The centrepiece of the Shoalhaven scheme is Tallowa Dam, a concrete dam completed in 1976. It is located immediately downstream of the junction of the Kangaroo and Shoalhaven rivers. The Tallowa Dam collects water from a 5,750 square kilometre catchment that extends from Kangaroo Valley in the north-east to the upper Shoalhaven River south-west of Braidwood. This water is stored in Lake Yarrunga, which is formed by Tallowa Dam. Lake Yarunga is the main water supply for the Shaolhaven and is one of Sydney’s major regular drinking water supplies.
Tallowa dam holds the water back and this flows into the Shoalhaven River which starts well above the dam wall itself. This lake is stocked with Australian Bass, stocking records vary but 80,000 fingerlings were released there in late 2006 under a NSW government grant deal. It is a paddle only Lake / Dam and access is from parts of Kangaroo Valley, Bendeela camping grounds and the Tallowa Dam wall.
• Height: 43 metres
• Length: 518 metres
• Capacity: 90,000 megalitres
• Catchment: 5,750 square kilometres http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/research/area
Kangaroo Valley is often used as a thoroughfare to a better place, a journey way to the South Coast areas of Nowra and the boutique locations of Berry and beyond. The Valley itself is one of rolling, lush green plains and tourism delights. Signs like ‘Worlds best Pies’ and ‘Bush Retreat’ scatter the road sides amongst headiness hideaways and thoughtful propositions. Tourism and tranquillity are what holds Barrengary and the valley commune together, it certainly seems to ooze that dreamy appeal but its what lurks well hidden beyond that makes this author drool.
The Sydney Catchment Authority controls access to many of the waterways that are governed by Lake Yuranga and to a lesser extent Tallowa Dam. To help control rural roundhouses the SCA have provided free camping facilities below their topical pumping station at Bendeela. Add to this the camping facilities at Tallowa Dam Picnic Area (Closed till May 30th, 2009)
Having explored our tenting options at the last minute we were left with only one true destination, the heavy populous presence of the camp ground at Bendeela Picnic Area. Herds of campers and tourists alike crammed the large, landscaped plain shielded by Security Guards from the SCA. At first they were an unwelcome sight but after the second night they proved there silent sentry to no end. Access to the Kangaroo arm of the Dam was envious enough but not explored, after all it was only a daily 20 minute trip back into the township and down a battered Scanzi Road.Saturday 11/4/09:
Rising at 6am to a quiet surround we hit the road early to dictate time remaining, Jason and Michelle had been patient enough but with dawn upon us it was time to take the trip down to the Tallowa Dam Wall. Being only the second time I have had the pleasure of visiting this destination I was still in complete awe at such picturesque surrounds. The construction of the fish ladder is still ongoing and controls most of the car park, ferrying gear to and fro is easy enough and somewhat more rewarding whence finally on the waters facade.
My good friend Jason Price (Squidder), his partner Michelle (Squidette), Claire and myself launched and paddled eagerly past the Dam wall and onwards to glorification. I had been yearning to expose this destination since it was shared with me early last year, something I was hoping to pass on to associated individuals who share the same passion for experience. The huge expanse of the meeting river system showed us no real beginning and no real end, bank side wilderness varied from bush to rainforest with secluded coves providing personal respite from distance purchased on watercraft.
Rounding the first point closest to the Dam wall, Claire and I had a double hook up of Bass using differing lures and techniques. After freeing weed from the rear treble of a Mini Micro Mullet, my first Bass came from a cast and retrieve whilst Claire’s trolled Stumpjumper was taken on the resulting pause. The overcast weather threatened to rain and kept the eastern bank in shade most of the morning, with Bass taken so early during the trip the rest of the initial daylight hours would surely set precedence for the following day.
As we moved along the arterial walls the gorge structure loomed large, amid sight seeing and pure venture we trolled towards the horizon paying attention not only to our surroundings but to any per chanced surface activity. The Bass were switched on thick and fast, no sooner had one been released over the side the next was being reeled in. While major length and girths was lacking there were a few moments of joy and sadness, a large rogue Bass estimated around the high 40’s mark almost graced my net until hooks pulled in accordance with gambled pressure on light leader load.
As a group we fished apart most of the morning, just as Jason and Michelle came over to see how we were doing on our Tandem Outfitter Claire had a massive hit from within a weed bed. The hit was so fierce that two hooks on the Chubby Deep front treble broke off during impact, rendering the Ghost Ayu patterned lure back to the tackle box. Michelle scouted ahead and found a small landing that had once occupied a campsite of sorts, landing six kilometres after initial departure we cooked up some sausage sandwiches and rested up for the return toil.
It was at this stage we sighted two large Carp in the front of Jason’s Kayak, taken by Michelle on a rather challenging lure choice. Sighting said fish around the weeds she carefully paddled over and cast towards their location, being ambushed by feral species might not sound like anyone’s cup of tea but the resounding fight is thoroughly worth it. I had been trying to land a Carp on a lure since I started Kayak Fishing and had been cruelly defied many times before; to say I was envious of Michelle’s achievements would be an understatement!
