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Nepean River Spooled Trip - Jan 2007

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PathFishing Report » Freshwater Reports » River

Article by Spooled ( Watch )
Posted17/02/07 11:00:00 (Australia/Sydney)
This arcticle has been viewed 7575 times.

▲TopNepean River Jan 07

▲TopDay 1 – The hope of Big things:

After an extremely event filled 2006 for Spooled, our first Spooled Trip for 07 was a welcome relief. A time before life gets back to normal, our programmers return and our workload begins. So on Sunday afternoon after much anticipation it had arrived. With the car packed and the yaks roped down we set off toward the Nepean River.

The Camp at Devlins rd - Nepean River
The idea was that we would set up camp that evening and have five solid days of fishing. While this wasn’t our maiden voyage with the Feel Free Nomad Sit on Top Kayaks (www.activewatersports.com.au) it was the first real workout they were to get. When we used to do these trips in previous years we would use a canoe. So due to our crafts a little thought was required to what we took.

After alighting from the car and seeing it motor away we knew we were close. A reconnaissance mission had been conducted prior to see if it was possible to camp at our usual spot as some 7kms of river is now blocked by the mines. Forced to fish in a lower section, the reconnaissance mission had located a suitable camp.

Nepean River 20
The journey in would require many trips, to ferry the gear to the camp. Luckily a return trip was little over 20 minutes though and two hours (or 6 trips) later we were there. With around one and a half hours of light left we set up the tents, gathered some firewood for the night and settled down.

After a late night we decided we would concentrate on the Bass the next evening. With a reasonably late rise of around 8 am we had a breaky of Bacon and Eggs along with the mandatory coffee and set of for the day.

Jaye with Mullet 2

Even though we were itching to get at the Bass, we try to not work the same water twice if we can help it, so they would have to wait. Kayaks readied, tackle box loaded, rods rigged and holstered we set off chasing mullet. We had seen them everywhere on the way in, with mullet and carp tearing off in all directions as we disturbed them. I was actually quietly excited about the mullet fishing itself. I had seen the largest population of mullet in the river ever and the largest individuals too, with Bully mullet 2 and even 3kg in large abundance. While the carp were a little recluse, we did see a few on our way in.

We didn’t need to travel to far from camp to find fish; we actually began fishing almost camp-side. The river was extremely weed filled with Elodea or Egeria weed, Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) (www.ricecrc.org), and Bubble weed (Alligator weed) the major culprits. The Elodea had formed thick forests from bank to bank. With low water levels the deepest sections of the river were only 20 feet, this meant that the weed covered the entire riverbed. The mass of weed left pockets of open water above the canopy of the marauding Elodea.

Jaye hooked up to a nice Mullet
Jaye hooked up to a nice Mullet
The unbelievable growth of these noxious waterway weed is due to many factors: firstly and most obviously the initial introduction by humans, but from here it has been maintained by the nutrient content being pumped into the river, specifically the treated waste outlets which are numerous (26 I believe to date), the lack of flow from our 6 year drought, and fertilizers entering the system from local farming operations, just to name a few.

On the upside the weed filters the water of waste and provides homes to literally millions of fish (and that was just in the 3kms we traversed.) Not to mention the food it provides, allowing the fish to flourish. The bread being attacked on the surface was a testament to that.

Swallow nests
Swallow nests are a good place to fish under when they overhang the water as Bass wait for the Baby birds to fall out, so do Water Dragons too though and they chase lures also so be careful not to hook a dragon
Our spinning reels were rigged with small red and white bubble floats, no weight and a No 10 hook (which in my opinion is still one size too big, I usually fish a No 12), the tinniest piece of bread rolled into a 3mm (diameter) ball placed on the end of the hook just above the gap, point exposed. A quick flick past the school and a retrieve back to them saw the float bobbing in the water. I believe the white section of the float is supposed to be position at the top and the red the bottom, however we invert the float as even when not using berley the white part of the float being under the water always gets attention if the mullet are around.

