Smoking in the Afternoon
After a tough days fishing on the previous Friday I found some time to head out for a quick afternoon session on the Monday following. Now I am not a big fan of fishing Mondays as typically there is a higher chance of fishing a system that has been cast over, potentially repeatedly, over the weekend. As a result I decided to explore up a side creek of one of my favourite rivers that I had not really put a concerted effort into fishing before but knew that it held some solid bass.
I hit the water at midday, which was a novelty, and started casting in the first pool that already had a couple of families swimming in it to escape the heat. The sun was high and so the patches of shadow shrouded structure where relatively small and the contrast between light and dark in the river was striking. I love it when this happens as the bass tend to withdraw into the darkness making them much easier to target. I paddled over to the first patch of shade and started casting at the weed caught up on the banks edge when I noticed a large submerged tree beneath the waterline. The kayak had already drifted over the top of the timber and of course the moment my Luckycraft Sammy 65 reached the kayak a mid-thirties bass darted up for a look only to shy away near the yak!
I continued up to the top of the pool where there was a large section of moving water beneath the rapids. It was completely exposed to the sunlight and as such I was not really concentrating on my casting and going through the motions when a large bass smashed my lure, felt the trebles and then disappeared into the swirling waters. Although I had missed the fish I must admit my confidence was improving that maybe this section of the river had not seen as much action over the weekend as I had thought.
I made my way up to the next pool and the fishing went quiet. The large group of teenagers bomb-diving and swimming half way up its length did not go to improving the prospect of finding a bass in its early reaches and so I paddled for a bit to escape the noise. With the sun high in the sky the dark shrouded edges of the river were really small, and I was thankful that my casting was dialled in as you had to cast really tight to get within the strike zone. Eventually one such cast into the pitch black surrounds of a sedge fringed bank had a nice bass smash my lure and fight like a demon before sliding into the net. At 36cmFL it wasn’t huge but it was a welcome sight 45 min into the session.
Five minutes later I cast into another large patch of shadow and this time a big bass rolled over my lure and I was in trouble. There was timber everywhere and when she took off it didn’t matter the direction as I would have to dig deep into my Jedi-like angling skills to get her into the net. Sure enough I soon felt my line touch some timber and as she changed the angle of the pressure I felt the hooks pull and she was gone! Bugger!
I continued making my way up the pool and spied an overhanging Melaleuca running along the waterline. It wasn’t really covered in what I would call deep shadow but often the thick foliage can provide the protection bass like below the water. I cast into a tiny patch of shadow, inches from the semi-submerged leafy mass and after a couple of twitches had a nice bass smash it and head straight back for cover. Again the fight was fierce and I really had a tough time of extracting the fish from tiger country but eventually a 38cmFL bass was in the kayak and added to what looked like a great session.
The rest of the pool was a little quiet and a few little bass hides holes failed to produce which had held fish regularly in the past. It wasn’t until I reached the very top of the pool that I had some more success and another cracker of a battle that I almost lost. This particular section of the river narrowed significantly and there was a strong current that ran through it from the pool above. The structure that I cast at was the type that often held fish but there was no way to cast at it that would not put you in danger of losing a lure if a bass happened to hit it. The Melaleuca branch reached out a long way across the creek and the current ran quickly beneath it, and bass would often sit beneath it waiting for hapless prey that drifted downstream in the current.
So I cast upstream of the timber and let the lure drift down to the branch before timing my retrieve/twitch. Of course my timing was a little off and the lure managed to get caught up in a little surface weed that had rafted up on the snag when “boof”, a big bass tried to engulf the lure. I continued the retrieve and she hit it again despite the foliage caught up in the trebles before I quickly wound in the line. Moments later I fired in a follow up cast with no thought to how I would net the bass as once hooked I knew it would instantly head downstream with the current and into the tree hugging the waterline. Sure enough the bass was keen and came out and annihilated my Sammy and drove straight into the timber. I desperately dropped the rod tip into the water in an attempt to minimise my entanglement with the multitude of sticks below the waterline and even managed to extract the bass twice before it peeled drag back into the danger zone and sure enough eventually had me bricked on the tip of a stick. I could see the bass swimming in the current a couple of feet from the offending snag and after a couple of attempts to disentangle my braid from the yak I gave up and jumped in the water. Luckily the bass was exhausted and was far enough from the structure that any surges was away from the danger zone and so eventually I lead the bass back to the yak and landing net! It went 41cmFL and fought like a banshee which is typical of bass in this system especially after a good flow event which enriches the water with oxygen.
I continued upstream and the next couple of small pools were very quiet before I reached one of my favourite sections of the system that almost always holds a bass or two and has produced some big fish at times. Initially casts at a few of my favourite snags yielded no joy until I sent a cast parallel to a Lomandra fringed bank and a 35cmFL bass hit my lure and missed only to return once I continued the walk and hook up!
