The Everglades: Heading Upstream
The 20+ km of paddling had me shattered after the first day and it took moments for me to crash. My plan was to be up at dawn and allow the “gentleman” their beauty sleeps while I chased some twilight bass. As I had hoped there was zero wind when I woke up albeit a little late as I was a much more tired than I expected from the previous day.
So it took me minutes to launch the kayak, this is a great novelty considering the travel I usually take to each some of my usual haunts. I made my way to the opposite bank and decided to head downstream. Wayne and I had not fished the last couple of kilometres of the river and I hoped a few bass had been left undisturbed from the journey upstream to the camp. The morning was another sensational little session with a dozen fish caught in the couple of hours before breakfast.
The highlight of the morning session was when I reached a section of river that screamed bass. This section of the river had a choke point in which a granite outcrop blocked the river. The bank on one side had a steep incline and was undercut at the base and the other side and the other side was filled with timber. Initially I cast around the granite outcrop knowing that this often held large bass chasing any bait forced to pass around it but could not entice anything to come out and hit the lure.
After a few casts I diverted my attention to the shady undercut bank. Here there was a tree that grew out from the bank and although not submerged it did provide extra shade that bass love so much. I sent a cast in and moments before it landed I saw the golden flash of a reasonable bass in the shallow tannin stained water. A couple of twitches and a quick walk and the bass smashed the lure and headed immediately into the middle of the creek. Soon after I netted a nice 39cmFL bass to make the morning extra special.
As the sun quickly exposed the river I started heading upstream and found Stevenm hitting the same bank as I had earlier in the morning. After a quick chat I started casting on the sunny side as I made the trip back to camp for a quick brekkie before heading upstream. On the way up I discovered an interesting technique. I would cast into structure that was completely bathed in sunlight and follow my typical retrieve of pause, a few twitches and then commence the walk back to the kayak. However after walking the lure about a foot or two from the structure I would let it pause and just let it sit there. On four occasions a bass would eventually belt the lure as it just sat there without a twitch. A great technique but it required a lot of patience!
Reaching camp I quickly threw don breakfast and packed enough supplies for my journey upstream. Steve Riding also decided to join me and it didn’t take long before we hit the water again.
The bass were not as keen as they had been the day before or in the earlier morning session and we conceded that the increasing wind had switched them off the surface. Problem was that it seemed to also slow the sub-surface bite as well. Bass in this system simply did not like wind. We still managed a few although the casting needed to be spot on and casts within an inch or two would be smashed by hiding bass. However if they missed there was no follow up hits like the previous day and the morning session. The bass would simply not move far from their hidey holes to follow the lure.
About an hour in to our journey upstream Steve was targeting one bank while I targeted the other. As I cast into a snag I heard a massive hit on the other bank followed by a few excited expletives from Steve. Soon after my lure was smashed by another average bass when I heard Steve’s follow up cast receive similar treatment to his first cast and he was on to a cracking fish. I quickly released my bass and paddled over to Steve who had netted his fish and was just removing the lure. It was a really good fish and after a rough measure at 44cmFL it was quickly photographed and released.
We continued upstream and the resident population of 30cm bass kept us entertained. I took a side trip up a feeder creek that looked great but proved fruitless. Steve had continued upstream and reached what appeared to be large pool. When I finally reached him he was casting at a recently fallen tree that still had much of its greenery still intact. I could see bass hitting his lure repeatedly on every cast and although the hook up rate was low it was still greatly entertaining. As I reached him he said the fishing was insane with bass hitting the lure on every cast. I paddled past him as bass continued smashing his lure and I was soon experiencing the same on the next couple of smaller structures.
As I had passed Steve had pointed at a massive stand of submerged timber of the opposite bank. Steve wanted to get a few close up videos of the acrobatic bass hits that were prevalent in this system. At times the bass would fully launch from the water in an attempt to hit our lures and Steve was desperate to record one of these hits on video.
Steve was eventually set up and we began filming. Of course after the hot action on the opposite bank “Murphy’s Law” took effect and after repeated casts deep into the best looking structure in the pool not one bass emerged to give the lure a work over.
We eventually spied a small creek behind the timber and to our amazement it had a nice flow into the deeper pool. Steve res set his tripod and I paddled into position to give myself the greatest opportunity to accurately cast into Steve’s field of view. The mouth of the creek contained a nice sand bank the filled the middle of the mouth and dropped away rapidly in all directions to provide great ambush sites for hungry bass.
The first cast in was directly in the mouth and against the opposite bank. Here the sandbank in the middles dropped to form a deep narrow channel that looked so bass worthy. After a few twitches and a small walk a bass boiled at the lure and I paused the retrieve waiting for the bass to return. Steve decided the action was over as the lure passed onto the sandbank and turned the camera off only for the bass to return and put a massive hit on the lure. Although it missed we were extremely disappointed as the hit would have looked awesome in the shallow sandy water! Bugger!
We quickly reset and this time we targeted the next piece of structure along the bank where water still flowed past quickly from the small feeder creek. This cast in required no work on my part as a good bass emerged from the structure to hit the lure without a twitch and conveniently power into the middle of the creek. The battle was now completely in my favour and after easing off the drag she was quickly subdued and I had a beautiful 40cmFL bass in my net.
We continued filming and managed a few more hits but no hook ups even though some of the structure we fished looked awesome. Steve returned to his kayak and we continued up the main arm of the river. It started to narrow considerably and in some parts deposits of sand filled the stream bed. There was still a few parts of the river that looked awesome but the action almost completely disappeared. The next hour or two Steve and I managed a couple of hits including Steve being bricked and I managed a small spangled perch that flipped out of the kayak before I could get a photo. We eventually reached a point where the river narrowed so much that a massive tree blocked any further passage and so we decided to head back to the pool where we had done the filming.
We fished the pool again and the bass continued to be willing to play. We caught a few more before heading downstream and made our way back to camp. Reaching an open section of the river the wind had risen considerably and the bass seemed to have completely shut down only hitting lures that were cast really tight to structure.
We eventually reached camp where the others had already returned from their journey downstream. They had experienced a similar thing with the bass shutting down in exposed parts of the river and only being active in the tighter bends which were not exposed to the wind. We had a good chat until the sun started to get low in the sky and we decided to hit the water again in the hope the evening twilight might counteract the effect of the increasing wind.
We all hit the water with the intention of heading back upstream to the pool where the fishing had been so good. As the others headed upstream I couldn’t help but fish the pool directly in front of camp again as it was completely protected from the wind and mirror calm. It wasn’t long before I missed one bass and managed another before I began the long 3 km paddle to catch up to the others.
I found them back at the pool where we had filmed and it seemed everyone had managed a bass or two before I arrived and hat the pool was still firing. I even managed a bass on my first cast as I entered the pool behind them. We fished here for a while before the sun began to get very low and we headed back downstream to camp. At this point Steve and I had switched to poppers in the hope that the increased noise might attract bass a little more in the rough conditions imposed by the wind.
This proved successful and we managed a few more bass on the return journey including a few rats that seemed to be attracted to the feathers on the rear treble of my popper and would hit it on the pause as the rear treble sat below the surface.
We eventually reached camp and although a night fish would have been ideal the wind refused to abate and the night was quite windy and quashed any ideas of a night fish, bugger! Instead the night entailed a recap of the day’s events, plans for the return trip and the usual banter that occurs when five blokes head out for a camp and a fish.