Water Dragon
Water Dragon
It wasn’t long until Jaye was into the first one and after a little tug of war a 1kg Bully mullet was pulled in, unhooked and released. I must admit it always feels better when the first fish of a trip is caught, even if it isn’t caught by you. We were on the board and considering the mullet were biting I took out the fly rod and tied on a bread fly. The bread fly was also too big, at a size 8 although this is the smallest size my local tackle store had (note to self - start tying own flies). While it got a little interest its size prevented hook-ups as jiggler had now landed his second fish, I was quickly getting over the long wand. Removing my rod from the Feel Free Fish-pods rod holder I cast out to join the action. It wasn’t 3 minutes before the float disappeared; my first mullet for the trip was on its way. Jaye asked for my fly rod and began to harass the school. I had now landed a couple more fish but we were about to pick-up and move due to the size of the fish which were all around the 1kg mark when Jiggler coaxed a bite out of a Bully on the bread fly. While he too was only a kilo, Jaye definitely enjoyed himself and the grin as the fish was brought boat side said it all. Released unharmed we headed off to look for a bigger target.

Jaye with Mullet from the FeelFree Nomad
Jaye with Mullet from the FeelFree Nomad
Our journey was short lived as our Spotters allowed us to polarize bigger fish in the pools up ahead. As there was a slight wind we parked the kayaks in the weed which acted as an anchor and gave a little distance between us and the fish, which were spookier than they usually are. Throwing out a couple of half pieces of bread (one either end of a large pool) to test if they were biting, told us we should be in for a good season with these bruiser Mullet that were hammering the bread on the surface.

Jaye again led the way taking the first big Bully at approx 1.7kg. Seeing that aggressive bite is such a buzz as Jaye connected and worked the fish to the edge of the pool, through the weed as quickly as possible, trying not to disturb the school.

Locals getting busy
Some of the locals getting busy with it.
I have to say at this point in time, while fishing from a canoe is good, (which is why we use to do it so often). Fishing from the Feel Free Nomads was a sheer pleasure. Everything from their stability, to their maneuverability, was infinitely better then any canoe I have ever been in. But enough about that for now (see upcoming Product Review). Seeing Jaye work the fish from the Nomad was great fun to watch, however not being a spectators sport and in true mate-ship, it had now become necessary for me to beat Jaye’s effort. As my float was knocked around like a pinyarda by the monster mullet my chances of actually achieving this looked pretty good.

The Camp
As the float took off underwater and I struck to set the hook the fight was on. I’m not quite sure if this was the biggest mullet I have ever caught but it would definitely be one of them if it wasn’t. He dove to the bottom of the pool and began to move the Kayak from its resting place (quite a feet considering we were in weed). The Hull of the craft now in open water meant the wind which we were neutralizing by being in the weed began to push me up river, while the fish went down river. Attempting to keep the line as tort as possible without snapping the leader (3kg) proved very interesting. I was forced to release the bail and allow more line just to stop from losing the fish as the wind was pushing me up river, and fast. I had to get back to the pool, but without the aid of any mechanical device to get me there it meant I had to paddle. So with my rod in my mouth I paddled as fast as I could back to the pool stopping just short the fish was now deep in the weed and weight of it alone on the line scared the hell out of me. With caution, patience and a little persuasion, I eventually managed to get him boat-side. He would have gone 2 kilos easy…What a buzz!

Massive mullet from kayak YEEHAA!!!

With photos taken, the fish was slipped back in the water and we went about chalking up a few more on the board. That particular pool proved extremely productive as we battled 14 fish in a 3 ½ hour session and only dropped 2. The smallest fish was around 1.6 kg, the largest and majority, were around the 2kg mark. Now almost 4pm we decided to head back to camp for lunch and a cold beer before setting out for our first evening bass fish.

