Kayaking, canoeing and boating, in some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable in South Eastern Australia, topped off with great fishing in a dam stocked with hundreds of thousands of Australian Bass!
30 kilometres north of Bega is the stunning Brogo Dam, which takes in the Brogo wilderness and the southern section of Wadbilliga National Park. Construction of the rock-wall dam started in 1964 and was completed in 1976 to provide water for irrigation and consumption in the nearby Bega Valley.
The dam wall, boat ramp and picnic areas are accessible from Warrigal Range Rd, running off of the Princes Hwy 18 kilometres north of Bega. Warrigal Range Rd is part bitumen and part good quality gravel road and is suitable for all vehicles. There are other hidden gem locations around the dam accessible from other roads through the Brogo area. One of these spots is off Upper Brogo Rd, and is only a couple of KM’s from our house sit. Upper Brogo Rd is a winding gravel road, and whilst suitable for 2 wheel drive vehicles, the access roads to the dam are more suited to 4 wheel drives or at minimum vehicles with high ground clearance.
In addition to providing potable water for the district, the Brogo Dam offers an abundance of recreation activities. The dam is stocked with 20,000 Australian Bass fry each year, and if you know what you are doing, Bass are great fun to catch, and great fish to eat. Bass fishing in rivers is closed from June to August, and whilst you are able to fish in the dam during this time, don’t plan a fishing trip, as the fish tend to bite hardest in the warmer months. I’ve had a couple of goes with various lures during late August to no avail, and on one occasion the Bass were jumping out of the water, but just not biting!
One of the benefits of travelling slowly is that you do get to meet the locals, and build friendships along the way and after discussing my woes of Bass fishing with one such local, I was lucky enough to receive some sound advice and guidance.
One white grub, sourced from the surrounding bush, one size 6 hook, the right spot, the right time of day, and a sprinkling of patience landed two great Bass! I was very happy, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the freshly baked fish, which has a beautiful white flesh and tastes fantastic. I expected this fresh water fish to have a muddy taste, and was pleasantly surprised with the flavour.
In addition to the fishing, the Brogo Dam is fantastic for kayaks, canoes and power boats. There is a boat ramp at the southern end of the dam accessible from Warrigal Range Rd, but there are other areas suitable for launching a small boat, including the area we accessed from Upper Brogo Rd. Speed limit on the dam is 8 knots, so don’t plan on water skiing or running the Jetski to hard!
The weather in late September has been fantastic, and with temperatures forecast for 26c degrees, the opportunity to get the kayaks out on the water has been irresistible. The house where we are sitting has two single person kayaks, which was an added bonus.
I must admit that I expected that the dam would be quite still, and that paddling would be straight forward, however the currents of what would have once been the Brogo river, prior to the construction of the dam had other ideas. Even many kilometres from the dam spill-way the kayaks wanted to turn and head that way, and simply sitting still was not possible.
Lucy mastered the technique very quickly, and it wasn’t long before she was paddling leisurely around the area.
As we only had the two kayaks, and Oscar didn’t want to miss out, he squeezed in with me and the three of us had a great time paddling about as Gina watched from the bank.
We did get a bit of a scare however…
Whilst paddling about 75 metres from the bank, the kayak that Oscar and I were paddling started to turn around with the current. I tried several pulls on the paddle to counteract, but the kayak was adamant that it was going that way, and with no real care about which way we were going, I decided to go with it. Several strokes later however, Oscar leaned a little, the current pulled, and I gave a pull on the paddle, all in the same direction, and over we went.
It really was a case of inexperience, and it could have been a worse outcome than what we experienced. For a split second, the two of us were jammed in the kayak. Upside down. My first though was to get out, and fortunately I was able to pop Oscar out easily, before splashing out myself. Gina had insisted that Oscar wear the life jacket (good old Mums, eh?) which assisted him greatly, even though he is a competent swimmer. Despite the fact that he was now bobbing up and down in water that might be about 13c degrees, at least 70 metres from the bank, Oscar was calm. He’s 7, and his trust of me is astounding – he trusted right from the start, that we would be ok.
My heart was racing. There are signs on the banks of the Brogo warning swimmers of the cold water, and the kids we saw taking a dip didn’t usually stay in for long, or go anywhere near as far out as we were.
Treading water hard (I could have done with the life jacket about now), I righted the kayak and tipped a little bit of water out of it. I knew that I didn’t have the skills to get into the boat from the deep water, so I stabilised it with one arm, threw Oscar up into it and started swimming for the bank, pushing the kayak as I went.
I don’t think that “we were lucky” is the right phrase – we weren’t in any great danger of death. We certainly took some risks, and could have been better equipped and prepared. The craft was not suitable for the two of us, and I didn’t have a life jacket, but the adventure was awesome and Oscar was delighted to re-tell the tale time and time again.
Despite our little hick-up, it didn’t spoil the day. Gina and Lucy went for a paddle, and later in the afternoon, Lucy and I paddled several kilometres up stream to take in the scenic cliffs that have been carved by the Brogo River over thousands of years. In later spring, Orchards bloom along the cliff faces making the area a photographers delight. The scenery of the Brogo, and of the adjacent Wadbilliga National Park is simply breath taking, and will be long remembered on Our Global Adventure.