Last chance for river bass
  |  First Published: May 2014

Shortening days, cooling nights… it’s a sure sign that the season is changing. With those changes in temperature and hours of daylight bass are becoming more and more targeted as a fly rod species. The end is looming, however, as the tidal river and stream season closes on June 1 for a couple of months until August 31, allowing time for these fish to spawn.

In Southeast Queensland we are very fortunate to have so many areas to fish for bass. Impoundments are legendary with the likes of Lakes Wivenhoe, Somerset and Moogerah being well stocked and much appreciated by bass anglers looking for those larger, top quality fish whose images grace these pages each winter.

But bass are by no means confined to the impoundments; virtually every upper river system from the NSW border through to Bundaberg is blessed with bass. The upper Brisbane, Logan, Albert, and Caboolture rivers, just to name a few, all have stocks of wild bass for the Brisbane-based fly rodder to enjoy.

Further north the fish are not hard to find in rivers linked to stocked impoundments which take in watercourses such as the Mary, Kolan and the like. Researching likely streams is the key to success, especially time spent in working out whether the chosen spot is negotiable by foot or by small watercraft such as a kayak, or perhaps even a full sized boat in some instances.


Once the fish are found it comes down to choice of tackle for the job, which is the thrust of this article. Bass are strong fish. Make no mistake about this claim. Yes, there are lakes with little tackers in them but a lot of stream fish are larger, stronger and can give a very good account of themselves. For this reason I suggest the use of a 6wt rod for all-round bass fishing whether it’s a stream being fished or a lake.

Choice of fly line comes down to just the two: floating and intermediate sink rate. Both have their place in the flowing water fishery. The floating line is good at first light or on dusk, and the intermediate line is more suited to fishing when the day has become brighter, with the sun well on the water.


An understanding of bass habits tells us that these fish are likely to work a bank or patch of shoreline when it’s just light enough for you and I to see, searching for any food items that have fallen into the water. As such the fish are fair game for a fully floating fly, or one sitting just within the surface film. Hence the floating line. Set up with a 3m leader of 3-4kg tippet, the floater keeps the fly in the zone, against lily pads or weed beds (pay particular attention to holes or channels in the latter). If cast gently into a likely area and allowed to sit for around 20 seconds before given the tiniest movement, a floating fly such as a Dahlberg Diver or a large Muddler Minnow will seldom be refused.

Poppers are also good but, as when using other floating flies, you must be very gentle in tweaking them. Excessive movement seems to put fish off. Nothing that a bass sees floating in its environment is going to move quickly or very urgently. Even grasshoppers tend to sit tight, perhaps hoping they won’t be noticed. In essence, it’s a casual, gentle movement that’s going to attract a fish.

Using the intermediate line

When daylight spills onto the water, it is the shadows which are the most likely places to find a bass on the job. This is when the floating line should be swapped out for an intermediate sink rate line. A quick exchange of spools or reels will see the slow sink rate line in action.

The preferred method is to keep some small distance away from a section of shaded cover or other likely area that looks ‘fishy’ and cast a baitfish, beetle or other small food imitation virtually against the selected cover. Give it a few seconds to sink, then draw it back slowly in small stops and starts. The take will be quite decisive. Bass are like that. They don’t muck about; they just hit hard and try to head back to cover.

The key to success with slow sink tackle is to methodically work over every likely area, bit by bit, until a pattern starts to emerge with successive bites. On some days the fish won’t be far from the surface while on other days they will be quite deep, and only your experience on the water will determine whether you fail or succeed at such times.

Wet flies that work are various Bunny or Leech patterns and the ubiquitous Vampire. The Vampire takes bass anywhere, not just in impoundments where it came to fame. No matter what sort of wet fly is in use the idea is to make it look appealing in its action. You cast it out, let it sink slowly and then start the retrieve.

The interesting thing is that the floods of the last couple of years have seen a lot of really good quality bass move into rivers and side creeks downstream from our impoundments, and the good news is that the fish are still there in may instances. All you need to do is to find them and enjoy the sport before the closed season at the end of the month.

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