I never sleep well the night before a big trip as my mind goes over all the little and big things such as have I packed everything and what will be the best camp spots. This trip was no different, but I had a little more anxiety than normal as the river I was intending to fish I did not know as well as some of my usual haunts. I woke Joanne who just grunted in disgust as she looked at the clock. No one likes getting up in the middle of the night even more so when it’s not your adventure and you are just the Taxi driver. That said, she got up as she knew we had a long drive ahead and she didn’t complain just gave me a few dirty looks from time to time, bless her.
We had seen plenty of rain in the North Coast and most of the rivers were high and running dirty but I was still fairly confident this system would be fishable. After a quick chat thanking the farmer for letting me drive through his property, we were at the river’s edge. The river was up and had a hint of tea tree color but looked more than OK to me. I loaded up my gear said goodbye to Jo and the Dog and paddled out into the river.
I fished hard, throwing all the traditional lures such as my Zipping Ziggy, Mazzy Popper, Pompadour, Crank Bait and I even put on a Spinnerbait in desperation but couldn’t tempt a fish. As I made my way down through rapids and pools I had to be on top of my game a little more than usual as I was paddling my new Pelican Canoe on what was her maiden voyage. She was tracking differently to my other Canoes (Colemans) and I kept finding myself scuppered on rocks or taking a bit of water as I rode the bigger rapids. I was unaware that later on in the trip this was to become a very big problem, but we will get to that later.
I had been through my tackle box and thrown everything at the fish, but nothing was working in the slightest. Anyone that fishes would know the frustration this can cause. I started rummaging and still in the packet was a lure I was sent by Chasebaits called the “Drunken Mullet”. What the hell I thought, let’s see how this bad boy swims. On my second cast when I had almost finished retrieving the lure (a little too quick) a Bass boiled just below right at the side of the Canoe. After hours of inactivity, it doesn’t take much to get excited and I was back in the game all pumped up. 10 minutes later I finally managed to break the drought and landed a golden Bass in the mid 40`s on my new favorite lure. Now let’s get the bit that sounds like an advert out the way early in this story. I fished with that lure for pretty much the rest of the trip and the Bass really wouldn’t look at anything else. I have to tell you that not only was it deadly, but it was so much fun to fish with. Prop-baits are so visual and there is nothing more satisfying than watching a surface hit on one so go check them out. Ok so back to the story.
As I made it to camp I could see a storm was building so I had to decide to either carry on fishing and get hammered in the storm or set up camp, I set up camp. By the time I had set up everything and messaged Jo the storm was on me and for the next 4 hours, I sat under my tarp as storm after storm rolled through until I finally fell asleep.
Up with the birds (you have very little choice as they are so noisy) and onto the water right away taking a coffee with me. With my Drunken Mullet, the Bass were active right from the start and I spent a few hours paddling the lower pools and taking good-sized fish.
Late morning and I was on my way down the river and the weather was perfect. By midafternoon I had landed around 20 fish with a couple of Eastern Cod thrown in and I was enjoying myself thoroughly. As I approached a reasonable set of rapids I prepared the boat locking my rod in and making sure everything was clipped in as I always do. Just as I crest the top of the rapid I clipped a rock and the boat was held up pivoting precariously, the boat starts to spin, and I could see exactly what was about to happen but was powerless to stop it. As the boat tipped I jumped out but at this point, she had taken on about 40% water and I was now stuck at the top of a rapid with a water-laden boat. The only option was to try and walk her down but about halfway down the current grabbed her and off we went. We didn’t get far before she wedged her nose in between 2 rocks and then the back was pushed sideways. Soon as water breached the side I knew I was in trouble. She was pinned and pinned well.
I did have 3 good lengths of rescue webbing, some pulleys and other things to get a mechanical advantage to hopefully pull her out. However, 2 hours later I gave up as the light was fading and I was exhausted. It was at this point that I thought I had better get on the Satellite and warn the right people that I may need some help. Now I often joke about not wanting to be “That Guy” who gets rescued, but the fact is the more you play the higher the risk of something going wrong. I was getting messages back and there was the talk of “Helicopters”, and “let us know early so we can get to you in daylight”. So with this in my head, I had a restless night.
I was up very early, and I had decided that today I was not being rescued, coffee, food and with a new plan I set off back to the river. The plan involved using a brace and a pulley to lift the side enough to stop the water pushing over the top and then allowing me to bail her out. The river had also dropped 20cm and with the words “Helicopter, Rescue, Newspaper” in my head and the years of ribbing my mates would give me I was a man on a mission. It took about 2 hours to get that bloody Canoe out and as I sat on the bank catching my breath and licking my wounds I came to realise how important keeping your calm is and not panicking. A flurry of messages back and forth giving people the good news that they didn’t have to give up their weekend for me and I was back in the Canoe paddling down the river.
Now it was clear that my 2-night 3-day trip had now become a 3-night trip. I always take enough food for an extra day and I use a water purifier bottle so I can drink the river water. Now I feel the Canoe may look like the villain in this story and for the next few hours it did feel that way and we had a shaky relationship at each rapid. You see I was paddling her the same way I do my Coleman Canoes and as the day went on I realised that she was too heavy on the nose and dropping to my knees made the stability worse than if I stayed in my seat. With this new-found information she was much more responsive when I had to turn her fast, so it was user error, not the poor Canoe and we are now good friends again.
Over the rest of the day, the fishing was nothing short of spectacular. Aerial surface hits from hungry greedy Bass and then all of a sudden with the change in weather the Cod woke up!
I hooked into a low 40cm Bass and as I have seen happen many times before just as I got it near the boat a 1m Cod came up and smacked it. It didn’t get the Bass but was now lip hooked on the lower set of hooks, now I had a Bass and a 1m Cod hooked on the same lure (go the Drunken Mullet). Just as I thought Christ get the camera another Cod of about 70cm came up and grabbed my poor Bass and ripped it off the hooks and swam down to the darkness taking my Bass with it. Now I had only the 1m Cod on the line I took my time and just as I tried to lift its head the hooks pulled out, Bugger!
Just after lunch I came into some tighter water and put a cast under some dark trees. The second the lure hit, the water exploded. I knew it was a good fish as it kited across the stream and I know there is always a debate about Bream Vs Bass and what fights harder but I can assure you that until you catch a big mountain Bass you can be excused for thinking a Bream does.
As I gripped her lip I could see she was a cracker and on the truth detector she went 52cm. The picture of her isn’t fantastic but It was stinking hot with no shade and she was exhausted so I didn’t spend much time getting a decent camera shot as I was worried she would die on me.
I made camp on a stunning little hole and tried to work out numbers and I think I was around 35-40 fish for the trip. Not too shabby.
Up early and the last bit before heading home is normally average fishing as it sees a few people but not today…. it was going nuts again.
Bass after Bass with Cod thrown in goes to show you can never assume stretches of river as things change so often.
So in summary, with 50+ fish landed, near rescue, bruises and dented ego I’d say it was a bloody great trip but probably not for everyone.
As my mate so eloquently said… “That’s why it’s not called “Calm River Tours”.