Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What a Difference a Day Makes!

How did my recent trip to Cairns go?

It was fantastic to catch up with my beautiful daughters, to take them to the movies (I love the movies - I watched 6 in total. Two on the plane over, two while in Cairns and another two on the return journey), to go to a magic restaurant at Palm Cove and to have a lamb roast with the family and friends....sort of!

Oh...almost forget, had a private viewing of the brand new REMAX office in Cairns. It was an old church...and now its been renovated into the state of the art real estate office. Congratulations Tony Williamson, Asta and staff...you will all love working there. (Couldn't find my desk!)

As for the fishing :

Monday - Daintree – it was a pleasure to go with a guide. Will from Fish Hunter is a good guy and I certainly have no problem recommending him to potential clients and have conveyed that to Pam (Fishing Cairns). I would love to fish with him again.
Launching at Daintree Ferry Crossing

Guide - Will from Fish Hunter FNQ

Cruising up the Daintree

Will Pritchard - Guide

Keith Graham - Bransfords Tackle Shop

That's me....1st Barra!

The boys

Pick me....Pick me....alright Keith, settle down!

Tuesday – Russell – it was a dog of a day. Fished with Brett. We went a fair way upstream and did the sooty drift. We saw hundreds of fish, darting out from the logs, bankside and weeds – but they just wouldn’t hit our offerings. We tried poppers, SR5’s, minnows etc. I only caught 2 fish for the day while Brett landed 6.

Wednesday – Russell – After much deliberation and consideration of the tides and potential for rain, we reluctantly decided to go back to the Russell. Mainly because that shallow patch above the Innisfail township would have meant that either a very early exit of around noon, or a very late return after 5pm would have been on the cards if we fished the Johnstone. And I had commitments for dinner at Palm Cove at 6.30pm.

Launching - Bellenden Kerr - New Ramp Too!

Is that the smallest Trevor?

That's better...a reasonable barra on light spin gear

Pretty little JP on Bomber lure


liquid silver....tarpon

What a difference a day makes!

Upon launching at Bellenden Kerr it was obvious that they must have had a fair bit of rain overnight down that way. The river was noticeably higher and a bit discoloured – not dirty, but the colour of weak coffee. The previous day the water was gin clear!


We were able to motor right up under the highway bridge – quite a rare feat I might add, and start our drift. We both hooked on poppers and immediately we were having success. My first fish was a lovely little (very little) trevally, then came the sooties and every now and again that bright silver flash from a tarpon excited us. At the mouth of Eubenangee swamp I was smashed by a feisty little barra…whoo hoo! By lunch we had landed 20 fish….we were stoked. 

And after lunch, the hits kept coming. I decided to experiment a little and clipped on that little gold / black bomber 6cm shallow lure and was instantly rewarded….again and again. I gave it to Brett as he was so impressed. 

We even pulled the pin early as I had to get to that dinner engagement (got stuck in the highway road works on the way home and just made it in time)

And the tally for the day was a very respectable 43 fish….WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES!

On reflection there were two main differences between Tuesday & Wednesday’s fishing;
1.       There was a rain event overnight which made the river rise a foot or so – just enough to traverse higher upstream.
2.       The water clarity – this I believe was the crucial factor. Monday’s water was too clear - if that’s possible? As they say, “If you can see the fish, then they can see you” These fish live in their river and are very aware of what’s happening in their environment. They can probably see / feel your presence bobbing downstream way before you arrive at the casting location. On Wednesday we hardly saw a fish before they struck our lures – they were actively hunting food today.
There you have it…did I enjoy it?
You bet I did!

I love our tropical rivers, and just being there is amazing. It does wonders for your soul …being amongst the green, the rainforest, the grass, the water…and dodging crocs too is thrilling. I LOVE IT!

Hold on Keith, Will & Brett…I’m already planning my next trip.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Holy Grail

Easter is out of the way, all the holiday makers have gone home, it’s time to go fishing. Hitched up the tinny and headed off down the highway, the radio said it was already blowing 27 knots out on the reef. Not to worry, where I fish I get some protection from the riverbanks.

