Before the Storm! (Part 1)
One of the most satisfying facets of kayak fishing for Australian bass is exploring new waters and discovering a healthy population of bass. For me this usually begins with a family drive in the countryside, a picnic in a park or by a river or creek and a swim in a waterhole somewhere. My kids love it and as a side project I get to recon potential new locations for launching my kayak and exploring waters that might hold a bass.
On one of these drives just recently I managed to scope out 3 new locations for a bass fishing exploration trip. One of them was very promising as a picnic down by a particular pool yielded 3 solid bass surface strikes and one very small bass captured and released just prior to having a swim. After managing four surface hits in 20 minutes I was very keen to give this particular system a go.
Back at home I check Google Maps and determine possible distances as well as the size of the potential system to determine width and use this as a very vague approximation of possible depth. It doesn’t always work but it’s better than going in blind. I also try to identify potential emergency exit points in case I underestimate distances or the weather turns sour.
Rocketv(Rod) had been keen to come on one of my epic adventures and a PM to him received a quick reply of “Keen as!” and so we arranged meet part way to the location. Instead of Rod bringing his small Kayak I brought my Eco Daintree and the Mantra Noa, for him to try out, so that we didn’t have to move kayaks from one car to another prior to launch.
We arrived at the exit point and Rod quickly grabbed his gear and locked his car before we drove to the launch spot. Gearing up our kayaks we were very keen to hit the water which just happened to be the same pool I had fished during my picnic on the previous weekend. Prior to launch we had a few “practice casts” in the first pool and were both immediately reported with surface strikes. I had decided to give the sub-surface lures a rest and had brought along a spinning outfit with a Tiemco SSC tied on as well as my trusty baitcaster wielding a Lucky craft Sammy 65 in Archer Bee (Anyone shocked!!)
The surface bite was awesome in the pre-dawn gloom with plenty of missed hits and a couple of rats hooked and released. Eventually I managed to hook up on a better model in the thirties only for the hooks to pull late in the fight!
We launched the kayaks and began heading downstream. The portage was fairly strenuous and the rocks very slippery which made lugging the kayaks an ordeal. Many of the rocks also lacked that nice rounded shape characterised by mountain streams which also made for uncomfortable scrape and bruises. It was at this point Rod realised that his newly acquired we shoes were not going to keep hs feet well protected and supported during portage but both of us hoped the portage would be minimal (overly optimistic in hindsight!!)
The fishing initially slowed down but eventually a swirl at the end of one particular pool caught both of our eyes. Initially we thought it was a platypus that had been checking us both out minutes early but a speculative cast into the area of the swirl saw it “boofed” off the surface by a solid fish. Initially the fight seemed quite manageable with the bass heading to the middle of the pool and putting up minimal resistance. A switch must have suddenly gone off in its head as a micro second later it turned towards some ominous looking structure and turned on its after burners. The drag sang a dirge of destruction and eventually my braid meet some sharp structure and parted under the pressure. Bugger!
The next pool looking awesome s well and a cast along the length of its bank was eventually smashed in that characteristic tail slapping hit of a cod that refused the give the SSC a second look. Rod also managed to hook up on a fish that plucked his lure off the surface at the end of a retrieve. His SSC was sitting on the surface out of sight at the end of his kayak when a keen bass picked it up and headed straight down into the weed beneath his kayak. He only knew he was on when the rod loaded up suddenly but by this time the bass had rid itself of the lure in the weed below.
We continued downstream and arrived at the location of my previously posted video. In this pool a long cast up the middle of the pool was engineered to finish passing some submerged timber on the bank exposed to the sun. Prior to the cast a Willy Wagtail tried eating my lSSC mid-air which is a testament to their realistic construction. The timber in question was hollowed out and as the SCC passed its mouth a bass screamed out like a cruise missile and exploded around the lure. The hit was so close to my kayak that the sound was amazing however controlling the bass was a complete nightmare. I was in current and so close to the structure I had no playing room. In the end I just tried to keep the bass’s head above water to prevent him getting his head down and driving into the submerged structure. Although this technique had a high likelihood of pulling the hooks, it was preferential to another lost lure. In the end it was successful and I netted a 35cmFL bass. This bass was in superb condition and was packed with muscle. Its back was very broad and we were soon to discover that these fish pulled well above their weight in the oxygen rich water, a welcome surprise from my last few trips.
We eventually arrived at a very large deep pool that had every structure imaginable including cliffs, boulders, timber, weed, flowing water and even some man-made structures. Spying some timber beneath a tree I cast in initially for no result but the subsequent cast was smashed off the surface in a spray of water and after carefully negotiating the bass past awed bed I managed to net another 34cmFL bass. After release I headed back to the headwaters and watched as a bass accosted Rod’s lure repeatedly before hooking up and he was onto another 30cmFL plus bass.
We moved to the end of the pool and the left bank was hedge lined and shaded by a large tree, My initial casts saw a bass resting in very shallow water scream from the shallows and produce a bow wave before hitting the lure. Soon after repeated casts into the shade had multiple bass fighting over who should hit the Sammy and I managed multiple hook-ups and misses! This pool yielded multiple bass and I think I had managed about 5 and Rod 3 before we moved onto the next pool.
After fishing the previous pool our expectations were set very high for the next and we were not let down. The right bank was covered in sedges and eventually reached a gentle sloping granite wall and the left bank had some serious timber covered by a massive tree that had part of its root ball undercut by the river itself. My first cast along the right bank was smashed off the surface by another stocky bass that emerged from the sedges before Rod arrived and he started targeting the right bank. This pool then produced multiple bass again including a double hook up and numerous missed hits.
The portage between pools was ridiculously long and difficult and Rod’s feet were coping a hammering with their thin neoprene but the fishing was smoking hot!! On my way to the next pool I managed to get my Tiemco caught up in a tree. Turning around I put down the baitcaster and gave the rod a good wriggle to try and free the lure. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a long green snake like shape wriggle through the branches and fall into the water in front of me. I didn’t get clear view of what I thought might have been a large green tree snake diving for the water but video footage I had taken during the trip later confirmed my suspicions. I had managed to almost have a tree snake fall on my head as I retrieved the lure.
The next pool looked awesome again but initially casts were disappointing in all the usual haunts. About halfway down the pool fully exposed to the sun was some timber which seemed to be in relatively shallow water. I managed the first cast in and got no interest but Rod’s first cast with his Tiemco was ripped from the surface by a good fish that fought down deep and put in a good fight. The fish in this system were brawlers and stocky and fought like demons. Eventually Rod netted our best fish for the trip at 38cmFL and was a very happy man. I managed another 30cmFL bass off the same timber on the Sammy and missed another fish that came out of a log in under a foot of water before we continued downstream.
We had managed our first fish at 4:36AM and had managed the last fish in this pool at 8:37AM. The four hours of the early morning had been awesome and although the portage was killing us the fishing in the deeper pools was sensational. We only hoped that the rest of the trip could be as good!
TO BE CONTINUED!