Goals are meant to be achieved but when and where are set to be determined (And out of my control), perhaps it was a bizarre coincidence but Claire and I both landed Carp on our return trip (Averaging the same size as previous models). Claire was also severely skunked by a demonic feral intent on freedom and a piercing. Drag peeled far too quickly for either of us to fathom what has happening at the time, our only clue was a polarised Carp mooching amongst branch structure as we braced for an impending impact that left us speechless and slightly poorer for the experience.
Making our way towards a large dead timber forest we started counting how many fish Claire and I landed, making for an interesting competition and lure result comparison. After losing the Chubby lure choice became a little interesting, some well known Bass lures didn’t receive a touch while others more suited to Trout ( Think minnow profile ) cleaned up. Throwing Spinnerbaits in amongst the woodwork brought out a few Bass but follows were rare. Unlike the Bass dams far north the tip to fishing Tallowa is to find rocky cliffs and bushy overhangs and suspend offerings, even surface lures were refused on an otherwise ideal top water day.
During the paddle/pedal back to the ramp we encountered more fish and the numbers just kept building, with other a dozen Bass and a couple of Carp between us it was great entertainment making up for the last few months of difficult fishing and slow results. A quick shuffle of gear and we hurriedly beat the rain, retreating back to Bendeela for a well earned afternoon kip and a curry dinner. It’s a very busy, noisy campground during various festive holidays but would be a prime, quiet base camp on ‘normal’ weekends. Sunday 12/4/09:
Deciding to pack up our gear after our final sortie we trekked back to the wall and headed in the opposite direction to our previous trip. It’s amazing how close the Bass held to the main basin and how few were landed when the ramp was out of sight. On one side of the arm it was rather shallow with muddy patches due to overnight rain runoff, the other side had the original depth of the river and steep banks (And even deeper snags).
With new lures deployed ( Secret Creek and a Megabass Smolt X ) Claire and I trolled up its reaches sticking close to the edges and running parallel along the weed beds, Jason and Michelle stuck to the opposite side using similar tactics. Once inside the small bays cast and retrieved lures with small buoyant pauses would often bring a fish into sight, watching these hungry genuses strike our offerings so close to the yak was gob smacking stuff. After switching to a top water presentation with the ever reliable Ecogear PX 45, the buoyant, non floating presentations were deemed (As a rule of thumb) more appropriate when casting to structure.
With the sun shining brightly the fish were a little harder to tempt than the previous day, somehow though with little time left we still managed 15 Bass with Claire toughly owning this date. The tight action of the Secret Creek plug and the pumpkinseed colouration triumphed on the day, even out classing the Brown Trout pattern of the Predatek Min Min. Jason and Michelle’s challenging lure choice the day before was once again doing the damage (Daiwa ‘Flick Beat IZM), but this time without the Carp hat trick. While these invasive species were so prevalent in the other arm they were almost non existent in these parts, probably due to the lack of terrestrial activity and sheer abundance of food within a more rainforest surround.Conclusion:
A previous leg injury to Michelle was aggravated enough to force her in early, easily the biggest days she has had on a kayak since moving to Canberra. Speaking of injuries my bulging lower fifth vertebrae and slight Sciatica behaved itself quite well during the trip, mainly due to my recent gym membership, daily runs and improved core fitness regime (Accompanied by the cycling action of the Mirage Drive). We all moved back to the now busy ramp to pack up our gear and reminisce on such a wonderful venue, stopping briefly below the wall to capture some images of the upper reaches of the mighty Shoalhaven River.
The joys of a quiet weekend paddle could be heard echoing amongst the winds; with a distinct lack of power and electric boats (Not permitted here) it really is a special place begging to be explored via Canoe or Kayak. Even during such a busy weekend we still virtually had the place to ourselves, spotting only a handful of anglers over the entire trip (Most of which were shore based). When the camp ground/picnic area reopens in June of this year I will definitely be venturing here more often, trying to top my previous efforts and rid the population of Carp from Sydney’s secondary water supply.
Tallowa Dam and the Kangaroo Valley district is situated on the Shoalhaven River near Kangaroo Valley, about 200 kilometres south from Sydney, approximately 200km north from Canberra and a leisurely half an hours drive from the coastal township of Nowra. From Sydney, follow the Hume Highway [F5] south towards Goulburn and take the Mittagong to Bowral turnoff. Take Nowra Road towards Kangaroo Valley. Turn right at Kangaroo Valley Just before Hampden Bridge to Bendeela Picnic Area. For Tallowa Dam, continue across Hampden Bridge and turn right.
Famous for its camping grounds scattered around at Bendeela, Barrengarry and the Tallowa Dam wall ( Currently closed due to construction ), the Kangaroo Valley offers many styles of accommodation from Bed & Breakfasts, Retreats, Lodges, Farm stays down to the traditional styling’s of Glenmack Caravan Park / Kangaroo Valley Tourist Park.