Adventure Bassin

The Northern Rivers area of NSW offers some of the best places for those who like to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you like your bass fishing spiced with a touch of adventure, you have come to the right place! The remoteness of some rivers up here demands that any expedition is well planned in advance. Any accidents can be potentially devastating.

Leigh was coming south for his annual pilgrimage and he was keen to sample some of the legendary fishing in the wilder parts of the river. We had allowed a week for our mission. This was enough time for a bit more than a cursory glance at some terrific locations that I had discovered over the years. The weather, as usual, would play a big part in our plans. Rain the week before our departure date meant that flexibility would be needed, as not all areas could be reached.After setting up camp, the afternoon was free to hike up a tributary on foot. It would be interesting to see how far up river the bass had managed to migrate. Leigh put a cast across to the other bank. He had spotted a small shady backwater in the trees, out of the main flow. Whack! His diver was hammered after only a few turns of the handle. Manoeuvring the beast out of the trees, he then had to contend with the fast flow of the river. As the fish was gradually submitting, Leigh gave a yell. The mottled back of the fish told us he had caught not a bass, but the endangered Eastern Cod.These fish are making a comeback from the brink of extinction. Rare to catch only a few short years ago, they are now breeding again in the pristine sections of some northern rivers. A cousin of the Murray Cod, they are a more streamlined fish, as a lot of time is spent in the faster flowing waters that keep them fit and healthy. The Eastern Cod is totally protected and after some quick photos, she was gently revived and lovingly released. Leigh was one happy man, catching his first fish of the species.We found a surprisingly large pool further upstream. It barred our way from further exploration, as a large cliff guarded one side and thick bush the other. We vowed to return here with the kayaks and give it a good working over. Travel in these tributaries was always going to be a combination of kayak and foot slog! Leigh picked up another good fish from this pool before we returned to camp to attack the camp pool on dusk.

That evening, surface lures were swum in the hope of some top water action. Leigh was swimming his favourite Sammy and I was trying some Bill’s Bugs and Dreamfish buzzbaits. There were a few half hearted strikes, but once again the majority of fish were caught on divers. A mixture of bass and cod were landed as the sun slowly disappeared behind the hills. The highlights included a hard fighting silver bass that peeled line off Leigh’s reel and some good sized cod that acquitted themselves very well.

The next morning we broke camp and loaded the kayaks for what was hoped to be a fruitful couple of days in the more remote upstream sections of the river. The going was tough as we paddled and dragged the fully laden yaks up the fast flowing water. This country does not see much fishing pressure, as it is extremely hard work. Only keen explorers with a taste for adventure ever venture into these upper reaches.

Fishing as we went some great spots were found and the hard slog was rewarded with some beautiful fish. The country was truly spectacular and you felt as though you were the first white man to taste the fruits of this Garden of Eden. Our goal for the night was still a couple of kilometres upstream, but the heavy going in the fast flowing rapids eventually took its toll. Leigh and I decided to abandon the yaks and hike the rest of the way on foot.Rock hopping, bush bashing and swimming our way upstream was difficult. The fishing and scenery certainly made up for our inconvenience. I was on! My Bill’s Bug deep diver was hammered so hard that I was nearly pulled off the rocks. This was a decent fish and all the advantages were with her. Line disappeared from the singing runners as she dived deep looking for midstream boulders and the fast flowing rapids. Worn out she finally came in meekly for a photo. Another lovely cod of about sixty cm.

As we headed back to the yaks, we were disappointed not to have made our intended campsite. However, with the river up it was just too difficult. The paddle downstream was a lot easier and we were getting gamer with shooting the rapids. Then the inevitable happened. Overconfident, I took on a larger rapid and got into trouble. The yak slammed side on to a large boulder and tipped over. I was temporarily trapped underneath by the force of the water. Swimming free, I saw the yak jammed hard against the rock. I could not move it with the pressure being exerted. Finally Leigh got close enough to throw a rope and we pulled the yak free. A scary moment… 

An overnighter was attempted on another tributary with more success. The water level was a good deal lower here and it was an easy paddle. The fishing in the middle of the day was hard, but morning and evening were producing some quality fish. A remote backwater was found late on the first day. Deep water and plenty of cover proved to be ideal habitat for some feisty cod. Numerous hookups and surface strikes ensued. The cod won on most occasions. We seemed seriously under gunned!

Up early the next morning, we hit the same area again. This time Leigh hooked up big time! This was a brute! Leigh hooked her from fairly deep water and the yak was being towed around like a toy in a bathtub. I watched as the rod bent double and line screamed from the reel. Each time Leigh gained some line back the monster took off again. Finally we saw what he had hooked. This was no big bass, but a huge cod! The mottled back broke the surface and she showed her huge head. Leigh and I stared in amazement. This was a behemoth!

After some quick photos, she was slowly revived and left to gracefully cruise back to the depths where she was undoubtedly queen of her domain. Definitely the highlight of the trip…

As always, it was a pleasure to fish with Leigh. Nothing ever goes to plan on our trips, but somehow we manage to find the fish. Two exhausted fishermen finally made it back to the dropoff point and plans were being made for our next adventure.

Cheers

Graeme “The Cod” Bowes
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