Home Water

DSC0264121 Dec 2014

Prime fly water

Somewhere along the line, these sparkling emerald waters crowned with ancient slabs of dull sandstone became my home water.  Originally the arrangement seemed to form due to convenience,
I could make it there for a quick session after work in summer.

In the beginning the numbers and size of the fish were nothing remarkable, but I enjoyed knowing the water, every pool, bend and snag.  As the summers came and went I learnt to read the mood of the river.  The flow, weather and insect behaviour all providing clues as to what could be expected before a fly was even cast.  I mastered where to find the fish and where not to waste time.  Which fly to cast and what time of day.  I knew the likelihood of any cast getting a take before it was even made.  When the conditions were right, I could hit all the hot spots and rack up good numbers.  But still, the fishing was not as good and the fish not big as many other waters that I preferred to fish when gifted with a full day or weekend.

For all my experience, occasionally, I even still got skunked.

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The home turf

Fishing that river became a routine; routine seemed to bring frustration.  Somedays I would be irked if I could not get a rise from a snag I knew always held fish.  Eventually, I knew the water so well I could have fished it in the dark of night.  And so, I did.  Thats when I realised I had been doing it all wrong.

That night, I crabbed my way through the darkness to a hole that usually produced a fish or two.  I could not see my line or fly as I cast, but heard it hit the water.  That first cast I caught the largest fish I had ever caught in that river.  Followed by two more without taking a step.

I thought I had this place figured.

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Humble beginnings

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Sharpen the Arrows it’s Carpin Time

It appears as though the push to legalise bow fishing for carp in NSW is gathering some momentum.  A permit system will likely be put in place to manage the sport, with a permit required in addition to a NSW fishing licence.

Whilst not being fly fishing, the removal of carp from waterways by any method is a win for the environment and our native species and therefore should be encouraged.

The following is a report in the latest NSW CFA newsletter, written by president Don Barton:

Bow fishing for carp
Report by Don Barton, NSW CFA President
The recent changes to the Fishing Rules included provisions enabling a pilot program for bow fishing for carp by a narrowly selected class of persons in specified inland waters in NSW.
On 18 November I attended a full day Bow Fishing Risk Assessment Workshop in Surry Hills conducted by a consultant, and facilitated by officers of DPI (Fisheries and Game Licensing Unit).
The risk assessment was exhaustive. An example of the outcome of a similar process (in respect of permitting regulated hunting in state forests) by the same consultant can be seen at this link.
The permits (or permit – one may be issued for a specified class of persons) which actually make the activity legal for specified persons will probably issue under section 37, Fisheries Management Act 1994. A permit rather than a licence will be required owing to the matter being a trial rather than something new being immediately enshrined in the Act.
The pilot program will commence some time in 2015. Training of applicants for a permit to bow fish for carp in specified locations will be conducted by DPI’s Game Licensing Unit. Individuals will be required to hold a NSW Fishing Fee receipt and a NSW Restricted Game Hunting Licence, endorsed for bow hunting. Issue of a Restricted Game Licence is limited to members of hunting organisations approved by DPI. Obviously, there are quite a lot of filters operating with respect to who will be permitted to bow fish for carp.
Following the trial period, there will be a review of the trial and that review will inform any decision to persist with permitting bow fishing for carp and if so under what conditions and in which inland waters.
The locations where bow fishing for carp will be permitted were identified amongst known carp hot spots in NSW, with the precise locations being identified by taking account of proximity to towns and other considerations.
The day provided an opportunity to examine the equipment used for bow fishing and to speak to experts in the field. Having exercised that opportunity and having the benefit of sitting through the entire risk assessment process, I found it difficult to have any concerns in relation to the trial. (Indeed, I can think of at least one river reach where the opportunity to target carp so precisely may well prove useful in mitigating the presence of carp in refuge holes during dry spells, and I look forward to persuading a bow fishing enthusiast (if I can find one) to demonstrate his skills, if that reach becomes one of the sites scheduled under the terms of the permit/s.)
Of course, anything new will inevitably attract concerns one way or the other, and it is easy to attempt to create a moral panic in respect of any activity with which one is unfamiliar; ignorance being the mother of prejudice.
The practice is in fact not so novel, having been legal in NSW in tidal waters ever since there have been regulations governing recreational fishing. The reasons for it not being permitted inland probably had more to do with conserving freshwater native fish and salmon and trout rather than safety. It is permitted in some other states, in the lower Murray in SA, I have heard.
Some concern may be felt in respect of authorised bow fishers being tempted by fish other than carp. Having regard to the filters operating on the selection of permit holders, this seems to be an unlikely risk. Further, the technique doesn’t seem to lend itself to taking other species and in any case, even if the odd opportunity arose and was exploited, that would be no different to a person doing the wrong thing by keeping a trout cod that they had inadvertently hooked, for example. The fact that some will people will do the wrong thing is not a good reason for forbidding a privilege to people who do the right thing.
There was a concern expressed by a Fisheries compliance officer that some people may hear that bow fishing is permitted in NSW and may rush into it without acquainting themselves with the precise regulations. This would seem to be a matter that can be reasonably addressed by suitable publicity, including informative publications being placed in retail outlets, including those in towns in neighbouring states.
People who don’t bother to read such material probably already bow fish in NSW inland waters. It is already happening illegally in freshwater in NSW. See this Youtube video for example…
Bowfishing Carp nsw

