The Bass Lodge (Day 3)
As we arose the next morning seven kayakers had dragged themselves out of bed early to complete what potentially could be a huge journey down the Macleay. Adrian, Phil, Justin, Darren, Dennis, Steve and myself had a quick brekkie and loaded up the gear before heading to the launch point. Once at the river we kitted out our kayaks and a small group remained at the launch while the rest of us jumped back in the cars to drop a couple of cars off at the exit point and then head back.
Driving to the exit point we mapped out that the read journey was approximately 25km and it followed the river most of the way. Heading back we knew the trip would be approximately 25km and that we would not have a huge amount of time to hit each pool. Arriving at the launch we found a few of the group had already hit the water and were getting in a few casts while they waited. Within minutes we had launched and had begun our epic journey downstream.
With the knowledge that the journey could be potentially over 25km we gave the first major pool that Dennis and I had fished the afternoon of the previous day little attention. The next 3km or so below this dropped in altitude quite quickly which made for some good rapid runs and quite a bit of downstream portage. There were a few fishable pools between them but the bass seemed reluctant to hit the lures that were an offer and in a group of seven there was a bit of variety to choose from.
Eventually we reached a series of small waterfalls which would provide a significant barrier to bass except when the river had a significant increase in flow. The last structure in the pool below the rapids was a spindly little branch with a little bit of foliage extending out from the waterline. I cast the Sammy into the apex where the shrub grew into the bank and after a few twitches the Sammy was smashed by a good bass that continued travelling away from the snag. After a short fight another golden bass of 38cm FL was netted, photographed and released.
This was the pattern for the majority of the trip with fish in the thirties being the norm. Many were found amongst the bottlebrushes along the banks of the creeks but a few small schools were also found amongst structure in the middle of the fast current between the pools.
Eventually Justin managed a fish in the early forties and you could hear him hooting further upstream as he trailed the rest of the group. At one point I finally got smashed by a good fish in the mid to high forties who was hiding under an undercut bank at the head of a pool. She flew out of the crystal clear water and hit the lure on the turn powering back into the structure before the rod had fully loaded up. On the way I could see her clip a submerged log and watched with dismay as the well timed bump clearly aimed at dislodging lure worked perfectly for the bass and the lure floated up to the surface. Bugger! In the same pool Adrian’s spinnerbait was smashed by a large bass that hit his lure on the pause so hard that the braid parted and one of his favourite spinnerbaits disappeared
Halfway through the trip the skies began to darken and there was a massive clap of thunder behind the surrounding hills that could be physically felt. It gave us a bit more energy in our paddle and the casts became a little thinner as we imagined what amount of rain it might bring. Luckily for us it was the one and only indicator of any storm action and it must have either dissipated or headed away from where we were kayaking.
At some point we lost Steve and Justin as they spent a bit more time putting more casting pressure on the various structures that the rest of the group had been targeting superficially.
My biggest bass for the trip came after the majority of the forward group had headed down a set of rapids to the next pool. I noticed that the river actually split into two streams and that above the other stream there was a pocket of deeper water a few metres above the rapids. Phil was heading towards the rapids to follow the rest of the party as luck would have it my cast into this small pocket was hit hard by a good bass as Phil looked on. After a good tussle I was very happy to land a bass just over 40cm to the fork but that said it was a gorgeous golden fish. Luckily I had Phil to take a photo of my biggest fish for the trip. Once released I had a second cast into the pocket and was rewarded with another solid hit as Phil looked on but the bass failed to hook up and follow up casts were ignored.
At one point the rain came although it was relatively light considering the potential storm we had expected. We entered a pool that was full of thick timber from fallen trees. The surface lures we were mostly fishing were ignored but it just looked to good not to try a little deeper. I decided to tie on a Jackall TN50 and drop it deep amongst the timber branches in a hope I could entice a bass hiding deep amongst the wood. First cast and I managed a 36cm FL bass that I managed to extricate without any real problems. However, the following cast was smashed very hard and after a few pulls of drag the bass had me in the sticks and the tug of war began. Eventually the bass won out with the lure coming free of the fish and structure and returning to the kayak.
I spent a bit of time casting amongst the submerged trees until the need to catch up to the rest of the group in the unfamiliar water became too great. Eventually I caught up to Phil and the rest of the group who had managed to get into some good numbers of bass. As I pulled up to the group Adrian’s Siglett was smashed off the top and I watched as he desperately pumped the rod to keep it clear of any branches. The fish when netted was the biggest of the trip at 45cm.
We continued catching bass but the size was still not exceptional and finally we reached our exit point. Dragging the kayaks up the steep embankment was dismantled them and discussed our next move as we were unsure how far back the other two kayakers were. We eventually developed an ingenious plan that would enable us to carry 5 kayaks on Darren’s Hilux the 25km back to the bass Lodge. As we drove our eyes were on the river to see if we could spot Justin and Steve and luckily enough we found them 3km upstream from the exit point. We pulled up to discuss how far they had to go and chat about any potential trophy fish caught. Steve pulled a rat fro the middle of the river as we watched and we eventually left them to the final part of the journey.
Arriving at camp we met up with Slim and Biggles who had fished the upstream pools and watched the video of Slim’s 43cm surface caught fish. We were all absolutely wrecked and so the plan for the following day was to head home, as we lacked the stamina to get into the yaks and hit the water for a fourth day. That night we were visited by a number of yellow and green frogs that sat around the well at the Bass lodge and preceded to sing very loudly with one of the strangest nature calls I have heard. As with other nights we had a quick dinner, discussed all things bass related and then drifted to sleep.
The following morning we packed our gear and said our goodbyes, vowing to do a similar trip in the future as the company was great and although the bass lacked the size we had been hoping for, there were still plenty of fish to be caught. Biggles and I headed off North together and the weather turned quickly with a cold rain reinforcing our decision to leave early.