Burrinjuck Dam is around 57 km south-west of the township of Yass. Constructed in 1928, It was one of the first major dams built for irrigation in NSW (Supplying water for the local Riverina and in turn the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme).
The Lake itself has an immense surface area of 5500 ha, teamed with 645 km of shoreline it can hold just over double the water density of Sydney Harbour. An angling Mecca with a multitude of species available including Murray Cod, Golden Perch and a smattering of Redfin, Carp and perhaps remnant populations of Silver Perch, Trout, Atlantic Salmon, Eel-Tailed Catfish and Macquarie Perch.
FangACT (A Fishnet Anglers Group from Canberra) hold a friendly interclub competition here, celebrating the opening of Murray Cod season for the year. While it is held on a strictly mateship basis, pride is on the line with the chance of gaining your name permanently on the FangACT perpetual Cod opening trophy. At first I was confused as to the reason they hold their annual event here but winding my way down along the old rail line into Burrinjuck Waters State Park I immediately could see why. Burrinjuck Waters is a spectacular situate offering visitors a megalithic haven with pristine flora and fauna, it also offers immediate access to boat launching facilities.
Arriving Friday night after a long week of work I was greeted by Marty and Evan along with the ritual crew Heathy, Lynnie and Breezeabout. Spent a few hours chatting and meeting others including the infamous Nimrod (Your Fishnet reputation preceeds you, in a good way ) and setting up the car into my own private bungalow. Members stated the wind had been a factor for poor prefish results but it was beginning to abate for the evening. Deciding on a good nights rest I opted for the very, very early rise instead of the classic midnight fumble (Which can be deadly on a Kayak). My mobile alarm was set for 4am and anticipation was soaring, the waterway looked immense but prior to dark I managed to scope out a polite, safe pre-dawn run.Saturday 6/12/08 :
Rising slightly later than planned I was surprised to be the only member awake, I took this as an omen and snuck out of my campsite towards death or glory. The predicted winds made famous by the lakes open plan basin were non existent so I quickly pushed off. The sheer size of the main basin under the gloomy, early sunrise was slightly concerning but as always it was related to first time nerves. Paddling under kayak equipped lights helped calm the senses and made changing lures safely a dream, but what depth to run at, what brand to use and what colour/pattern to opt for?
Being an avid tackle buff I had been stocking my native lure supplies up for a few solid years, the choices always seemed confusing. For some reason today clarity was on my side, a Perch pattern and a Wagga Frog AC Invader duo were deployed without much ado. Following the shoreline expanse of Carrols Creek towards the Murrumbidgee arm brought a couple of small Redfin undone, maybe my expectations were too high but this run lacked serious meaning. Sure there were little sheltered inlets with cliff like sections but the bottom structure was featureless and ultimately weedless. I looked behind me to assess my GPS breadcrumb, the first boats of the day had launched, no doubt following the waters edge on the way to the ‘Bidgee mouth.
Tree lines appeared in the distance as the light grew stronger, paddling through saw some tense moments as I ducked and weaved my Hobie Quest through with little incident (Unfortunately). It was at this stage I hung up my spin outfits and switched to Bassman Spinnerbaits (Insert cash for comment here), throwing all weights and all sizes with all different types of blade configurations. Small Redfin schooled close by with the occasional tap, shake and bake but nothing of significance. With recent native success on SB’s I felt confident but no reward saw a return to the old, troll fold. Custom Crafted make a wonderful lure called a Hammerhead (In ambush purple/red stripe colour), it’s seen better days and in desperate need of a treble upgrade but got the nod anyway.
Leaving the Wagga Frog to fend for itself I pushed over towards Cave Island, entering deeper water with every paddle stroke. When I hit 28m I felt a little uneasy, realising I was still all alone (Not for long mind you) but that soon faded once protruding timber emerged from bank side breakaways. I feel much safer hugging banks, much like a kid longing for his teddy; I guess it’s just a psychological thing (Mummy?). Rounding the rocky end of ‘Jucks island home I encountered the mother off all drop offs that saw me whack my sounder in dismay, “Don’t break now, stupid thing!” I muttered. Having a further glance at the pixelated screen revealed columns, thermoclines, bait schools and a whole lot of DEPTH! (Features included a 6m to 31m high-rise drop).
