On the River again, Yeah!
With the weather finally clearing up and the rivers dropping significantly I headed off with Tristan again chasing bass. The plan was to head back to a system I have fished regularly during the wet weather as it stays clear and drops back to normal quickly after persistent rain. So it began as always with one of our early starts at we were on the water by 4am. The river had a lot of flow even in the slower pools which made casting and maintaining a good line very difficult. I tied on a Tiemco Soft shell cicada and Tristan had tied on Bassday feather crank (I had to laugh as the colour pattern on this lure made it look like a small lemon – it caught fish though!) . Tristan managed two small fish in the dark early but the first pool which usually contains a lot of fish only produced these two and both of them were rats.
By the time we reached the top of the pool the light had appeared and I had switched to my favourite the Lucky craft Sammy 65. At the top of the pool was a nice rapid with a small backwater. A couple of casts into the backwater and I had also opened the day’s tally with another rat bass.
We made the decision to head downstream and turned around heading back to the launch site and then downstream. The first pool yielded a couple of hits to both Tristan and myself but neither fish hooked up. At one stage I had managed bass of 26, 27, 28, 28, 29, 30, 33cm FL with a couple smaller and Tristan had managed a tally much the same. They were all very eager fish with Tristan managing one bass at the head of a set of rapids that hit the lure 4 times before hooking up.
Although the fish were small they were regularly hitting the lures. At one stage my Sammy 65 was hit by a reasonable fish, with the top half of its body slicing through the surface to hit the lure and miss. The bass then proceeded to hit random objects in the water in its search for the lure three times before it gave up. (Stupid bass!) I kept casting and moved around the back of a boulder in the direction the bass had been heading. Finally it hit the lure and took off with it towards the yak but before I could connect with the fish and set the hooks he had spat the lure. Bugger!
A little further down and I managed to find another of my favourite structures. A large fig tree with under-mined roots. The fact that it had a nice back eddy next to flowing water had me anticipating the strike before the lure hit the water. A few twitches and the lure was engulfed by a bass that far surpassed all the others we had caught for the day. A nice fight and a beautiful healthy bass of 37cm FL came to the yak.
We continued down the creek into parts of the river I hadn’t explored yet. The bass kept hitting the lures but the best we could manage was a 35cm bass that Tristan caught again on a Sammy 65. We decided to head back upstream and explore above the launch site again. On the return journey I made a joke of casting into a snag that Tristan had missed a fish on earlier. A few twitches and a “boof” and I was on again to a decent fish which again went 37cmFL.
This was the same pattern as the last two times I had fished this system. Small fish hitting the lures all morning with the larger bass coming out when the sun had peaked and the shade had contracted to deep dark pockets around the river.
We headed upstream and I missed a good fish and then Tristan missed another that hit the lure twice before giving up. Not much further up I managed an average bass of 34cm after rejecting an offer from Tristan to video the spot that looked very bassy. Bugger!
The best fish of the trip was caught in the next pool and under very unusual circumstances. The structure was awesome with a sheer cliff dropping into a heavily shaded pool that had flowing water running up the middle. The first cast was a little short as I tend to cast in very tight to maximise the time the fish has to hit the lure as it swims through the shaded water. I began a rapid retrieve, so I could re-cast, which sent the Sammy into a fast skip across the surface when the water exploded. I hadn’t been watching the lure and I paused with my hear racing. Tristan came over to watch and I sent the Sammy into a swim again. I paused the lure and could just see the faint outline of a bass sitting under the lure waiting for its next move. A few twitches and it was smashed by a nice fish, a few strong runs and finally a bass of 40cm FL was netted. The Sammy had vanished inside its mouth and so it required some effort to remove the lure.
Once I managed to remove the lure, I thumb-locked it to lift it up only for it to give a solid head shake and fall into the water. My heart stopped as I launched towards the fish. My hands managed to wrap around the fish, and as it desperately wriggled to gain its freedom the spine behind the gill plate embedded deeply into the fleshy part below my thumb. This was the only thing that stopped the fish gaining its freedom and enabled me to return it to the landing net.
We continued up the creek and continued to manage a few rat bass and a few missed opportunities. We even tried to make another video in another spot that screamed bass. We videoed about five casts only for a bass to hit moments after we stopped taping. Typical!
About 2pm we headed home and had a great amount of fun shooting the rapids on the return journey. We paused only to cast at the two snags where we had missed fish on the upstream journey. I had made the comment earlier that I was amazed at how often bass could be caught within a few metres of missed strikes if allowed a little bit of time to settle back into feeding mode. Sure enough both spots yielded strikes within a short distance of these snags. The first fish had moved right back into the original feeding spot!
The final count was about 22 bass caught with a huge number of missed opportunities. It was a great day and we were both absolutely exhausted by the time we returned home