After lunch, a quick clean-up, dishes done and fire readied (in case of a late return) we headed off. The sun was just touching the tops of the mountains. We were still a little early although we were of the opinion we should still do ok. Paddling across the river to fish west bank and more specifically the shadows, we began to work the snags. Jaye fishing a fizzer, while I used a Spinnerbait to cover both options. We leap frogged each other down the river. By the first hundred metres we were shattered. A stretch that big would have ordinarily produced multiple strikes and very minimum 2 or 3 landed, but nothing! Jaye had a couple of follows by tackers (juveniles around 10 cm) but nothing encouraging. The weed proved a nightmare for the spinnerbait and growing tired of de-weeding it, I also opted for a surface lure. A Bugger Chug was the weapon of choice, again to vary the options and cover all bases. After 500 metres we felt positively defeated, the sun now well and truly below the horizon and there was no reason we shouldn’t have been hooking fish. We decided to fish another 100 metres or so before we’d call it a night. Without raising a single strike we paddled back defeated. We were obviously confronted with a very different river this season. While Jiggler and I hadn’t put a trip in, on the Nepean in 3 years and our most productive year being six years ago (before the drought). The amount of Bass or at least hits had dropped out of site.

From a mind numbing, hand throbbing 120 Bass (all 30 – 50 cm) per day six years ago. Hard to believe - but not a word of a lie. To 30 - 40 per day three years ago, to 3 follows, nothing landed, by little more then a tadpole. Tonight would be about deduction and the formulation of a new plan of attack I set the mobile for 5:30am and we hit the hay.

▲TopDay 2 – We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto

Morning mist over the Nepean River
Morning mist over the Nepean River
A reasonably peaceful ringtone signaled it was time to fish. As we emerged from our tents we found we were a little late, the sun had already began to rise. With no time to lose we jumped on the yaks and paddled up the east bank of the river to begin our first serious Bass fish. Jaye tied on a Producer (Fizzer imitation) these are our lures of choice for Bass - yellow and green for morning and black for the afternoon and night are generally the most productive.

Baby Duck
I decided to stick with the Bugger Chug again, which I haven’t had a great deal of success with or at least in comparison to the Fizzer’s (on the Nepean River in any event.) The morning mist still hung above the waters surface. A peaceful silence that can only be found in the early hours of the morning, in places just like this. Romantic scenery aside, the fishing just wasn’t happening. The lures trajectory perfect, baitcaster spool thumbed, lovely splash down, perfect!!! Wait, wait ripple rings increasingly further from the little artificial, twitch, twitch. A skilled fisherman always knows when a fish should strike, they also know where that fish lives, similarly that same fisherman knows when he/she has put in the most perfect cast available, irrespective of innumerable refusals some snags are just better than others and if any snag where to hold a Bass, this one would! Twitch, Twitch, and as my heart fell I realized this was going to be a tough trip Bass wise.

120 Bass (all 30 – 50 cm) per day

When the fish aren’t biting Jaye and I are almost always silent, using every scrap of knowledge and experience to put in the perfect cast, selecting lure’s according to water temperature, light, available bait for the target species, pulling out old retrievals in an attempt to raise interest.

Nothing, and with the sun now up we turned for camp and breakfast. Over the boiling billy and a crackling fry pan of bacon and eggs, we decided we would attempt to fish the west bank one more time that evening. If we failed to produce Bass, we would implement plan B. Plan B was a reconnaissance’s mission, and an attempt to get to the section of the river we used to fish, further up river, even though I had failed on the previous Recon.

Rick with Mullet
After grub we pushed off and fished for mullet for the rest of the day. The Nepean River Bass trip was well and truly turning into a Nepean River Mullet trip as we lost count of the mullet for the day. All we knew was that we had caught and released more then 20, average around 1.5-1.6kg, with a few freshies (fresh water mullet) thrown in for good measure. Apart from the fact I wouldn’t actually eat anything that came out of the Nepean River (for oblivious reasons) I will state at this point we rarely take fish and almost always release our total catch. I am all for taking up to your bag limit and love a feed of fish, however we generally fish for the sport more than anything else.

Remanence of days gone by
Remanence of days gone by
We set off early that evening as we had a long paddle ahead of us. We were about 2km away from the camp before the sun was setting and we began to fish. To embarrassed to talk about it, and going unseen and unheard it wasn’t even mentioned until the paddle home that Jaye had caught a tacker Bass, the even sadder part was that it was our first and only bass for the trip.