The river was down a bit, so heading into the upper reaches was out of the question (lost a prop last week for that very reason). The river had cleared up, it had been very silty due to the rains. So after navigating my way over all the usual snags that were closer to the surface now I pulled up and began fishing.

Stared with my go to lure the Rapala SR5 Bluegill, it took around ten minutes before I had my first bit of interest, it was going to be a quiet day. Still twenty minutes in and I hadn’t landed a fish, worse still I’d hardly seen a fish. Time for a change of tact, a green and orange popper, let’s see how we go. Nothing, for another ten minutes, it’s going to be a long day.

Was just about to retrieve my lure when something caught my eye on the other bank, then bang, a hit, looked back and there’s a massive Barra sitting on the surface, we did the dance for less than 30 seconds, a couple of jumps but a pretty lacklustre fight, I thought I had pressure on him when the lure just fell out of his mouth, even the Barra was unsure as he jumped again to try and throw the lure, then he swam back off into the deep water. Bugger, but a least I’d seen some action.

By this time it had started to cloud over making the popper my preferred method of attack. First up was a nice little Sooty, followed by a Jungle Perch, two more Sooty’s then a nice Barramundi, the morning was looking up.

A bit later I jagged a small Mangrove Jack, and to my surprise just after that as I was bringing in my popper on a fast retrieve to get another cast in, and the line started singing, luckily I was in a wide part of the river with no snags as this thing nearly made the other bank, about fifty metres away, you guessed it, a marauding Trevally, after a nervous fight I managed to land it, all the time aware of the light gear I was using.

It dawned on me I was one fish short, again, of my Holy Grail. A Barramundi, Jungle Perch, Mangrove Jack, Sooty Grunter and Tarpon, all great sport fishing species. But alas, time was getting on and I decided it was time head home, cruising home I turned a bend a came across a known Tarpon habitat, it can’t hurt to have a few more casts before I head off. A shower of rain came across dampening my enthusiasm as Tarpon tend to lurk in the deeper pools and the lack of light may make a strike considerably less likely. Anyway, one last hundred metre stretch of river then I was done. Around cast number six I got a flash, yes there’s a chance, peppered that spot for a while with no result. I bagged a Sooty about ten casts later. Then bang, I was on, the Tarpon showed itself and the battle was on. Tarpon are notorious, in my experience, for throwing lures with their aerial acrobatics.

After a very nervous fight I lifted the spent fish into the boat and celebrated my triumph of achieving the Holy Grail, my Holy Grail anyway. Not a bad days fishing afterall….

Brett Parks

The Uncanny Angler
Ph 0459 704666

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I LOVE TO FISH....by Brett Parks

No rain for a couple of days, the river will be dropping and the water clearing up, it’s time to go fishing. “Morning Parksy, great day to wet a line”) I’d picked up my mate Brod Osbourne (at this point he had no idea what a fantastic day it was going to be) and headed of down the highway in search of the elusive Jungle Perch. Brod had spent a good part of his youth growing up in Babinda (50-60km south of Cairns), and despite spending many weekends on the river had never caught a JP.

It was beautiful morning, a light breeze was forecast and there were only a few wispy clouds in the sky. We hit the river and headed upstream. My trusty Quintrex Explorer knew the way, as it had been up here plenty of times. Brod held his breath a few times as we traversed some gentle rapids and he saw the rocky bottom of the river flash past only inches from the prop. There was still plenty of fresh water coming down the river,  that meant we could get further upstream.

We finally arrived at our starting point, way up river, the furthest point I had been so far, and I’d only gotten here once a few weeks back. That particular day this part of the river did not produce many fish, but on that day also I had to contend with a crop duster spraying crops for the local farmers. We pulled in to the bank at a small back eddy and set about attaching lures to our rods. Directly across the river was another larger piece of backwater and we proceeded to cast our lures into it, second cast and bang I was on , third cast for Brod and he was on, I brought in a lovely little JP, and Brod landed a nice little Sooty Grunter. Hadn’t been fishing for five minutes and we were both on the board, time for a quick photo, a fast release, the back into it.

