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High times on high water
  |  First Published: February 2008



Fishing locally has offered plenty of excitement over the last month or so and the rain hasn’t stopped a lot of anglers heading out onto the swollen creeks and rivers.

The swollen waters have meant there have been plenty of trees washed in to create new snags just waiting to be targeted by anglers. More importantly, a lot of the creeks and rivers have been given a monumental flushing.

Fellow Western Sydney Bream and Bass Club member Chris Byrne went for a hike into the Grose Valley and reported that river was running high with a huge volume of water. When I think back to how this river was when I first fished it many years ago, I’m really looking forward to getting down there for a session or two soon.

Webbs Creek and the Macdonald River have probably fished better than they have in a long time, with plenty of nice fish falling to soft plastics. These waters are very scenic, with the Macdonald one the most picturesque pieces of water you’d find anywhere.

The Nepean River has been fishing very well with a lot of bass being caught, mostly on the surface but a lot have fallen to soft plastics. The best spots have been those that see little angling pressure and anglers who have taken extra effort to get to these places have been rewarded.

The upper Nepean has produced some great bass but pretty much anywhere in the Nepean which doesn’t see boat traffic has been well worth fishing.

With still plenty of surface activity about, bass are belting a wide range of surface lures. For the best of the Aussie lure brands, you can’t go past East Coast, Predatek and Taylor Made. With a lot of the imports being $25 or more, the Aussie lures cost a lot less, are proven on Aussie fish and you help by keeping Aussies in jobs.

PROSPECTING

Before he moved to the South Coast, mate Dave Horvat spent a lot of time pouring over maps looking for what he referred to as ‘the thin blue line’. A lot of those blue lines he was looking for required plenty of foot slogging after being discovered in street directories and topographical maps.

Canoes and kayaks have an amazing ability to get into places where sometimes even a small tinny just can’t go. Paddle power reigns supreme in tight water and gets you onto bass that have seen far fewer anglers and lures.

Easy to transport, paddle craft are cheap to own and operate and don’t take up much space.

For some easy places to launch for a paddle, try places around Menangle, Camden, Wallacia, Penrith, Devlins Lane, Yarramundi, at Nuvea Reserve at Grose Vale, North Richmond, the Colo River and various points along the Hawkesbury.

Given the Hawkesbury is still buzzing with PWCs and high-powered boats, I’d suggest you stay off the busier waters and stick to where these speed demons aren’t going to cut you in half.

SOFT ESSENTIALS

Soft plastics are a great choice for bass and estuary perch and will often be taken by flathead and bream far from the salt water.

When choosing soft plastics my personal picks for a long time have been 3” Sliders, Berkley Minnows and Squidgy Bugs.

The Sliders are my deep-water preference and are rigged on jig heads and bounced along the bottom with a slow lift-and-drop retrieve. Any tap is easily felt with braided line and a sensitive graphite rod and after a slight hesitation and dropping the rod tip, a hook-up often results.

Sliders also come into their own with Nitro Whiz Bangers, which are similar to a spinnerbait and can be fished at all depths. I’m still hopeful that this discontinued line will be re-released some time soon.

I usually fit Berkley Minnows on 1/32oz jig heads or simply on an unweighted Gamakatsu Jig 90 hook. With a little weight, you can slowly fish these plastics around all manner of underwater features very slowly for a very natural presentation.

For the Squidgy Bugs, a resin head or a hook like the Gamakatsu Jig 90 is perfect for surface work. These plastics land softly and really look like the real deal. They create little suspicion in wary fish and are personal favourites.

SURPRISES

It’s a often a surprise to inexperienced anglers that quite a few saltwater species can be caught so far upstream on the Hawkesbury/Nepean system. Tailor, blackfish, flathead, bream and sharks are all regular inhabitants of the rivers of western Sydney.

Depending on the river salinity, some of these species have been caught at Yarramundi by those chasing carp, bass or mullet. Sharks have been seen over the years at North Richmond.

Blackfish have been caught around Wisemans Ferry on healthy green weed, while in the same area jewfish have been caught on fresh fish strips.

Bream are also about and if you can get hold of some fresh Hawkesbury prawns, you’ve got the best bait for them.

It’s common to catch bream, bass and estuary perch while working The Skeletons at Lower Portland with soft plastics. Plenty of times I’ve found fish schooling in the area and pulled all three species from the one location.

MAINTENANCE

If you’ve been out fishing a lot, or if your gear hasn’t seen much TLC for a while, it’s time to think about some maintenance.

If you’re not confident about giving your reels some love, go to a tackle shop that can get them working like new. Most reputable tackle stores can conduct regular maintenance and some of the major reel companies also offer a maintenance service.

Checking rod guides for chips can save heartache and if you don’t check and change your leaders regularly, you’ll probably wish you did when the next good fish comes along.

Replacing dodgy lure hooks them with quality items is a great idea. The majority of tournament anglers upgrade the trebles and even the split rings on most of their lures for a very good reason – it enables them to catch more fish.

YOUNG TARGETS

I love seeing parents take their kids fishing. It’s great to get the young ones away from their electronic games and actually talk to each other but if you’re going to take them fishing, be specific about what species you want to catch and use the correct gear.

If you’re not sure about what to use, there are plenty of books and websites which will lead you in the right direction or read through Fishing Monthly and see what others are using. Do the research with your kids and learn together.

If there’s one childhood memory I have of fishing with my Dad, it’s that we always took the correct gear with us to suit the species we were chasing. I’ve got some great fishing memories from childhood simply because my Dad knew what to take and how to go about catching fish.

If you want your kids to have happy fishing memories, ditch the ‘Whatever takes the bait mate’ attitude and get your kids hooking fish you’ve targeted.

To get away from the holiday crowds, James Packman headed to a quiet section of the Nepean and scored this healthy 40cm bass on a gold Koolabung Cicada surface walker. The fish was released to thrill some other happy angler in the future.

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