How to

Fishing the Clyde River, NSW

THE Clyde River on the NSW far south coast is the closest estuary to my front door.

On a good day, it’s just a tick over 90 minutes from my home in Canberra to the boat ramp at Nelligen, several kilometres upstream from Batemans Bay.

But despite its proximity and reputation as a fishery, the Clyde River is a system I’ve largely ignored – even though I’ve driven over it hundreds of times on my way to fish estuaries further south.

That’s all changing.

I have spent recent months slowly getting my head around the Clyde and its angling options.

It’s been challenge, given the system is so vast.

The Clyde River is one of the largest estuary systems in New South Wales.

Rising in the Budawang Ranges, the river flows over 100 kilometres through three national parks and 10 state forests before spilling into the sea at Batemans Bay.

In doing so, it transforms from a crystal-clear freshwater stream into a broad estuary more than 100 metres wide and up to 20 metres deep.

Part of the Batemans Marine Park, the Clyde River receives little to no commercial fishing pressure and the result is an extraordinarily healthy system bursting at the seams with fishing options.

From bass in the upper reaches to bream and EPs around the snags to croc-sized flathead and monster mulloway in the channels and holes, the Clyde has it all.

Finding the fish

It’s little wonder that anglers fishing a system the size of the Clyde estuary are often bamboozled by the sheer scale of the river. 

I experienced this during my first genuine forays onto the Clyde.

With nearly 100 kilometres of water to choose from, where do you start?

Well, happily, you don’t have to travel too far to find outstanding fishing.

In fact, some of the Clyde’s best locations are within minutes of the popular launching ramp at Nelligen.

This area is littered with structure in the form of bridge pylons and jetties, not to mention the scores of moored boats. 

There are also steep, rocky banks that drop away into more than 10 metres of water.

It’s an excellent place to blow away the cobwebs by flicking lightly-weighted soft plastics and hard bodies for bream, flathead and EPs.

Plenty of mulloway are also caught in this area, often by anglers targeting something much smaller.

Similarly, if you’re launching a boat or kayak at Batemans Bay, you barely need to travel to find fishy grounds.

The outstanding launching facilities at Hanging Rock are within a few hundred metres of a number of likely looking holes close to the rock walls and adjacent to the recently upgraded highway bridge.

When heavy rain sends enormous volumes of fresh water flowing through the system – and this has been a regular occurrence of late – these lower reaches fish particularly well for flathead, mulloway and bream.

It’s deep here, and the tidal flow can be brutal, so use larger plastics on heavy jig head, or go for a heavy soft vibe that will hug the bottom.

Around these areas, the run-in tide is much easier – and more productive – to fish than the run-out.

Island time

If you’re eager to explore more of the system, especially locations renowned for mulloway and trophy lizards, the two main islands in the Clyde are a good first port of call.

Imaginatively named Little Island and Big Island, both are magnets for fish and fishers alike, mainly because of the underwater structure that abounds.

The deep drop-offs, rock bars and channels around both islands are reliable haunts for large flatties and mulloway, but you’ll also get bream and EPs.

Use a sounder to locate bait balls and you’ll often find large predatory fish in the vicinity. 

Again, the tide roars through here at times and, because of the extreme depth, it can be a challenging area to fish.

In saying that, don’t get too seduced by the deep water. There are lots of ‘edge fishing’ options throughout the Clyde – areas where the water is 1-3 metres deep and the tidal flow is much easier to cope with. And you’d be surprised how many monster flathead and mulloway come from these shallower locations.

Up the creek

A handful of creeks spill into the Clyde River and these can be outstanding areas to fish.

Two that anglers rave about are Waterfall Creek, upstream of Batemans Bay, and Cyne Mallowes Creek, not far from Nelligen.

Both offer fishers a chance to get out of the main river and fish gentler tides and shallow water. They’re both perfect for small boats and kayaks and produce the typical spread of Clyde River species – flathead, bream, perch, mulloway, whiting and so on.

There are Sanctuary Zones in a number of the creeks and rivers that spill into the Clyde, so remember to note the signs and abide by the rules.

Clyde with a guide

Even though my catches from the river are improving, I am still very much a Clyde River novice. I’ve certainly got a long way to go before I even get close to sussing out this vast system.

To speed up the learning process, I have recently fished with two local guides who know the river a lot better than I do. I highly recommend them both.

Josh Badenoch from Badenoch Charters has been fishing the Clyde for years and his results speak for themselves. Better known as ‘Jewie Josh’, for his astounding strike rate on Clyde River mulloway (he literally catches hundreds per year), he predominantly fishes with bait and is renowned for putting his clients onto monster bream and trophy flathead, in addition to mulloway. Visit 

If you want to fish soft plastics and vibes for flathead, mulloway, bream and perch, Pete Dugan from South Coast Estuary Charters is your man. Pete will take you to some of his favourite holes around Nelligen and the two islands,

casting lures for a range of species. It’s a great way to get to know what can be a challenging system. Visit

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