As the rain pelted down on Wednesday night, threatening to tear the tent to shreds, I huddled in my sleeping bag and weighed up the options. It was looking like the second half of our Clarence adventure was in serious trouble. When dawn finally broke and the rains eased enough to venture outside the tent, things were looking very bleak. Leigh decided discretion was the better part of valour and made the hard decision to pull the pin early.
Still having a few days up my sleeve, I was keen to explore the alternatives. I decided to venture up river and discuss options with a farmer mate. Arriving at the homestead, I met him just as he was about to head out on track and do some maintenance. As luck would have it, there had been very little rain on this side of the mountain. It was decided to tackle the rough track and follow the farmer in. I had plenty of food if the weather turned really bad, so I could just sit the bad weather out.
As it turned out, the track was surprisingly good and I got in without any worries. Camp was set up and the fishing gear readied for the afternoon attack on the bronze battler. Heading down the side of the steep hill, I was surprised at how low the river was. The local rain was not enough to cause a rise in the river; however I knew that there had been plenty of rain in the upper catchment. It would just take two or three days to get here.
Arriving at the first pool, I was keen to try some new lures that I had just been given. A Dreamfish Buzzmaster was tied on. This is a type of buzzbait, a lure I had not really fished with much before. The first cast went out and the bail arm was kicked over just before the buzzmaster hit the water. The idea behind this is to start the retrieve just as it hits the water. You need to keep the lure skimming across the top of the water and not let it sink.
Straight away there was a boil behind the lure but no hookup. Next cast I slowed the retrieve down so that the blades were only just turning enough to stop the buzzbait from sinking. Then out of nowhere, the lure was savaged off the surface. The strike was breathtaking and the hit something to behold. A fierce battle ensued and finally a lovely bass in the mid forties was being cradled for some photos. Thank goodness for cameras with self timers when you are fishing by yourself.
As I headed downstream I was struck by the clarity of the water as well as the low river levels. This was a far cry from the trips last season when the river spent most of the time in near flood conditions. The local rain had so far had no effect on river conditions. The fishing was slow but there were enough to keep you interested. A couple in the mid forties and one honker stretching the tape to 52cm were enough to make you forget the tough going in the scrub.
Friday dawned overcast and cloudy with the occasional shower. I filled the backpack with fishing essentials and some supplies and headed off for an all day hike downstream. The river was now starting to show some colour and the level had risen a touch, The hard granite rocks become treacherous when dampened by the odd shower of rain. I had one bad tumble in the greasy conditions and was now sporting some nice bruises on one elbow and thigh.
The fish once again proved elusive but some nice ones in the mid forties every now and then was enough to keep me interested. The overcast conditions provided the opportunity to fish with surface lures for most of the day. The new Buzzmasters and the old favourite Bill’s Bugs once again supplied most of the action. At one stage I lobbed one of Bill’s fizzers into a great looking back eddy. Retrieving it in short, sharp jerks across the top saw it absolutely nailed by a lovely fish of about 47cm.
The rain set in again on the Friday afternoon as I headed back upstream to camp. The wind blew and the rain poured down that night and I was contemplating the wisdom of my decision to persist with the trip after Leigh had gone home early. Listening to the weather forecast than evening, it seemed that the East Coast Low was slowly moving south and the skies would clear tomorrow. There was no way I could get out on the wet track anyway, so I was here for another day at least.
Saturday dawned shrouded in fog and mist, but from experience I knew that once this burned off, the day should be quite alright. Setting off in the eerie half light I was soon drenched. Not from rain but from the trees and bushes that dumped the water from their branches and leaves as I pushed through the bush. The river level had now risen a couple of feet and I hoped this might trigger the bass to try and use this rise to venture further upstream on their migration run.
The river kept rising throughout the day and I was right in my assertion that the bass would try to take advantage of this. Once again some nice fish in the mid forties were landed. Arriving at the “turn around pool” where I had fished with Leigh from the downstream end a few days before was an eye opener to say the least. The water level was now up a couple of meters and there was some serious flow and colour to it.
I cast one of Bill’s large poppers into a back eddy under a now submerged tree and was absolutely nailed after the first bloop. Luckily the fish took off towards open water, rather than back under the tree. Line peeled through the runners and the rod developed a serious bend. I was feeling a little under equipped as the fish started to use the fast flowing water to its advantage. Finally I managed to take the upper hand and saw colour for the first time
Bloody hell! This thing was huge. My hands were shaking as I thumb gripped her and eased her from the water. After the huge 55cm honker I had caught last season, I knew instinctively that this fish was a good show of cracking the magical sixty mark! I gently laid her in a shallow rock pool and set up the digital camera with the self timer. There would be plenty of photos of this monster to dine out on for years to come.
As I was adjusting the camera, a surge of flood water was felt around my feet. I looked behind me to see this great fish take advantage of the sudden rise as the water swept across the shallow rock pool. She flapped across the now wet rocks like a seal out of water. Panic set in as I made a desperate lunge to grab her before she could regain her freedom. I managed to just grab her tail, but she was too slippery and shook free and slithered down the rock face to the safety of her home.
It was at this time that my thoughts turned to Leigh. How could such a trivial thing as an East Coast Low be enough to send a dedicated fisherman packing? If he had been with me, there would have been no need to put the fish in the rock pool and I would have the precious photos. I had always suspected Queenslanders were soft! Once I had cooled down, I realised this was irrational and Leigh was forgiven. I am already looking forward to our next adventure mate…
Written by Graeme Bowes 2009