Summer is here and the recent hot and sticky nights reminded me of last December, when the family and I sneaked off from work and school for a little rest and relaxation – and a little fishing, of course.
Running a busy takeaway food shop is pretty stressful, especially during the chaotic Summer season. I desperately needed to relax for a few days before the silly season hit full swing and through a mutual friend I met William Baker. William, with his wife, Fiona, and her parents, John and Ann Saunders, recently took over the Clyde River Retreat on the upper freshwater reaches of the Clyde River. Bill graciously offered us the use of one of the cabins mid-week and we wholeheartedly accepted his offer.
To get there, we drove around 30 minutes north of Batemans Bay and turned left at the Termeil service station onto the Old Princess Highway Road for several hundred metres, then took a sharp right onto Middle Ridge Road. Take care, as this turn is easily missed. The next turn is a right onto Brooman Road, followed by a left onto Carisbrook Road. Look for a left turn at the Clyde River Retreat sign and you’ve made it.
Visitors travelling from the north could also take Monkey Mountain Road and ACT people can take The River Road before reaching Nelligen.
Bill gave us a tour of the property, showing us the two existing cabins, the river access and barbecue area complete with children’s play equipment, slide and swing. The retreat is a work in progress with approval for a further four cabins to be included in the future.
Our cabin, known as The Lodge, caters for a family or group and has two bedrooms, one with a double bed and a single bunk overhead and the other with a single and a double bunk. The second cabin, aptly named The Cabin, is a one-bedroom offering with an en-suite bathroom. It is suited to couples but could possibly be used for a small family at a pinch.
Both cabins are so well-equipped that you just need to arrive with your food, clothes and fishing gear, although we brought our own bed linen as well. Solar power takes care of the lights and switches, gas takes care of cooking and refrigeration and a back up generator is there to give the whole system a charge-up when necessary. A chest freezer is on the veranda for food storage on extended visits. Cutlery and crockery was more than ample. The bathrooms are even equipped with toiletries if you happen to forget something.
It took all of five minutes to feel right at home. There’s something special about the fresh smell of a timber dwelling and the slate floor kept the place cool on hot Summer days. It took two cans of rum and a good relaxing on the veranda listening to the din of the cicadas to finally motivate me to slip the kayak into the glassy waters of the upper Clyde.
Our stay followed a torrential downpour so the river was quite high and fast at each end of the deep pools. This made paddling from spot to spot a breeze, with less portage across boulder-strewn rapids, but the increased water levels made locating fish a bit harder.
The closest pool behind the retreat is incredibly deep, certainly much deeper than it is wide, and I could have killed for a sounder to check out the depths in detail. According to Bill, a group of fit young blokes had put bets on who could touch bottom in the middle of the pool and none of them succeeded.
Three-inch Slider grubs rigged on spinner-blade jigs fished really deep produced some small fish during the day and spinnerbaits would have been equally effective.
Cicadas were in such plague proportions that I believe they had a detrimental effect on the fishing. I watched them burbling along the surface, begging to be smashed by an agro bass, but they appeared safe.. Among the rapids, more cicadas than I could count lay dead, leaving me to believe that the local bass were full to the brim with them and not hungry.
Still, surface fishing with Jitterbugs and home-made, popper-headed surface plastics enticed explosive surface strikes at sunset and into the night. At times the noise the cicadas made was so deafening that they played havoc on my equilibrium while afloat and I had to get out and fish from the shore for a while for fear of losing my balance and rolling the kayak. Earplugs will certainly be mandatory for me this year!
This visit was a family expedition so fishing effort was not as intense as would normally be the case. Midday cruises with the kids in the canoe was relaxing for Mum and Dad and fun for the kids. We witnessed all kinds of wildlife, from large water monitors, a couple of platypus and the odd goanna. Lyrebirds rummaged through the dense bush and the modern world simply felt like it didn’t exist.
The kids were fitted out in quality lifejackets so they were free to float down a series of safe rapids and swim in a chest-high, gin-clear gravel pool until they were drained of energy. Neoprene ‘deck shoes’ are a must for walking through shallow rapids, especially for the kids, but some old sandshoes would also do the trick.
Back at the Lodge that evening, we sat on the veranda with a few drinks after dinner to be entertained by a large owl going from tree to tree, one by one silencing each noisy cicada with stealthy precision. Nature is certainly thriving around the retreat.
The river offers very limited opportunities for the angler with no paddle craft, due to the thickly-forested banks. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and fish from the shore but you need to have some form of floatation to access them unless you like swimming from spot to spot.
We took a three-person canoe as well as a kayak, which catered for the whole family nicely. Unfortunately, due to insurance constraints, the retreat is unable to provide use of their canoes so you’ll have to bring your own. As mentioned earlier, entertainment for the kids is available in the form of playground equipment. Much to the disgust of my nine-year-old daughter (but to the delight of her parents!), there was no television only a cassette radio. The cabin is stocked with a multitude of board and card games for rainy days and our kids managed to quickly make the place look like their bedrooms back at home. Some things never change!
We also brought the kids’ bikes along, which proved an antidote to the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome – the property has ample space for kids to ride around.
At the end of our three day stay I couldn’t recall feeling so relaxed and recharged in many years. I could find no negative aspect of the experience and will be definitely returning with the family again this December.
This stretch of river is a long way above the tidal reaches so rainfall would play an important role in fish movements. The solid rain of October should bode well for the big breeding bass to return to these waters and there should be some fantastic bass fishing. I can’t wait to get back up there for another look.
If this type of holiday appeals to you, make sure you book well in advance.
CLYDE RIVER RETREAT
The Cabin: Suited to couples, $100 per night.
The Lodge: Sleeps up to six at a cost of $100 per night per couple and $20 per each extra person (excluding primary school children and younger)
Contact: Visit Clyde River Lodge at www.budawang.com/clyderiverretreat.com.au or phone 02 4474 4726.
The play equipment was a big hit with the kids and the nearby barbecue area makes for a beaut lunch location.Reads: 5501