The Bass Lodge (Day 2)
The dawn arrived with the chorus of a variety of birds and insects that would have to be the best alarm clock you could find. The faint sounds of others in the group rustling around downstairs meant it was time to have a quick breakfast and get ready to hit the water. The plan was to take four 4WD’s across the river and travel up the track to fish the pools upstream. After packing the cars we headed off with Darren leading the way followed by Adrian and Phil, Al and I and finally Pete, Dennis and Justin. We headed up the winding track and after driving the sometimes very rough terrain we were eventually pulled up short when we found Adrian and Phil trying to tie down their kayaks. Leaving the vehicle we soon discovered that the roof racks had loosened and without the special allen key needed to tighten them, the kayaks had to be redistributed to the other vehicles so we could continue to our launch point.
We arrived at the first possible launch site and the decision was made to split the group into two. The first group staying to explore the pools at the first location and the others continuing on to pools further up the Macleay. Darren, Al, Adrian and Phil continued upstream with the rest of us heading directly down to the river to launch and get amongst some upper Macleay bass. Hitting the pebbles we quickly kitted out the kayaks and were on the water. I spied some structure on the opposite side of the river that was just immersed in shade and it was clear that it would not remain in the dark as the morning sun rose. While the others paddled up the dark side of the river I quickly paddled over to have a cast before the sunlight switched the bass off in that part of the system.
As I paddled across the creek I heard the first hit as Slim had attracted the attentions of a keen bass. Reaching the opposite bank I sent out my first cast that fell well short without reaching the shade line. The follow up cast was on the money and I twitched the lure a couple of times before sending it into a walk. A couple of twitches and the water erupted around the lure and I was finally onto a good bass. It fought like a demon but I was thankful that upon its initial hit it headed out of the structure rather than back in. After a serious fight I finally netted a nice Macleay bass of 385mm to the fork!
The tragic part of the capture was that while attempting to photograph the bass I managed to fumble with my not so waterproof camera and it plunged into the water. After the initial devastation of dropping it into the river, I hoped that the 8Gb memory card it contained still worked. I called Dennis over to mark the spot where the camera was dropped and could be clearly seen on the bottom of the crystal clear water. I made my way over to the bank where I exited the kayak and swam over to retrieve my camera. Thankfully the chamber containing the card was dry so I was hopeful on return to the lodge it would still work (it did!)
We continued up the pool and cast at some amazing structure. Although we managed a few more bass, all under 40cm, it was relatively slow considering the structures we were casting at. We continued upstream and the next pool was very shallow and as a result I decided to head downstream with Justin while and Pete and Dennis continued upstream.
After a few speculative casts at our launch pool I travelled downstream to the next section of deep water. The structures in the pool were similar to the previous and I managed a few small fish off the surface to begin with. Eventually I spied a log pile that had been pushed up amongst some granite boulders and the first cast received a solid surface hit that missed the trebles. The follow up cast was then smashed by what had to be a bigger fish and I was onto my next bass in the mid 30’s.
Continuing down the bank I reached a bottlebrush that had its foliage growing on the surface of the water, with some of its branches extending deeper into the water. Casting a good couple of feet away from the tree I began my retrieve along its front hoping a bass would emerge from cover to hit the lure. As the lure reached the last part of the tree before it reached clear water a bass flew out in the and hit the lure. Surface fishing in clear water can be spectacular when you can see the bass emerge from cover to maul the lure. After a short fight another mid to high 30’s bass was netted.
Justin reached the pool and we continued working the bank. Eventually Pete and Dennis joined us as they had reached the launch point of the other group who had moved upstream. We managed to find a patch of schooling rat bass to about 25cm and both Dennis and I had a bit of fun picking them up on divers for consecutive casts before they shut down. It was also fun casting the lure a few feet from Pete’s yak and pulling fish from beneath him as well much to his bemusement.
The only other bass of reasonable proportion in the last pool before camp was a 38cm bass that I found in a backwater that had quite dirty water in it. The mouth of the backwater held a bottlebrush that had a small bass nail the Sammy and then a similar bottlebrush was situated at the very back of the pocket. I sent another cast across its front in the hope a keen bass would venture out from the structure to hit the lure and as luck would have it, it did.
