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The combatants join
  |  First Published: November 2003



THERE HAVE been cries of excitement coming from all local waters in the past month as anglers find fish willing to join in combat.

The coming months should continue to provide the excitement local and visiting anglers look forward to. The Nepean River, in particular, has been providing plenty of excitement with large fish taking flies, surface and sub-surface lures and spinnerbaits. Reader Steve Chang has been enjoying bass on divers and surface lures and landing fat, aggressive fish to 37cm. A few lucky anglers have even scored bass in the 40cm range. Carp numbers have been dented by anglers from the bank using corn kernels as bait.

The most productive sections of the Nepean River are best fished from canoes and kayaks and anglers in these craft should not feel disadvantaged. Quality, less angler-shy are found in waters that don’t experience the same angling pressures those stretches more accessible by boat.

Easy canoe and kayak access can be found at a number of locations on the Nepean. The ramp at Tench Reserve at Penrith, the reserve at Wallacia, various spots around Camden and at Yarramundi near North Richmond all have spots that are easily accessible for paddle craft.

Just west of the bridge at Windsor you’ll find a reserve which provides access to an area upstream known as the Breakaway. Here you’ll find a big bend in the river with a lot of rocky banks and weed beds. The north-eastern bank has a deeper channel which is worth investigating. Surface lures, flies, spinnerbaits and soft plastics all work well here. Access to the Breakaway is restricted because it is private property so if you want to save some paddling time, gain permission from land owners before entering.

The Castlereagh stretch has a deserved reputation for some great bass. There are spots in this area that stand out like neon signs to bass anglers and paddle craft are again the best option. Small creeks entering the Nepean are also worth working.

Yarramundi typically sees a lot of fishing activity over the next few months. Plenty of parking and flat areas make it a nice family location for an afternoon fish and early barbecue. Anglers who fish here are likely to be targeting carp and mullet as well as bass, with plenty of water in the lagoon to keep anglers comfortably separated. Weed beds and overhanging trees are plentiful here, along with some drop-offs.

There are other spots along the Nepean besides these, so get hold of a decent map and plan your own bass adventure.

HAWKESBURY PICKS UP

The Hawkesbury River is fishing well and those using soft plastics and flies are accounting for estuary perch, bass, flathead and the odd bream around Wisemans Ferry.

If you haven’t tried fly-fishing because you thought it was too difficult, think again. Find someone who knows what they’re doing with a fly rod or hire an instructor and learn how to use the long wand. I started fly-fishing for bass a few years ago and I find it a fantastic adrenaline-charged way of catching these tough fighters.

Fly and lure anglers using surface offerings over the next few months will do well, with the increased insect life seeing fish feeding early and late in the day. During the brighter parts of the day the bass will be deeper in the water column. I’ve also caught some great bass hiding in long, dark corridors beneath overhanging trees in the middle of the day, but you have to be accurate with your casting.

With a run-out tide, fish will typically move into deeper water so keep that in mind when you’re fishing tidal areas. As the tides move back in, fish move up against the many ambush points near the shoreline. Dick Lewers has a chapter in his book Fabulous Bass and How to Catch Them called ‘I’m a Bass’. Dick encourages you to think like bass, but don’t admit that practice to anyone or they might commit you to an asylum. As strange as it seems, thinking like the fish makes all the difference.

Dicks book, and John Bethune’s Bethune on Bass, sadly out of print, will get you well on the way to being a successful bass angler.

The Grose, Macdonald and Colo rivers are also worth fishing and are probably the remotest rivers you can fish locally, depending on how adventurous you’d like to be. If you’re not prepared for the potential risks of fishing in isolated locations, don’t be foolish and attempt such trips.

The fishing will be nothing short of sensational in these areas over the next couple of months but your safety and those whom you fish with are more important than any fish. Not being sure of your abilities in tiger country is a good indication that you should be fishing less hostile water.

THE FRAGILE RIVER

In the August issue I asked for feedback on a closed bass season. Emails arrived for the next three months, with a wide variety of views and ideas mentioned in previous columns. Information that helped stimulate the debate was based on commercial and recreational fishing but the problem is much greater than this traditional debate alone.

The Hawkesbury-Nepean system has 480 kilometres of waterways and covers around 22,000 square kilometres of catchment from south of Goulburn to the escarpment west of Wollongong, north to around Gosford and north-west into the Lithgow area. Issues that affect the catchment as a whole also affect our bass and the other 163 species in the catchment. Basically the Hawkesbury/Nepean River system is treated like Sydney’s sewerage system in more ways than one.

There are more than 50 sewage treatment plants that discharge into the catchment, with 18 in the Hawkesbury-Nepean area alone. The average dry-weather flow of sewage is a staggering 136.2 megalitres a day .With heavy rainfall this may increase six times or more. By 2007, dry-weather effluent flows are expected to increase to about 190 megalitres daily as the population grows within the region.

While this should cause anyone eating a fish from the system to be a little queasy, studies have also found that low oxygen levels occur in most of the tributary creeks that receive sewage. South Creek oxygen levels are so low at times that it stresses most fish species 75% of the time, according to one water quality report.

Solids, including food scraps, insoluble materials like oils, greases, paints and toxic materials such as pesticides, solvents and preservatives also end up in the river and create further problems. Dramatic increases in urban, commercial and industrial development adds to the pollution. Agriculture that requires irrigation creates more problems, such as run-off containing fertilisers and other harmful matter, helping cause algal blooms which can kill fish.

Gravel and sand extraction and coal mining cause problems such as erosion and siltation and affect flow rates. Aerial photographs of any section of the river being mined confirms the worst. If you’ve fished locally for many years, you’ll be able to recall a number of examples of damage being done to the river.

Eighty-one dams and weirs have been identified in the catchment, with 11 weirs on the Nepean between Penrith and Picton alone. Of these, only four have fish ladders which allow bass free passage to brackish waters to spawn. Weirs also have an effect on the flow rate of the river. For more information look at http://hncmt.socialchange.net.au/ on the web and be amazed.

The future of bass fishing in the area is in serious when you consider the immense pressures on the Sydney region’s largest waterway. What has been mentioned here is only the tip of the iceberg but it gives you some idea of just how much pressure is being placed on the Hawkesbury/Nepean system.

For guys with fragile egos, taking a woman fishing can be dangerous. Sabrina Dubois isn’t the first woman to outfish men but she showed the boys how it’s done by catching this fired-up Yarramundi bass on a Halco Poltergeist.

Dave Horvat landed this carp on 6lb Fireline after a 30-minute arm wrestle. Dave relied on mate Daryl to manoeuvre the canoe with the electric while he took on the 820mm swamp rat.

Dave George caught this bronzed beauty from a canoe on a quiet stretch of the Nepean on a black Taylor Nugget. Dave, and many mates, swear by them.

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