Flyfishing at Borumba Dam
  |  First Published: June 2005

Borumba Dam, near Imbil just south of Gympie, is one of southeast Queensland’s little gems. In its near full state – which it certainly is right now at 97% – this impoundment offers some of the best still-water fishing around. Deep drop-off banks, big stands of drowned timber and scenic rainforest edging to the water up some of the quieter arms are features of Borumba flyfishing. And in these beautiful surrounds, there are plenty of feisty saratoga and bass just waiting to be caught.

This is Queensland’s stronghold of southern saratoga, and with their eyes right up on top of their head, they have a liking for flies that endears them greatly to serious fly anglers. While undoubtedly at their best in hot weather, there is still a good chance of catching up with a ‘toga on fly tackle during a warmer winter’s day. You might catch more in summer, but if you can see saratoga rolling about the standing timber or working a weedy edge, then it’s definitely worth the effort to give them a try. Watch for surface disturbances; they are easy to see despite making little noise.

Saratoga in Borumba Dam feed on three main food items. Firstly, they hoe into mudeyes (dragonfly larvae), which means that the ubiquitous Muddler Minnow is the fly to use. It has a resemblance to a mudeye and can also look like a grasshopper and a small bulky fish.

Secondly, shrimp abound around the timber and shrimp patterns can trigger a response very quickly, even if most of the them are in hiding when the water cools. Saratoga become accustomed to eating them and will seldom pass up a shrimp imitation.

Lastly, there are hordes of match-sized baitfish around every tree and along each bank or weed bed in this dam. Because of this, baitfish imitations are arguably the best fly for this time of year. Small (size 2 or 1/0) Clousers, Deceivers, Surf Candies and Crazy Charlies are well worth trying where fish activity is seen or when prospecting around likely cover, hoping for that sudden hard strike. There are good opportunities for Woolly Buggers or Bunny flies as well, as they also have an enticing minnow style action that triggers either saratoga or the dam’s bass. And don’t go to Borumba without a couple of Dahlberg Divers either. These are legendary flies in this dam and can trigger either a saratoga or bass attack.

The trick is to work the fly slowly but gently in order to secure a hook up. Once a ‘toga takes your fly, the fun begins. These are dour, hard-fighting fish that will sometimes take to the air to shake off a fly. At other times they might just resort to the time proven tactic of wrapping the leader around a bush or piece of timber. I think saratoga are a lot like brown trout in that they are never beaten until in the net and all of their antics really add spice to an encounter.

Borumba saratoga come in various sizes. I once tangled with a whole school of little tackers around the 35cm mark, catching fish after fish on a small green and black Woolly Bugger. These small fish would have been great on trout tackle, and were certainly over-gunned by the 8wt outfit I was using. On the other hand, the very next evening I latched onto a 5kg specimen on the same rod and this fish really gave me some heart failure as he tried to bury himself and the 5kg tippet into a drowned lantana bush.

If I had to nominate just one rod for the dam it would be a quality 8wt. While it might be a little on the light side for the really big ‘toga that are taken from time to time, it will also serve well as a bass rod.

The next big question is which fly line to use – floating, sinking or a derivative? While the saratoga feeding around the surface might require a floating fly line, there is little doubt that a fast sinking fly line will be more suited to bass. I recommend using a floating line with submerged leader for the saratoga (rub the leader down with mud to make it sink quickly) and a fast sinking fly line – the good old Striper IV – when targeting bass. Tippets for saratoga can be as heavy as 5kg and a little less for bass.

Other native fish such as golden perch also share the dam. There is oodles of golden perch habitat in the form of sheer banks, cliffs and weed beds, along with some excellent flats that bass like to school up on in late winter. It is also worth working a smaller fly (perhaps a good old Vampire) around any standing timber or along a weed bed in the 5-10m depth range.

On a recent trip to the dam I found one area that fired well for bass was adjacent to the yellow buoy, around 600m west of the ramp on the northern side. A decent sort of hump stretches from the shore to just past the buoy.

So if it’s saratoga or bass that you seek and you’d like to look at some absolutely beautiful scenery while doing so, Borumba Dam is the place to go. Best of all, once you get a few spots wired it’s easy to visit again and again, but don’t forget that you’ll need your Stocked Impoundment Permit with you while fishing.

Finally, it’s important to note that there are a number of underwater obstructions in the dam. Even in what appears to be the main channel with 10m of water under the keel, a stump can cause mayhem on the prop. There are an awful lot of drowned trees in this impoundment and with the high water level, even more are now lurking just below the surface. Slow and steady is the smart way to go.

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