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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Hopper Time

Its usually drought in Australia, until you want to fish a river, then it floods.

Walking the banks of a stretch of a low land western river I had hoped to fish for natives, I realised two things. Firstly, there was no way I was going to hook into any natives due to the chocolate milkshake that was barely contained within the usual river banks; and secondly, there were an insane amount of hoppers around. So many hoppers that simply walking through the long straw coloured grass with your mouth open would result in a decent feed.

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Bucketloads of hoppers

After a quick rethink I decided to cut my losses, head to higher ground and settle for a weekend of trout fishing. According to the guru at the local fly shop the girl scoutin’ had been particularly good although the hoppers I had seen in plague proportions at lower altitudes were only present in certain localities.

It was early afternoon by the time I hit the mighty Eucumbene River and after a short hike was in some prime water.  Initially I was surprised I had the place to myself, but I guess the imminent thunderstorm kept a few punters at bay. The river fished well, with most fish opting for the stimulator of the dry dropper rig. I only managed a few fish, including a rainbow at 38cm, before the storm hit.  The cell appeared to get stuck in the gorge. The days fishing was well and truly over as I crouched soaked to the bone under a tea tree bush trying to avoid the splintering lightning bolts that hit trees on each side of the gorge every few seconds with deafening devastation.

By the next day the weather had cleared and I relocated to higher country to fish the highly oxygenated, acidic waters of the Thredbo River. A long time favourite, the Thredbo is one the rivers I cut my teeth on many years ago. When it is firing it is unmatched in Australia for both quality fly water and fish. This day was no exception, even with high water. The fish weren’t easy to find but they were in excellent condition and were looking up.

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Strong Rainbows, clear water

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Looking up

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Extreme wading

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Fast water brownie

This was the first time I had visited the Kosciusko National Park since the completion of the Thredbo Valley Trail. A bike and hike trail that spans the ~20kms between Thredbo and Crackenback. The trail includes heavy erosion and 4 river crossings, facilitated by monolithic steel bridges.  If you thought that National Parks still had any role in the preservation of intact and undiminished wilderness in Australia then you will find the trail disgusting. After a million years of neglect industrial tourism has finally come to the Thredbo Valley. Rather than spend money on the irradiation and control of feral floral and fauna, which is so desperately needed, the KNP instead chose to develop one of the last remaining stretches of untouched alpine river. Just another national disgrace from the National Park Service.

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Fools progress

Yes there is some irony writing about trout fishing in a national park while also complaining about the lack of vermin control. Sure eradicate the trout, but not before you remove the dams clogging our waterways and restricting the passage of native fish. Let our rivers run.

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The Usual Suspects

Its high summer down under, which means peak season for many pelagics species on the East Coast. The fish have arrived and chased schools of bait into bays and estuaries along the New South Wales coast, making it the perfect time to target them from a boat or kayak. Early in the morning, late in the afternoon and sometimes even all day these fish bail up bait into balls of nervous water before carving them up like angry torpedoes.

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Truckloads of 50+cm salmon

Find the bait and you will find the fish, which most often consists of Australian Salmon, Tailor, Bonito and Kingfish. The athletic capacity of all these species could easily justify the use of rods in the 9 weight category, however they are dead set reel burners on a 7 weight, which I prefer to fish in open bays.

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Fly of choice, the surf candy

Extensive fly selections are not required as a simple surf candy on an intermediate line will cover most of a days action. Just pick the size to best match the bait and cast it directly into or around the edges of any bust ups. These swimming missiles slurp them down, often as soon as they hit the water.

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These salmon pull like freight trains

Pound for pound the Australian Salmon would have to be one of the top sports fish in the ocean, anywhere. Once hooked they feel as though they will never stop pulling. Hook into a big one, 60+cm, and be ready to go the full 12 rounds.

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Doesn’t get much better than Kingies on the fly

For most anglers big Kingfish are the ultimate summer prize. While there are usually good numbers of rat Kingfish up to 65cm (the legal limit), the numbers thin out above this mark. Landing one over this on fly is a real achievement and anything over 85cm should be considered a trophy.

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Plenty of rats, but a few half decent kings as well

Tailor are always about and often seem to arrive at the right time break a quiet spell. While not as revered by most sport anglers as the other species mentioned, they do fight hard, and as long as they aren’t biting through your tippet are always good fun.

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Even the larger Tailor go pretty hard

No doubt there are bigger fish in the sea, but for a day on the fly, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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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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