Watch the Video
****. 9 ratings 1,385 views
It seems reasonable to expect that the individuals who will have taken the trouble to undergo the training, and apply and pay for the permit, and who are members of clubs, will not be well-disposed towards those who persist with bow fishing illegally, and will be as ready as any angler to pass on information to Fisheries’ compliance officers of any illegal activity, including illegal bow fishing.
Subscribe to the NSW CFA free newsletter by clicking here

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Romancing the Enemy

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Until this point I tried to avoid them.  I knew they existed because I had seen them.  Lurking in the deeper pools while I was looking for bass.  Lying in wait, hoping to ambush a passing meal in the shallow faster runs.  Spooking from under my feet as I waded creeks and rivers.  Startling into brief displays of power and acceleration as they lunged for the nearest cover.

More often than not they cruised the pools casually, at a speed that appeared to be the minimum required to stop them from sinking.  I could sense their presence and hated being in the water with them.

I never saw them feed.  I wondered what they ate, and assumed from their size that it would be anything and everything.  I soon realised they were, in their full grown state, lords of the water.  Nothing dared challenge them.  Somehow dislike peaked my interest, and led me to this point.

The pool was one of the largest in the creek, perfectly still and calm.  Crouching behind Tea Tree, I watched all forms of life cleared from the behemoth’s path.  Silently and effortlessly its course along the pool did not waver, cruising over the ledges of sandstone and broken boulders.  Twitching as it sank, the fly landed 10ft ahead directly in the path.  An instant and violent change of moods ensued.  The killer instinct took control as the predator accelerated towards the obviously struggling meal.  The prey twitched a couple of last times before the brutal jaws clamped down.  I could see the muscles behind the head flex as the jaws crushed, one, two, three times.  I lowered my hand and the line came tight.  The stillness disappeared, the sky filled with noise as the water turned white.  Swimming backwards, tugging inch after inch of line from my hand in a powerful tug-o-war.  A sudden change of direction, followed by a determined run into the nearest rocky crevice.  I had no choice but to lock up.  With the rod bent to the cork the 14b tippet held.  Breathe the adrenalin.

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Fly caught Longfinned Eel

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Taken on a purple Vampire

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Back in Bass


DSC027087 Nov 2014Bass on the Disco Crickroach.

The bass are back and the annual Southern Bass Lake Yarrunga Challenge kicked off the hunt for another summer.  Although the bass have returned to the rivers and creeks, the cicadas are yet to hatch in any significant numbers.  They may still be on their way or it might just be a quiet summer after the bumper hatches last year.  Either way the bass know they aren’t around and so are mostly looking for frogs instead.  Poppers and crickroaches stripped two or three times form the bank and then paused will bring a few bass to the surface.  However due to the lack of cicadas the bass are only holding close to the banks for a couple of hours around first and last light, providing a few hours of power.  They are then retreating to the deeper water throughout the heat of the day and should be targeted with sinking lines along the deep water side of weed beds and submerged structure.

DSC0272121 Nov 2014Time for a coffee break after the dawn hours of power

Despite the cicada deficiency, the number of bass caught during the challenge remained good with 52 anglers netting 857 bass over the 2 days.  The large fish were hard to come by, with Chris Harding of the Illawarra Fly Fishers bagging the largest bass on fly at 404mm (tip to fork).  As well as the bass, 21 carp were landed with the largest going to Ray Ellis also of the Illawarra Fly Fishers at 670mm.

DSC026946 Nov 2014Turning up the beats during a tying session back at camp.

DSC027057 Nov 2014Joe Manzano probing the structure amongst the dawn fog.

DSC0272221 Nov 2014Submerged timber is prime bass structure.

DSC027299 Nov 2014Bent to the cork, 396mm.

Joe and I had tough practise day pre comp with only a few bass landed.  Despite the lack of enthusiasm from the fish, I somehow managed to have my fly chased by three different Water Dragons three casts in a row, with one even diving onto the fly from up a tree.  Unfortunately the third one, which happened to be a large male, got his mouth on the Jitterbug before I could pull it clear.  The feisty bugger was a terror to unhook but was eventually released unharmed.

DSC027107 Nov 2014You’re not gonna have fun.

Sight fishing to carp which were in large schools up to 60 fish was a highlight of the weekend, with Joe and I both landing carp at 640mm on olive and black Woolly Buggers.

DSC0272721 Nov 2014-1Wombat hole fertiliser.

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