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Gorge bass go nuts
  |  First Published: December 2004



Good rains have given the Macleay and Bellinger systems the flush they’ve needed for a couple of years and the high, clear water and surge of fish into the feeder creeks and headwaters have put a spring in the step of every bass angler in town.

With their current willingness to tackle nearly anything thrown in their vicinity, it doesn’t seem particularly pertinent to discuss tactics that can make a difference. However, one thing that arose in a recent conversation was stowed away in the mental locker to share later on.

Lure colour choice is guaranteed to come up in a discussion on bass. Black has always been the main ‘go-to’ colour when fishing in our rivers and I must admit that the occasion has rarely arisen when I’ve had to change tack.

When change has been needed it is generally to green or chartreuse and tends to happen later in the season. I think there is a connection with the predominantly available prey at that time of year, cicadas.

In the places where I’ve had to change to green, whether it be a surface lure or diver, ‘greengrocer’ cicadas seem to be the main food. Or, at least, the most likely to fall from the sky with a resounding splat. Yet another permutation of the ‘match the hatch’ school of thought.

A twist to this happened a few years back when I was slowly (and successfully) fishing my way up the river with a small deer-hair popper tied in a black and yellow, bumblebee-like pattern. After covering a likely looking pool for no results I noticed a large wasp nest (about five square metres!) on a cliff overhanging the pool.

On a hunch, I changed to an all-black fly and immediately drew a strike. In a manner similar to developing a ‘search pattern’ for green or black prey, the bass in this pool had obviously learned that anything with bright stripes was likely to give them a bad case of heartburn!

COPETON CAPERS

The eastern rivers weren’t the only ones to benefit from the rain early in the season. Although there wasn’t the massive deluge that cleared out the Bellinger and Nymboida, there was still enough to restore reasonable flow and breathe more life into the western systems.

Copeton Dam has benefited from a rise in level and early reports are of cod up to 120cm and plenty of golden perch. Let’s hope the rain keeps up so that the cotton farmers don’t drain the whole lot on us.

When the level is rising it is often a good idea to concentrate on the recently inundated areas. Golden perch in particular will often move into these areas and mooch around looking for an easy feed.

I heard of one angler who, after fruitless hours of motoring around in the hot sun, decided to park the boat for a respite on the bank. He went on to land around a dozen good perch, all lured from the shallows.

Later in the afternoon and into the night, cod will often move into theses areas as well, providing some exciting action on surface lures. Concentrate on wooded areas or around the rocky points.

Armed with this knowledge, boat anglers can cash in by getting in close and working shallow-divers, spinnerbaits and, later in the evening, surface lures. Spinnerbaits are perfect for this fishing as you can burn them through the shallows then let them flutter down over rock ledges, drop-offs or any other structure.

LUNCHTIME DISTRACTIONS

January will often see me heading a little further west with my mate Glen in search of a few cod. After setting up camp under a few shady she-oaks we’ll walk the banks, firing casts into likely snags and pinning the odd cod or golden. It’s not the most productive way of fishing these rivers but it’s very relaxing and you don’t have to go through the hassle of lugging a boat along with you.

By lunchtime it’s usually too bloody hot for the cod but rather than surrender to the first beer of the day, I’ll often get stuck into the abundant carp.

Unlike the natives, carp are generally at their most active at high noon and you’ll often see them grubbing around in the shallow backwaters with half their backs and caudal fins sticking in the air. You can see this from more than 100 metres away and it takes everything I have to hide my excitement and not run over for a shot.

Small soft plastics are very effective on these fish but flies seem to be the most regularly taken. Everyone has their favourite carp fly and I’m no different: Tan over white Crazy Charlies (Gotchas) tied on a No 8 are mine and I haven’t found reason to change. Small nymphs, Woolly Buggers and the Egg-Sucking Leech apparently all work, too.

Carp are very spooky fish and you need to be pretty stealthy. The ability to cast a long line is advantageous as you don’t need to spend as long doubled over, crouching next to bushes and generally making a fool of yourself in front of the occasional farmer. I’ll go into greater detail on tricks and tactics in a future article.

These mud-suckers may not be as illustrious as the other introduced species but they are every bit as difficult (if not more!) to catch regularly and few things in our fresh water can pull as hard.

1

After the good rains in October and November the bass have really been firing. This nice little fish fell for a size 10 Woolly Bugger fly.

2

Further west in the rivers and on dams such as Split Rock and Keepit, the carp can provide an alternative to lunchtime beers when the natives have gone quiet.

3.

Glen Michelle with an average carp pulled from under the bankside cover where it was mooching around in the mud. Even on an 8-weight fly rod these fish can put in a determined fight.

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