Clarrie Hall Dam

Australian bass caught at Clarrie Hall Dam, Steve Cooper

Angling is a buzz when you are into a hot bite. It is also a buzz when discovering new territory or out hooking with other anglers, observing their methods and techniques on their home waters. So it was when I fished Clarrie Hall Dam, west of Murwillumbah, with Gary Keillor.

Clarrie Hall Dam is the most scenic water I have seen. To get there, drive to Murwillumbah, turn west through Uki and south to the Doon Doon Rd. At 800 m above sea level, Clarrie Hall isn’t as much a dam as a mountain lake. It looks like it belongs in the tropics. Built on Doon Doon Creek, it features hundreds of hectares of green lily pads that put a carpet of colour across the waterway when they flower, while the dark, craggy outline of Mount Warning looms on the skyline.

The main restriction on Clarrie Hall is that outboards are not allowed, so you need to bring either an electric motor or a canoe.

This was a fly-fi shing trip and we were using eight-weight outfits, alternating a floating line with a slow sinker. We worked along the edges of the lily pads, casting to slight indentations and cutbacks, working the fly into channels or past suspected ambush points near islands of lily pads. Gary had some specially tied variations of the Dahlberg Diver flies with looped weed guards. Imitating frogs, the flies were cast to land gently on top of the lily pads, then bounced on to the water along the edge and made to pop and bloop.

For deeper retrieves, Deep Clouser Minnow flies were employed on slow sink lines. These were cast to the edges of the lilies, or around timber and allowed to sink to varying depths by using a countdown method. It was a bit tricky to avoid hanging up on submerged timber or the forest of lily pad stalks that shoot up near the bottom.

It was also frustrating. We had bass slap, bang, roll over and do everything except stick their heads out and squirt water at us before we managed to keep one on a hook. That first fish probably weighed less than half a kilogram but was worth the eff ort. It nailed a yellow and orange Clouser retrieved in short, sharp bursts about a metre and a half below the surface along the fringe of the growth.

We caught many other bass that day, and missed a few bigshouldered fish that would have severely tested us.


Lures and Flies

Lure fishing is the most popular method and light spin or baitcast outfits spooled with braid lines of about 5 kg are preferred. This isn’t so much because of the size of the bass, but their pulling power. A big bass in Clarrie Hall is about 40 cm, but most of the fish are 37 cm or less. For fly-fishing, an eight-weight outfi t is about ideal. Use a floating or slowsink intermediate line and a leader of at least 2 m. Avoid a tapered leader, instead use a level line of about 3–4 kg breaking strain, as the flies are not aerodynamic.

Lures and Flies

When the bass are in deeper water, top lures include Halco Poltergeist. For working the edges, shallow-diving minnow lures, like Rapala CD3 and CD5s, are productive. For night fishing, the Halco Night Walker has proven deadly. Spinnerbaits and soft plastic lures can do well. Fly-fi shers find the Dahlberg Diver good for top-water fishing, and the Clouser Deep Minnow better when working deeper.

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