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Tying The Dahlberg Diver Fly

Dahlberg Diver

The Dahlberg Diver would have to be my all time favorite fly. Anything that swims and feeds off the surface of the water will be tempted by the Dahlberg. Murray cod, bass, golden perch, saratoga, barrumundi, even turtles and water dragons love this fly.

There are a number of pattern variations of this fly and so it can be tied to imitate a frog, insect, lizard, fish or even a mouse struggling on the water. Retrieving with short sharp strips causes the fly to bloop, leaving a bubble trail in it’s wake. Another retrieve that works well with bass is to just leave the fly sit in one place. Every now and then a little shake of the rod tip causes the fly to vibrate like a cicada caught in the surface tension of the water.

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The Dahlberg also has a very good hook up rate. When fish strike surface flies tied with foam, the fly will often bounce away from the fish and fails to hook up. The Dahlberg is made of deer hair which tends to stick to the water and is less buoyant than foam. I believe this helps ensure the fly enters the fishes mouth.

Simon Fitzpatrick

Tying The Donnie Brasco Fly

Donnie Bracso Fly

If you love fly fishing for Australian native fish and are looking for a good fly this spring, look no further than the Donnie Brasco Fly. This is a great all rounder fly for species such as golden perch that school up in our impoundments over springtime. Also with bass season now open, this fly is bound to tempt a bass or two.

This fly can be tied in a variety of sizes. A good starting point for bass and golden perch would be to tie on a 1/0 hook. Larger hooks up to 4/0 would be ideal for Murray cod when summer rolls around. Both the body and tail of the Donnie Brasco Fly consist of rabbit fur. This material is well known for its fish enticing action. When retrieving the fly with short sharp strips, rabbit fur tends to pulsate in the water, closely resembling the movement of a fishes fins.

Black and purple are proven colours when it comes to attracting Australian native fish. By tying on a purple tail and a black body you have a very versatile fly for both clear and turbid water. More often that not I tie in a weed guard too. By tying a double loop weed guard you can work the fly right in among the structure without snagging up too often. The weed guard shown in the video offers good snag resistance whilst collapsing easily when a fish bites.

Tight lines

Simon Fitzpatrick

The Bass Season Has begun!

The bass have started to return to the fresh after their spawning session over winter in the brackish water. I managed to land 4 solid bass and dropped another 3. All on the fly. Book your charter now. Happy days.

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August 14 Tweed River Charter

A few bass continue to show up through the month of August. Today Melle and Kim worked their lures diligently along the edges of the snags and were rewarded for their efforts. Another couple of weeks and this freshwater section of the Tweed River will be absolutely teaming with bass as they return from their spawning run. September is the best month for bass fishing by far!!! Now is the time to book your charter.

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Clarrie Hall and Tweed River Update

It has now been 4 months since the floods in March and Clarrie Hall Dam is still undergoing some change. The water is still coffee coloured but this will likely have a positive effect on the lake. It could be said that impoundments are in a constant cycle consisting of boom and bust phases. Clarrie Hall is probably in the latter phase now. My theory is that the elevated water levels and turbidity during the floods has cut off the cabomba weeds light source. Subsequently there has been a major die back of this invasive weed. The die off of the weed probably led to more turbidity which in turn caused more weeds to die. A kind of positive feedback loop. Hence 4 months later the dam is still turbid.

The good news is that much of the cabomba weed is now dead. This has exposed the edge of the lily pads making lure fishing a much easier proposition. The die back of the cabomba has also made access easier in a number of places including the boat ramp area which was previously choked with weed. The lily pads have had a bit of a shake up too and now there are gaps between the pads where anglers can swim a bait.

The Tweed River has also undergone some change. There has been some extensive erosion on the river bank where riparian vegetation has been removed for farming…..no surprises there. (River bank planting in these areas is desperately needed to stop erosion and siltation of the river.) However I was very pleased to see numerous new snags in the river. Some of these snags are absolute rippers and will no doubt hold good numbers of bass. On a charter yesterday Dan had some success fishing these snags with a Donny Brasco fly. On a number of occasions the bass appeared to be only sideswiping the fly but Dan managed to connect with a couple of nice fish. When the bass return from their spawning run in September there should be plenty of action to look forward too around these new snags!