The lures drop back was such that I felt the Wagga Frog brush the 6m undergrowth before exploring depths unknown, as for the Hammerhead well he was operating on his own terms and conditions. Diving way beyond its intended marching path I didn’t take much notice of either lure until I was well and truly out of sight of the State Park. Boats disappeared from view; the sun appeared and highlighted another depth change, this time an increase from 31m to 34m with even deeper deviations. My previously safe bank side edge loomed steeply above me and the water began confusing itself, I felt out of my depth for a split second (Excuse the pun) and completely alone. Just when I was about to call out for my Mum and look for Teddy, all hell broke loose!
During the next off paddle (Paddle dip on the right) the left hand side of the yak jolted violently, Nitlon screamed from the reel and the rod loaded up something fierce. Its these initial bursts of power that make kayak fishing rewarding but extremely difficult at the same time, I could not for the life of me wrench the miracle combo out of the Scotty triple mount. I have developed a strategy when dealing with big fish from a yak and really only applies to this particular rod setup (Mainly due to this being the most successful one). It involves lots of self help techniques, total mindset procedures and a hell of a lot of patience. “Big fish, big fish, big fish” I coached myself, feeling the raw pulling power surge deeper into the crystal clear, emerald brine.
Almost on cue the wind began howling creating a drift line directly towards the daunting rocky face. Patience in my gear and confidence in my knots helped reassure my fate but oh how I began regretting not upgrading those old rusty hooks. Big tail beats spun drag settings into overdrive but funnily enough stopped as quickly as it started, this is when I saw the first glimpse of the white fin tips. It came to the surface quite quickly (Probably due to its swim bladder ), pausing for a moment on its side. Performing one last dash beneath the kayak the fish was beat but with my compromising position closing I had to make some very important decisions very, very quickly. The Quest began kissing the ledge placing my Nitro Undertaker a little to close for comfort. A quick reposition, a deck check, a glance for the lip grips/pliers plus a gentle hand nudge away from the rocks saw the environet come into play.
While the fish remained relatively calm once onboard, my nerves were overloaded with mesmerizing adrenaline. After 20 seconds of correct handling and stubborn hook removal my catch and release prize lay upon my wet lap, a beautiful, fat Murray Cod. Trying to get some time for a quick photo shoot proved difficult, my waterproof pants were deemed too slippery to attempt anything more than some simple happy snaps. Surveying my surroundings one final time (In an attempt to embrace FangACT Cod opening success) I placed a ruler across the fishes length and tallied up 66cm hastily. With a slightly raised head, engorged stomach and tail slope it was possibly not accurate enough. I am a man of modesty (Maintaining some brag ability) but if anything this icon was estimated one to two cm larger than submitted comp length.
Swapping the tightly bound lip grip lanyard from one wrist to another allowed a classic release away from stoned harm. Supporting its enormous guts and girth was an incredible feeling, having my wrist twisted off upon release was not. Immediately it indicated it was ready to go and soaked me from head to toe with two massive beats of its tail, subtly waving good bye and giving me the finger in one sift sweep south. I found shallower water and celebrated with a well earned rest (Plenty of fist pumping action), opting once finished to retrace my island path backwards and head back to the campground. Certain pertaining conditions saw this fish not make it onto a brag mat (Not what I personally recommend doing with Cod caught from a kayak), unfortunately the main requirement for entering fish in the FangACT Cod opening competition.
The winds eased enough for a brisk paddle back, maybe they didn’t. Could have been the smile emanating from my phizog parting the lake, paddling definitely felt that little bit easier. Arriving on Friday night after State Waters office hours I was due to check in my car and campsite by 9am sharp this morning, leaving enough time to gloat humbly at the ramp to a FangACT member who was previously tinkering with his plated vessel. It was great finding a welcoming Evan, knowing full well he would appreciate any capture from a kayak (Being a yak angler himself). After wishing him well, he ventured out solo into the now buffeting conditions. Glancing at the time on the GPS I packed up rapidly, gradually working my way up and through the park to the State Waters office (Noticing another more serious fishing competition gathering).
