Roaming with Rocket Rod
A few weeks back Rod invited me to go on a new fishing adventure with him playing the role of fishing guide for the day. He planned a trip that saw us fishing a section of river closer to home than my normal haunts and I must admit I was both excited and anxious to see how the fishing would be. As the location was so close to the big city I imagined that it might receive a fair bit of fishing pressure and although keen to explore somewhere new, I must admit I was a little pessimistic of our potential catch rate.
As it was an area new to both of us we had reduced the trip length considerably to a manageable 9km just in case what appeared to be large stretches of water actually involved long stretches of portage instead. This also meant an early morning start was essential both from a pragmatic sense (in case the rip took longer than anticipated) and also to fish the dawn period when bass were at their peak feeding activity. Our launch was a shallow one and once we had traversed he shallow sandy creek bed for 20m we were able to slip into the kayaks and begin “bass fossicking”!
The first pool was very pretty with a thick dense canopy prolonging the dawn and I expected bass to launch from every structure. Sadly this did not happen, however I was lucky enough to pick up a small bass early casting at a pocket filled with flood debris from a previous period of high flow. This is one of those rarely targeted structures that tends to hold fish even though it may not look like much. Above the water line it may appear as a dense pile of leaf litter above the water line I imagine that often the structure below the water line that traps the debris is much more significant.
My second bass for the morning came off much less appealing structure when we reached a pool exposed to the sunlight. I spied a few thin twigs poking out of the water in the middle of the river and as I approached I could see a much more substantial structure below the surface. A few casts on the edges of the submerged structure saw no action Until I decided to throw caution to the wind and cast over the back of the snag. As my Duel 60mm Hardcore Shad approached the timber it was belted by a bass and I was in a bit of bother. Luckily the bass was only a 30cmFL model and as such I was able to keep him out of the thicker timber and paddle over the structure to net him.
Continuing downstream we reached a pool that just had to hold a bass with water running into a pool and curling around a tree growing on the waterline of the river bank. The shade was dark and the surrounding timber just screamed out for a massive surface strike, Rod cast in and although not huge he did get a hit from a bass that missed the trebles and gave up the chase. This ended up being the pattern of the day for Rod with bass missing the trebles, hooking up and then the hooks pulling or simply busting him off in the sticks.
While Rod continued to pepper the shaded tree I moved on to the adjacent pool that had no real timber but a lovely bank fringed with vegetation. From experience this was habitat that bass loved to hold near due to the large population of insects in the overhanging grassy canopy. It didn’t hurt that I could see some large bubbles in the protein scum floating in the current along the banks edge, a sign that has often indicated the presence of a bass nearby.
The bubbles were downstream of a stand of “Elephant Ears” where a patch of submerged grass had grown and seemed the most likely place for a bass to hold. The first cast in saw nothing happen after the first few twitches but as I walked the Sammy to the middle of the pool I saw the tell-tale sign of a bass following the lure and paused it for a few seconds. I commented to Rod that there was a bass behind my lure and then gave it a subtle twitch. “Boof”, it was a great hit and considering the fish was only 33cmFL it hit and fought well above its weight! The follow up cast saw another bass smash the lure and miss before we moved on to try our luck downstream.
As we traveled further from our launch the landscape of the river changed and to be honest it was one of the prettier rivers that I have fished, amazing considering its proximity to the city. The river was often completely enclosed in a dense canopy that enveloped the river in deep shade across it’s width. This feature as well as the green bankside vegetation and substantial structure dotted along its length made every cast a potential bass. The water, although tea-stained, was very clear obviously a result of the sand lined bottom filtering the mud from the water. The only problem was its depth, in many parts the sand seemed to have filled many pools making them unfishable. Often the dark shade would mask this and we would spend a lot of effort casting over water before we realised its severe lack of depth.
However, a few pools were deep enough to hold a bass and in many places the water only needed to be about 3 feet for a bass to hold near structure and emerge to belt our lures. The fact that the canopy created such a great block out to the sun helped our cause because I could imagine that such shallow water may not have held a hungry fish without the shade.
