It’s pretty tough for anglers this month. We’re at the height of summer and any water that is easily accessible has been pretty well worked over solidly on a regular basis. And with the fish often being afflicted with lockjaw at times, getting them to take a lure will be a challenge.
While there’s been some terrific bass caught in the last few months, there’s been plenty of unseasonal weather that has made life on the water tough. Cool temperatures with much warmer days thrown in have made for inconsistent fishing. There’s been some average results after a fishing session that has been a little bit of a disappointment for anglers, especially those that have really put in a big effort.
Although, for a lot of anglers, a big effort sometimes means putting in a million casts in a session. While it’s certainly true that a lure needs to be in the water to catch fish, it’s sometimes a matter of slowing down.
In Dick Lewers book, Fabulous Bass and How to Catch Them, Chapter 14 is called I’m A Bass. In the first paragraph, Dick suggests that he might be crazy, and at risk of putting myself in the crazy class with Dick, let me think like a bass for a minute:
I’m a bass in the height of the season and these anglers have been bombarding me with flies, soft plastics and every other form of hardbodied lure you can imagine. The same lures, the same retrieves, the same way – it’s all become very predictable.
The weather has also been very inconsistent with water temperatures fluctuating, which has made me and my bass buddies a bit edgy. Well, downright moody really! We don’t like cool weather or fluctuating weather, and we certainly don’t like visitors!
It may sound a bit silly, but put your-self in the mind of a bass. They like to be in a comfortable and safe environment, so we need to be looking for ways of getting around the moody nature of fish and be a bit more creative in order to catch them when they don’t want to play ball.
In some bass waters I’ve fished over the years I reckon you could attach a set of treble hooks to a toothbrush and still catch fish. This is because they just don’t see a lot of lures. However, when it comes to fish that are shut down, it’s time to become braver and more deceptive.
As I’ve mentioned in the last few articles, some techniques can help turn things around when fish don’t want to play. Previous I’ve spoken about flyfishing with cicada replicas, but there are plenty more.
Soft plastics and clear lures are both favourites of mine when the fishing is a little tougher that usual. It’s no secret that suspending lures are also excellent at tempting moody fish to take what looks like an easy offering, even in cool water I’ve seen bass move considerable distances in order to take a slowly worked suspending lure.
You don’t want to give the fish a good look at what you’re tempting them with, especially in clear water. If you’re fishing really clear water, use a clear lure or one in natural colours. Some of these come with shiny silver trebles, so change them for nickel coloured ones, which are darker. Owner hooks are a little expensive compared to most other hooks, but they’re definitely one of the best and needle sharp.
Looking for fish outside their usual spots is always worth trying. The amount of bank side, weed bed, timber and rock wall fishing is immense during the warmer months, but there are other places that are certainly worthwhile targeting when things are quiet.
Places like around bridge pylons, under boats, under jetties and wharves and working around submerged rocks are all notable areas to find deepwater bass.
Another unconventional place to fish is weed beds well away from the banks. These are often found in the middle of the rivers. In the Hawkesbury, around North Richmond and the weed beds downstream of the boat ramp at Tench Reserve are just of the obvious places you’ll find these weed beds, but there are plenty of similar type areas throughout the Hawkesbury/Nepean.
When the surface action has gone quiet, my favourite ways of working the weed beds away from the banks is using soft plastics, deep fly and lipless lures. When the surface activity of bass is happening, surface flies like foam and wood poppers are a lot of fun and productive, and surface poppers like Lucky Craft Sammy 65’s and the Lucky Craft Poppers are awesome as well.
If you’re looking to get onto bigger fish, target less visited areas. Share the experience and take some mates with you, along with a first aid kit and plenty of common sense and you should have a good time. If you doubt your adventure skills, fish somewhere that won’t exceed your abilities should you run into trouble.
Right the way through the Hawkesbury/Nepean system, there are plenty of areas to fish, ranging from major expeditions in the upper reaches of the Nepean, to the Colo River and the remote stretches of water found deep within the mighty Colo’s upper sections with towering cliffs.
Whether you choose to walk into these areas, or look for somewhere to park the car and offload your kayak or canoe, there are plenty of places to take on some bass. From all the reports I’m hearing, it’s the quieter stretches of water that are producing the best results at the moment, with better quality fish also being caught before being released.
It’s no secret that the better bass waters are the upper reaches of water, and the quality of the fish more often than not, make the struggle worth it.
If bass aren’t your thing, don’t fret; there are other species that are a likely source of excitement.
At Portland Head there’s plenty of flathead, along with the other usual weed bed and eddy lovers. Soft plastics are a popular choice for flatties, but if you’re aiming to hook into a flattie just remember that these guys can make short work of light leaders, so it’s wise to give yourself every chance and beef up your leader choice.
Hillcrest Swamp flows into this area and is always worth fishing after decent rainfall or during the run out tide when flathead will sit in ambush waiting for a feed to come to them.
The Skeletons at Lower Portland is where a lot of water sweeps through with the strong tides that this area experiences. An electric motor or anchoring is a must here if you plan to fish the area, along with some patience during the day when boat traffic is at its peak.
Near Souths Juniors, there are plenty of spots that allow you to get out of the current along with some nice back eddies as well.
Nearby is Liverpool Swamp, which flows into the river near here and is always worth fishing after decent rain or on the run out tide.
Look for nice areas of slack water the fish sit in when there is a flow, as well as any stretch of banks on your sounder that has excellent snags, drop-offs and rocky reefs, which will hold flathead and jewfish. They can be caught by trolling, live baiting with mullet or tailor, as well as lures.
Heading downstream along the straight towards Dads Corner are a number of spots protected by rocks and timber in close. Sitting your boat in the open expanse of the straight and moving with the last of the run in and first of the run out tide will often produce flathead.
At Dad’s Corner, you will encounter a lot of timber that sinks up tight against the rock cliff. With a sandy and muddy bottom in this area, along with the sunken trees, reeds, steep banks and eddies, bream and flathead are most likely on the run out tide.
Webbs Creek, along with the Macdonald River entrance is good for bream, flathead and jewfish on the run out tide.
Tailor are a roving species at this time of the year, and anyone hoping to target bream, bass or estuary perch can be left with nothing but trace when the tailor’s razor sharp teeth making light work of light traces.
Fishing lost one of its favourite sons in early January, when Dean Hayes lost his battle with cancer. Dean was a mentor and friend to many, including myself, and was always willing to share his knowledge with others. With a generous heart to match his equally sizeable frame, big Dean was one of those guys you loved to be around.
Dean produced plenty of columns for this magazine, a number of articles for the NSW Fishing Annual, as well as his DVD’s covering bass, estuary perch, and saltwater species in and around Sydney. There are plenty of anglers who owe much of their fishing enjoyment to Dean’s work.
To Dean’s family and many friends, I’m sure readers join me in extending our sympathies to them. We’ve certainly lost someone very special in Dean. The big fella will be greatly missed!Reads: 775