John Costello takes you fishing in Northern New South Wales
Mount Warning (Aboriginal: Wollumbin) is a mountain in the Tweed Range situated in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. The mountain is located 14 kilometres West- South-West of Murwillumbah, near the border between New South Wales and Queensland. Mount Warning is the central volcanic remnant of an ancient shield volcano, the Tweed Volcano, which would have been about 1,900 m (6,200 ft) above sea level or just under twice the height of the current mountain. This volcano erupted around 23 million years ago, but the mountain still remains a place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung people and is the site of particular ceremonies and initiation rites.
The country surrounding the mountain is spectacular and boasts some of the richest soils along Australia’s east coast. It comes alive during spring and summer with the most brilliant varieties of plans and animals. And then there’s the fishing… The waters in this beautiful part of the world teem with the famous and aggressive Australian Wild Bass. Having waited patiently throughout winter for the Wild Bass season to open, I couldn’t wait to get on the water around Mount Warning.
The journey south from the Gold Coast to Mount Warning takes roughly an hour, but I started my trip early in the AM. My body tingled with anticipation. There had been recent heavy rain in the region and that meant the fish would be feasting on all the food coming down with the fresh run-off; this made my lure choice obvious – frog and insect imitations in natural greens and browns and fast swimming diving minnows would do the trick.
Wild Bass are ruthless when they feed. They chase fish across the surface of the water; they bust through Lily pads, crush insects in the floating grass and smash crays on the rocks. I launched my kayak at Byangum Bridge just past the turnoff to Tyalgum – a rural village located approximately 18 minutes from Murwillumbah.
Every fisherman dreams of seeing a Wild Bass cartwheel out of perfectly still water. And using a kayak to hunt them equals stealth fishing at its best. I started off my tying a Soft Shell Cicada to my 8lb fluorocarbon leader. A perfect match given the familiar whistles coming from the overhanging native trees. Their shadows were my target. Casting top-water lures along shadowed banks and deep under these structures is a deadly tactic.
Wild Bass will switch on the moment a lure or fly lands on the water and I like to cast hard up against the bank; leaving the lure to sit as the ripples disperse. Once it’s left to settle for five seconds or so, I twitch the rod tip to send tension down the line. My ultimate goal is to make my surface lures imitate a fallen insect and entice the fish to strike. I try to leave the lure in as tight to the cover for as long as I can. If that’s not enough to earn a hit, I begin a slow and steady retrieve back to my kayak.
It’s important to remember to pack a lure box that’s relevant to the fish you’re targeting and the fishing options you’re likely to encounter. Mount Warning is all rocky boulders, deep eroded cliffs, slow running rapids, flood grass and shallow weed beds, so remember to pack your lures accordingly. I start with top-water lures. I jam in a couple of loud insect imitations like the Tiemco Soft-Shell Cicada, Heddon Tiny Torpedos and Rapala Skitter Pops. Other options like the quieter surface baits such as Jaz Walkers and small Dharlberg diving flies are some of my favourites.
A selection of shallow diving lures and deeper cranks are a must. High tempo floating lures are my go-to in sunny conditions as you can work them like surface lures at times over shallow weed beds or down into the darkness. Jackall Squirrels, Rapala HJ7s and Daiwa Tournament Spikes are all quality killers. Soft plastic gulp worms, slider grubs and Keitech 3 inch Easy Shiners are always in my range with 1/4oz jig heads.
In sparsely weeded areas, spinner baits with tandem blades are another great option especially through heavy structure.
I killed the electric motor on my kayak, glided into position and moved in on my first target about 20 metres out from an overgrown cliff face. Most of the trees that once grew in this beautiful part of the world have fallen into the creek; providing excellent homes for the biggest and the most confident bass. I spotted two Eucalypts leaning over the water – they were wrapped in hanging leafy vines and projecting massive shadows onto the water.
I cast my Cicada right up against the grasses hiding the cliff face and let it settle before beginning my retrieve. Reacting slowly to a surface strike can mean a quick end to the life of a lure, so my focus on the first few paddles was intense. BOOF! A monster Bass took my Cicada from the surface and whipped up a whirlpool right beside my kayak.
READ THE FULL story in the Dec/Jan 2016-2017 issue of WTW eMAG.
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