As much as I love fly fishing for bass, it’s not something I’ve devoted a lot of time to in the past year or so. Bass anglers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the many techniques that can be used on their quarry.
But I’ll never forget my first-fly experience.
Having been using braided lines on my baitcasters and spinning outfits, it was a big shock not being able to turn fish easily with a fly rod.
That elastic fly line and long, thin fly rod just never seemed to stop giving the bass a massive head start to the snag he was heading for.
From being immersed in the rhythm of working a fly rod to my brain and hands working overtime in the seconds after the strike when I thought my first bass on fly might not make the boat, it was heart-in-mouth fishing.
I use a 6wt fly rod for the river and a 5wt for small creeks. When you get a reasonable bass on, you need to be up the job. It’s one thing to be losing fly line and flies to bass, but I’m all for getting the fish into the net and releasing them unharmed.
There are plenty of surface flies and poppers that will catch fish. Flies like the Crickroach, STP Frog, Bass Ant, foam beetles and the ever-popular Dahlberg, which has taken more local bass for me than any other surface fly.
Foam and wood poppers are also good choices, especially in more natural colours. Those featuring a tail of feathers or fur add a little more life to a lure but I trim some of these because they’re too long to start with or they spook fish.
The single hook of a surface fly can be a lot less frustrating than a treble-armed lure.
About the only similarity anglers chasing bass on fly have with their trout counterparts is getting the fly into the target zone for a soft landing.
I don’t dedicate too much of my fly time to sub-surface as I find surface fly much more addictive. I’ll target bass on the surface throughout the day.
But for sub-surface I use a sinking or intermediate line with a short leader with a Bass Vampire, shrimp pattern or a Woolly Bugger. The single hook means you can work the fly in tight areas including timber and weeds that will claim plenty of treble-armed lures.
The Colo River is a wonderful place to fly-fish; it’s scenic, quiet and you can feel a million miles from nowhere.
Starting near the Bridge to Nowhere, there are plenty of weed beds where a sinking fly worked along the face can produce very well.
A few creek mouths are worth exploring too, with most having plenty of weed and timber nearby. These spots will often produce above-average fish on fly after you’ve worked the area with hard-bodied lures.
Deep, rocky shores enable bass to hide from the stiff tidal flow. If you don’t have a sounder, look for steep cliffs which are a mixture of earth and rocks.
When the rocks break loose, they join the many others on the bottom of the river, and you’re got superb bass habitat.
The Hawkesbury has had a fairly good flush with February rain and there are some new snags to explore.
A lot of creeks flow into the Hawkesbury and anyone who has seen John Bethune and the late Dean Hayes’ DVD Tidal Water Action will know the fun you can have fishing creek mouths after rain.
A look on any good topographical map will reveal the number of creeks available to fish, and even a UBD street directory will open up some options.
Local waters have been discoloured for a while and until they clear up a little, the favourite conversation topic will be lure colour choice. The basic alternatives are fluoro colours which will reflect any sunlight, making the lure easier for the fish to find, or dark lures which make a contrast against the muddy water.
Lures that offer vibration or noise helps the fish zero in, too. Never underestimate the ability of fish to find your lures. They’re finely tuned to their prey.
The noise or vibration given off by a lure might not sound much to you but sound travels a lot easier through water than through air. Fish are able to work out the speed and direction a lure is travelling and can move in to intercept.
Spinnerbaits with Colorado blades make a greater amount of vibration than willow blades, so are a better choice in dirty water. I prefer chrome blades in dirty water because I think they pick reflect light a lot better than bronze blades.
It’s a confidence thing in the end, but try different coloured blades and make up your own mind.
Various lipless lures offer plenty wide differences in vibration and noise. They all have their characteristics but ones with ‘brighter’ sounds are easily located by fish. Remember, the colour choice is still as important as with any other lure you choose.
Go for diving hard-bodied lures which are fatter and have a wider action. The larger profile makes it easier to see in dirtier water and the wide action makes for plenty of vibration.
Surface lure junkies face the same colour choices. In murkier water, I’ll use bigger lures like the Heddon Dying Flutter in fluoro colours with a rip-and-pause retrieve. This lure has been around for a long while and whenever I’ve had people make funny comments about its simplicity or heritage, I always have a little chuckle to myself. I got started with this lure thanks to John Bethune’s bass book and it still produces.
You’ll still find areas where the water is clearer than the main river, especially close to banks, behind weed beds, around larger boulders or in some large eddies.
When you find eddies, you’ll notice that whichever way the tide is flowing, the water in the eddy is moving in the opposite direction. I tend to downsize my lures here.
The Hawkesbury Nepean Bass Anglers Association annual Inter Club Challenge, over the last weekend in February, again lived up to its reputation as a tough event, with seemingly fewer big fish caught than in the early years.
Rod Cumming and I entered as Team Dreamfish and decided to hit the Colo. Soon it was clear that competitors were finding mostly small fish, as we were. Rod and I knew that the Colo still held its fair share of good-sized fish so we fished the spots we knew usually held some.
On day one we had seen a big green grasshopper drift under an overhanging tree and be smashed by a huge bass. After a disappointing first day, we decided on a deep, rocky shoreline and, near the bottom of the tide, Rod cast one of our Dreamfish Buzzmasters and nearly had the rod torn from his hands by a 44cm fork length bass.
Rod took out the inaugural Dean Hayes Memorial Shield for the biggest bass and I’m sure big Dean would have been proud to know it was caught off the Stratos boat he sold me last year.
Rod Cumming of Team Dreamfish/Sportsfishing Boats Australia took out the Dean Hayes Memorial Shield for the biggest bass at the HNBAA Inter Club. The 44cm fork-length fish took a Dreamfish Buzzmaster and is Rod’s PB for a Hawkesbury bass.Reads: 1068