Kayak bassin’

The plan was to chase kingfish, however once we were out of bed it became immediately obvious we wouldn’t be heading out to sea as the wind was howling, whitecaps peppering twofold bay. Time for plan B(ass), which we developed over coffee and google maps. After toying with the idea of an epic 15km car drop in order to fish some inaccessible parts of the system we’d chosen, due to the late start, we eventually decided on something much less ambitious. Paddling a few kms upstream from an easy access point to some nice looking pools and then back the the car, giving us an easy out if parts of the river turned out to be un-passable. Sandwiches were prepared, the bass gear dusted off, the kayaks loaded into the car and we hit the road.

BASSY!

Once we arrived, we set up the kayaks and hit the water, Lee spin fishing, me fly fishing. The wind was howling above us, but the stream itself was relatively well protected meaning fishing wasn’t going to be too difficult. It wasn’t long until I had a bit of action. Near the top of the first pool, in an incredibly bassy looking bit of water, an undercut bank, overhanging grass, a boulder and snag all piled in on top of each other, a little bass boiled on my wooly bugger on the first strip. The excitement didn’t last long, the fish quickly found the snag and the line went limp. Promising nonetheless. We continued to fish up for the next few hours without much action. Most of our time was spent dragging our yaks around, over and through various bits of structure. Finally we found a pool with some deeper water where the yaks were actually going to be of some use. Midway up the pool a big tree lay partially submerged along the bank, a snag of smaller logs knotted in the deeper water just in front of it. I cast into the centre of knot of logs and let my fly sink for as long as I dared. As the saying goes, if you aren’t getting snagged… Eventually I lost my nerve and started my retrieve. Twitch, pause. Twitch. BANG! The fish hit like a freight train. The next 10 seconds were a flurry of rod waving, paddle slapping and line stripping as I did my best to steer the fish away from the snags. Eventually I managed to get the fish out into some safer water and the war was pretty much won. Well almost, having never caught a fish on a kayak before, the fish literally ran circles around me and the yak, with all of us doing an inelegant 720 before I finally managed to get the fish in the boat. The whole thing was over in less than a minute but like most bass battles, what a minute! My adrenaline was pumping and I was sporting a huge smile. After a few quick pics the fish swam back into its knotted snag of logs. The monkey was off the back and I was happy. The day was already worthwhile.

At the tailout of next big pool we stopped for lunch. The sandwiches were good, the mid strength beer in the sunshine even better. Ahead of us lay the pools that we had scouted on google maps. The best fishing was to come. After our quick re-fueling stop, we got the yaks back in the water and started slowly paddling upstream. It didn’t take long, about 20 meters from where we had had lunch I connected with another lovely bass. I handled things a little more competently this time. I quickly wrestled the fish out from underneath the undercut bank and into open water and dragged her into the boat for a few pics before sending her on her way.

It was Lees turn next. After a tough morning, he finally connected to a nice fish as I watched from across the pool.

“I think its got me in the snags”

I started paddling over to see if there was anything I could do to help. When I got there the battle had reached a stalemate. The fish had wound its way through a tangle of snags, its precise location decidedly unclear. It was still on though, given away by the occasional tail pump that could be felt through the line. However, the chances of it getting it back out of the knot of logs seemed slim. So I did what anyone would do and hopped off the yak and into the water. I followed the line through the snag as it wound up, under and around a series of logs, ending up at the undercut bank where I found the fish and luckily managed to get hold of it before either of us really knew what was going on. When I popped up, fish in hand, Lee sighed with relief. He was on the board! Back she went and off I swam to retrieve my yak which had floated 30-40 meters downstream.

Lee with a healthy bass

It didn’t take long for Lee to connect to another one. As I was paddling back to the snag I had been fishing when he caught his first fish, he was on again. And off again soon after as the fish won its freedom when the hook pulled. The action was consistent from that point onwards, although we failed to land most of them. The wind had also picked up and the pool we were fishing was a lot more exposed than the sections downstream. As we paddled up through a shallow sandy section chatting about this and that, a 20-30 meter high eucalypt high up in the valley came crashing down from the hill above. It was quite the spectacle watching it flatten shrubs and small trees on its way down the hill. On the next bend Lee landed another nice bass. Soon after another huge tree cracked and started careening down the hill, this time coming directly at us. For a few brief fearful moments, both of us contemplated what would happen if the tree made it to the river. Thankfully, we didn’t have to find out and it stopped 50 0r so meters up from us. Not close, really, but close enough for it to put doubts in both our minds. The falling trees and the fact that fly fishing had now become pretty difficult given the wind lead to us deciding to pretty much call it. We stopped fishing and paddled up to check the top of the pool as recon for the next trip. It was here that I had my last bit of action. The top of the pool looked way to good, so I grab the fly rod, flicked the fly over the side and started stripping line in preparation for a cast. As my fly sat motionless, almost directly under the yak, we both watched a bass slowly cruise out from the shaded bank to pick it up. Mesmerised, with slack like everywhere and total unprepared, I failed to strike. I just watched the fish pick up the fly and then spit it out. Oh well, it was cool af to watch.

Not a bad place to spend some time. It would have been even nicer if the trees above hadn’t started hurtling down the hills

We then commenced the paddle/drag back to the car. As is often the case, the trip back to the car seemed much longer than the trip up. Eventually we made it back to the first pool and Lee decided to have a cast at the spot I had lost the first fish of the day many hours earlier. Sure enough, seconds after he popped his plastic into the hidey hole he was on. Unlike me, he managed to land it. It was a great way to finish a great day. I can’t wait to get back!

A good way to finish a great day

Kayak bassin’ is the bomb. I’m hooked.

Cheers

Hamish

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

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