If there is one thing that can make the weak sun of a winter morning something to really enjoy, it is the feeling of a thumping big bass gulping down a fly and then trying to dislodge the rod from an angler's hand.
It’s so much fun! But this is one aspect of flyfishing that needs careful and thorough preparation for best success. To ensure that a new mate to this type of fishing has a lot more early success than I did, the best idea is to set out the requirements of this pursuit in detail, hence the two part article.
Fish are easy to find. In South East Queensland there are ample dams well stocked with bass and they should be schooling up in big numbers from around the end of this month through to September so there's ample time for a crack at them. Make sure there's a stocked impoundment permit in possession while on the water, of course.
The first step is to get the tackle set up correctly right from the outset. Bass are great fish on fly gear – the lighter the tackle the more fun. But as bass flies for surface work tend to be bulky deer hair jobs like the Dahlberg Divers. Similarly the flies used for searching out fish in deep water are somewhat heavy thanks to lead or bead eyes and are usually teamed with fast sink fly line, so the idea is to use a seven or eight weight outfit.
However, an expert angler who has done plenty of flyfishing will take delight in using a quality six weight rod that can handle an over weight line and extract maximum sporting potential from the fish.
A floating line is naturally used for the surface fly work at first light, while a seven weight fast sink line such as the Scientific Angler's Striper IV, Snowbee XS-WFFS or Rio Deep 7 are used for the deep fly work.
The best reel for the job is one in the drawer or cupboard not currently in use, or with a spare spool sitting idle, which can hold some 50m of 10kg backing plus a full fly line. So long as the drag works to prevent an over run from the angler – or the fish – pulling off too much line too quickly it will be fine.
The leader, a vital connection between fly line and fly, is all that is left. Fluorocarbon material is almost universally used for bass fishing these days. The trick is to either purchase a store bought 3m leader tapering to 5-6kg breaking strain tip or tie up a 'twisted' leader from a spool of fluoro material.
As most keen bass anglers prefer to make their own leaders a brief run down on twisted leader construction is as follows:
Start off with some old mono to practice, do not use good quality fluoro until you get the hang of it.
But before you start a handy tip is to use a high place, like the balcony or veranda, to make twisted leader. As the line is twisted together it can be fed downwards and if there is a post handy one can work in front of it to keep the ends of the line well separated as the twisting process is undertaken.
Select around 5.5m of 6kg or 8kg line and fold it in half. Make one section 1m longer than the other with a steady draw; this longer section will be the tippet as the remainder is going to be twisted up to make the leader.
The line is then going to be slowly twisted between thumb and forefinger of each hand by moving the thumb forward, the fore finger back, while each finger/thumb combination is holding one of the strands of line. It's best to start around 5cm from the U bend. Make haste slowly.
Dampening the fingers will get the twists going and once started the twisting business will go remarkably well. Ensure that the ends behind the main twisting process can turn easily without tangling on each other, so going slowly and paying a lot of attention to impending tangles is important.
Once the line is all twisted together down the tippet, tie a 3 turn surgeons knot to join the twisted (doubled) line and the tippet. Trim off the tags.
Next move your hands up the doubled section to around half way along and again double it over. This means there's a doubled section connected to the tippet plus there is now a new section of doubled line to be twisted together just like the former bit so that four strands end up joined via the twisting process at the top. Two strands make up the middle, while the tippet is at the bottom.
Again, start close as possible to the U bend, dampen the fingers and go slowly. This time, with stiffer line to work with and far less length there will be less opportunity for tangles to occur.
Once this is all twisted up and there's only enough left for a 3 turn surgeons knot to be tied, complete the knot and trim off the tag.
Next, admire your twisted leader. It's easy to connect it to a loop at the end of the fly line and the beauty of these things is that they turn over really well. Also when made from fluorocarbon, it will sink at a similar rate as the fly line.
With practice you can easily vary the lengths of all sections to modify the leader as required. Mine are usually around 60-70cm top bit, 80-80cm middle, and then the tippet which I sometimes extend to 1.5m.
Bass are like other fish: they take flies that best imitate food so most anglers look at the food source in the dam and go for a match. For instance in Somerset and Wivenhoe Dams there are massive schools of bony bream so a fly representing a bony bream is the way to go. Deceivers with plenty of silver flash are good, so are big Clousers tied in pale colours with silver flash about the upper section.
In Maroon Dam firetail gudgeons are plentiful so a small Clouser with a red tail section will go nicely, as will one of the Vampire style flies tied with plenty of red material in the rear. A fly that seems to work in any dam, on the day, is a dark green bunny fur job, on a size 2 hook.
Bass Vampires are very good as well. If a bite seems to be shutting down mid morning a change to a smaller fly such as a purple/black Vampire or dark Clouser might well kick start the fish again. Anglers that don't tie their own flies seem to do fine with store-bought jobs so don't despair if you haven't started to roll your own yet.
One thing to remember is that bass flies should have prominent eyes for best success so opt for flies tied with bead chain eyes on the Dahlbergs, painted dumbbell or lead eyes on the sinking jobs.
Next month we will look at finding the fish in the impoundments, the significance of what is evident on the sounder, and just how to best work a sunken fly to ensure success.
If you can't wait until then simply get the boat on the water and use the sounder to locate fish in 5-10m of water and after casting out allow plenty of time for the fly to sink before twitching it back.Reads: 4101