Wild River Men – Bass Northern River style
It had been the wettest summer since the big floods of 2001 and planning a bass trip on the river in advance was turning into a nightmare. With such a huge catchment, rain in the upper reaches of any of the three main rivers could potentially wreak havoc on our upcoming canoe and hiking adventures. However, it was decided to bite the bullet and hope for a break in the weather. Any window of opportunity had to be pounced on.
For some strange reason, I seem to do a lot of fishing with blokes called Dave, and this trip I had two of them! A late arrival around midnight had us excitedly discussing the prospects for the days ahead. An exploratory canoe trip was decided on for the morning, before drifting off the sleep with thoughts of mega bass peeling line off double bent rods.
A check of the water levels in the morning showed the rivers running high and dirty. This was not promising at all, but the decision was made to do the paddle and see what eventuated. My vehicle was left at the extraction point and we took Seamo’s up river to the bridge. The Coleman was packed with cameras and fishing gear and I travelled light in the Perception Minnow.
The fast flowing water was making fishing impossible and we needed to find an eddy or backwater to shelter out of the main current. Hopefully the bass would be thinking the same way. We found some slack water, but no luck. Seamo discovered the perfect way to shoot the rapids. He sat at the back of the canoe (supposedly to protect the gear) while Dave no 2, the camera man, was made to wade through the fast flowing water and guide the canoe. Good one Seamo!
It was decided to shift camp, so we headed to another farm that gave us access to a different section of the river. The track in was rough, but when we finally saw the river from the ridge above, the guys were blown away. After setting up camp on some high ground above the river, the fishing gear was readied for the afternoon attack on the prey. The river was still high and dirty, but I was confident of success in this magical place.
We hiked down the ridge and through the bush, eventually coming out at a large pool above the first waterfall. The best fishing is just below this and surface lures of choice were tied on. Seamo was a bit dubious when confronted with a foot of dirty angry foam below the waterfall. “Have faith”, I said. “Just throw your surface lure on the other side of the foam, and slowly work it back”.
Seamo’s first cast lobbed gently onto the angry water, and he worked it back towards the edge of the foam. When it entered the foam, it disappeared from sight, but we could still see the track it was making in the thick foam. Suddenly the retrieve stopped and Seamo’s G_Loomis rod buckled savagely. “Woa screamer” was the expletive as he battled what was obviously a good size bass. Dave was catching it all on camera as the bass doggedly refused to give in. Seamo eventually prevailed and a lovely female bass was reeled in for some shots. “What a start”. Everybody was happy!
We worked our way from pool to pool, clambering up and down the steep walls. Dave no 2 had climbed down onto a narrow ledge and was working the lure back when it was slammed. Line peeled from the runners and the reel was screaming. With one hand, Dave was holding the double bent rod, and with the other he was clinging onto a crevice in the wall. Seamo was catching it all on camera. “What are you going to do now, Dave”. Eventually another good size bass was being held up for the camera.
The fishing was by no means easy. We had to work hard for every decent fish that was captured. I threw a chatterbait into an eddy next to the fast flowing water and it was hammered straight away. I somehow had to try and keep the bass from getting downstream of me, because there was no way to pull a fish against the fast flow. Of course, that is exactly what happened and I now had a large rock between me and the fish. Suffice to say, the bass won that battle and my best fish of the trip was now swimming away with the chatterbait.
Seamo was on again. We were fishing one of the larger pools where the flow was not so pronounced. It looked like another good fish from the way he was hootin’ and hollerin’. “Gee they go hard”. Seamo seemed impressed with the fight it was giving him. His Diawa reel was screaming and he was hanging on for dear life. Another photo shoot before she was gently released to fight another day.
Back at camp, it was decided to move on again. Some more canoe based fishing was beckoning further downstream. It was also a good excuse to rest those tired and aching leg muscles as well. A paddle upstream from our new camp produced very little action.
The weather was closing in as we headed back to camp and the thunder and lightning were surrounding us. We decided to pull up camp rather than be caught in another storm. The fishing had been hard because of the high river levels and dirty water, but some decent fish still managed to find their way onto our lures. I’m sure the boys enjoyed their northern sojourn and will be back again next season for another taste of bass fishing northern rivers style.
Words and photos by Graeme Bowes (the cod)