I’d heard about Cania Dam for around 20 years, first from my mentor Ted Clayton from my earliest photo journalism days, and when others mentioned Cania it was always the same theme – terrific toga, brawling bass, sensational silver perch and the scenery of Cania Gorge. While it sounded so enticing, this was an impoundment I hadn’t fished.
Bass were close to South Queensland, toga were in Borumba, the silvers a very occasional catch in Somerset Dam. In the last decade, barra have dominated a lot of fishing action. After a recent health issue that made me wake up, I resolved to get stuck into the fishing and we finally made the seven hour journey to Cania.
‘Rewarding’ doesn’t quantify the experience. There’s a lot more to fishing Cania Dam than simply the species of fish to be caught. The scenery was exceptional, as the impoundment is located in a wide gorge with huge buff coloured sandstone walls towering in various areas. While Borumba Dam with its rainforest setting is pretty special, the sight of those huge sandstone bluffs fairly glowing in the last hours of day is certainly not going to be forgotten.
For the record, a drive from Brisbane to Monto and then onto Cania Dam (the turn off from the Burnett Highway is very well signed) took us around seven hours as we left late in the day. The drive was pleasant, as the Burnett Highway is an excellent road with few areas requiring reduced speed. This means the proverbial 100kph is readily achieved for most of the road. The dam is 34km from Monto. There are two caravan parks close to Cania Dam – the Big Four Cania Gorge Tourist Park is closest to the dam at a mere 5km away.
The very well established and impeccably maintained Tourist Park is set within a remarkable, flat valley adjoining the Cania Gorge national park. Complementing the huge number of powered and unpowered campsites on hand were plenty of van sites for caravan owners to set up their pride and joys, while those without mobile homes or tents could just as easily settle into other handy accommodation with air conditioned ensuite equipped villas and cabins.
The entire Tourist Park with its four star rating is family orientated, impeccably maintained and set up for all to enjoy. Damper and billy tea were on the free list of a morning smoko – naturally, we missed it as we were always fishing. Outdoor movies are provided on selected nights for young and old to enjoy. For me, one of the highlights during our time in the park was the absolute serenity of the experience, especially during the night.
Somewhat accustomed to staying in other venues close to fishing areas, where a minority seem to think that excessive night revelry is their right, it just seems “too bad” for others who don’t like loud music or raucous voices becoming louder as the night progresses. The absolute quiet after dark stood in stark contrast.
The family orientation saw activities during the day for kids centred around any of the park’s three swimming pools, the huge jumping pillow – I admit to having a go – the tennis court and bird feeding with parrots and kookaburras, and the chance for youngsters to explore the massive area on two pedal powered wheels.
Adult holidaymakers could enjoy a cappuccino at the reception area’s Cania Café, a look at one of the TVs while waiting for the evening camp oven cooking session to provide a hearty home style meal. Other culinary delights include wood fired pizzas from a full old style baker’s oven on site, wine tasting, and the enjoyment of a full sized camp fire for all comers. Entertainment is also provided with story telling and bush poetry.
For those who like to cook their own tucker, massive camp kitchens offered ample facilities with TV entertainment as a bonus. The Park is an ideal venue for a special event, as a very large multi-function events room has been set up with surround sound, an overhead projector with screen, an electronic white board, laptop connections and a PA system to cater for up to 100 people.
For the golfers among us, there’s a golf course with some of the narrow fairways in a bushland setting destined to test the skill of participants. Something different is the Disc Golf where a Frisbee like disc is hand thrown to a target area with the least throws ascertaining a winner.
Another activity that’s popular – along with fishing, which we’ll look at shortly – are the many bush walks within the 3000 hectare Cania Gorge National Park and nearby area. Spectacular views of the sandstone gorge are highlights – this is the chance to get out in the real world and enjoy some clean air and exercise. Tracks are well marked and graded for levels of ability.
I would be remiss not to mention the park’s wildlife. A stay there will readily renew acquaintances with our native wildlife. It’s special to have rainbow lorikeets, king parrots and apostle birds perched on your shoulders as these feathered friends do their best to share a toasted sandwich. Likewise, it was really unique to see a kangaroo gently nibbling grass a couple of metres from the breakfast table, and a very cute mini wallaby approached the meal table at night to see what’s doing.
The launching area at the dam is well set up with ample parking, a great BBQ and picnic facilities on hand. Fish were on the sounder almost as soon as the boat cleared the ramp. For the record, Cania Dam held some very clear water last month and I found it a consistently deep impoundment close to 15m in depth once away from the main basin area adjacent to the ramp.
Right from the outset there were sufficient points to interest the bass angler looking for fish schooled up. As the Bullshark headed up the impoundment, we found some very large bays which held areas of standing timber at their back sections, all of which made casting for a saratoga, bass or silver perch an enjoyable experience.
Given that the major bays all held timber, the main areas of drowned trees started about 8km from the ramp. It was interesting to find that a fish could be taken on our 8 weight fly tackle virtually anywhere we persevered, whether it was timber on the edge of a 15m deep bank or a small flat with but 4-5m of water showing on the Gen 3 HDS Lowrance. Obviously, there are no barra in this dam!
Much the same as other dams, there’s not a fish hiding behind every shaded limb, but a decent effort paid decent rewards. I took a toga first cast one morning, which pleased me no end. Bass were consistent from around the timber, schooling up near timber or at point ends. These were never hard to find.
Schooled fish were found exactly where we might find them in, say, Somerset Dam – holding in masses in 8-10m depth, on the edge of the riverbed or off a jutting point. They were working hard on hapless bony bream by the look of offerings spewed into our landing net as we boated fish with our deep fly tackle.
The bass we encountered in Cania Dam weren’t huge by Somerset or Wivenhoe Dam standards, but still consistently large at 45-48cm most times. However, where we found the fish on Monday they were absent on Tuesday and it was necessary to scout around to find another fresh school. Silver perch were by-catch when fishing around timber for saratoga and bass and flies tied on size 2 hooks were almost too large for these small-mouthed fish. A series of hard picks always heralded a strong hook-up.
Cania Dam is quite suited to even small tinnies, as the impoundment is somewhat narrow despite extending for quite some distance from the wall. This means there are ample sheltered arms in which to seek out fish. An SIP is required to fish this waterway as well. Overall, it was well worth the journey, even just to enjoy the magnificent scenery and the close up encounters with friendly wildlife.
From my experience in plenty of other camping areas and tourist parks over the last three decades of writing, I’d rate the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park’s peaceful family orientated ambience as right up with the best. While I love my fishing, it was so great to enjoy peaceful nights and the beauty of the friendly wildlife.
Youngsters will find plenty to do at the Park, with water slides and swimming pools always popular.
This is but a tiny fraction of the available camping ground at the Cania Gorge Caravan and Tourist Park.
A swimming pool adjacent to one of the camp kitchens is just one of the many attractions.
Free BBQs and big camp kitchens make a stay at this park very enjoyable.
All appliances and ample seating are featured within the park’s camp kitchens.
Now that’s a dining hall and a half. The area in the rear right is a full sized baker’s oven. Pizzas anyone?
The dam and gorge are well signed off the Burnett Highway.
A silver perch taken by the author – small mouthed but hard fighters.
Fat bass were a feature of this trip to Cania Dam.
One for Wayne – the author admires a decent Cania bass.
A neat toga taken on fly gear by Denise Kampe.
When the sounder was showing bass in these numbers, a hook-up didn’t take long.Reads: 1891