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I do like Mondays after all

Not many things can get me out of bed at 4am on a Monday morning. Especially when it is zero degrees outside. But for big Murray Cod I will make an exception!

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Fishing Trip From Hell?

Have you ever had a fishing trip where everything seems to go wrong? When I hit a kangaroo on the way to the dam recently I should have seen this as a bad omen. Later that day I hit a rock in the boat and snapped the shaft on the electric motor. I also broke 2 of my favorite (and most expensive) lures and after 3 days of solid fishing, I caught absolutely nothing!! But with scenery like this I really can’t complain 🙂

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2017 Floods

A tropical low  (a remnant of cyclone Debbie) moving south has collided with a cold front moving north over the South QLD/Northern Rivers area. An astonishing 602mm of rain was recorded at the town of Uki, near Clarrie Hall Dam, over 2 days (30&31st) of March!! Needless to say the Tweed River was in flood and the town of Murwillumbah suffered some inundation. Clarrie Hall Dam is looking very turbid to say the least and it will be a while before conditions settle down in both the dam and the river. Fishing charters will not be running for at least a couple of weeks.

The good news is that the river will benefit from a good flush out. Once the river recovers there will be a whole new world of fish habitat to discover 😉  Here is what the river looked like in flood

Pre-and Post Spawning Bass Fishing Tactics

Each winter Australian bass turn their minds to spawning. Biological urges compel female bass to head downstream in search of spawning grounds. Their annual migration can take them hundreds of kilometres down river to the eagerly awaiting males. During these cooler months’, large schools of migrating bass can be found at various points in the river system. These congregations can be vulnerable to over exploitation by fisherman. When targeting these iconic sport fish, there are a number of things the recreational fisherman can do to ensure good catch rates for years to come.

Australian bass are catadromous. This means they migrate downstream to spawn. Most catadromous fish migrate to the sea to spawn, however bass only need move into the brackish water to breed. Rainfall events between May and August trigger the females to move downstream into the estuary to breed. Males tend to remain in the estuary after spawning, whereas the females move back upstream where they remain until the following season.

Bass prefer to spawn in water of low salinity (about 1/3 sea water). Therefore, it could be predicted that; in most south east coastal Australian river systems bass will be congregating to spawn during the winter months where the salt water meets the fresh. The exact locations will vary each year, dependent on conditions such as salinity. However, spawning often remains within the vicinity of a predicable part of the river each year. The predictability of these congregations of spawning bass make them vulnerable to over fishing.

spawning bass

Post Spawning Tweed River Bass

Some anglers would argue the key to conservation here is catch and release. But it is likely that the trauma caused to a fish after capture and release would at the very least ‘kill the mood’. At worst the eggs or the milt may be purged and spawning for that individual is delayed until next year. Our native fish already face enough adversity through loss of habitat, pollution, over fishing etc. Thus, targeting spawning bass is simply not good practice. Despite this, in NSW the laws currently don’t appear to prohibit targeting spawning bass. From June to August each year a zero-bag limit applies, but fishing in these areas is still allowed. This raises a few questions. Does this mean catch and release anglers can still legally target bass in rivers over winter? More importantly is it ethical?

 

 

Pre-spawning and spawning bass fishing tactics

Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to fish for bass in your local dam during winter. Bass in our rivers are busy ensuring future generations of bass, so they are best left alone to do their thing. The good news is that bass also tend to congregate over the winter months in our dams as well. Their instinct to spawn often has them forming schools in the lower catchment. Large congregations of bass can often be found near dam walls or spillways that prevent their migration downstream. Of course, there is no saltwater in our impoundments, so the bass can’t breed anyway. So, bass fishing over winter can be guilt free and highly productive.

In the cooler month’s schools of bass tend to hold down deep out in the middle of the dam. Cycling through a variety of deep presentations such as ice jigs, blades, soft plastics and lipless crankbaits are the ‘go to’ baits over winter. At times these schooling bass can be tight lipped, so varying retrieves and presentations is the key to success on any given day. Perhaps the most valuable technique is to ensure you don’t disturb the school too much. Pressuring a school by the capture of numerous fish can cause the school to shut down. A captured and released bass somehow puts out a vibe which often alerts other fish to possible danger. By temporarily retaining the fish in a live well, the angler can catch a number of bass before the school wises up.

