There are not too many serious bass anglers who haven’t heard of Bass Lodge, on the upper reaches of the Macleay River about 90km west of Kempsey.
This part of the world is famous for terrific wild-river bass fishing and it is for this reason that Bass Lodge has attracted so many dedicated anglers over the years. With new owners Dave and Mike Thomson recently taking over this iconic wilderness lodge, more anglers are set to enjoy this spectacular part of the country.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days at the lodge and sampled the exciting fishing and enjoyed the creature comforts this lodge has to offer. I had only a few short days to fish but during my stay I had a ball and got to sample some of the great bass and soak up the stunning scenery.
The lodge is very impressive. A quick look around and you appreciate the craftsmanship gone into creating this unique building. The woodwork is stunning, with large, round timber beams cut beautifully and interlocked to create the main cabin.
In fact, the whole lodge was built many miles away, pulled apart then reassembled where it stands today. Inside it’s very spacious with a towering ceiling in the main guest area and a winding timber stairway leading you up to the very comfortable sleeping quarters.
Access to Bass Lodge is by car but the guys have also organised a helicopter from Armidale, flying over the massive gorge country to the west of the lodge. From Kempsey it will take you about two hours’ drive to the lodge (or 75 minutes ex Armidale). Most of the trip from Kempsey is on sealed road, with the final 38km dirt.
The road heading out to the lodge winds around the Macleay River and offers stunning views of the water and the surrounding mountains. Once you hit the dirt you know you’re heading into good bass country and while all the deep pools and rocky runs below will prove quite distracting, keep a good eye on the road because there are no fences, plenty of native fauna and usually some scattered rocks between you and the Bass Lodge. Once there, kick up your feet and enjoy the remoteness.
I was greeted by Dave and Mike Thomson and we were soon chatting away about the amazing countryside and the bass in those remote, rocky pools.
Dave and his mates Dave Young and Evan Hulme had been fishing for the past few days and had caught plenty of quality fish pretty well everywhere they went. They’d fished the main river, Georges and Five Day creeks and produced chunky bass to 45 cm most outings.
The fish were certainly biting, it was all a matter of getting out on the water.
The river was up a little so Dave and I decided to paddle upstream from the lodge rather than drive his Toyota across the river to gain access further upstream. We ended up paddling around 3km, flicking lures into likely spots as we went.
On Dave’s third cast in the pool right in front of the cabin he came up tight to a feisty bass. While certainly no monster, it was an inspiring start to the session.
Some of mountains surrounding the pools are stunning. I found myself constantly being distracted by the vista and spent plenty of time looking up and around, awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the hills. Dave informed me that most 300m above river height and, sitting in a tiny canoe, they sure looked it.
The upper Macleay is definitely one of the most striking backdrops I’ve ever had the pleasure to fish in.
Before long we were at the head of the first pool, confronted by tumbling waters spilling over a series of boulders. These were certainly not the gravelly runs I was use to in the lower reaches and we climbed out of the canoes, dragged them through the bush and entered the next pool.
The water was flowing nicely and we pulled some solid fish around a kilo from under the bankside Grevilleas. Some of Dave’s favourites spots are the tiny feeder creeks entering the pools and we proceeded to pull some more fish quality fish from the bubbling feeder streams.
There are few better ways to enjoy bass fishing than by being dropped off at one access point and picked up at another. You get to fish some terrific locations that see very few anglers and don’t have to paddle back against the current at day’s end.
The upper Macleay flows quite swiftly at times and it’s far easier to simply go with the flow for a few kilometres than paddle back to the access point.
The guys at Bass Lodge have Troop Carrier with roof racks to hold canoes and plenty of room inside for fishos. You can be driven to a productive access point on the river, dropped off, and picked up at a designated spot downstream. It’s all too easy and certainly one of the best ways to fish the area.
The following morning Dave Young and I were dropped off at a place called the Flying Fox. It was a short run compared with some others on offer but we got to see some spectacular country and nailed some great fish along the way.
For the more adventurous, the guys can drop you off miles up-river and let you drift through some real tiger country in the comfortable Pelican canoes.
Heading downstream is just as productive, with less challenging, more sedate runs between spectacular rocky pools.
There are plenty of runs to choose from, it’s all up to personal desire and your level of fitness. Some are barely a few kilometres, others would take days to complete.
Doing one of those longer runs with a keen mate would be pretty close to bass heaven and a great way to fish sections of river lucky to see a handful of anglers each year.
As Dave and I lazily drifted down the Flying Fox run, some other guests chose to walk the banks of Georges Creek. This pretty little creek runs right beside the lodge, winding its way up into some very fishy country.
The creek is on private land with locked gates but the guys at Bass Lodge have the only permitted access so there’s definitely some great fishing to be had for the footsloggers.
By the time we all met up again, the guys walking the creek scored just as many bass as we had and most of the fish were bigger, so it’s well worth walking the smaller feeder creeks during your stay.
While the river was up a tad during my visit, it was still well and truly fishable. Dave informs me than when the Macleay is running too hard to fish, the smaller feeders like Georges, Five Day and several others are the places to head.
Before my visit the river was running quite strongly so the guys sneaked up a feeder creek and enjoyed some terrific action so there are certainly options if the main river is running to hard.
As the weather cools the fish action usually slows a little, so the guys at Bass Lodge can take you to nearby Styx River or Oaky River Dam or other small water trout steams west of the lodge.
Rumour has it the dam has been stocked with good numbers of rainbow and brown trout and should be a great Winter fishery. The smaller stream would be ideal for keen fly enthusiasts, adding variety to any stay at the lodge.
Bass Lodge has long been regarded as premier accommodation for keen bass anglers wanting to sample wild river fishing at its best. The terrific fishing, accommodation, remoteness and sheer beauty will ensure plenty of return trips for visiting anglers.
Call Dave Thompson on 0400 470 875 or visit www.basslodge.com.au for more information.Reads: 6101