And so the well made plans of mice and men; and Dad's for that matter, were hatched.
I had to have a couple of accomplices of course and that's where my other daughter, Kirby, and good mate Brett Parks, came into plans. You see, I needed a place to stay, a hide out from letting "anyone" know that I was in town (Cairns), someone to bring along the flowers, gift and cake - and as time would allow, someone to take me fishing.
And so it was that I boarded the 7:00am flight from Auckland International Airport. It was a chilly 11C as Debbie drove me down from the farm, but I knew that things would be a lot different back in Tropical North Queensland. The previous week / days had been racked with apprehension and anxiety. You see, I was intently studying the movements of two massive tropical cyclones.
Cyclone Pam had already wreaked havoc on the islands of Vanuatu, and my prayers and hopes go out to the people left homeless and without proper food and water and concern for their immediate futures. The left over storm was bearing straight down on the north of New Zealand and predictions included strong storm winds and possible huge tidal surges in the Hauraki Gulf (where I live). And across the ditch, Cyclone Nathan was harassing the coastal communities of Cape York, and being a very unpredictable beast he was. Would my plans be thwarted by two storms...would mother nature play a part in the success, or otherwise, of my carefully planned, but brief visit, to Cairns? Even as I landed in Brisbane, the path of Nathan was being determined and thankfully, he veered north west as he neared the coast and spared North Queensland from major destruction to any built up residential area. Flooding of the local rivers was also of concern and of course, my daughters big day!
Thankfully all was well and as Schefey picked me up from Cairns airport, I knew that my plans were still intact.
My first duty was to change out of my "cool weather" clothing...readers will know that the heat and humidity of Cairns just hits you as soon as you disembark from the plane. WOW...had I become acclimatised to NZ in only 3 months? A quick shower, toss on a pair of shorts and T shirt and off to the dentist. Yep...Kirby had arranged for some dental work to repair a tooth that had chipped the previous week. Then I had to find a place to "hide"...and what better way to do it, and to kill some time, was to go watch a movie. I must have been a strange site crawling down the shopping mall with my spotters on, making sure that nobody recognised me, or me them!
Friday night is...well...a few drink were in order, at home of course. A quick check with my fishing buddy, Brett, as to confirmation of my pick up time in the morning and it was off to bed. I was excited. What river would we fish, what was the tide, how much rain had Cairns had recently and what conditions would present itself on the day?
My alarm rang loudly at 5:30am...and I was up in an instant. Donned my fishing clothes (long cool trousers and shirt for sun protection of course)..grabbed my hats, sunnies, 3 piece travel rod, phone and camera...and waited for Brett to arrive as planned. The morning dawned cool and clear with a spectacular light show from the hovering clouds...it was going to be a good day!
|Morning Clouds over Cairns city|
Tropical cyclone Nathan had crossed the coast by this time, but being located above Cooktown meant that any torrential rainfall that might have fallen during the night would have been north of Cairns. So we headed south. "How about the top of the Russell" I expressed. Brett had never fished this beautiful part of the river previously and was looking forward to exploring it very much, especially with Les Marsh (I had a chuckle to myself and the plan was set). We drove south to Babinda and I took him to my not so secret launching spot. Brett was a little apprehensive at first but I assured him that I had done it a dozen times and that even at low tide, we would be able to extract his tinny.
|Of course we could do it!|
The river was simply magnificent...clear running water, vivid green grass covered banks and tall sentinel rainforest trees and palms. I was loving it...my heart felt good...Brett was very impressed. And now for the fishing.
I took my 3 piece Daiwa travel rod from its bag and clamped on my Quantum spinning reel...and out came my favourite Rapala SR5's. I had to spend some time however putting hooks on the lures, as I had had to take them off prior to travel - they are a dangerous weapon you know! But we were soon into it and casting to likely looking bank side cover and drowned timber. On about my third cast I came up tight to a lovely little fish...it didn't feel like a sooty however as it fought doggedly down deep. But constant pressure soon had her up near the surface where she jumped....a beaut little barra...I've still got it I mused!
It didn't take Brett long to hook up either and he soon had a quality sooty at the boat. I just love this light tackle spinning. Its easy on the arm, you can cast all day on light 4kg tackle and small lures in relatively skinny water and the rewards are amazing. Sooties of all colours and sizes (usually a mottled yellow / brown / black) and sparkling silver JP's, along with tarpon, crimson jacks, trevally and the occasional barra - I have hooked up to metre + barra in these locations too, so you never really know what might be in store for you. And the backdrop to all of this is a magnificent tropical canvas...man I was stoked.
Brett and I drifted downstream, the fishing was awesome and I remember commenting several times on the quality of the fishing. The sooties were not huge, but plump and full of dogged fight. The JP's were simply stunning and the average size way up on previous trips. Maybe they were all pumped up after a good "wet" growing season. But whatever it was, we were having a ball. I distinctly remember Brett commenting on several occasions that "how beautiful was this river"...and as for the fishing, well we lost count of the numbers we landed but estimate the catch at well over 40 fish for the day.
Worthy of note was the effects on fishing of the discoloured water spewing from the swamps. It certainly looked dirty, but on more careful observation we could see that the water was still quite clear, more like dark coffee or tea coloured with the lures still visible. We did notice however that in this section of river, we experienced quite a lot of knocks and failed hook ups as compared to the cleaner looking water upstream - maybe the darken waters was just enough to change the striking patterns of the fish, maybe they too misjudged their strike. "Come on Les, these guys do it for a living" exclaimed Brett...but it was noticeable!
|Check out that darker water colour!|
Morning tea was had under the shade of some overhanging trees, lunch likewise; and so we drifted steadily downstream picking up fish from likely looking locations. At times we were amazed at how many fish were stationed on a drowned log / tree...dozens of them would scatter as the boat approached and then scamper back to their preferred lie as we drifted past. At times we would play a fish into striking our offerings...their inquisitive nature see them leave their sanctuary and approach our lures. A few twitches and pauses and they were on...it was a lot of fun.
|Lunch under a shady tree - awesome!|
Unfortunately we did not see another barra, even though likely looking soaks an drains held discoloured water and ambush locations looked appealing to us! I guess that's fishing.
The sun was heading towards the mountains, the tall clouds building in the afternoon fading light...it was time to go home. As we approached our launching spot, Brett was again a bit concerned at how we were going to safely retrieve his boat. Easy mate...trust me I said. And so we relieved the tinny of a bit of weight, put the esky and loose gear like tackle boxes etc. up on the bank and easily winched his boat back onto the trailer. Simples!!!!
It was two very satisfied and happy anglers and friends that travelled along he Bruce Highway back to Cairns. Brett was stoked...he had wanted to fish that section of river for ages, but had not had the opportunity to do so with knowledge. I had returned to my home of some 30 years to experience again the pleasures of tropical river sport fishing. Yes, we had had a magnificent day...all said!
Note - Remember, this trip was carefully planned. No one, apart from a couple of key people, knew that I was in town. While slowly drifting along enjoying our fishing another vessel approached...gidday Les Marsh he said! (You can run, but you can't hide...amazing!)
It was a very short trip back to Cairns.
My "secret" was kept intact and my daughter was suitably surprised and ecstatic to see her dad.
Her birthday lunch went off perfectly with some very dear family and friends.
And after another quick day re acquainting myself with old workmates and friends - I was on the plane back to my new home in New Zealand.
I'll be back - why can't I have the best of both worlds?
Catch you on the water,
|The beautiful Russell River!|