At this point Pete and Justin decided to continue downstream and exit at the pool above the lodge while Dennis and I needed to head back upstream to get the 4WD and head back down the trail to the lodge. On the way up we paused at a section of rapids that had a relatively deep pool at 2-3ft that was moving quite quickly. Surface lures were impossible to use in the flowing water and so we sent in the divers to see if any fish were hiding in the rapids waiting to head upstream. Sure enough after a few casts we began picking up some more rats up to the high twenties in the current. Strangely enough the casts needed to be almost identical to each other to pick up a fish. They were small but it was a bit of fun on a day the bigger bass seemed quiet.
We drove back to the lodge to find Justin and Pete had returned, but that the other group were still in the upper pools hopefully finding a few bigger bass . It wasn’t long before the itch to head back out and have another explore began and so we decided to hike up George’s Creek to see if we could find some pools worth fishing and some bass that were keen to smash a few lures. Although the creek was beautiful, it was also very shallow along the majority of the water we walked up. A few small bass followed some of our lures but would not hit the lures. Eventually we reached a barbed wire fence impeded any further exploration and so we headed back to the lodge.
By this point Al had returned although Adrian, Phil and Darren were still out and about. Al informed us that they had managed to find a few bigger bass and that the 40cm mark had been finally surpassed. While the majority of the group were not quite ready to hit the water again, I convinced Dennis to hit the water and we decided to hit the pool directly below the lodge before the sun disappeared behind the mountains.
Hitting the water the first pool had some fast running water that ran past some massive boulders in the middle of the river. This created some eddies that always seem to hold bass in other systems but in this system had really been a bit of a let down. Casting the Yo-zuri Shad into the eddy it was hit upon landing and the bass missed the trebles. It failed to follow up the strike and repeat casts into the eddy and its surrounds failed to entice any subsequent action. Casts below the large boulders also resulted in a hit from a small bass but another failed hook-up as a result
We then dragged the kayaks down a series of shallow rapids and into a large pool that had more awesome structure that now seemed typical of the upper Macleay. We initially focussed our attention on the bottlebrush lined bank which was similar to our targeted structure in the morning session. This proved to be unsuccessful in the upper sections of the pool but eventually Dennis had some success when the Luckycraft Sammy 65 (Archer Bee) was engulfed by a hungry bass and after a few photos the 38cm fish was released. His subsequent cast was then smashed again and another mid-thirties fish was netted.
The rest of the pool was relatively quiet considering its size and although Dennis managed a couple more bass in the 30’s range and I managed one it was a bit disappointing. We did manage to spook a few bass that seemed to be rolling over the submerged granite boulders or hiding amongst the crevices that had been intricately shaped by the currents of previous floods. The light eventually began to fade and so we headed back upstream. On the way we found Justin and Steve Riding (Simons Rat) casting at structure at the top of the pool. Steve had arrived late in the afternoon and had been keen to hit the water and chase his first Macleay bass.
We ventured back up the rapids and towards the launch point. Dennis cast into the eddies again that were in the pool directly below the launch and upon landing the water erupted around his Sammy and he was on again. After a short tussle a 32cm bass reached his kayak which made for quite a successful session in the short time we were on the water.
We returned to the lodge to hear the full report from the boys who had ventured far upstream and were excited to hear that they had found some good numbers of quality bass upwards of 35cm and a fair number in the forties. The much sought after 50cm plus bass had still eluded us though and so we began planning our trip for the following day. The following morning we were to head downstream a fair way and although we were unsure of the distance we were extremely excited about finding some remote waters and hopefully find some quality bass.
That night we had a number of nocturnal visitors including a few green tree frogs and a green grocer and black prince cicada. Steve brought out his wiz bang camera and started taking some amazing macro shots of the various critters that came up in stunning detail. The night wore on and once again we all drifted off to bed with dreams of big golden bass smashing lures in the crystal waters of the upper Macleay.