I am not going to lie about it; I have been waiting for this moment for at least the past 52 or so days. There is something special about Australian bass, and not just in angling terms. It’s that constant wandering of a migratory fish, the way they travel through some of the roughest waterways to get down to the salt to spawn, then turn around and travel all the way back up to the upper reaches of the freshwater rivers and creeks.
This year we had a whole heap of rain leading up to opening day. There was a little bit of fear that the rivers and creeks would be running way too hard for the fish to get up. There was also a thought that the additional water would provide ample space for the fish to move. I wasn’t overly sure what was going to occur to the waterway I was planning to fish, as I am still just learning about both the waterway and the fish. I have fished for bass for only the past 2 seasons, and there is no doubt that I am completely hooked.
My plan for opening day was not optimal. To begin with I had recently sold my car that had roof racks on it. My new car is yet to have roof racks installed so taking the kayak along was out of the question. The other issue was that I had to work the opening day, as it landed on a Monday. As such, I was keeping things simple: finish work at 1500, get to the spot by 1600, and onto the water no later than 1630. I selected a safe spot that I have had a lot of previous experience with. My overall goal was to catch a fish or stay as long as I had to obtain this goal. I was prepared to stay well into the night.
I managed to get out of work 5 minutes early, allowing me to get on the road well and truly at 1500. I arrived at my intended fishing spot right on 1600, and it didn’t take me long to rig up and tie on my go to surface lure; the old beaten up brown Sammy 65. The river was well up, probably the highest I have ever seen it. The water level was not the only thing affected; due to the sheer amount of rain we had seen in the previous weeks the banks had eroded in parts, and the trails were very slippery. This could also be partly due to cows traveling along the same route. As I moved down the creek the entire landscape that I had become used to was no more. New structure had appeared in the waterway, alternative paths had to be found to navigate around fallen trees and impassable fast flowing water. As I moved along I worked the surface hard with the Sammy, however by the time I tossed a cast up stream and picked up the slack the lure was cruising past me at a rapid speed. The retrieve was not working against the current; there was no natural look to it whatsoever.
I decided that the finesse style of the Sammy wasn’t going to cut it in this water so I opted for a black Jitterbug as night was drawing in. I was hoping the Jitterbug was more noticeable to the fish on the retrieve in the faster flowing water. I persisted for about an hour creeping along the bank when I finally came to a section where the water had slowed right down. Straddling an overhanging tree and sliding out so I was over the water, I shot a long cast near some freshly fallen timber. I began with a slow roll when I felt a gingerly tug on the end of the line. First instinct was that the lure had ran over some sticks or weed, but as the resistance wasn’t consistent I realised I had hooked up to what would be the first bass of the season.
I felt a little bad pulling him in with my all but locked drag, but lifting him out of the water brought a sense of joy over me and put a smile on my face. Sure he wasn’t big, but I confirmed my suspicions that there were indeed fish about. I unhooked him, he gave me a nice little stab in the hand and shot himself back into the water. The sting brought back good memories of last season.
I continued on for another hour or so, and it got dark very quickly. I pushed my way through a lot of scrub and lost sight of the creek as it was just too difficult to move beside it. I checked my watch, noting that the time was drawing close to 2000 and a sensible time to head back home. It was a wonderful feeling being back hunting the banks for the magnificent Australian bass. It was the first session of what I hope many of the season. I also tried changing my retrieve from right hand wind to left hand wind in an attempt to make recasting easier and faster. I still need a little practice, as it feels quite foreign. I am also hoping this season will bring another big first, first bass on fly. Only time will tell.