Somerset bass: the deep fly option
  |  First Published: July 2009

Last month we took a look at how to extract some of those big fat momma bass from around the edges of this newly filled lake. In this issue we’ll exchange the floating fly lines for sinking ones and work the depths.

I mentioned in my last article that I would have another look at the lake between issues to accurately assess likely spots for readers to try. I’m glad I decided to do that, as I have come up with a few surprises.


First up, spool up with fast sinking fly line. You’ll want to match it to a rod of corresponding weight otherwise it might be a tad hard to make repetitive casts.

Note that Somerset Dam is around 95% full and the schooling bass are holding deep, according to my sounder. Very deep in some instances, but more on this later.

When it comes to leader, a rod’s length of fluorocarbon will be adequate. I prefer to twist up my own leaders for bass but there is nothing at all wrong with store-bought jobs. A breaking strain of at least 5kg on the tippet is necessary simply because when fishing deep we sometimes get a bit too enthusiastic about the take. You know how it goes… the fish hits hard, the angler pulls back hard, the leader breaks.

What fly? Well, the tried and proven Bass Vampire is very hard to beat. Still, with the vast schools of bony bream in Lake Somerset the fish are also partial to bony bream style flies. Try big Deceivers, Crazy Charlies or Clousers on size 1 hooks. I rely on a mix of all of these flies in a foolproof system. When fishing with my wife Denise, she will use one fly and I’ll use another and soon as she gets the hook-up I will change to her fly. It's a time-proven system that works well for me.

Working the flies requires some thought. First you need to spot fish on the sounder as blobs, arches, lines, or whatever you have confidence in as being a showing of bass (the confidence factor is really important). After you have spotted the fish, two styles of retrieve are brought into play.

Both flies – either a Vampire or bony bream style – need to be allowed to sink at the end of a cast long enough to get them right down to where the fish are holding or feeding. To get even more fly line out I often strip out a bit of line as the boat drifts.

Let's take a look at fishing the Vampire first.

Counting the line down after a long cast is the way to go and it’s not that hard to feel that it has touched bottom (and not at all hard if you get onto a snag!) You will notice that your fly line will feel as though it’s dragging during the retrieve only to suddenly become lighter. That sensation tells you the line has just come off the bottom.

If the fish showing on the sounder are feeding (fat lines moving up and down rather than straight across the screen) a fair way off the bottom, you should retrieve your line up higher into the likely strike zone. Make a series of snappy short sharp strips to impart action to the fly.

On the other hand, if the fish are showing as arches right near the bottom, feed the line back down after a dozen or so quick short strips. This will get it back down into that likely strike zone.

While moving fish are a great place to start, remember that bait schools are always worth investigating. A good showing of bony bream will usually have a few fat blobs or arches around the perimeter, although the schools are sometimes so dense they obliterate the feeding bass. Get that fly down into the school and work it continually for a while.

As often happens, a series of strips through the area of fish activity will bring maybe a tiny peck or bump. That's a bass hitting your fly, so if you feel something like that then immediately feed at least a metre of slack line back into the system and start the retrieve again. Most times the fish that touched your fly will come back for another go; the hook up typically occurs very quickly after the next strip or two.

That’s an ideal technique for working the Bass Vampire. The bony bream style fly should be worked more or less the same but I often will employ a longer and slower strip when using a big white Deceiver with plenty of flash about it. Those techniques work for me, let’s now look at some locations.


Somerset is nearly full at the moment. The bass were active in the shallows when the flooded grass and shrubbery were still pretty fresh, but now that the vegetable matter is starting to decay, most fish seem to have moved out into deeper water. They are, however, starting to school up as is usual in late July and August and into September.

I have had a good hard look at various areas of the dam that I have come to rely on over the years, and this has revealed that the fish are holding in the same places – with one difference.

Whereas Somerset bass always seemed to be found schooled up in 9-10m of water, they are now in around 12-16m depths, sometimes even deeper. Flats adjacent to the old river bed, or where a flat is dropping down onto the river bed below all seem to hold bass in the vicinity of the eastern end of Pelican Point (and across into the adjacent bay) and around on the northern side of the Point.

I recently found fish were on the job in a couple of those areas marked at the end of Pelican Point, with all of the other areas generally worth a try as good stand-bys, but a lot were also holding in around 20m of water. While they are still fly catchable at that depth, we won’t do them any favours as the hooked fish will suffer from barotrauma.

Food for thought there, but at any rate Somerset Dam is certainly looking good for the fly angler this month and it's a treat to see it so full.



A really dense bait school at Somerset Dam. Note the few heavy lines made by feeding bass.


A few of the author’s flies that have taken Somerset Dam bass.

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