So September the 1st has finally arrived and although Bass are now an all year option as a target species in the fresh, I had decided to still give them a reprieve in the winter months. The reasons are pragmatic to be honest, firstly the water is too bloody cold, and the thought of trekking damp and cold through the wilderness did of appeal to me. Secondly I love my surface fishing, and although bass will still hit the surface in the colder months they are much more reluctant and so I simply let them be. For me, the sheer anticipation of the onset of spring is a huge thrill and the preparation and wait over the winter months is a great aspect of being an obsessed bass fisho.
So the day was here and because it was a working day I had organised an early season night session with Rod. We had recently had a bit of a warm spell in SEQ and this had made me much more optimistic about an early start to the surface action. So we decided on a location closer to home to give us more time on the water and planned to meet at 7pm.
In the end I got too excited and left early enough to arrive at our launch spot half an hour before our planned meeting time. My kayak was geared up in what seemed like 5 seconds and then I had to wait for Rod to arrive. Luckily he had also left early so I decided to take my kayak down to the river and have a quick cast while I waited for him to arrive. The pool I was to cast into was one I had ever caught a fish in due to its access to the public and the fact that it was so open to the elements. However it was an obstacle to upstream bass movement and after a bit of rain recently and a nice bit of flow it seemed like a remotely possible place for a bass to be lurking.
So I sent out my very first cast for the season while standing on the rocks above the moving water and after retrieving for about 1 metre the Nobroko Softcada I was using was belted off the surface. I couldn’t believe it considering my location and when I slipped a very healthy 33cmFL bass into my hands I was ecstatic. First cast for the season and I had opened my account for the 2015-2016 season!
Rod arrived and I met him at his car to show him the photos of what looked like a really promising start to the season! His kayak was off the car and geared up and I reckon he was he was ready to go faster than I was.
We made our way down to the first pool and had a few casts at its head without result before we slipped into the yaks and began making our way downstream. We both began casting and while I focused on the open pool, Rod was casting parallel to the bank. Initially we were both pulling up a bit of weed but eventually there was a “boof” in the dark and Rod’s SSC was plucked off the surface and the sporadic sound of pulling drag drifted into the night. After a spirited fight Rod finally netted, photographed and released a 41cmFL bass. I thought my first cast bass was good but a 40cm + bass to start the season was awesome!
We made our way towards the bottom of the pool and I managed a small hit before we did our first bit of portage to a much bigger pool were we expected the bass to be going off at its head. Frustratingly after such a sensational start in less than ideal habitat the bass seemed to disappear when we reached country that should have screamed bass. We cast at structure after structure and could not raise a swirl until we reached the end of the pool.
Finally a cast to the bank saw me pick up some grass which didn’t seem to deter the bass that belted it three times with a solid “thok” before losing interest. I removed the grass and repeated the same retrieve and to my amazement he returned and without the grass impeding the lure he nailed it and I managed my second bass of the night at 37cmFL
Moments later as Rod worked the opposite bank there was another “boof” and Rod was on as well, and his bass broke the silence of the night with some crazy splashing in the shallow water he was fishing. A long time ago we realised that depth of water was no obstacle to a night feeding bass, and quite often some good fish came out of this sort of country as the bass hunted small baitfish that still assumed the shallow water was a sanctuary.
It went quiet for a time again and we drifted into the adjoining pool where I managed another solid hit in the dark. The bass missed the lure initially but again managed to find the hooks on the follow up cast and I managed another solid, well-conditioned fish of 38cmFL.
I then managed to get an almighty bird’s nest a few casts later when an errant cast hooked up on some foliage and as I attempted to remove it, the lure shot back past my rod and piled the braid up around my rod tip. Untangling the mess was not an option and so I was forced to do some major surgery and re-tie all my gear. Bugger!
Soon after we made our way to the next pool, and we were constantly amazed at how much the river had changed during the last big flow in autumn. New structures and altered portage points between pools made our night time adventure even more exciting as the head of each pool had changed so much.
We had a few casts at the top of the pool but had no luck before I managed to get my lure hooked up on some unseen structure. I launched and paddled over to remove my lure while Rod launched and worked the opposite bank. After removing the Nobroko I started working the adjoining bank and after a few casts I heard another “thok” in Rod’s vicinity and the sound of him tangling with another 30cm+ bass. Moments later my lure was hit, and the follow up strike saw me also netting a 33cmFL bass.
At this point we could see the moon rising above the tree-line and it was probably one of the brightest moons I have ever seen. It was like a lighthouse beacon and so luminous that at times I had to squint to see where I was casting. The river was so lit up that we could see where we were casting and the pockets of shadow were so delineated that it may as well have been the day. The rest of the pool was very quiet and although I did spy some small bass working the edge of the river I just could not raise them.
We made our way along another stretch of completely altered portage and found ourselves at the top of the next pool. The air temperature had really dropped fast and so while I was adding an extra layer Rod launched and started casting at some quality structure that regularly holds good fish. Soon after I launched and sent my first cast towards the bank which was lined with grass. A few metres into the retrieve and there was thunderclap of a hit on my lure that yielded excited exclamations from both of us. A simple twitch and there was another almighty “boof” and my Nobroko was engulfed by a quality fish. Although there were no monster runs the bass made its way to the middle of the river and kept its head down, refusing to be guided to the surface. This allowed me to go really gentle and ease the drag off a little as I let the bass tire itself before it swam, thankfully, directly into my net.
I turned my headlamp on and could not believe the size of the fish. It was by far the biggest bass I had ever caught in this system and again was perfectly conditioned. I was absolutely ecstatic and when I finally slipped her onto the brag board I was able to give her a conservative measure of 48cmFL. It really was a dream start!
We continued down the pool and Rod managed to miss a few more fish before the frigid temperature started to take its toll, mostly on me! On the return journey we had a few casts on the way but I was eager to get a bit of warmth and so we quickly made our way back to the cars and into some warm clothing. Both of us had set a high benchmark to begin the season and we hoped that the rest of the season was going to be as good as our first day!