At the Close
Well with the 2013-2014 bass season quickly coming to a close I decided to do something a little different. Typically I would have finished fishing a few weeks prior to the 31st of May but with a little bit of success in a local system late in the season I decided to give it another go on the last day of the season. Rocketv was keen so we formulated a quick plan and were ready for a big day in the skinny stuff hoping to find a very keen fish in the cooler conditions.
The plan was to get on the water just before twilight and head downstream to an exit point about 8km away. Considering the lack of rain we knew that there would be a fair amount of portage but the few bigger, hard to get pools in the length of the river made the possibility of a few good fish too inviting.
On the drive to the launch point we were unlucky enough to get a serious shower of rain and after looking on the radar we could see the showers were sparse but seemed to be moderately heavy. As we arrived at the launch the rain was coming down hard enough for us to sit in the car and wait it out as the prospect of being cold and wet in the early morning gloom was not inviting. Eventually the heavy shower passed and we were able to kit up and make the short portage to the first big pool.
I’d tied on a homemade popper that I had made as I was trying to figure out the right mix ratios to make the resin I was using have just the right amount of buoyancy. I had decided to target a large recess in the bank that was fringed in a grassy mat as I knew bass in this pool liked to hunt these areas in the dark due to the lack of depth. My first cast in the dark was a little long and managed to get caught up in the grass on the banks edge and required a few flicks to get it loose. When it finally came free it landed in the middle of the pool and I was sure I spied a tiny bow wave as a fish moved very quickly from a nearby log to inspect my lure.
I fired in a follow up cast and began popping the lure back towards the yak when a much larger bow wave clearly appeared behind the lure like a scene out of Jaws. As I watched the fish approach I let the lure pause as to be honest I though the bow wave was from a turtle. When the wave finally reached the lure I saw a mouth open up behind the popper and quite simply scoop the lure up. Lifting the rod tip I set the hooks and was now battling a serious fish. It made an instant beeline for the nearby log and after taking me under a few times I eventually managed to gain some control and netted a 45cmFL bass on my second cast of the morning. Now that was a great way to start the day! he also had a deformed upper lip which was probably why the hit was so strange!
We continued down the pool and the fishing was much slower than the optimistic start we had had. We made our way to the next pool and it wasn’t until we reached the end of the pool that I made a comment to Rod that I had just drifted over a mass of timber in the crystal clear water and that it was a shame I hadn’t had a cast at it. Following the tree back to the bank I could clearly see a small root ball just off the bank and thought it was a great alternate option to the submerged timber below me. Casting a foot from the roots I gave the popper a quick “bloop” and it was smashed . This was another solid bass and had a lot more go than the previous fish. The worst thing was that I had to fight it towards the submerged timber below the yak and it had me desperately trying to change its direction on multiple occasions. Luckily I was fishing with 15lb braid and 16lb leader as I was hoping to avoid the numerous bust offs I have had in this system and I knew there was the potential of some “green” by catch too! At 41cmFL it was an awesome follow up from my early morning success.
We reached some skinny water that involved a bit of portage although we pause a couple of times to cast at some structures that might just hold a bass between pools but had no luck.
The next pool was also a donut even though it had some awesome structure and a quick bit of portage had us in one of my favourite pools in this system. This pool has seen me busted off more times than any other and also yielded some amazing fish and awesome misses. Initially we could not find a fish but eventually I spied some submerged structure in a deep section of the pool. There was no way my surface presentation would attract a fish this far down in the depths and so I cast out my diver and retrieved it over the timber. As I watched the lure pass over the snag a cod emerged from the gloom and smashed the lure like lightning. My rod instantly loaded up and after a couple of quick flicks of its tail it powered back towards the depths and to my disappointment the hooks pulled. I did get the hit on video however make sure you change to HD and you can see the cod hit in the water. Not the greatest video though!
We moved to the opposite end of the pool and as we paddled we saw sea eagle smash something in the shallows that appeared too big for it as it couldn’t lift its catch from the water. We returned our focus to our fishing and eventually reached a rock wall that regularly held a fish or two. I cast my popper along the wall for nothing while Rod targeted the deeper water with his spinner bait trying to encourage any lazy fish to have a crack at his lure. Just as I turned to paddle to the next portage Rod Called out that he was on and I turned to find his rod loaded up and watched him battle a fish from the depths. As t neared his kayak he initially called it for a cod, then a sooty grunter (this had me raising my eye brow) and finally he announced he had caught a really dark yellow belly!!?
Now I only became aware of the dark morph of yellow belly within the last year when my sister in law sent me a photo of what she though was a monster sooty grunter. A little research revealed it was in fact a dark grey variation of a yellow belly. Now here was yet another dark yellow belly but what made Rod’s catch even more bizarre was that it was in a system well away from any catchment and on the Eastern side of the divide. At 49cm it was a good sized fish and its coloration made me think it was an aquarium fish that had gotten too large for its tank and had been released.
We continued downstream through some shallow portage that had once been fishable in past years. Many of these pools had been filled with boulders in recent floods and were no longer fishable as the river had changed course multiple times in the last few years. We eventually reached another large pool and found a couple of other kayakers fishing it moving upstream. After a quick chat we found out they had fished the pool pretty hard a managed a few fish so we decided to leave this pool and head further downstream.
The portage became a little more hardcore although there were a few good pools between them. Quite a few pools had some awesome structure but the bass were very quiet. We struggled for quite a few hours before reaching a large pool that has produced some quality fish in the past. Considering the lack of surface action for the previous few hours I had switched to a diver and I sent a cast in to the first structure I saw. This was promptly belted down deep by a good fish which after a quiet few hours was a welcome sight! The fight was an easy one, although the bass pulled hard in the cold waters, mainly because of the lack of structure around the area where it hooked up. Finally my third bass slipped into the net and at 38cmFL it was another great fish for the final day of the season.
We fished the pool hard but could still not raise another bass and we could see some fairly ominous grey clouds rolling in. Considering how cold the day was I had no intention of getting wet and so I quickly found a large thick trunk growing along the bank and knew it would give me some pretty good protection from the impending downpour. The rain came down and it was quite heavy which made me thankful for the cover I had wedged myself into to avoid being drenched. Checking the phone I could see the shower would be over relatively soon. As the rain eased off Rod emerged from whatever cover he had found which must not have been too good as he was drenched.
The pool was just as quiet after the rain and we made the next 1km of portage to the next pool. This was the pool I had managed to salvage my previous session in when I had found the bass hiding in the shallows. This time however, I could not find a fish and apart from a half-hearted hit in the deepest part of the pool the fishing continued to be slow.
We were nearing the exit point and we headed into some very picturesque bass country and I missed another solid bass that smashed my diver on its first twitch near the surface and then refused to come back. I knew that this section of the river was our best chance of finding a final bass but they were just not that keen to come out and play. I did manage another slightly deformed 28cmFL bass to finish my account for the day but the fishing continued to be quiet.
After another quick portage we reached the final point in which the exit point was at its downstream end. As we entered the top of the pool the clouds began to darken again and the wind began to swirl dumping a huge amount of leaves into the pool as a prelude to another downpour of rain. There was nowhere to hide from this shower and so we powered downstream towards the car in the hope we would avoid a drenching but it was not to be. The rain came down and even when we exited it continued to rain. We packed the car and headed upstream to pick up my car before heading home.
Although the fishing was quiet it was still a great way to finish the season and I can guarantee that I will be fishing all the way to the close next season. Thanks for the company again Rod!