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Bassin’ with Tubby

WELL known as one of Australia’s best-loved sportsmen, Mark “Tubby” Taylor made his name thanks to his prowess on the cricket pitch. These days the former Aussie Test captain has forged a career as a commentator for Channel Nine. But when he’s not talking all things bat and ball, Tubby’s out fishing.

I first enjoyed a day on the water with this affable sporting legend earlier this year when Justin Duggan, of Sydney Fly Fishing Tours invited us out on Sydney Harbour to target a few salmon on the long wand.

Mark hadn’t previously done a lot of fly-fishing but he picked it up amazingly quickly. There’s little doubt that the advanced hand/eye coordination required for international level sport gives blokes like Tubby an advantage over us mere mortals when it comes to casting. He was belting out long lines and tight loops in almost no time at all – impressive stuff, let me tell you.

We enjoyed a great day with Justin casting Surf Candies into frothing boils of feeding salmon and just missed out on a solid kingie on a popper fly. Check out images of Tubby in action in the May edition of Fishing World. Meantime, you can find out more about the amazing sportfishing on offer in Australia’s biggest city via Justin’s website at www.sydneyflyfishing.com.au. Justin’s a top class guide, expert fly angler and a really good bloke to fish with. Highly recommended!

Apart from really enjoying the opportunity to fish with Mark, I’m also working with him in the Keep Australia Fishing (KAF) organisation, a national advocacy group which is involved in improving rec fishing opportunities by lobbying politicians and government over issues like marine parks, fishing access and so on. Mark is KAF’s official ambassador and will be working with KAF directors and supporters to convince our national leaders that developing a sustainable rec fishing sector is a win-win-win for our society, economy and environment.

It’s great to see high profile anglers like Mark Taylor getting involved with KAF. As a father and a diehard fishing fanatic, Mark, like many other fishos, is concerned that government policy is making it increasingly difficult for the next generation of anglers to enjoy the same freedoms we all did. Hopefully groups like KAF, and the many other volunteer organisations out there fighting hard for our fishing rights, will make a difference. There’s no doubt in my mind that the input and influence of people like Mark Taylor will go a long way towards ensuring a sustainable fishing future for us all.

Anyway, enough of the bloody politics! Apart from a burgeoning interest in fly-fishing, Tubby’s main interest is estuary sportfishing. Along with his good mate Tom Mclean, Tubby fishes a few of the more social bream comps and also targets whiting and flathead in his home waters around Sydney. He’s got his own boat, a 450 Top Ender powered by a 60hp E-TEC, and a collection of quality gear and lures that would match that of any seasoned comp veteran. There’s no doubt this bloke is just as obsessed with fishing as the rest of us!

During a few recent conversations, Mark mentioned he was interested in catching more bass. These feisty natives are one of my personal favourites so I didn’t take much encouraging to organise a kayak trip for us in the upper Shoalhaven River with Greg Reid and Darryl Head from Bay & Basin Sportsfishing.

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Above: the pristine waters of the upper Shoalhaven. Top: Darryl and Wes unloading the Hobies.

Along for the ride with Mark and I was my buddy Wes Murphy, Tom and Markuu Tiusanen, a Finnish fishing guide holidaying over here that the guys at Rapala had asked me to show around.
A pre dawn start, a rough 4WD ride through private property and Darryl had us positioned on a remote stretch of the Shoalhaven. The river was shrouded in mist, creating an eerie atmosphere. We launched the Hobies and set off upstream. Darryl, one of the best sweetwater kayak guides I’ve ever come across, knows the river and its fish intimately and pointed out the most productive snags and rock bars. Within minutes of launching, we were all into tough fighting Aussie bass – no big fish but plenty of them.

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Wes Murphy in the mist. The surface bite was red-hot in these gloomy conditions.

Early on, the surface bite was hot and Tubby was having a ball casting a newly acquired Megabass Siglett tight into the cover, getting explosive surface strikes on almost every cast. Markuu was enjoying similar success with a little popper I’d given him – this was champagne native sportfishing made even more memorable by the spectacular scenery in this part of the river.

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Tubby with a little Shoalhaven bass. Top fish of 55cm have been caught in these waters.

I’ve lived in the Shoalhaven all my life but I’d forgotten just how wild and pristine it actually is up here. We fished several long pools, dragging the ‘yaks over the shallow runs and riffles and focusing our efforts on the deeper banks, constantly getting good numbers of bass. Water dragons were positioned on the rocks and snags, leaping into the water to chase any lures that landed too close to them, tinny brilliant azure kingfishers darted from their perches, hunting small baitfish, and all around the gorge echoed to the distinctive sound of whip birds.
A bloody fantastic day!

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Jim Harnwell with a nice Shoalhaven bass.

We ended up with a collective total of about 200 wild native bass, most taken on surface lures. They ranged from 15 to 33cm and all whacked our lures with typical bass aggression.

Carp have unfortunately made their way into this system and during a lunch break we did our bit for the environment by catching and disposing of a few these noxious European invaders. They were in the 4-5 kilo range and put up great battles in the snaggy water. Wesbo got bricked by a couple before landing a stud specimen that joined its brethren up on the bank as a snack for the local goannas.

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Finnish fishing guide Markuu Tiusanen deals with a respectable little bass caught on a diver.

Darryl deployed a bit of creamed corn as berley and baited up long shank hooks with corn kernels. We had fish on within a minute or two of casting out the first bait. We could have caught the damn things all day long!

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Carp action!

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Tubby with a solid mudsucker.

The carp in the Shoalhaven get up to 10 kilos and are impressive sportfish, apart from being smelly, mud-sucking vermin! Personally, I’d rather target bass and while there are large numbers of small to medium sized fish in the river, there are more than a few trophy specimens as well. Darryl’s caught bass to 55cm in this section of the river as well as multiple fish from 35 to 45cm – quality river fish.

Evenings seem to be best for the bigger fish, Darryl told me, making a multi-day trip down the river a very appealing prospect. I noted plenty of suitable campsites on the banks and I reckon after dark sessions with bloopers and surface walkers would result in awesome top water action.

All up, this was a trip to remember. I reckon Tubby had a pretty good day – he caught the biggest fish and didn’t once stop casting. And I think Markuu got a really good introduction to Aussie freshwater sportfishing – somehow I get the impression that he really doesn’t want to go back to the -30C weather of Finland!

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Markuu Tiusanen thought our bass were great, even the little ones!

A big thank you to Darryl Head of Bay & Basin Sportsfishing for taking us on a trip to remember. Headed up by Greg Reid, this is a top class operation that offers estuary, bay and freshwater sportfishing along the NSW South Coast. Find out more by calling 0413610832 or checking out www.bayandbasinsportsfishing.com.au.

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Tubby drags his Hobie through a small rapid to access a new pool.

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The fleet of Hobie Pro Angler kayaks used by Bay & Basin Sportsfishing are ideal vessels to access these wild and remote waters.

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