Bass amongst the Granite
With Christmas just around the corner I knew my last opportunity to head out on an epic adventure was last weekend and so I sent out an invite to anyone who was available and wanted to chase some bass in the wilderness. Justin (justincredible) took me up on the offer and was keen to chase a few Australian Bass again. After his first trip with me, he had a greater understanding of the gear required to trek up a rocky river and so after a quick trip to Rays Outdoors he had picked himself up a good set of water sandals.
The planned trip would see us travel a good 20km and so an early start was essential and we were on the water just after 4AM. It was sad to see that the river was extremely low and had been for an extended period of time as much of the stream bed was not only exposed to the elements but the grass had grown close to 4-5 foot in areas of riverbed no longer covered by water.
That said the water was clear and there was some flow so we stuck with the plan and began casting and heading down to the exit point. As we moved from pool to pool the amount of good structure to cast at was much more limited than previous trips with the water level sitting well below much of the undercut banks. The stream bed in many locations could also be clearly seen in numerous places where previously it was deep enough to make seeing the bottom impossible. However, there were still plenty of places to cast and if anything the reduced number of bass haunts should have made it easier to target them anyway.
We cast at the most obvious structures and eventually a cast at a bush growing on the waterline saw a bass boil at my lure. I retrieved the Sammy 65 slowly and watched as the bass darted up from the bottom again and again hesitating each time to commit to a strike. It wasn’t until the Sammy had almost reached the kayak that the bass finally belted the lure in a spray of water. It had missed the lure but the water displaced by the hit was well aimed as it sprayed me perfectly in the face!
As we drifted downstream we finally reached a pool where water from a small creek had gouged a deep pocket in the bank, and when the water was flowing a small waterfall would form. Although no water was running down the stream on the day, it still looked bass worthy with a combination of deep water, overhanging sedges and timber. This particularly location had produced a bass (or a hit) on every trip and so I was confident that I would see some action in this particular spot. As I cast at the front of the eroded pocket my Sammy 65 was smashed a couple of metres into the retrieve and I had managed my first bass of the morning at 38cmFL. Now that is a cracking way to start the day!
The next pool was a long one and had sections with enough depth to keep a bass happy. Eventually I spied some foamy bubbles on the surface next to a log 50m downstream, which from experience I knew were often the remnants of a bass hit and were formed when the protein scum on the surface trapped the displaced air from previous surface hits. I pointed this out to Justin and sent him downstream to have a cast around the bubbles with his Nobroko Softcada to see if he could find a feeding bass. Sure enough on his first cast the bass belted the lure ad Justin had managed his first bass of the morning.
With the low water levels and slow flow it was clear that some of the larger pools were not getting as much water movement as the smaller ones. This had resulted in quite a build-up in both surface weed and deep water weed which in places had choked the water column leaving few places for bass to hide. Justin and I continued casting at the fringes between the weed but to no avail. Eventually a cast that was ignored at the river edge was suddenly being hassled by a couple of bass in the middle which were again darting at the lure and hesitating and would not hit the Sammy.
Frustrated I decided to switch to a diver and the lure was belted down deep by a reasonable bass that measured 35cmFL and the follow up cast saw a second bass in the low thirties. Justin had moved downstream and was continuing to target the banks and so I moved to the opposite bank where I returned to surface luring and was instantly rewarded with another bass in extremely skinny water.
We moved to the adjoining pool and I managed another reasonable bass that smashed my lure amongst the rocks and instantly turned and head back into the stones. This bass gave me some serious trouble as it darted amongst the structure in an attempt to lose the lure. Luckily I avoided this potential end and netted another bass in the thirties.
The bass now started to hit the lures much more regularly and although the weed continued to cause problems it had not extended to all pockets of every pool. Recent strong winds had also concentrated the loose weed into specific areas giving us some opportunity at a snag free cast. The size of the bass being caught was also great as every fish exceeded that magic 30cmFL.
We also noticed that the bass seemed to be loving rocky structures with almost every rocky outcrop holding a fish or two. Even rocks in shallow water seemed to hold bass and one such cast on a shallow rocky bank that was covered by an overhanging tree had the Sammy engulfed by another 38cmFL bass equaling my session PB.
The morning had been quite good with plenty of portage and bass making it a very pleasant start to the trip. We eventually reached the halfway point which I had named “Hells Pass”. The drop in elevation over the morning’s fishing had been relatively gentle but the next few kilometres would see the river drop out of the mountains on a much steeper gradient . Lots of tough portage with a few reasonable pools to break up the hard slog would be the next couple of hour’s adventure. Sadly on this trip the water level was so low that most of these pools were unfishable although we managed couple here and there.
Finally we cleared “Hell’s Pass” and the river cleared the mountains and reached the flat valley below. Sadly, just like the upstream sections the weed was still an issue and in the large pools which regularly fished well, the weed had enclosed almost everything. Only in the deepest parts where the weed could not grow on the river bed could we find a few bass. The fun part was this resulted in some great fishing sections where three of four fish over 10 minutes was common.
Justin had found one steep rock wall and had given it a working over with no luck and it looked so good I decided to give it another go. It seemed that he had warmed the bass up because as I approached the end of the rock wall a cast tight to the bank saw it smashed by another reasonable bass and I netted a beautiful bass of 37cmFL that had a lovely gold colouration common to fish in this system. 5 minutes later I managed another 2 bass in the early thirties off the same snag.
As the sun began to recede behind the mountains we realised the hard portage had slowed us up considerably. The fishing became less regular and although we managed a couple of fish, the rest of the trip was spent chewing up distance. We reached a point where an early exit was a possibility and took the opportunity to exit early. I ran the remaining kilometre to the car rather than paddle 2.5km to our intended exit point.
The day had been tough and the fishing although good with over 20 bass caught could have been much better if the river was healthier. Hopefully we will see some late season rain to give it a good flush so I can do this river again before the season close!