Occasionally we reached a pool where the water was substantially deeper and here we would often manage numerous surface hits and pool a few fish. The bass were in amazing condition and it was clear that the recent flows we have had up here and really done wonders for their health. However we were struggling to find a bass of any size with the majority of fish ranging from the high twenties to the early thirties. In one of these pools we found a couple of teenagers camping. They had been fishing and hadn’t had much luck only for Rod and I to cast around their campsite and pick up a few fish to their amazement. They also got to spectate as Rod got destroyed by a large bass that buried him in the thick timber and relieve him of his lure.
Some of the pools that we passed through were simply amazing and had the adrenalin pumping before a cast was even thrown. You would emerge from the foliage dragging your kayak to see a vista that made the draw drop and hands twitch as you spied a mirror calm pool thick with timber and shrouded in filtered light. The pool of the day was an amazing sight and we anticipated a massive surface hit from the mother of all bass in this idea habitat. Rod missed the first fish, after he cast into the sweet spot and we couldn’t raise a single fish initially to our disappointment switched to me diver and managed a pretty little rat bass at the end of the pool and decided to re-work the area before moving to the next pool. This yielded another fish in the twenties before we moved on.
After a day of catching average bass we were really keen for a few larger models to show up and make great day awesome. We eventually reached a pool that was sanded up on the right bank and dropped off to deeper water on the left. As the deep water reached the left bank it had every known bass haunt all mixed together, timber, grassy lined banks and overhanging shrubs, as well as ample shade from the bank-side trees. We both knew bass were going to be hiding amongst the structure and after I hooked and dropped another average fish early in the pool we were really focused making sure every cast counted and that we didn’t stick the hooks with an errant cast and negate our stealth.
Halfway down the pool I found a spot where a small creek entered the river beneath a tree and straight into a jumble of logs that sat just off the bank. A pocket of deep shade covered the creek mouth and I knew it was a cast that would need to be absolutely spot on to not spook any resident bass. The cast in was perfect and feel an inch from the bank’s edge. The first few twitches had my entire body tensed in anticipation of a huge hit that didn’t eventuate until the lure had exited the patch of intense shade. Then there was a “Thok” from a solid bass which took my Sammy off the top and screamed towards an adjacent set of timber. I managed to turn her head and she headed towards more open water where she took some drag in short bursts before succumbing and eventually slipping into the net. It was in a size class well above the average for the day at 40cmFL and a very nice way to round out a solid day on the water.
We reached a very large pool and both of us spied a large pocket in the bank where a large tree had fallen into the river. The result was pocket of deep water behind a root ball that was full of hidden timber and undercut banks as well as the tree itself which lay parallel from the bank. Rod and I decided for a bit of fun and cast simultaneously to the left and right of the pocket hoping for a double hook-up. In the end it was only Rod’s lure that got any interest and the bass missed his lure never to return.
I left Rod to work the tree and was able to watch as a large bass smashed his lure again only to miss and again lose interest. It was also this pool that would yield my last bass of the day that travelled along way out from a tree stump to smash my Sammy mid-water in a huge spray well and truly disproportionate to it’s size of 34cmFL. Again the bass was perfectly conditioned and was clearly thriving in the clean waters of the system.
As we neared the end of our journey we passed a few large pools that were obviously close enough to the exit point to receive a bit of pressure as the fishing almost completely dried up. It was poetic that Rod managed the last fish of the day with a sizable 36cmFL bass hitting his Sammy in a pocket of shade adjacent a grassy bank.
We reached the exit point quite early in the afternoon and even though we had the option of poking around a little downstream we decided to call it a day and head home. At the end I had managed a reasonable tally of 12 bass and Rod 4. Although our catch rates were slightly different it was more indicative of the number of bass missed by Rod over the course of the day. I think I stole some of his mojo, Lol!