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Cairns and Great Barrier Reef

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 8:11 am    Post subject: Cairns and Great Barrier Reef Reply with quote

Thanks to Les at Fishing Cairns for providing us with these reports

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Fishing Cairns

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 22, 2007


There’s no doubt that the inshore fishing around Hinchinbrook Island is spectacular. Often published articles praising the abundance of barra, jacks, trevally etc. are a fair testament to this pristine fishery. But what can be overlooked is the awesome reef fishing this area has on offer with just about every bluewater species on offer roaming the offshore waters. A first time trip to these parts has left a lasting impression on this scribe and beckons further investigation in the not too distant future.

Good friends of ours, Paul & Barbie, live at Port Hinchinbrook. This Keith Williams development has over the years caused some controvercy due to the felling of mangrove forests but the end result sees a splendid marina complex surrounded by beautiful homes and a new playground that locals can also enjoy. I was impressed by quality of the construction and the ‘lay back’ lifestyle it offers, also the easy access it allows to nearby waters.

It was Paul's 60th birthday bash and his wife Barbie wanted to organise something he and his family & friends would long remember. Knowing how much he loves his fishing she chartered the game boat 'Joe Joe' captained by the ever entertaining Barry Cross for three days. The plan was to take out Paul and his guests fishing and with there being quite a workload for the crew my wife Vicky and I offered to live on board and help. We had a great time, as anyone who’s fished on Joe Joe will tell you, enjoying the company of old and new friends plus the added bonus of catching some memorable fish.

The weather was hot and sultry with 5 to 10 knot northerly breezes. Just about perfect boating weather but as any fisho knows the fishing can be a bit patchy on the reef during the wet. We had three days to explore some spine tingling reefs such as ‘Otter’ and ‘Brittomart’ plus some wrecks marked on the chart.

With eight guests on board each day we were limited to trolling and bottom bouncing and this was further limited to bait fishing as trolling proved less than productive. The bait schools were there but few predators were on the chew. We had some memorable drops latching onto some better than average gold spot treavally, that fight like hell and are usually found marauding in mobs. Coral trout were occasionally hooked as were red throat emperor, bludger trevally and several cods. Arms were well and truly stretched as some of the new chums on board caught their first decent sized reef hoodlums.

The highlight of the trip was experienced whilst fishing over a wreck. The first drops produced the usual mixed bag of reef fish then as the berley started to take effect cobia moved in - a spectacular fighting fish that kept the group entertained for some time.

Paul managed a fish of around 15 kilos after a spirited fight, a fish we kept for the BBQ that evening. Then in quick succession another two cobia about 10 to 12 kilos came on board. As these fish mate for life we handled them gently and released them to fight another day.

As the berley continued to do it’s job a huge cobia began feeding near the surface. We all watched it sucking in bits of pillie drifting around in the cobalt blue water and Captain Barry encouraged Barbie to throw an unweighted pillie in front of it. She was a little hesitant but the Saltiga spin combo loaded with 50 lbs. braid was more than up to the task, and as we were to witness so was Barbie!

The fish took the offering with some aggression and made it’s first speeding run. The hook was well set and Barbie held the rod high and let the drag do it’s work. Run after run this XOS cobia did it’s best to find freedom but the angler wasn’t having any of it and stuck to her task. I managed to capture most of the fight on video which shows the angler, tackle and fish all doing the right things but as with any big cobia fight patience pays off and Barbie eventually tired him out as he came alongside.

Not wanting to harm the fish Barry asked the deckhand to grab the 'Tailer'. This is a coated wire loop device that latches onto the tail of a fish so it can be carefully handled with minimum stress. It took a couple of attempts but our deckie, ‘Ads’ got there in the end and after the marlin door was opened the fish was slid on board to a round of applause from the other anglers and crew.

We estimated it’s weight close to 50 lbs., in the old scale, as the hook was quickly removed. A couple of quick pics. and he was gently swum away. A fitting end to a memorable 3 day charter.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

June 10, 2007


Friendship is the essence of a memorable fishing trip and during the past twenty five years exploring some incredible tropical waters I’ve been lucky enough to fish with some fine anglers. Mutual respect, trust and mateship make these occasions extra special as we have shared some of the best sport fishing this planet has to offer, and this story is about one such ‘special’ trip with two outstanding fishing guides….Terry Holman and Les Marsh.

I’ve known Terry for over twenty years and his fishing prowess is beyond question. It was no mistake that he was recently inducted into the Bransfords Fishing Hall of Fame for his uncanny ability to read any fishing situation and produce such consistent results . His client list is a who’s who of the international fishing community and includes the I.G.F.A President Rob Kramer whom he recently fished on the Daintree and had one of those top days catching barra. I have had the pleasure of his fishing company many times including a couple of Tournaments and have guided some of his clients when he was, as is often the case, over booked.

