Up the creek with a paddle

An overnight kayak camping trip exploring Berowra Creek and its many tributaries revealed a healthy population of lure crunching fish.

After a few weeks planning, my fishing buddy Greg and I set off on an overnight kayak camping trip in Berowra Creek, one of the major tributaries of the mighty Hawkesbury River in NSW, Australia.

With our camping gear on board, we launched our kayaks in the afternoon and paddled upstream. Progress was slow as we were paddling against the last of the run-out tide, and in this part of the world, the tide races quickly.

The water was clear and we were amazed at the number of bream we saw darting over the sandy bottom, which was very shallow in places. Some of the bream were of a decent size and it wasn’t long before our lure casting hands began to twitch.

We began casting soft plastics at the banks, working them gently through the shallows. The bream were responsive and we caught a few of them, impressed with how well they fought on light tackle.

Greg plays a fish to the kayak
Greg plays a fish to the kayak

On the river bends, deep banks were undercut against steep rock banks. These pockets of deep water looked to be prime hide-outs for estuary perch on a low tide. I managed a small perch from one of the pools, my first of the season.

Estuary Perch - one of my favourite lure fish targets
Estuary Perch – one of my favourite lure fish targets

After a few hours paddling upstream, we were ready to head back downstream. We’d spotted a likely looking camping spot on Google and were keen to set up camp before having a fish at dusk.

On the paddle back downstream, we picked up a few flathead on soft plastics. They’re such an obliging lure fishing target, always willing to smash anything you put in front of them. If all fish had the same positive attitude, we’d all be very accomplished anglers.

Soft plastics do the damage on flathead
Soft plastics do the damage on flathead

Flathead3

Flathead4

The tide was running strongly now. We were able to drift downstream, carried by the tide at a steady pace, casting as we went. Greg, sitting in a luxurious armchair on his Hobie, looked like a king on the throne as he waved his wand from side to side, casting and hooking a few nice bream up against the weed beds.

But not all fairy tales end happily. We discovered the camping spot, which looked so good on Google, was no more than an impenetrable forest of mangroves surrounded by thick, black mud. We couldn’t camp there.

Sunset was upon us and we had no option but to paddle back upstream, against the racing tide. Conditions became testing. It was nearing low tide now and it was so shallow over some of the sandbanks that we had to get out and pull the kayaks.

It was clear we had little chance of making it back upstream to our back-up camping spot. I had some whiskey on board and contemplated pulling over and drowning my sorrows. But as luck would have it, we found a small patch of level ground on a bend in the river.

We had learnt two hard lessons – respect the strength of tidal flow in Berowra Creek and  camping spots that look great on Google can turn out to be quite different when you arrive.

We set up camp, had a meal and a cold beer. Suddenly the world looked brighter again.

Very relieved to find some flat land to camp in such rugged country
Very relieved to find some flat land to camp in such rugged country
The water near our campsite was full of weed beds and large schools of mullet
The water near our campsite was full of weed beds and large schools of mullet

Next morning, we were up early and back on the water, paddling upstream. The country was beautiful. Steep cliffs, full of tall trees lined the banks. We were insignificant visitors in an ancient land.

Small boat, big country
Small boat, big country

Slightly upstream from our camp we came across a deep pool up against a rock face. We missed a few hits on our surface lures before  an estuary perch took pity on me.

EP4

 

We kept exploring upstream. The main part of the river was shallow but up against the bank it was often a metre deep, undercutting bushes that hung over the water. I noticed that a school of small fish were trapped in the shallows and something was ripping through them, splashing. I fired a long distance cast and for once, it fell perfectly. One twitch of the lure, then two, and smash! My first bass of the season. I was stoked.

Bass1

Bass