One by one the club anglers returned to camp, beaten and bruised by the foreboding wind. Tales of singular Golden Perch and tiny Redfin whiffled throughout our heavily tackle laden community. Many of us slept throughout the daylight heat, hoping to awake mid afternoon to a mirror finished conclusion to an otherwise slow day fishing. Strong wind gusts died to some extent, warranting another expedition towards the Murrumbidgee arm. Spying the white caps surrounding the Cave Island a few 100m away, I concentrated on loving the now local banks once again (Only this time I made it into the ‘Bidgee arm). Whilst trying to maintain a drag free drift a assemblage of redneck piss swillers threatened nearby, many chants of “Dump him!” carried the distance separating our to dissimilar craft. Given the conditions and the urgency of such a thing happening I retreated, parting ways with a peaceful bird gesture (No shadow puppet animation here).
I suffer from a no retreat, no surrender mentality, but conditions weren’t improving. Slogging my way back to camp I pondered what makes fellow anglers act improperly towards kayak fisherman. Were we viewed as a threat? Hardly… Were we considered inadequate? Possibly… My mind continued racing, the only sure fire way of making a couple of painstaking kilometres feel like brief moments in time. With more reports of lacking captures we rounded off the night with a good old FangACT raffle (Courtesy of Marty and generous sponsors/individuals). Heathy, Lynnie and Steve wandered in after, with a successful tale or two. In their words of wisdom, insane kamikaze trolling runs were required to secure a fish, against the wind and tight to structure. Murray Cod, Golden Perch and Redfin reports were distributed for the listening, finally some positive angling effort, indicating persevering in the wind could pay off.
Bunking down for the night, the Subaru was getting a confined feel to it. Maybe I was facing impervious facts that roll out mattresses (No matter the diameter/thickness) should not be expected to provide maximum comfort, even when used in a stackable, tandem formula. The Foresters windows were rolled down, Aeroguard applied and the phones alarm was once again set solid to 4am (Give or take a snooze button or two). Even after seven hours of trolling against an unrelenting stiff breeze, I still had trouble sustaining a civilized sleep pattern (Leaving my sneakers outside next time might help!). The wind was still around when I woke on Sunday morning, I hit the snooze button too many times and turned the alarm attribute off accidently (That’s what I kept telling myself anyway). Sunday 7/12/08 :
Rising without crack of dawn rota felt great, as my weather-beaten body obviously needed a rest. Spoke to a few of the boys to make sure I was not the only fool heading out and nicked off ahead of them with dreams of making the now infamous freshwater atoll. Once almost underway, heaven breathed heavily as the blustery weather sprang into life once more. Making headway this time proved impossible; despite the fact the flurries were showing a somewhat gentile nature. Carrols Creek was in the middle of a European surface invasion, never in my life have I seen so many tailing Carp before. Trying to find shelter was as fruitless as an orchard after a hail storm, my arms were broken and my bulk was trodden, surely somewhere out there was another fish for me?
I cut my energetic losses and called it a trip, frugally obtaining a paddling pace Sally Robbins (Lay down Sally) would have been proud of. The others had either not ventured out or had returned to camp previously, all except the brethren three. Whilst reshuffling gear in the car and undertaking maintenance on my site, Heathy, Lynnie and Steve bided farewell and commenced exiting the Park (Only to be passed at the local State Waters tuck shop). It was after two minutes of trying to hail Marty or any other member on the UHF that I noticed the caravan and tents were gone, I was treating myself like a clueless, late bridesmaid. A tonne or more dead Carp dumped into a ute tray (By the real fishing competitors) saluted me on my way out, no doubt scheduled for a long and dirty appointment with a deep hole somewhere…Conclusion :
Sometimes all it takes is a short, country drive to realise you are as close to kayak fishing heaven as one could/can get. In every reachable direction, north, south, east or west, a journey of less than two hours can get you fishing immaculate, well-known destinations with plenty of folk lore attached. If it was not for the famous three P’s, Politicians, Politics and pornography, I am sure Canberra would have been branded another ‘The gateway to…’ town. Needless to say past capital planning included various stages of urban waterways, no doubt to cool the heatwave from emitted from Parliament House representatives (Thank god for visionaries, Walter Burley Griffin).*ENDE*