Author: Greg Reid
For some the South Coast is often thought of as south of Sydney and Wollongong, but the real South Coast, in particular the Shoalhaven area, begins as you round the Kiama bends and pull over to take in the view from the carpark overlooking Gerringong and Werri Beach. This is where the mountains meet the sea and the start of your journey into a mixture of rural villages with community spirit bounded by a culture that loves the beach and the bush.
Less than two hours’ drive south of Sydney, Gerringong is a little gem of a village perched high on a ridge within spitting distance of a right-hand point break. It’s a great pit stop for a hungry traveller with a fine mix of cafés, boutique shopping and one of the largest surf shops in the Southern Hemisphere.
Just south of Gerringong, at the southern end on the Crookhaven Bight, the real year-round piscatorial delights begin, with the Shoalhaven River winding down to the ocean where offshore the famous Sir John Young Banks, now simply known as The Banks.
In December 1797, George Bass, sailing down the coast in an open whaleboat with six crew, discovered the mouth of a river. He disliked the entrance so much that he named it Shoals-Haven.
Six months later, Scot Alexander Berry entered the Crookhaven River in the Blanche
after an attempt to enter the Shoalhaven River resulted in two men being drowned. Berry settled permanently at Coolangatta, on the north bank of the Shoalhaven, and the rest is history. Berry dug Australia’s first canal, between the Crookhaven and Shoalhaven rivers, that changed these watercourses forever.
The river was damned in the 1970s and Lake Yurrungah, or Tallowa Dam, is a large and heavily timbered impoundment stocked with trophy bass and giant carp.
My favourite form of fishing bar none is a canoe or kayak trip on the dam or the upper reaches of the river absorbing the breathtaking scenery while targeting bass in the timber. It’s a family-friendly experience and the serenity of the river minus the general population and their wakeboard madness instils a sense of connectedness to the land in an age of being too busy.
A good 2-4 kg rod with 6lb braid and 10lb leader will handle most situations. Best lures for summer are cicada patterns, poppers, crankbaits and walk-the-dog lures such as pencils. You can break your bass options down to three locations: The dam, below in the fresh, and then below Gradys Retreat in the brackish.