Gold fever first hit New South Wales in the 1850’s, when payable gold quantities were reported by Edward Hargreaves at Ophir in the Central West. Thousands of men flocked to the region in search of their own personal fortune, with varying degrees of success. Bernardt Holtermann and colleagues hit pay dirt and discovered two of the largest gold nuggets in history. Amazingly, the smaller of the two nuggets measured 1.5m in length and weighed 286kg. It contained an estimated gold content of 5000oz.
These days most of the known gold producing regions in the Central West have been extensively mined. However, for those that know where to prospect the region still has plenty of trophy size gold nuggets to be found, albeit of a different kind.
The Central West plays host to an multitude of freshwater dams and rivers that provide access to prime Golden Perch, aka Yellowbelly water. The jewel in the crown is Windamere Dam, near Mudgee, which is arguably the best trophy Yellowbelly fishery in the world. The dam extends for approximately 14km over through Cudgegong River valley. The waters hold Silver Perch and Murray Cod but the Golden Perch are the main attraction for most anglers and can grow anywhere up to 9kg.
These fish are without a doubt worthy quarry on the fly rod. When the conditions are right, Goldens can be found cruising drop offs and shallow feeding bays hoping to encounter an easy meal. These fish can be targeted with dark coloured Woolly Buggers tied on sturdy hooks in larger sizes. The woolly bugger is good representation of minnows and small yabbies which form a major part of the diet of these well feed footballs. Shallow bays provide good opportunities for sight fishing to behemoth sized fish lazily working along the banks.
Like most Australian freshwater natives, environmental factors sometimes induce a strong case of lockjaw, resulting in tough fishing. On these days it is best to target the deeper holding structure with larger flies. Any submerged timber close to ledges or in deeper water is prime. The Zinger fly has become our weapon of choice for this scenario and is highly successful at arousing expressions of interest and aggressive responses from otherwise dormant fish.
When hooked these hefty brutes surge in lunging runs towards the closest snag or deep water. Often locking up is the only way to keep, straining even 8wt rods and 6.5kg fluorocarbon to near breaking point. Pound for pound these lake fish won’t fight quite as hard as their river siblings, but due to their huge paddle like tails, they will put down an incredible amount of power for a short period of time.
Land one of these iconic Australian nuggets and you will go home as happy as Holtermann.