If you’re like me, at the end of yet another brutal week at work, all you want to do is go fishing! The problem is, most of us can’t just simply hitch the boat up and go away for a few days over the weekend. The bloody lawn needs mowing, the fridge needs re-stocking, and the Mrs insists on having the in-laws over…again!
With the window of fishy opportunity closing fast, the key is to start focusing in on your local areas for that satisfying fishing fix. If you look hard enough, even the biggest cities are abundant with small rivers, creeks and tributaries that not only fish well, but offer some of the most breathtaking scenery and complete solitude. It truly makes you feel like you’re a million miles away. With a pair of good hiking boots and an attitude for adventure, you too can enjoy your own little slice of Bass fishing paradise.
Finding your own Spot X
Modern technology now means that finding yourself a sneaky fishing destination no longer takes weeks of planning. Nor must you waste time bribing your mates with beer in hope that they spill the beans on their favourite secret spot. We have the resources and connectivity now to find a new spot to fish in minutes. Google Maps is the perfect place to start. The ability to zoom in on locations means that your new creek fishing spot is just a few mouse clicks away. Once you have found yourself some water, do a general internet search for the name of the creek (if it has one) and you will be amazed at what information is available. This is a worthy step in the process as some waterways are unfortunately closed off from any sort of fishing, and have very steep fines if you’re caught doing the wrong thing. The positive side is that you can hopefully uncover information such as fish stocking programs, or even the odd fishing report. So now you know you can fish it, we need to find out how to access it. Street view is a great addition to Google maps as it allows you to plot the access to your fishing location without getting off your ass. Thank you technology! Be mindful however, as some access points are via private property, so be respectful of this. As tempting as it is to just stealthily enter someone else’s backyard on route to your creek, in my experience, it’s always better to ask permission to access your location. If you ask nicely, most people won’t have a problem with giving you access. It’s amazing how many people ask the question “you want to fish in there?”
Australian Bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) are a valuable sportsfish that are readily available in most freshwater systems from Queensland to southern Victoria. They are an aggressive opportunist feeder that love nothing more than destroying a lure that has wandered into their domain. Bass are heavily dependent on structure for sustenance and shelter, and they will usually only leave sheltered spots under the cover of darkness. So, an accurate cast tight into structure is really the only way to entice a daytime Bass, as they simply can’t resist an easy meal. When fishing for Aussie Bass keep a close eye on the barometer. A high barometer normally means they will be on the chew, just keep in mind the old saying “1020 bass a plenty”. The best times to fish for bass in these tight creeks are either early morning or late afternoon. These low light times are prime times for flicking about surface lures. At these times, you will find Bass moving and feeding more freely within the river, instead of maintaining their position in heavy structure.
Don’t forget – there is a spawning closed season for Bass(excluding impoundment fishing) from the 1st of July to the 31st of August.
Preparing for Battle
When you’re heading off for a land-based adventure, keeping your gear to a minimum should be high on your priority list. There is usually an overwhelming amount of typically overgrown plant life along the edges of small creeks due to the generous water supply available to them. If you’re carrying a lot of gear, it’s very hard to make your way through the scrub, and you will tire very quickly moving from pool to pool. My normal gear bag consists of a camel pack backpack with the following:
• Lots of Water
• Small first aid kit
• Headlamp or torch
• Leader roll and Scissors
• Small box of proven lures
• Insect Repellent
Even though you aren’t far from civilisation, make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Phone reception is often poor, or non-existent in these overgrown deep gullies.
Lures of choice When trying to keep your pack weight down, you can’t just pack 100 different lures for every possible fishing scenario. Over the years, I have narrowed my lure selection down to just a few select lures – and I’m pretty quick to decide on what lure I should tie on first. The more familiar you are with your fishing spot, the easier you lure selection will become. A couple of surface lures, a few deep divers, a couple of mini spinner baits and some soft plastics will see you out for your fishing fix, and give you enough choice to cover most fishing conditions you will encounter in this habitat. I also tend to downsize my lure size when fishing in skinny creeks. The larger lures normally associated with Bass fishing in dams and large lakes are normally left at home. My selection of lures are similar to what you would normally use when Bream or Trout fishing. For conservation reasons, it is important to flatten the barbs on all you lures when fishing for these skinny creek Bass. We must remember that most rivers aren’t stocked, so it is up to us to look after our local fisheries.
Picking a Bass Stick
No need to rush out and buy a brand new outfit for skinny creek Bassin’. If you have a 6ft or similar 2-4kg rod with a 1000-2500 size reel, then you’re ready to go fishing. In fact the smaller your rod, the better off you are when moving from spot to spot. Be careful when trudging through the bush with a long rod, my custom 7ft 2-4kg masterpiece soon became a dedicated 5ft ‘4 tight country rod after I tried to go down an off path “shortcut”. This smaller rod also allows you to poke through some of the scrub and get a cast in, where it’s normally not possible. 4-6lb braid mainline or even 8-10lb monofilament is the perfect choice for this tight fishing. The benefit of mono is that you don’t need to worry about tying on a leader. Mono also offers you a little bit more abrasion resistance around snags than your standard braid and leader configuration. You don’t need to worry about missing out on the sensitive feedback that we all love when fishing with braid – there is nothing subtle about a bass strike!
Hitting the pools
Once you have reached your destination, sit back and take a bit of time to analyse each pool before wildly throwing your lures. Come up with a game plan first. Most pools have some deep areas on the edges, or some areas heavy in shadow. These are the areas you will want to focus your attention on first. Bass will spook quite easily, and in small pools you will do well to get more than 2 or 3 fish before having to move on as they have shut down. With the help of a good pair of polarized sunnies, you can often see submerged trees or rocks providing shelter for fish. A seemingly structure-less pool can be holding plenty of fish habitat(and fish!) in the middle, but without the help of your polaroids you may simply pass it by. If you’re fishing with a mate, make sure you each fish with a different style of lure. This will help you better identify what the fish are feeding on, and what is going to work for that particular day. The idea is to hit the same spot in quick succession with both lure types, again the bite window can be small, so your initial barrage of casts should really see you find any fish in that pool before moving up to the next pool.
Keep this combination going and keep a tally of what’s working, and whether it varies from pool to pool. This will help you identify what your next lure choice should be. Keeping a tally of fish caught also helps win you bragging rights at the end of the session.
Successful skinny creek Bassin’ also calls for casting accuracy. These small creeks will punish you (and your wallet) if you can’t make pinpoint direct casts to the fringes of snags where Bass are predominantly holding. When you start fishing the same location regularly, you will be amazed how quickly you are able to mentally map out each pool. In fact, if you fish a place often enough – you can even start to identify which fish lives under what snag…at least until floodwaters ‘reset’ the place. After heavy rain, new snags, new depths in pools, and all sorts of changes can occur. Whilst it does leave you back at square one, I like to think this keeps the same spot interesting.
Fishing for Bass in tight water is great fun and is readily available to everyone, so get out there give it a try and stay safe