ImageThe river level had dropped considerably since my trip last month. There was still plenty of flow in the river but the water was definitely cleaner. I set off from the camp before dawn for the one hour paddle to the home of the big North Coast bass. The platypuses were out in force to escort me downstream. I never tire of their antics as they bob and weave around the kayak. I think they enjoy the company as much as I do.

ImageI scrambled through the bush in the eerie pre-dawn mist. Keeping a Imagelow profile, I inched my way to the top of the gorge wall. Poking my head over the edge, I could look down into the pool below the first small waterfall. Here I could see where the bass were positioned in the pool. Some were right up either side of the waterfall. Some were hugging the side of the gorge walls and still others were positioned at the tail end of the pool.

A plan was formulated. I would work my way around to the tail of the first pool. Here I could throw upstream from behind the bass; there was no point in casting to the head of the pool. If I hooked a bass, it would surely scare the others in the lower end of the pool. My first cast was a short one, hopefully to hook a bass without scaring the fish further upstream. It's good to have a lure in the water before the sun peeks above the surrounding hills.Image

ImageOne of Bill's 100mm fuzz bugs was gently lobbed over some froth that had formed at the tail of the pool. I let it sit until the concentric circles disappeared, then gave it one short sharp flick of the rod. The propellers fizzed into action and came to rest just short of the froth. Then a huge bow wave parted the foam as a large bass that had been sheltering under it, charged out and attacked the fizzer. "I'm on," I yelled to nobody.

ImageThis bass seemed very upset for some reason. Maybe it was the trebles he was desperately trying to shake out of his mouth. I kept the drag tight so he could not race upstream and scare the other fish as Imageplanned. Then he turned and raced back under the froth, coming directly towards me. I wound like crazy, trying to take up the slack line. Finally fifty cm of lovely gorge bass was lying at my feet. First cast! What a start!

Each cast of Bill's surface lure was getting enquiries. A couple of casts to either side of the walls about half way up the pool was all it took to be on again. The bass were whacking anything that landed on the water. Another good fish came to rest at my feet and after some photos was gently released.

It was time to tempt the bass at the top of the pool. A long cast with the fizzer was landed just to the side of the small waterfall. As soon Imageas it hit the water, the place erupted. Water sprayed everywhere and the lure was nowhere to be seen. Even with a tight drag the reel was singing. I was hootin' and hollerin'. This was unbelievable fishing! Three good fish out of the first pool, all on surface lures.

I used the same tactics on the next pool. Peering over the edge of the gorge wall, I spotted the bass in virtually the same holding positions. There was an old log jammed against the wall as well and I could see two fish sheltering behind it. This was sight fishing at its best! For the first few hours the tactics stayed the same. Surface lures first in each pool, then some chatterbaits or divers to finish off, before moving on.ImageImage

The fishing was consistent all morning. As usual it was quiet in the middle of the day, so I found a shady tree and had some lunch and a much needed snooze. About three in the afternoon I started fishing again, retracing my steps back to the start. As the afternoon wore on the fishing just got better and better.

ImageScrambling up and down the gorge walls is hard work. In some places the ledges you are fishing from are not much wider than your feet. There is very little room to manoeuvre when a decent fish is hooked. At one stage I landed a honker and while trying to set up the tripod for a self portrait, she flicked her tail and my retractable measuring tape Imagesailed into the depths. Therefore no measures, only guesstimates for the afternoon fish.

ImageAll up about twenty fish were caught and released. The sizes ranged from roughly forty five cm to some fish definitely over fifty cm. How far over I cannot say! I think I will just let the photos do the talking. Fishing with ten pound main line and fifteen pound leader, I was broken off at least three or four times during the day.

I never tire of this amazing place.

Words & Photos by Graeme Bowes (the cod)