February is one of the best times to fish the upper Hawkesbury for bass on surface lures.
Bass will sit under overhanging structure waiting for any insect or small creature to fall into the water. If you are ever near a creek that has bass in it on a hot Summer night and there is plenty of insect life, you will often hear the fish hitting the surface as they feed.
When I first started guiding on the Hawkesbury in 1997 I would often take clients on afternoon and evening tours above Windsor to North Richmond but these days most of my guiding is saltwater. The area above Windsor is probably the best surface lure area that has easy access on the Hawkesbury.
I used to get a real kick out of first-time bass anglers getting their lures smashed only a metre from the boat. They would often have to sit down for a minute to get over the shock.
One day the fishing was a quiet and we had fished for hours without a hit. As darkness fell the client was retrieving his lure and started complaining that there were no bass in the river and implied I was not much of a guide and he wanted to head back.
Just as he was about lift his lure out of the water it was smashed by a 45cm bass, throwing water all over him. I could not help myself and said, “Well, what’s that bloody thing on the end of your rod?” We ended up catching a heap of bass that night but it was not until after dark that the fish came on the bite.
A surface lure is best cast close to cover or in any shallow area. Cast it as close to or under any overhang, let it sit for a while and give it a little twitch, then let it sit a little longer. This is usually when it gets belted.
If there’s no strike, wind the lure a metre or so, let it sit and repeat the process. If this does not work, vary the speed of your retrieve.
Active bass often like a lot disturbance and lethargic bass will often strike if you slow down and leave the lure in the strike zone longer.
Surface lures can be used all day if they are cast into the shadows and also work well in open water over weed and along the front edge, especially after dark. My favourite surface lures are Taylor Made Surface Walkers, East Coast Bass N Bream Fizz, and Bass N Fizz and Heddon’s Tiny Torpedo
Another lure that works well in these upper reaches is the small spinnerbait and its cousin, the Beetle Spin. These can be worked over shallow weed beds and dropped into pockets in the weeds.
Small shallow-diving lures that can be worked over the weed are also very effective. The Taylor Made Nippy Shrimp and Teeny Nugget are deadly. These two are floaters so they can double as surface lures: When you cast them let them sit on top of the water and give them a couple twitches before you wind them down to depth – you will be surprised how often they get hammered by surface-feeding bass.
Along the front edge of weed beds cast small deep-divers like the Baby Feralcatt and Taylor Made Deep Nugget parallel to the weed and work them deep. If you put the top half of your rod in the water it will help get your lure down deeper and if you hold your rod tip up high, you can swim your lure shallow.
Lipless lures like Jackalls, Eco Gear and River 2 Sea can also be cast along the weed and let sink. The advantage in these lures, apart from the rattles, is that they can be worked a varied depth by counting them down before you retrieve.
Fly fishing for bass, surface and sinking, is also deadly. Surface fly is most exciting, with explosive strikes. You can often cast a fly into areas that you will find difficult cast a lure into. Some of the other advantages of using a fly are: You can match the size of the insects the bass are feeding on, a more delicate presentation; when you miss a strike you can pick you fly up a drop it back on the spot without having to retrieve all the way back; ‘potholing’ pockets in weeds and dropping it in the areas between the inside edge of the weed and shore.
Some of the flies I use include small poppers, crickets and hoppers, to name a few.
Sinking fly can be used in front of the weed beds. Cast parallel, let it sink to depth and retrieved at with short fast strips with a pause a second every 3 or 4 strip. I use a sinking stripper 4 with a 2mt 6 kg leader. You can also fish subsurface using floating line and weight flies across the top of weed beds. Flies I like are Clouser, shrimp, bait fish patterns.Reads: 728