▲TopDay 3 - Mandatory Reconnaissance Mission at 5am

The mobile was far too chipper considering there was every likelihood we would not raise a Bass for our efforts. We pounced on the Nomads though with all the vigor of the Lone Ranger and Tonoto (slight exaggeration). We put in almost 3 hours and only raised one fish, a 19cm monster succumb to the subtle persuasions of Jigglers Producer. While I had fished various colour Bugger Chugs with no success. Same drill of breakfast and a coffee gave us sustenance for the day ahead.

Nomads go ANYWHERE!!!!
Nomads go ANYWHERE!!!!
The cows finally gathering the courage to inspect the campsite just before we rounded the bend, losing site of the camp. The recon mission would be long, and based on the mission a few weeks earlier, which let me know not to bother; I knew it would be a nightmare. The sections of the river which separated the upper and lower parts was only about 1.5 – 2 kilometres, but the obstacles where constant. With huge sections of almost impassable weed, fallen tress, little or no water. All in all a very character building experience.

Reconnaissance mission
Sometimes reconnaissance missions are tough going
So as the main river spilt into 3 inflows divided by two Islands our journey began. Sweat was pouring off us, as we dragged the Nomads up rapids, over log jams, and through hectares of dammed up bubble weed. The purpose of the mission was to see how viable it was to either move camp or traverse the route pre-dawn. Two hours later we decided to turn back for all we knew a clearing in the river could very well have been around the next bend (even though the tree line didn’t denote that). So began the long haul back to base. After a long trip back a well earned cold beer was a welcome relief.

There were absolutely no deep areas of the river unaffected by weed. This meant our usual carp fishing session throughout the day were also out, and site fly fishing for them with a nymph proved fruitless this trip. Poor bloody mullet. You guessed it, after fishing the same stretch of river for them, the mullet were very spooked. So we moved further up stream and cleaned up again with double hook-ups right, left and centre. Day 3 was good!!!

Heading up stream that evening we even produced a couple more little bass around the 20cm mark.

The Bar
Back at The Bar for a well earned beer

▲Top Day 4 - Thank Christ for that!

We had given up on getting up at 5am considering the fishing was as tragic as it was, however another top mullet day.

Rare species ---- A Bass
Rare species ---- A Bass
Then it finally happened. In the evening of the forth day after our offers where refused from multiple fishy looking snags the little Bugger Chug got absolutely pumbled by the first decent fish all week. As he fought the little Excursioner and Abu 1500c, I fought desperately to keep him out of the timber he was so desperately trying to return to, but before to long he was landed and I breathed a sigh of relief. Well he must have felt like a superstar, as cheers from the crowd (us) and flashes from cameras, seemingly came from all direction. For so much commotion to take place over a 30cm Bass the river really is in a sad state. While we deliberated into the night as to the reasons the fact remains the fishing is very different to the old days.

Double Mullet hook up
Double Mullet hook up
Whether it is just that they are all extremely well fed, with the millions (literally) of baitfish that now inhibit the vast forests of weed. Or that they cannot really penetrate the weed which in some stretches is absolutely choking and therefore chooses to stay in the lower reaches. The lack of oxygen that is an inherent part of noxious weed growth. Maybe simply the limited flow has restricted their return from their winter spawning runs down to the Hawkesbury River. We are not sure! We do know though that they aren’t taking food items off the surface nearly as readily as they once did, and as fishing divers is not an option, this makes the fishing rather dismal indeed.

▲TopDay 5 – The smell of camping, a true test of a Marriage

With our last days Bass fish only turning up one 16-17cm fish we headed back to camp for breaky and began packing. Even though the Bass where a bit of a disappointment. All in all it was a top trip.

The paddle out
The paddle out - Who say's your limited with Kayaks
While I’m aware it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think personally, there is something very special about camping in the Australian bush. It’s a must! Something that all men should do from time to time. The unmistakable smell you come out with after a big trip. Living of tinned food or whatever you catch, smelling like you have been hung in a smokehouse, throw in the smell of handing fish all week and no showers and you’ve got it.

A place where a bloke can just be a bloke.

Damn it’s good to be an Aussie!!!

Nomad diving platform
The Nomads make a great diving platform in hot weather

Two Seater Nomad
These boys were over the moon with their Two Seater Nomad they purchase from the Sydney Boat Show

The Madatory Cricket game
The Madatory Cricket game

Waterbird nest

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