The Bass Lodge (Day 1)
As you can imagine this is a long report even for my standards but it was a 3 day trip and what else can you do on a rainy day when the rivers are flowing hard and dirty. It’s also a little late but after returning back to work I have been a little preoccupied. It’s not my best report as I lost patience as it took ssoooooooo long and without my camera I had to use my phone or rely on others to take photos for me (thanks guys!)
The day had finally arrived and the car was quickly packed prior to a 5.30AM departure. The excitement had been building all week as the anticipation of chasing some wild river bass finally was close enough to feel. Heading off I met Al (Biggles)on the road and the miles were quickly chewed up as we approached our destination. As we passed Warick, Tenterfield, Glen Innes and finally Armidale the gently rolling hills gradually climbed and the clear blue skies afforded us a spectacular view of this part of the world. We passed a number of rivers and streamed and as is our nature the question of what might live there passed through our thoughts.
Arriving in Armidale we quickly fuelled up and made the final 47km journey across the mountains to the Bass Lodge. Initially the road was sealed but it eventually became a gravel road through thick forest and eventually a little rougher as we drove along with the mountain on one side and a sheer drop on the other down into the valley. It was a little hairy at times as we passed other travellers heading in the opposite direction and the sign warning us of logging trucks had us questioning what we would do if we came across one heading the opposite direction.
We passed over a couple of creeks and rivers along the way that contrasted each other to the extreme. One looked like it had been ground away but flood and fire and the other looked like prime cod habitat. After a quick look around both rivers we decided to find the time to head back to the second and see if we could raise a fish in its picturesque waters.
Eventually the winding road began to level out and glimpses of George’s creek became visible. It was a spectacular sight as we saw large timber logs dropping from the bank into the crystal green waters of the creek. Driving around our last bend we reached George’s Junction where George’s Creek meets the Macleay River. Nestled amongst the mountains it is a very special place and the Bass Lodge is built onto the side of one of the hills giving a clear view of the river. On arrival we immediately drove over the free camping ground, situated at the front of the lodge and down the embankment to the pebble strewn river bed. Driving up the river bed towards the water was an amazing experience and the anticipation of the first cast was extremely hard to resist as I looked across the crystal waters of the mighty Macleay.
Reluctantly we made our way back to the Lodge and began unpacking our gear while we waited on the rest of the group to arrive. After an hour Pete (Slim), Adrian (T-Curve), Phil ( LocoPhi)l, Darren, Dennis (Keen-as-Fisho) and Justin( Justin71) reached the Lodge and quickly unpacked the rest of the gear in an effort to get on the water for a quick exploratory session before the sunlight faded.
Pete, Al and I headed for the main pool that could be seen from the lodge and made our way upstream. The Macleay is a pristine river with the most amazing looking bass habitat imaginable. The bottlebrush fringed banks with thick trunks running along the water’s edge, thick trees submerged next to them and granite boulders throughout the river gave a multitude of casting options. Al was the first on the water and had already began casting at the closest bottlebrush lined bank and I soon joined him.
Casting the Luckycraft Sammy 65 at the first enticing bit of structure I could find, I gave it a few twitches and then began my retrieve. After a few metres the lure was hit by a bass and I was on. My first cast and I was onto a Macleay river bass, this was awesome! Unfortunately he didn’t stay on much to my disappointment. We continued casting up the pool at some awesome structure but the initial excitement of my first hit began to wane as we couldn’t raise another bass. Reaching the top of the pool, it was nearly dusk and so while Pete and Al cast into the surging waters I decided to explore the bottom of the next pool.
The rapids at the top of the first pool were a little tricky and so I decided to leave the kayak as I didn’t have long before the sun went down. Reaching the next pool I saw the left side fringed with bottlebrush and timber and the right side studded with granite boulders that had been sculpted into some amazing natural statues much like modern art. Without the kayak much of the pool was inaccessible but I was able to cast into the flowing waters above the rapids at the head of the first pool. The back eddies on the opposite bank were fringed with bottlebrush and the pebbled bottom of the river had a few clumps of grassy weed growing on the shallow edges. I cast the Sammy in the back eddies a few times before switching to the Yo-zuri diver, which I had much better control over in the current.
After a few casts the lure was smashed and I was on. The bass had hit like a freight train and I thought it was going to be a cracker but after the initially hit it slowed up a bit and I finally netted my first Macleay river bass. It wasn’t a monster but I was happy to have finally landed a bass in this awesome river. The next 30 minutes saw another 5 bass landed but none of them were overly big with the biggest hitting 28cm to the fork.
I headed back to find Pete and Al still at the head of the rapids were they had found a few rats as well. We headed back as the light began to fade and found that the rest of the party had not returned from their first adventure. While we waited we lit up the BBQ and cooked up some snags eager to hear how the rest of the group had fared. When they arrived we found that they had launched at the pool below the lodge and had managed a few fish but no Macleay monsters as we had hoped, although they had found a better calibre of fish with fish in the mid to high thirties.
The night finished with discussions on the plans for tomorrow and we settled on crossing the river at first light and launching in the upstream pools. After the obligatory chatter of all things bass related we eventually drifted off to bed exhausted after the long journey and quick paddle and cast. It was hard to sleep with the following day’s potential spinning around in my head I couldn’t wait until the morning light!!