A great time to fly
  |  First Published: November 2004

Fly-fishing for bass is not a technique new to the waters of the western Sydney – casting with the long wand has been recorded as one of the most of successful ways from the 1820s to target ‘perch’ in the area.

Those who love chasing bass and estuary perch with fly rods should have some sensational action over the coming months, especially with surface flies. If you’ve never tried this form of fishing for bass, it’s well worth considering as a means of giving yourself some heart-stopping moments.

There’s nothing humdrum about catching a big bass when it smashes your fly off the surface. When the line and rod look like they will never turn the fish around, you’ll appreciate why many bass anglers find fly-fishing for bass so exciting. I reckon there’s nothing beats it.

A number of flies account for bass off the surface, with foam and timber poppers and Dahlbergs very popular. A number of deerhair flies resemble moths, cicadas and other familiar prey that bass feed on, and as these flying snacks are out in numbers over the coming months, they’ll also account for good numbers of bass. A 6/7 weight rod is ideal with a weight-forward line for easier casting.


Bass in the mid 40cm range have been caught in the Nepean lately and more of these fish should be in the headwaters this month. Soft plastics have been accounting for good numbers of bass, with the usual Atomics, Squidgies, Sliders and Berkley plastics taking good fish.

Nitro Whiz Bangers are becoming increasingly popular locally for obvious reasons. Whiz Bangers are basically a cross between a Beetle Spin and a spinnerbait, with a light stainless steel wire frame and Mustad hook.

The Nitro Mini Whiz Bangers are 1/8oz and are available in Colorado or Tandem blades, while the Whiz Banger comes weighs 1/4oz and both are rigged with a Slider grub ready to go. They also come in 1/2oz and 3/8oz versions. While they might look a bit flimsy for barramundi, a 3/8oz version has landed a 107cm barra.

The Nepean at Penrith attracts a lot of families for barbecues in the warmer months and with plenty of access to the water, mullet are a very likely catch – always a great hit with the kids. Just remember to hang onto the little ones because these fish can really pull.

Mullet inhabit riffles and still waters but they’re great wanderers. There are plenty of big mullet about and young anglers off the bank are taking them on bread or dough below a float. A typical outfit is a 1.8-metre spinning rod loaded with 3kg line with No 8 to No 4 hooks under a pencil float.

Bread berley gets mullet active but they are flighty fish, so minimise excessive movement on the bank.

Those who fish Devlins know it can offer fast action in November for bass, but big carp and runaway mullet are always on offer. At last inspection Salvinia weed was contained to the area near the car park and into the narrow channels upstream. Once you’ve trudged your way through here, there’s clear water to fish.

Nitro Whiz Bangers, Betts and Beetle Spins and plastics work well in here and are probably more popular than hard-bodied lures at times.

Salvinia has been in the area around the Nepean and Warragamba River and individual plants have spread down as far as the weir at Penrith. It’s not looking good for the warmer months. Between rowers, skiers and anglers, there are sure to be some very unhappy people.

Yarramundi Lagoon has been clear of Salvinia for a couple of months and there’s been renewed interest in fishing it, with positive results. The small pool just above the bridge should be clear of weed – for now.


Bass and estuary perch are being caught in good numbers, with many falling to soft plastics, but plenty of other species have been caught as well. Surface lures will be making an appearance this month and the black River 2 Sea Buggi Pop will be widely used. These resemble a black prince cicada apart from a pulse and a brain, but that’s your job – to give it life.

Predatek’s Spaddler and Micro Spaddler will account for plenty of bass off the surface. A soft, realistic splashdown and a slightly tail-down position have appeal. Give the lure a flash with a torch and you have a luminous bib after dark.

Good-sized flathead are being caught, especially between Wisemans Ferry and Sackville. Don’t be amazed if you catch a flattie when you’re targeting something else, they’ll take just about anything. Working within an hour or so of a tide change with live prawns has proven effective.

From Lower Portland to Wisemans Ferry a few jewfish to 15kg and even 20kg have turned up, mainly on live prawns and strips or fillets of tailor. Tailor are always a possibility upstream of Wisemans during the warmer months, so fresh bait for the jewies is on hand.

Up around Windsor, good catches of bass and estuary perch are being taken around any bits of floating timber and froth caught in eddies. Unweighted Berkley 2” Power Minnows in the rainbow silver fleck colour have been excellent worked around weed beds.

Fly anglers are having a ball on Dahlbergs and foam poppers, while those using light surface lures have also having a ball.


The darker water provided by the many overhanging trees in the Colo River can produce some sizeable bass, even during the middle of the day, but accurate casting can prove the difference between just another cast and a hook-up. Halco Sneaky Scorpions have been very effective, with varying lengths of fluorocarbon leaders used to adjust the lure’s buoyancy.

The cicadas make a deafening song in the Colo in the warmer months and a deerhair fly that looks remarkably like a cicada which will be an obvious selection. These flies are available at the Australian Bass Angler in Penrith

For anyone new to fly-fishing for bass, the Colo is a great place to start. There are plenty of locations and the waters are not busy.


If you’re fishing with someone who seems to be racking up a score while you’re not doing so well, don’t be ashamed to ask what they are doing. Most of the guys I fish with are more than happy to share advice and you might find it’s the little things that make all the difference.

If you’re having little success, start by giving yourself a certain time limit or number of casts before you change lures. Some anglers might make say 30 casts or give themselves 10 minutes and if they don’t find any success will change lures. We all have our favourites, but sometimes we need to call on something else to put fish on the board.

Always keep thinking about what your lure is doing. Knowing the water you’re fishing makes choosing the right presentation easier. Choosing a lure that will bump into timber, a plastic that won’t foul in weed and generally making smart choices will always produce better results than simply casting and hoping.

Being prepared to probe places that other anglers are too afraid, or unable to cast into, is a must. It might mean pruning some bankside vegetation or finding more snags than a Summer barbie, but the fact is that even the best bass anglers make the odd stray cast. It can be some achievement to nail a cast into the zone, but it’s no fluke that accurate casting gets the best results.

After seeing your mate take fish on a particular lure, you’d be wise to switch to the same lure. If you’re still being outfished, it might simply be a case of varying your retrieve until you find what is working. Look at what your mate is doing or ask them to show you.

If you’re fishing on your own, think about the conditions and what mood the fish are in and work the lure to entice a strike. There are plenty of retrieves that you can try, so experiment.

If you have any news or pics drop me an email or phone 0418 297 353.

The upper sections of the Nepean are paddle zones only, but with beautiful scenery and the possibility of big bass trapped behind the weirs it’s worth the effort.

Dave George took this rotund 35cm bass on a Beetle Spin from the Nepean. Dave says it’s the fattest bass he’s ever seen .

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