may be a series of dark lines, or blobs, near the bottom – but not right on it – showing up on the sounder. These marks will usually be fish that are not feeding at the time, but may be tempted to have a crack at a fly if it is worked through them.
Those are some of the ideal scenarios. When something worthwhile shows up on the screen the idea is to quickly get the fly onto the job and see if a fish will come to the party.
It is essential to have the fly line out as far as possible, in order to keep the fly in the strike zone as long as possible. So a long cast, with a bit of a drift, is required. The angler then needs to give the line and fly time to sink down to where the fish are. The time the line would take to sink is usually written on the fly line packaging.
Once the fly is down the key is to work it back in a manner that will induce a bite, which takes a bit of practice. Short, sharp, little strips followed by a small pause is a good starting point, but be aware that a bass nipping at a fly on the end of 20m of fly line will produce the tiniest little touch or pick.
If you feel a little tug, immediately stop the retrieve and slip the fish some slack line (to give the premise the fish has wounded the fly) to induce the fish to go after the fly. Alternatively up the ante and retrieve faster. Either tactic can work. Once the bass gets hold of the fly properly things will escalate very rapidly with a solid pull signalling that a fish is indeed hooked.
On some days the fish will be found to be schooling nicely, with one or two being taken, and then they may suddenly disappear! The bite has seemingly shut down yet the sounder still shows plenty of activity. A change of fly and retrieve style – perhaps a much slower one – will often bring back the tension on the fly line and the grin on the angler’s face.
The variety of techniques and the vast potential for experimentation is one of the best things about targeting impoundment bass on fly tackle, making this type of fishing both interesting and exciting.Reads: 1930