It's always exciting when a relatively new dam continues to show growth potential in its annual yield and average size of fish.
Thompsons Creek Dam has now been open to recreational angling for little more than three years. In this period it has certainly gained a reputation with many anglers for its quality fishing and often extreme weather.
Thompsons Creek Dam is between the two small country towns of Wallerawang and Portland, just west of Lithgow. Look for the right-hand turn-off to Wallerawang while travelling west to Bathurst on the Great Western Highway and follow the road into town, heading over the small railway bridge and turning left off the bridge heading towards Portland. Look for the cemetery on your right and the turn-off to the dam is opposite, on Willow Vale Lane.
It. is a little bit off the beaten track and many anglers do get confused when heading out towards the darn, often missing the turn-off and taking the next turn off, Thompson Creek Road. This is the wrong turn and will lead you well astray!
So now you have found the dam. Thompsons Creek Dam is the newest dam in the area, competing with Lake Wallace and Lake Lyell for crown of king of the Coxs River dam trio. Currently, I can assure you that Thommo’s, as it is often called, has certainly built up the credentials and kudos from the many visiting anglers to wear this crown.
In the past year or so the resident brown and rainbow trout at Thommo’s have continued to grow. Many fish are now regularly topping an honest 2kg-plus and their general condition and fitness are a force to be reckoned with on the end of a rod and line,
One of the nice things about fishing this lake is that is has, by and large, held a good head of water right through the drought. This has allowed the dam to stabilise and weed beds have continued to grow. The diverse food chain has its base held firmly in place by these weed beds, enabling the trout the continue rapid growth when other dams have suffered from low water levels which cause fish to move and search more widely for food.
The weed beds fringe most of the dam except for the large rock-fill wall at the .northern end, where extreme depths prevented their ability to flourish.
The weed beds are of particular interest to fly anglers. Nymph patterns and other larger representative wet flies can be very productive when cast around these weedy areas. Daytime fishing also affords the opportunity of polaroiding these areas. Calm, clear mornings are preferable and the south-eastern bank offers the best viewing as the morning sun lifts.
Rather than looking over the weed beds, try to look in the margin between the shore and inside edge of the weed, or at any of the more barren patches within the weed. These areas offer a more contrasting background against which to spy out prowling trout.
But it is late evening through to the hours of darkness when these weed beds really turn on the action. Most people fish a floating line and keep flies close to the surface and worked in a searching pattern right through any of these more shallow areas where the weed proliferates.
Problems often begin when the fish is hooked, as they nearly always seem to head straight for the sanctuary of these dense areas of salad. Methods for preventing this or retrieving hooked fish from the weed vary and it is something that has to be experiences to work out an effective method of combat. Needless to say, some fish are lost but many make it to the bank.
Most anglers will fish a single small nymph or wet fly when polaroiding and this will assist faster and more accurate casting, rather than the two-fly rigs fished by some anglers during evening and night sessions.
It is important that the two-fly rig is fished close to the surface for two reasons. Firstly, it will keep your flies out of the weed and, secondly, by fishing the flies close to the surface, they will offer a better and more obvious silhouette for the fish to see.
This is the first area that the angler will come to as he or she arrives at the eastern side of the wall. The vast basin of the dam may, perhaps, seem a little daunting but, really, the best place to start is this point, especially if you have a spin rod in your hand.
As you can imagine, the vast rock-fill wall harbours, a vast amount of food in its own right. The rocks have millions of holes, nooks and crannies in which various small fish, crustacea and aquatic insects can hide and hunt. The rocks themselves are covered in a fine, green, filamentous algae which shrimp and other small aquatic creatures graze on.
Casting lures along this area often produces excellent results. Sometimes it will be necessary to probe the steep depths with countdown techniques, allowing your lures to drop vertically before you begin your retrieve. It is important that you keep a watch on your line on the drop and be ready to click the reel into gear because fish will sometimes
,hit the lure as its flutters downwards.
Favourite lures include Tassie Devils and their clones, various spoons and small metal jigs. These lures are popular because they can be cast long distances and will penetrate depths rapidly, making your casts more efficient.
Deep- and shallow-diving minnows are also worth trying. The clear water of this dam dictates that natural patterns work best but be versatile and change your lure if it isn’t working.
This clear water does help the fish become aware of lures and flies but also allows them the ability to scrutinise such offerings, so sometimes it can be a waiting game. But then we're are all used to that in this pastime.
One approach that seems to work is to make a few casts, then move and make a few more. This allows the angler to search new ground and hopefully come across some fish on the way. There is relatively easy walking right around the perimeter of this dam and it is a great way to explore the opportunities this water offers.
You can access this dam on foot only so a small day-pack to carry tackle, food and other equipment is a real bonus when visiting. Thompsons Creek Dam is a ‘trophy water’. That means that it has been given distinct rules over methods of fishing and catch limits by NSW Fisheries. The dam can be visited only from two hours before sun-up to two hours after sundown and a two-fish bag limit applies.
Fishing methods are restricted to artificial lures and flies only. No bait f1shing is permitted in this dam!
At the time of writing this trophy status seems to be working well, with plenty of anglers catching quality fish in quite consistent numbers. Let’s just hope this continues.
The best thing to do is come along and have a look for yourself, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.
At an altitude of 1100 metres Thompsons Creek Dam is very exposed to the elements. In Winter you need to dress accordingly and be prepared for extreme cold. Fortunately, the fishing is often worth such punishment.
Looking north towards the rock-fill wall, Thompsons Creek Dam shows off its great expanse.
Late evening until dark offers some superlative fly-fishing at Thompsons Creek Dam. Just don't forget about the two hours after dark curfew.
The Hickson lads, Chris and Matt, show off an afternoon’s catch from the rock-fill dam wall. This area is perhaps the most popular and productive area of the dam, especially for anglers throwing lures.
The ever-faithful Baltic minnow is an excellent choice of lure to fish Thompsons Creek Dam. Its covers plenty of water in terms of distance and depth.
An angler puts the finishing touches to another Thommo's rainbow trout. The true productivity of this dam may well be yet to be realized.