South Creek Bass

If a million fish die in a creek and no one sees it, do they make a sound?

No. They don’t.

At South Creek in Western Sydney a group of passionate anglers act as the eyes for this small but unique fishery. And it’s just as well too, otherwise the devastation caused to this waterway might never have come to light and nobody held accountable.

For those that haven’t already heard about the disaster on South Creek and the lack of recognition from the authorities, you can catch up here.

In short, a factory fire adjacent to the creek in January and who knows how many other incidents have resulted in a critical amount of pollutants entering the waterway. Tests and visual inspections have detected large amounts of oil and a pungent acidic chemical smell was present throughout a extensive length of the creek, with dead fish, estimated to be in the 100’s found floating in the slick and washed up on the shoreline. To this date the council refuse to acknowledge a problem or even send inspectors to sample the water. It was easier to just blame a ‘black water’ event and try to flush the creek to get rid of any evidence.

The South Creek Bass Club have created an online petition in order to try and get a proper investigation initiated to prevent this kind of event in the future. The petition can be found here. Whether you have fished South Creek or not, are an angler or not, you need to sign this. We need some accountability for actions that damage our waterways.

The passion and hysteria about the lack of response to the South Creek catastrophe does prove one thing; the importance of anglers as the gate keepers of their local waters. Without these eyes and ears on the water the damage could continue unnoticed with no follow up or consequences.

The simple fact is that recreational anglers protect waterways.

sd9El14 Feb 2015

A healthy Australian Bass

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The Gold Rush

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.

Holterman with 630b gold nugget from Hill End NSW

Holtermann with the 286kg gold nugget from Hill End NSW

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.

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Football sized Yella

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.

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Nuggety gold

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.

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Big shoulders

Land one of these iconic Australian nuggets and you will go home as happy as Holtermann.

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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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