Headed off on Saturday for another trip chasing what seems to be the Holy Grail at the moment, the beautiful Aussie bass. This season has been seen a very slow start for me and I decided I would head somewhere that I knew the migrating bass population had easy access to on their journey and that had seen some flow from the rain earlier in the week.
Arriving at the launch spot I could already hear the birds singing their dawn chorus and knew that the sun was soon to rise and that the early starts would soon have to get even earlier if I was to get an hour of night fishing in before the day began. The wind predictions had been fairly ordinary all week with 20+ to start the day dropping over the day to much more reasonable conditions by the afternoon. However, as I kitted my kayak up the strong winds were completely absent and it was one of those rare events where the weather actually seemed to be behaving in my favour.
Carrying my kayak to the water’s edge I was dismayed to find the water levels the lowest I had seen them in this system in the entire time I had fished it. I had to cart the kayak a good 3-4m down the cobbled bank just to find the water which had almost no flow.
I started casting and although the water was still the amount of surface activity from the variety of bait species was promising. As the darkness began to soften into early twilight I spied a thick trunk dropping from the bank into some deep water and fired my Nobroko Softcada a few inches from where it meet the water. As I engaged the reel the lure was boofed and missed and that first adrenalin hit for the session rushed through my veins. I gave the lure a few twitches and then sent it into a crawl, after a couple of feet the bass smashed it again for another miss next to the yak.
10 minutes into the session I had missed my first bass and I was pumped that the day was looking this good. I quickly sent another cast towards the log and it landed in almost the exact same spot as the first cast. I gave it a few twitches and there was this enormous hollow sounding “thuk” and I knew a solid bass had found my lure. The sad thing was that the bass missed and after multiple casts around the structure I realised the bass had lost interest.
I made my way up the system and although the promising start had slowed considerably a had a number of platypus keeping me company as I paddled. I also noticed a large amount of debris on the surface indicating that the strong winds more than likely had appeared and gone prior to my arrival.
The next action came from a long lay down that has remained in position regardless of the amount of water that has flowed down over the years. The lay down sat parallel to the bank and about a foot below the surface. Casting at an angle to the log the Softcada crawled across it and an average bass smacked the lure for another miss. Sending the lure into another crawl the bass returned and this time connected with the hooks only for them to pull early in the fight! Bugger!
The sun had not yet managed to rise above the mountains and so I quickly paddled to my favourite bank that unlike much of the rest of the system still had vegetation on the water line. Casting parallel to the bank I targeted a small log amongst the long grass and crawled the lure alongside the grass. Part way back the water exploded and I was connected to another bass. It quickly found some timber and I thought that I would lose him as I had to manually untangle the line from the thin rotted sticks that he had wrapped the braid around. Luckily I managed to extricate him and net a lovely 34cmFL bass to start the session.
At this point I realised that my camera mount needs a little work so I apologise for the poor photos.
I continued along the bank using the same technique. Targeting some structure small or large an retrieving the lure parallel to the bank. For 20 minutes I managed bass after bass and had landed another 4 and missed a quality fish that lazily hit the lure as it crawled along the surface. I could see the bow wave as he approached and anticipated a massive hit only to have it almost pull at the rear trebles. The other bass though absolutely smashed the lure and although they all only measured from 25cm to 32cmFL they fought really hard. It was a shame I didn’t have the video going in the low light as the footage would have been great.
The action died again as I continued upstream and made my way to the next pool. The system had changed again since my last trip and the portage points were very different. I was also dismayed to find the amount of human activity at the river had also increased over the last six months with plastic tables and chairs set up in one of the deeper pools and even a set line connected to a plastic coke bottle.
When I reached the next pool the amount of debris was ridiculous as one of the large species of fig trees was flowering and dropping a massive amount of flower heads onto the surface. I paddled up past the flowering flotilla in the hope that the wind and slight current had pushed the flowers downstream and that further up was a little clearer.
Eventually the surface cleared and I could begin casting again at another of my favourite sections of the river. Unfortunately the water was very shallow in a a number of parts and it appeared that the flush from the recent rains had just been from surface run off as the water levels could clearly be seen to have risen by about a foot and dropped by a foot in 5 days. The normally submerged undercut banks were now above the waterline and much of the bankside vegetation was no longer on the water surface. All the typical bass hidey holes were no longer able to produce.
I switched to the opposite bank that was heavily line with timber and began targeting the usual structures. I spied some heavy timber against the bank that had a lay down in front of it and about a foot of clear water between the two. I knew if even a small bass hit the lure between the two that I would be in trouble and sure enough after the lure hit the water and I gave it a few twitches the resident bass hit the Softcada and desperately tried to bury me in the timber. I desperately high sticked in an attempt to get the bass over the lay down and into open water and after a couple of desperate lunges I managed to coax him out and into the net.
Soon after I cast between a mass of timber and as the lure crawled along the surface it was belted by a bass that took the lure down deep only for the lure to pop out of the bass’ mouth down deep without the trebles biting at all.
I continued up the system amazed at the amount of wildlife that was out as the season quickly drifted into Spring. The water dragon and turtle population seemed to have exploded over the last couple of years and they were everywhere. Both species were also very keen on the Softcada and a couple of times I had to keep t away from hungry reptilian jaws, although I wasn’t so quick on one occasion.
The bass were holding very tight to the structure when the sun came up and although I continued to find a few the casts needed to be within inches of structure and allowed to twitch a few times before the fish found temptation to hard to resist. The fish were also quite small with almost all being between the 30-34cmFL range. Although a few bigger bass had shown an interest, their hits had been almost sluggish compared to the exuberance of their smaller counterparts.
I reached the top of the hole and realised with the lack of flow that the portage would be extreme. The wind had also increased and had added extra debris to the surface and so I decided to head back and cast a bank that I had left alone as it had been exposed to the morning sun . I cast a little bit on the way down for no joy and arrived at the bank to see it pleasingly covered in a small amount of shade. As the strengthening breeze blew me downstream I cast at the bank and eventually had another average bass belt the lure and hook up. It gave a spirited fight and even took drag in its attempt to escape the net and in the end t won the battle as the hooks pulled and the Softcada cannoned out of the water.
I paddled back to the launch happy that the bass seemed to be livening up a little and already dreaming of my next adventure.