Post spawning bass fishing tactics

After spawning female bass want to return home to their freshwater habitat. September is the best time to intercept these post spawning females as they make their way home. The freshwater areas immediately above the estuary are the areas to focus on. Spawning activity has left the bass hungry and competition caused by the presence of other bass, means they are particularly vulnerable to capture. Care should be taken not to over exploit the fish stocks at this time of year. Tackle choice plays a large part in the conservation of the fishery.

 

Bass with missing mouth parts

Bass with missing mouth parts

All the usual array of baits tend to work in September; spinnerbaits, diving minnows, soft plastics, blades, lipless crank baits, flies, surface baits etc. With such an increase in the likely hood of catching high numbers of bass, it makes sense to moderate your approach. First, try using baits that are less likely to cause injury to the fish. Baits with single hooks such as spinnerbaits and soft plastics are less likely to cause injury to vulnerable mouth, eyes and throat parts of the bass. A bass hooked with a single hook is also much easier to release and less likely to cause injury to the angler.

 

September/October is an ideal time to fly fish for bass. Fly fishing can often be a bit daunting due to lower catch rates compared to fishing with lures. But with plenty of hungry bass around now is the time to practice ‘waving the wand’. Focus on the shady areas around snags during the day with clousers and streamers etc. Tie on surface flies such as Dahlberg divers in the low light conditions of early morning and late afternoon. A fly is also far less likely to cause injury to a fish’s mouth parts and eyes compared to many other baits.

Gold Coast Fishing Charters

Bass Fly Fishing

When the fishing is tough using lures with double trebles increases your likelihood of hook up. A fish only has to sniff a fine gauge treble and it is hooked. But when unhooking small fine gauge trebles from a high number of captures, you may notice the injuries these trebles can cause to fish. These hooks tend to stick to and penetrate anything they touch, including the fish’s eyes, throats and gills. Modifying trebles by flattening the barbs and even cutting off one of the hooks goes a long way in ensuring the survival of released fish.

At this time of year it is possible to pull a number of fish off each snag. If your intention is to catch and release and you have a live well, be sure to detain each fish temporarily. As with bass fishing in the dams, your catch and released bass might alert the rest of the school to your presence. It is important here you know the local rules and regulations in the area you are fishing. At time of writing, in NSW taking of only 1 bass over 35cm from rivers and 2 from dams is allowed. So even if your intention is catch and release, possession of numerous bass in a live well may not be allowed? In this case the alternative is to release each fish at a distance from the area you wish to keep fishing.

Conclusion

To ensure future stocks of Australian bass, anglers would benefit by altering their fishing locations and techniques just before, during and after the spawning season. In winter avoid fishing in rivers, instead concentrating on dams. Use catch and release friendly tackle such as baits with single hooks or flatten the barbs on trebles. By following local rules and with a little forethought, the iconic Australian bass will be around for many future generations to come.

Simon Fitzpatrick

 

Lake and River Charter March 12, 2017

We arrived at the dam at 7am ready for action. As we were unpacking the gear the natural beauty of our surrounds demanded our attention. The mist slowly rising from the lake, revealing lotus flowers in the morning light. I heard someone comment “just being here was worth it already”. It is always such a pleasure to hear people appreciate the natural beauty of this wetland as much as I do. My job was already done and we hadn’t even wet a line yet.

The 5 of us diligently peppered the lake with our lures throughout the morning. We cycled through a number of different presentations, altering our retrieves and changing lures. But we had no bites at all. The water at Clarrie Hall is currently very turbid. I haven’t seen it this colour before and I am not sure what has caused the turbidity. With no significant recent rainfall, the discolouration it is likely due to an algal bloom. These events can strip the water of oxygen leaving the bass lethargic and unwilling to eat. High temperatures alone also decrease dissolved oxygen levels and may have resulted in a die off of some aquatic weed. This could further exasperate the issue. Either way the fish were certainly ‘off the chew’ so we decided to head for the river.

It was good to see the Tweed had recovered from its previous turbid and somewhat stagnant state. There had been just enough rain to flush the system and it looked great. Using spinnerbaits and hard bodies the boys worked all likely looking snags. By 5pm the boys had caught about 10 bass between them. They worked hard for their fish and deserved every one of them. Their enthusiasm, appreciation and help throughout the day was awesome. Days like this its a real privilege to be a guide. You guys are welcome back anytime!

Simon

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