Hit the headwaters
  |  First Published: December 2009

This month is prime time to hit some of the creeks that feed into our rivers. There are heaps of them, and it doesn’t take much time looking at a good topographical map or even a street directory to find areas that can be accessed.

You’ll find a lot of swamps drain into creeks and then the river and this is often where you find bait that the bass, estuary perch and other Hawkesbury species like to feed on.

If you’re in a boat you can cover a lot more water, so the AFN Fishing Map 29, covering the Hawkesbury and Pittwater, is well worth having.

For paddle craft and light dinghies, there are a lot of launching spots. Around Camden there are a good number of spots to launch and further downstream, there’s Wallacia, Tench Reserve at Penrith, Yarramundi, North Richmond, Macquarie Park and the boat ramp at Windsor, where you can head upstream and be away from the crazy stuff on the water downstream of the ramp.

Further downstream there is Little Cattai and Cattai, accessed easily by canoe or kayak.

There are other areas, too, but in Summer with the amount of high-speed water traffic there aren’t many safe places for paddle craft or very small boats.

There’s no need to feel left out if you don’t have a powerboat – you have access to some of the best water.


The best surface flies have been Dahlbergs, timber and foam poppers and any cicada imitations have been real standouts, especially in black.

Casting around over hanging trees can present the fly angler some frustrations, but being able to cast well under these conditions is a definite advantage.

My favourite fly locations are near weed beds and around timber. While surface anglers with baitcast and spinning gear would argue they have the best fun on the surface with bass, anyone who has caught a decent bass with a topwater fly will take some convincing.


If the fish are not really active, try slowing down your approach. If you notice plenty of other fishing boats moving about a lot, you can be sure you’re not the only one doing it tough.

When things are shut down, I often slow-roll a soft plastic on a semi-weedless rig along the edges of weed beds, in pockets of weed or through timber. I make the most of the characteristics of my preferred plastics, Squidgy Bugs and Berkley Minnows, by working them slowly.

A new range of plastics from Strike Pro also has been producing outstanding results. They include in the plastic a pheromone formula and scent, which seem to get the fish interested.

I also use rattling or silent lures and fish slowly or fast though fish-holding structures until I find out what the fish want.

You need to be prepared to experiment with retrieve speeds. Fast sometimes works, especially when a fish is startled into attacking, wants to attack on instinct at the thought of an easy meal passing by, or out of aggression at intruders.

I also ensure I fish something completely different to anyone I’m fishing with, using different lures, retrieves and patterns and keep on changing until I find out what works.

While my brother-in-law Rod Cumming and I love to fish together, there’s always a friendly competition between us. The best and most productive fun comes when we use different techniques and share the results.

It’s also important to pay attention to your surroundings. If you notice only accurate casts raise any attention that is an indicator of the mood of the fish.

Perhaps the fish are swiping at the lures so think about how sharp your hooks are.


If you’re really hoping to get onto some big bass, the best places are high up in the creeks. A canoe or kayak is often more pleasant and productive than walking the banks.

Bass will be holding tight to banks, feeding on insects, grubs, lizards, baby birds and pretty much anything that can fit into their mouths. Naturally, hard-bodied surface lures are great, especially those that resemble insects like tasty cicadas. Under overhanging rocks and trees and around timber and weed are ideal target areas.

I always let any floating lure sit for as long as possible before starting to retrieve. While the smaller fish will come out and investigate, a larger fish could well be watching your lure and seeing what makes it different to all the other things it has seen landing on the water.

A long pause and a slight twitch might just be the thing that launches a big bass straight at your lure.

If we get a really hot summer, the water can be uncomfortably warm for bass and they will seek out cooler, shady places. Under wharves, bridges, overhanging trees and other areas are all worth prospecting.

Another option is to seek cooler water by using lures that can be worked deeper.

I tend to work lures faster and with more action when the water is warm.

A lot of the shallower areas will be heavily weeded by now and it’s a good idea to use more weed-friendly lures like buzzbaits, bladed lures like spinnerbaits, plastics on worm hooks and weedless frogs.

Another new lure I’ve tried is the Strike Pro Shrimp, great for working over shallow weed. It’s 50mm long, weighs 3.2g and dives to around 60cm and suspends. The silicone feelers add realism and there’s even a clear one model.


We all have our favourite techniques but when they don’t work, do you have enough ability with others to keep landing fish? One day your favourite technique won’t cut it.

At a recent Western Sydney Bass and Bream Club meeting John Bethune told how it was wise to just go out and concentrate on one technique until you mastered it, then move to the next to ensure you became a versatile angler.

There’s an endless array of methods anglers can employ these days and while I enjoy some more than others, there’s no better way of learning than using one technique under a variety of conditions. You learn a lot and will have something to fall back on when your gun technique fails to live up to your expectations.


A number of anglers throughout the district have noted setlines over the last few months. Many of these anglers have done the right thing and contacted Fisheries.

Dobbing in people is not something Aussies like to do but when comes to fishing, thankfully there are some who care about our fish stocks and the future of fishing to report such activities. In one case up to 20 set lines were found fully rigged and in the water.

If you see any suspicious illegal activity, contact Fisheries on 1800 043 536. Don’t confront the offenders but gather as much useful information as possible such as rego of boats or cars, descriptions of people, gear, dates and times. Photographic or video evidence if you can do it safely and without being detected would be a bonus.

Remember our fish stocks are worth protecting and the image of your sport is on display because of people who choose to ignore the rules.

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