After casting the length of one bank I focussed my attention on the opposite bank which held the majority of the best structure. I had caught numerous solid bass of some of these structures before and so my nerves where on edge and when a bass launched at my lure and hit it I was prepared for a solid fight and was a little disappointed when a 30cmFL bass was the result. Lol!
The next 300m of river involved traversing small, narrow pools and making my way up a series of easy portages before I arrived at the next deep se toon of the river. Sometimes these narrow sections held bass and other times they don’t, however with the river up a little and running I knew that there was a reasonable chance that I might find a couple of fish holding in a few of the deeper, darker snags. Eventually this was the case when a cast below a Melaleuca trunk growing out from the bank was belted and I was onto another good bass that fought like a demon. It tried to take me deep into every structure it could find and I was thankful and elated when I netted another 41cmFL bass, although this fish lacked the condition of the previous 40+ bass I had caught earlier in the afternoon.
I eventually reached the next deep pool and managed to drop a couple of bass before I had to hit another section of easy portage and then I was into my final pool for the afternoon. This pool has always been a fantastic place to fish and has never not produced for me. It holds all those qualities you want in a perfect bass location. Endless structures on the banks and in the middle of the river. Undercut banks covered by an umbrella of fig trees and enough distance between it and any easy launch points to make it inaccessible to any but the keenest of anglers.
It wasn’t long after slipping into the kayak that I missed my first bass and then it went quiet for the next 100m of the pool. The wind had come up and a section of the pool was more or less unfishable due to the surface debris but it was all rafted up and moving slowly down the river and so I anticipated I would have a chance at casting at the littered section of the pool on the return journey. It wasn’t until I reached a bank that had a steep drop off and an undercut bank that I eventually had my first fish hit and netted at 34cmFL quickly followed by a second at the same size that hooked itself on the side of its body and felt like it was a monster as I fought it to the kayak! Lol! The follow up cast I missed a solid hit, and then I managed another 36cmFL bass off the undercut bank before deciding it might be worth switching on the GoPro again.
I had recorded some footage earlier in the session but had switched it off as I reached the narrow section of the river that involved portage and so after a hot little 10 minute bite I decided it might be worth my while to switch the camera on again. After switching the camera on I sent a cast up the undercut bank at the best location along its length. The bank had a severe undercut and was heavily shaded by a large fig tree, the best thing was it was devoid of any serious structure that would give any resident bass the upper hand in case of a hookup.
So I sent a cast in and after a single twitch I could see the bow wave of a bass rocket out from cover to engulf my lure. The moment I loaded the rod up, it put on the after burners and motored thankfully into the middle of the river, peeling drag, and giving me a good work out! Luckily it gave me the advantage and I was eventually able to gently scoop up the very solid 42cmFL bass into the net. This session had turned into a cracker and after a tough fish late the previous week I must admit I was ecstatic. The best thing was I caught it on video!!!
I cast at some very “fishy” country up the rest of the pool for no result and then eventually reached the top of the pool. Here there was another of those structures where water ran over a sandbank and then dropped into a bit of timber sitting in the middle of the river. I sent a cast across it at a fringe of Lomandra and then retrieved over the front of the snag. I timed this retrieve much better than the one earlier in the afternoon and eventually saw a bass swipe at the lure twice before the current grabbed the lure and it took off downstream. I decided to keep the lure in play but twitching it up the current when the bass returned and smashed the lure at close quarters which made for some great video footage. The bass took off peeling drag and I struggled to keep in contact with such a short length of line off the rod tip and eventually the inevitable happened and the hooks pulled!
It was time to head back to the launch and I knew I would have only limited opportunity to cast. I decided to use that time to cast over the section of the pool where I had managed 4 bass in 20 minutes and it was here that I caught the final fish of the day.
Casting at a rafted up patch of surface weed I noticed a subtle boil beneath the lure before a more serious boil had the Adrenalin coursing through my veins. I decided to switch bait and grabbed my rod with the Duel Hardcore Shad on it and cast across the weed again. Halfway into the retrieve I felt a hit and then as the lure neared the kayak it was absolutely crunched and I almost lost the grip of my rod. It was one of the biggest bass hits I had felt in awhile and a great example of how hard the bass in this system smash the lures. It headed under the kayak and made a great fight again and I was amazed when I managed another 41cmFL bass to make it 10 fish for the afternoon.
At this point I decided to head back to the car and although I had a few quick casts, time had well and truly run out and so i hit the paddle! Luckily the river was up enough that I was able to paddle the length of the river back to the car which was fantastic! By the time I packed my gear and reflected on how awesome the session had been I realised I had caught one fish under 34cmFL and four over forty! After 14 years of targeting bass, the addiction to this form of the spot was well and truly still there!