A quick By The Gills Jersey sale, a few yarns later and an Eastern Cod/Australian Bass trip plan was born. The result, over 50 fish between three men which is not ridiculous as far as numbers go, but the quality of the fish was outstanding. There were few bass landed below 40cm and a cod to 70cm hitting the enviro net.
Having focused the majority of my Australian Bass fishing on the Orara River under the guidance of a local master Joel Lacey, the thought of exploring new ground had crossed my mind but had never really been a serious thought… No canoe and very few lures had never inspired me to take out a map and plot a serious trip. Though along comes Billy Patto (said Jersey buyer and all-round bloody good bloke) and his partner in crime Joel Fino with a plan to paddle 45klms of prime Eastern Cod and Australian Bass country with a swag, some very ordinary food, a few tins and a THOUSAND lures, and I was in.
A two hour drive (pie stop included) and a ‘taxi’ through the range on some windy, bumpy back roads and we’d arrived at our destination… Well, the launch site anyway. Feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere it was funny to be greeted by a seemingly nomadic traveller, his red cattle dog and his troopy (of course!), though this would be the last sign of the ‘real world’ we’d see for a few days… Phone reception NIL!
Canoes fully laden with swags, dry bags, an esky (beer only) and our fishing gear we launched with froth levels at an all time high. Though as the hours trickled by in the 36degree sun the froth began to subside a little, the fishing was tough and it’d dawned on us that it was going to take some ‘money shot’ casting and lots of it to get the fish to make that instinctive territorial bite. Not to mention that I was soaking wet by now after some sound advice was put into action at least half a dozen times by Fishing Tackle Australia’s Sales Manager (or as long as I can remember) and great mate Daren Ryan. Dags had been kind enough to lend me his canoe, some gear and some advice “when approaching the rapids there’s two things to remember; “1/ Speed Kills and 2/ If in doubt bail out” haha needless to say I’d spent more time out of the bloody canoe than in and I was starting to question my being there!
The first afternoon finished up with a few fish (most taken by Bill) and a night session on the surface lures that lifted everyone’s spirits. Time to setup camp…
The camping on this trip was better than imagined, you literally drift/paddle along flicking at every piece of structure that looks even remotely. When you see the ideal spot (perhaps between a rapid and a natural waterfall/spring might do) that has a hole worthy of a Jackal Pompador or Basscada then you pull up, throw together a fire, the swags & hammocks and go back to fishing again. The nights are unbelievably peaceful and relaxing, perhaps the 4,000 thrusts of a paddle have something to do with that!
Day two’s fishing was pretty close to awesome! The morning fog made for a ridiculous setting and the Bass played their part lifting any well presented surface lure. There was one surface strike from a cod that left both Bill and I trembling. It was not more than 6 feet from the canoe, massive and on 4lb would have been a great test of angling ability. The middle of the day fished well too, slow rolled Samaki Soft Vibes proved too good to resist with fish to 47cm falling to that little wiggly tail. Then came the late evening/night bite where every cast was a heart in mouth whole lot of fun with boofs and biffs coming off almost every cast and a 70cm cod in the pitch black being the highlight of a night. That one will be hard to forget.
Day three was met with the same eerie fog, the same surface action and the same vibalicuosness… But there was one difference. In between picking off some ‘smaller’ 30cm Bass amongst the 46’s Bill had paddled off into a little back eddy. He flicked the vibe with precision into a tiny and dark, snag riddled pocket and… BANG “Good fish!!! Good fish!!!” he called and it was on! At this stage it is worth mention that Bill is one of the most humble lads I’ve met and a call like “GOOD FISH!!!” is not made unless it’s a cracker. At 54cm this old Australian Bass was nothing short of that, an absolute cracker, bettering Bill’s previous PB by a massive 10cm and smashing that 50cm fish of a lifetime benchmark (though this is creeping up to 60cm).
All up it was nothing short of a trip to remember and one that I’d recommend (contact the Mann River Caravan Park on 02 6647 4662 for details) though there are a few things I thought we could pass on;
1/ You’re rarely dry, so be prepared to be wet 90% of the time. If you dress accordingly (quick dry clothing) you’ll be pretty comfortable and the wet feeling is actually a relief from the heat.
2/ Dry bags are essential! Anything that you don’t want to get wet will get soaked if it’s not stored properly.
3/ Pack light. Essential gear only, especially clothes, one or two sets and a jumper tops.
4/ Ice doesn’t keep well unless you have a quality ice box. Essential for beer…. and food.
5/ Take some healthy meals to keep you going, tins of casserole aren’t the fuel you need for this trip. Crivac meats and veg into individual meal portions if you can.
6/ It’s very hot out there so dress sensibly, drink loads of the river water at the rapids or fast running sections and apply sunscreen and zinc.
7/ Strap your gear down!!! Some of the rapids are a breeze whilst others require a bail out and walk approach. Stick to the left (more sound Daren Ryan advice). Don’t get too crazy, there’s a $1,000 baitcaster outfit still up there should you care to find it.
8/ Good footwear is essential, light, breathable and somewhat grippy for the very slippery rapid descents on foot.
And finally if you choose to go, have a ball!!! The scenery and the fishing are spectacular and it’s not often enough we get the chance to forget what day it is…. YEWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!
By The Gills
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Name: Shaun "NEB" Cameron. Born: Coffs Harbour NSW 1999. NRL Team: Gold Coast Titans. Favourite Species: Pagrus Auratus - Snapper & Muddies aka Mud Crabs. Blurb; Hi, Shaun Cameron here. I'm a frother on all things oceanic and photography. There's...