Bass on fly rod
  |  First Published: August 2005

Flyfishing in August is a bit tough around the southeast corner of the state. In fact, a recent inventory of some favoured species came up decidedly thin.

A look at saltwater options indicates that tuna and mackerel are months away yet, although there might be some tailor or trevally along the rock walls of the Seaway or around the Jumpinpin bar area. Squire are a possibility but I need more work on these blokes to get it really wired. While little ones are easy, the big hooters are a lot harder. And those westerly winds in August make fishing the open bay damn hard.

On the freshwater scene, barra are tough going as the water is too cold and the trout are off-limits except on private fisheries. While Murray cod are still a possibility, the New England streams I like to fish are at their best when the weather is warm.

Thankfully, we still have bass, and lots of them, in our dams. Admittedly, some of the impoundments are a bit low, but they are still fishing well enough to make a flyfishing trip worthwhile.

The first requirement is a boat of any kind. If it will get you onto the water in safety it’s a boat to fish bass out of. It’s really not essential to have 50knot capability, carpeted casting decks, rod lockers, livewells or fore and aft sounders. If it floats, it fishes.

Next is the right fly tackle for the job. An 8wt fly outfit is about ideal for bass, especially the big lunkers of Somerset, Bjelke Petersen and Wivenhoe dams. A lighter 6wt rod will be doing it tough if the wind is blowing and you are casting reasonably large flies (some of the floating bass flies are tied on size 1 or 2 hooks). I recommend setting up an 8wt outfit with two spools: one with a floating line and the other a sinking line.

One of the most important parts of any fly outfit is the leader, and each fly line will certainly need one. For surface fishing, a store-bought, 3m tapered leader with a tip breaking strain of around 5kg is fine. While the same leader can also be used with the sinking line, a lot of people like to make their own for this style of fishing. In fact, given that the sinking line is going to be used with smaller flies anyway and presentation is not an issue, you can be a little less choosy and simply connect a couple of sections of fluorocarbon material to make up a leader. I use Siglon Sinking and connect 1.5m of 10kg line to the loop on the end of the fly line. Next, join 1m of 8kg Siglon to the 10kg line. Finally, tie on a tippet section of about 0.5m. This style of leader turns over reasonably well and sinks quickly, which is important because the last thing you want is a big belly in the leader between fly line and fly.

When fishing a floating line, flies such as the ubiquitous Dahlberg Diver are hard to beat, but bass will take a shine to a lot of different surface offerings. Big (size 2) Muddler Minnows worked very slowly are often deadly at dawn or dusk when bass are working shorelines or weedbeds.

The weedbeds currently thriving around Maroon Dam are ideal for this style of fishing. Cast the fly to a feature such as a tree or the edge of a weedbed and allow it to sit for around ten seconds (which gives a bass time to locate and investigate the fly a little). Then, with a small strip or two, the fish will usually be tricked into thinking the offering is trying to get away. Wham! He’s grabbed it.

At other times of the day, sinking line – the Scientific Angler Striper IV is almost universally used – can be brought into play. Nearly all anglers use the Bass Vampire or a derivative such as the Bonehead for this style of fishing. Clousers, Crazy Charlies and Leeches all work as well, but there are an awful lot more bass taken on Vampires.

A good sounder is a definite asset for deep line flyfishing but is not mandatory for success. Bass will show up easily on a sounder, which is why serious competition anglers are using paired sounders to really keep tabs on the underwater action. However, in our pre-sounder days we also caught our share of fish by simply drifting away from the shoreline, allowing the fly to sink quite deep and then stripping it back in short, sharp little strips.

This same technique, short, sharp strips once the fly line is right down near the bottom, is also used on fish spotted on a sounder.

Most hook-ups come directly as a solid thump on the line when a fish takes hold, but there are some interesting variations to this. Quite often a tiny bump is felt when stripping the fly and this is a sure sign that a bass has ‘hit’ the fly without hooking up. After this, the bass will hang close by the fly, expecting to see the ‘wounded’ fly drop back or down. So don’t disappoint him. Immediately throw back at least 1m of slack line, wait around three seconds for the fly to sink down again, and then commence the strip. Most times the bass falls for the ploy and grabs the fly the instant it starts to move forward again.

How deep can we expect to hook bass in dams when using the fast sink Striper IV line and fly tackle? Well, I have occasionally hooked bass in Somerset Dam around the 20m mark, but most are hooked anywhere from 5-15m. In deeper water, patience in allowing the fly to get right down is the key to success. In this scenario, and when trying to get lengthy amounts of fly line down to the fish, it’s necessary to make as long a cast as possible and then allow at least three and a half seconds for each metre of fly line to sink. For example, when flyfishing at a depth of 10m, a delay of at least thirty seconds after the cast is required for the fly to get down near the bottom.

Once the countdown indicates the fly should be in the strike zone, start short, sharp strips and continue until the leader is in view. Always be prepared to throw back a bit of slack line to a fish that nips at the fly without connecting.

So if you’re into flyfishing but think there’s none to be had at the moment, think again. Impoundment bass are a great option, even in the middle of winter, and can be loads of fun to catch on fly rods.

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