The Fly River
  |  First Published: November 2005

I have just come off the water after a successful day with a client.

About three weeks ago I had a call from a young guy who had watched our Tidal Water Action DVD on bass and estuary perch. He wanted to learn how to target EPs and bass on fly as he had just picked up a new fly outfit from the Compleat Angler in the city and was going to head down to the South Coast – the home of big EPs.

I picked the best day and tide for our outing and we set a date. I like to fly-fish for the EPs when the tides are big and running out hard. This is when the fish hold in the quiet water or the eddies.

One of the best places is the inside of a corner that has a drop-off. This where the perch wait to ambush bait that is carried in. Any area that you can find that has quiet water with current running past is a good area.

The best way to get your fly in front of them is with an extra-fast-sink fly line, something with a sink rate of at least 100mm per second and preferably 150mm. We use the fastest sinking line to get down quickly to the to the depth where the fish are holding.

It is important to know the sink rate of your line so you can count down your fly to the depth the fish are holding. It is also very important to have a good fish finder to monitor the depth they are holding. We find the Humminbird 37 Matrix works well because of its wide bottom coverage.

The flies I prefer are dark Clousers made out of rabbit strips, which have a lifelike action when retrieved. The leader is nothing fancy – 8kg mono about 1.5 to two metres long with the fly tied on with a loop knot to allow it to move more freely and adding action.

When you find an area with fish showing on your sounder cast, count your line down to the depth the fish are holding and strip back and cast again varying your retrieve. I like short sharp strips with a pause every two or three strips and a long slow strip in the middle. It is easier if you have two or three people fishing as you cover the area better and can use different flies and retrieves. When a estuary does hit strike by pulling your line and not lifting your rod until you feel the wait of the fish.

For bass on surface flies I like to fish the rising tide early morning or late afternoon. I have found that the bass will be looking upwards on the rising tide for any small crabs or insects that inhabit the intertidal zone. This does not mean that I fish only the rising tide – I have had plenty of great days on surface flies on a falling tide.

I use weight-forward floating lines with a two-metre leader of 8kg nylon (remember, fluorocarbon mostly sinks) and tie on a small popper or one of the small fizzer flies that Eddie Studman of Koolabung Lures makes.

Cast your fly close to the shore, near weed or under any overhanging vegetation or snags. When the fly lands on the water let it sit for a second or three before retrieving and bass will often strike just after it lands or in the first few strips.

Fly fishing can be the most deadly way to catch estuary perch and bass if you know how, where and when to target them.


The first of the bonito turned up off South Head when the water was just over 19°. We were trolling in between The Gap and South Head with 100mm Troll Craft lures when we had a double hook-up on bonnies around 2 kg. After unhooking the fish I circled back and had another hook-up on bonito.

Later in the day, when the tide picked up, the bonito were working between the Heads and we caught serval more casting small metal lures retrieved at high speed.

Salmon around 3kg have been schooling off the Heads and have been taking small metal lures, Slug-Gos and flies.

On those days when they have not been working the surface I have been catching them by trolling lures close to the washy rocks on small lures and soft plastics. Another way to target the salmon is to find them on the sounder and drop metal jigs and weight plastics down and work them back up through

the school. Often we will hook up on other fish like kings, bonito and trevs so it can be some of the most exciting way to catch these Aussie battlers

Shannon Kitchener and I have Just finished a DVD on sportfishing targeting all the different fish trailer-boat anglers pursue with lure, fly and bait. Species include bass, bream, bonito, flathead, tailor, salmon, mahi mahi, trout and kingfish.

Scotty Lyons of Southern Sydney Fishing Tours shows how he targets trevally and flathead in Botany Bay; Jeff Brown of Riverlands Fly and Sportsfishing fly-fishes for brown trout in the Central Tablelands; Kim and Steve Bain spend a day with me hooking into salmon on soft plastics and crankbaits and, with the help of a couple of fat buddies and some not so fat, I show how to fish for all the other species. Keep your eye out at local tackle shops in late October for Sportsfishing Action.


Adrian Clark jigged up this bonito feisty early season bonito in the Harbour.



OUIYIOUY was wrapt with this bass which ate a surface fly.


The Koolabung fizzer is a deadly weapon.


A school of salmon on the Humminbird Matrix 97.

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