Searching for secret weapons
  |  First Published: December 2004

What new product is going to be The Lure this year? Remember when spinnerbaits and plastics hit the market? What about when fly fishing took off again? Last year it was lipless lures enjoying skyrocketing sales and it’ll be interesting to see what is going to be the top lure for this year.

Fly fishers first appeared in the Hawkesbury in the 1820s and, while not as popular as it once was, fly continues to be a great way to take bass. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s one of the most exhilarating ways of catching them.

Bass hitting surface flies is exciting enough, but seeing that fly rod with a decent arc in it and watching as the line stretches under the strain really makes for some exciting times.

I use a six weight Innovator HLS four-piece rod which has proven to be excellent. Whether I am fishing on foot or from the boat, this is a great rod to use all day. When it comes to landing fish, it delivers the goods with ease.

With plenty of insect life about this month, surface action on fly should be superb. Cicada flies have been taking their toll on bass off the surface but poppers worked early morning and late afternoon have been devastatingly effective. I’ve got some of these in black and others in green and they’ve been excellent.

Other successful surface flies include Dahlbergs and other patterns. Surface flies worked around weed beds, lily pads, overhanging vegetation and snags work, but keep your mind on the job. It doesn’t take a bass long to run you into tiger country with a fly rod, so paying strict attention to the fly is important.

While getting under low-lying, dense vegetation can be a challenge with the fly, a less frustrating method can be to cast the fly close to the edge of the overhanging growth and let it drift with the current, which is a realistic presentation.

In hard fished waters, making a presentation look as realistic as possible will help you take fish. Getting fish out can take some doing but it’s real heart-in-the-mouth stuff.

If you’re fishing with a mate and being trounced on your mental scoreboard, turning to the fly rod can quickly put you ahead, or at the very least close the gap quickly.


My diary records from past Januarys show some fishing days to be very oppressive for both anglers and fish, with temperatures hitting the mid-40°s and surface water an amazing 28°. It can be difficult to pull decent numbers of fish on really hot days as many species just don’t function and can shut down. Early mornings and late afternoons can be especially productive this month, with plenty of insect live thriving in the humidity and heat.

There are plenty of reports of good catches up and down the Hawkesbury-Nepean and other local rivers. Areas less heavily-fished have been doing better.

The Nepean River from the boat ramp at Tench Reserve up into the gorge country is heavily worked over this month, which makes the fishing tough for many.

If you can find a time without the skiers and PWCs, you’ve got the whole section from the weir to The Narrows where the fish haven’t seen anglers. On busy afternoons, the area from the boat ramp down to the weir is worth a go.

Mullet, carp and bass have been caught in good numbers around Yarramundi and downstream and will provide plenty of school holiday excitement for the kids.

The Breakaway and The Terraces at Freemans Reach are great spots in January, especially under The Terraces, where high cliffs provide respite for fish and anglers. This area is shaded and much cooler. If the boom nets holding back the salvinia weed are still in the area, make a special effort not to damage them.


The decision shun the crowds and fish more remote water has its challenges, dangers and rewards. Those who have hankered for more excitement, more consistent results and less shared water have been making the effort to venture into more remote areas.

Excessive temperatures and sapping humidity make conditions difficult for the adventurous anglers at this time of year but nothing beats the power of a fish caught in remote water. These fish are heavy hitters.

Out of respect for those adventurous anglers, I won’t blow their secret locations but it doesn’t take much investigating to work out that there’s plenty of remote water to explore.

If you are confident to take on remote fishing, remember to keep a good look-out for snakes. Western Sydney has some of the deadliest snakes in Australia and while the chances of being bitten are fairly slim, paying strict attention to where you’re about to step is a good idea.

Better still, look ahead of where you’re walking and give any you see a wide berth. In remote country, walk with a group and carry the right first-aid equipment. Do a first-aid course and know what to should you strike trouble. Don’t forget a map and tell someone where you’re going and when you get back, let them know.

There are also plenty of areas with easy access for kayaks and canoes and the frustrations of heavily-populated waters are non-existent.

If you’re not confident to get into remote waters by paddling or walking, simply stay out. No fish is worth your safety so be honest with yourself about your abilities.


The Colo River is one of the most pristine waters west of Sydney and one of the most scenic. This month can be one of the better times to work over the area.

While bass are the most numerous species there, there’s every possibility of catching bream, flathead, estuary perch and, at the mouth of the Colo, jewfish.

The upper reaches are lost in huge sandstone canyons accessible only to the adventurous, but there is good access from the Putty Road bridge to the Hawkesbury River 12km away. There are extensive weed beds, masses of timber, thick overhanging leafy shadows, rocky cliffs and a host of other places that hold bass.

Changes in the tides are the best times to fish. The farther you get away from the Hawkesbury, the water gradually becomes clearer and by the time you’re about 2km from the Putty Bridge, the water becomes gin-clear.

On a run out tide, shallow sand flats about 5km upstream can make travelling in smaller boats difficult but stick to the right-hand bank and keep an eye out for submerged timber.

Bass feed on the herring, smaller mullet, prawns, crabs, reptiles and the huge amount of insect life.

Surface lures will be top of the picks this month. Personal favourites include Heddon Torpedoes and Hula Poppers, Kokoda Bugger Chugs, Rebel Crickhopper poppers, River 2 Sea Cicadas and Predatek Spaddlers.


Most anglers don’t think about dehydration but low fluid intake and excessive activity in hot weather can lead to severe problems. Some of these include mild to extreme fatigue, irritability, poor judgment, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, loss of balance and changes in mental awareness.

Just a 2% fluid deficiency can be enough to cause some of these symptoms to appear and cause a 25% reduction in the body’s efficiency.

If you suspect you or a friend is dehydrated, rest in a shaded area, removed excessive clothing and give cool water to drink. Drinks containing sugar or tea and coffee should be avoided; they contain caffeine which increases fluid loss through the kidneys. Alcohol also increases fluid loss and should also be avoided.

Looking over the symptoms of dehydration could explain why you’re not fishing as well as you might expect. More importantly, in remote areas being dehydrated can be very dangerous.

The key is to keep drinking water, even before you reach your fishing location. Once on the water, keep the body well-supplied with regular drinks of water and your fishing can be much more enjoyable.

If you’ve got any news or pics to share, drop me an email or phone 0418 297 353

Brooke Shearim fished Pughs Lagoon at Richmond, where she managed to catch her first fish. This small carp was one of four she caught unassisted. She can't wait to fish with her Dad now.

Gary Lee loves to fish the quiet waters and gets great results. A kayak can hold the key to fishing remote productive waters in relative comfort

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