They were on, I got another, Brod got another, then me, then him, the tallies were starting to rack up. I’d put four JP’s in the boat and Brod had landed five Sooty’s, the Sooty king was not happy, he was yearning for that first Jungle Perch. What made it worse was, a few times my casts were bringing out into the open small groups of JP’s all chasing the lure. Jungle Perch love to lay in wait for their food in shaded areas, generally near the bank, so fishing for them requires some precision casting at times. Hit the right spot and the fish are on before the bail arm has time to be flicked back over. They are great little fighting fish, and hit the line hard, but they also have to be one of the most attractive looking fish going around. Their distinctive marking make them the fish I love to catch the most.

We were using the Rapala SR5 lures, I had on a light/dark green version, and Brod had the gold/black, by morning tea he’d realised he was probably on the wrong colour, so he changed over the same colour as me, the elusive JP had steered clear of his offerings so far. Brod’s mum had made a cake and we enjoyed a nice cuppa and some lovely sponge cake and chatted about our success so far, we were both sitting at around eight fish each.

I love this type of fishing, sight casting, casting into shadows, casting under trees, using light gear with the drag set just right. Sootys and JP’s hit hard and you need to let them take line on that initial run, this is especially the case when Tarpon are on the bite, they are very soft around the mouth and you lose a lot more Tarpon than any other species. A good percentage of fish landed are actually seen taking the lure, its heart in your mouth stuff and really gets the adrenalin pumping.

Not long after morning tea the inevitable happened, I was putting Brod onto all my favourite spots, getting him to cast here, cast there, then it happened, he landed his first Jungle Perch, he was wrapped and so was I, it’s a great thrill to land a species for the first time, and he was over the moon. The achievement is made all the more thrilling because you know the skills you have had to employ to land this fish. Casting in under trees and between branches trying to coax a strike, you’re aim getting better and better with each trip, until you can land a lure within inches of its intended target.

The ice was broken, on we went, we came to a stretch of faster flowing water and swapped our crankbaits for poppers, three casts and Brod was on again, a nice solid Sooty. Subsequent casts had plenty of interest with several fish thrashing about the lures. Until the dream of many fisherman, Brod nailed two fish on the one lure, a Jungle Perch and a Sooty, he lifted them into the boat and the celebrations begun, what a day this was turning into. The poppers continued to produce plenty of interest and land lots of fish.

It was early afternoon and time for a swim, we picked a shallow sandy area, had a quick scan for the giant lizards that inhabit these waterways, then plunged into the beautifully refreshing waters to cool off. By this stage the poor electric had drained the battery, we had spent a bit of time powering back upstream retrieving lures from snags and out of tree limbs, my theory is, if you’re not getting snagged up, you’re not trying hard enough. But it was time to head home, the trip home saw us shadowing a Jabiru in flight, and witnessing three giant Sea Eagles squabbling over a fish, and some sensational scenery.

What a day.

Brett Parks

I LOVE TO FISH – Coming soon, one on one charters, ph 0459 704666 for info.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Surprise Visit to Paradise!

It was my beautiful daughter, Britney's, 21st birthday on Sunday 22nd March...and I was not going to miss it!

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
Pleasantries were exchanged, good mates shook hands in a warm, welcoming way as only true friends can...and the conversation flowed. OK mate, where are we going to fish?

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!
My plan was to travel upstream as far as conditions, water flow, would allow. Now this consideration includes water clarity as well as how much fresh was pumping in the system and it was soon evident that there was still a lot of sediment in the river. Brett was a little concerned at this point as to the success of the day, but I assured him that once we cruised up above the swamps, river clarity would improve dramatically. And so we cruised along; up past fallen palms, across shallow sand bars and deep pools, under railway bridges and high road pavement...and at the third set of rapids decided that we had come as far as we dared (needed to) today.

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,
Regards, Les

The beautiful Russell River!