Les Marsh is a real piece of work…a top guy who enjoys a good time and can cast a lure with the best of them. He ran his own guiding business for some years and now runs the charter booking agency website ‘Fishing Cairns’, but still guides for Terry whenever he has the time. Les is an opportunistic angler who takes the time to observe…then cast his lure within a centimetre of it’s intended target before imparting such a provocative action that few fish can resist. Full of wit and always a ready smile Les worked for me at Bransfords for some time and I can tell you we’ve shared the odd laugh or two!

The occasion was a recent trip to Aurukun in May on board the M.V. Pikkuw (Insert link) run by Aurukun Wetland Charters. There were three other clients on board namely John & Cheryl Richmond and Warren Heycott. The skipper Bob Frazer, and his off side incumbent Ian ……… made up the balance of the team and in the absence of resident guide Tim O’Reilly it was up to us guys to share these duties. The Aurukun Wetlands comprise the rivers….Archer, Watson & Ward plus a couple of detached fisheries in the Kirk and Love Rivers, which when combined make up one of the most extensive, remote and unbelievable tropical fishing wonderlands imaginable.

The first few days of the trip flew by as we caught some memorable smaller barra, queenfish, mangrove jack etc. John, Cheryl and Warren enjoyed the experience of fishing these pristine waters so much I am sure they will book another trip, however the most stimulating part of this week long sojurn was a couple of days that Terry, Les and I spent exploring new country in areas that few anglers have ventured before.

A word of caution to anyone attempting remote area exploration is to ensure extra fuel and provisions are packed plus all safety equipment and medical kit. We took the time to do this and advised our skipper where we intended to go and what time to expect us back.

Setting off at first light our game plan was to travel as far as we could upstream BEFORE starting to fish, this way we could work our way back with the outgoing tidal influence. As I had some knowledge of the area I was the nominated guide….but in reality it was the blind leading the blind.

Amazing sights unfolded as we made our way 30 kilometres upstream. Wide sweeping bends with mangrove islands opened up into low lying flat land swamps that showed flooded gutters on the high tide. It was so tempting to stop and toss a few lures at these gutters but we knew they would fish better as the tide receaded and they began flowing back into the main channel . Barra usually lie in wait on the outside lip of the gutter waiting to pounce on the baitfish as they are washed out.

A virtual maze opened up and the early morning light made it difficult to pick out the deeper gutters and channels. We plotted our course on the Navman GPS to help with the return journey but it should be made clear that these wide / shallow big rivers of the Gulf are anything but hospitable to new chums and it is best to take a steady course rather than going flat out. The obvious signs of danger are when you observe rocks on the bank….which is a sure sign of a rock bar crossing the river. When the waters are flat calm the sign of ripples and swirls indicate shallow sandbars or underwater snags, and of course rippling water indicates a shallow rock bar. After years of fishing skinny water it all becomes instinctive but with three guides on board there was some welcome input from Les and Terry which helped us to chart a safe course.

The river forked at it’s extremities so we decided to take the left arm. Flocks of whistling ducks in their hundreds winged away as we approached, with the odd Burdekin in amongst them. Brumby’s galloped across the plains disturbed by our presence and a sight I have never seen before of eight Jabiru’s together herding up bait fish on a shallow sandbar. It could have been the Australian version of Jurassic Park and we felt privaliged to be there. Towards the end of this arm was a reeded shallow swamp and I could tell the other guys were keen to have a ‘flick’ as they both picked up their rods and just stared at me. This was a sure signpost for barra, and perhaps saratoga. Pulling up 30 metres short we glided in slowly before turning off the motor and drift. Terry and Les had their first casts underway before I could even find a lure as they began that provocative ‘twitch & retrieve’ using smaller surface lures. This method of more advanced luring keeps the lure in the ‘strike zone’ much longer and tempts barra to strike, even if they’re not that hungry. Terry was the first to connect and Les soon followed. Feisty little fish in the 40 to 50 cms. bracket that wouldn’t be short changed….good fun but not what we’d come all this way to find. I persuaded the guys, as reluctant as they were, that we should tie on bigger deep diving rattlers and chase some serious sized Snag barra.

The end of the arm was only another half kilometre upstream past a humungous rock bar. Where the waters almost trickled in from the shallows there was a drop off to around 3 metres which had an old crumbly snag nestled between it and the banking….another surefire signpost for barra as they often chase baitfish in the shallows on the higher tides then return to their deeper holes to rest. I clipped on a 3 metre plus Classic Barra purple colour, the guys kept on their smaller twitching lures……I could feel it was ‘Game on.

Sitting back around ten metres from the snag I made my first cast in the midst of the tangled timbers, cranking the lure quickly down to a fair depth before ripping it in short sharp jerks to get the rattles working. I felt it trip over some timber, then some more …then B A N G, I was onto something much bigger than those swamp rats. A silver flash leapt right in the middle of the snag and headed downstream…a good sized barra in prime condition led me on a merry dance. As he jumped I laid back on my Loomis 666 and the pressure of my 30 lbs. braid took effect, I was in charge but only just. A top scrap followed and Terry ‘Boga Gripped’ a nice 85 cms. fish carefully belly lifting it in for a photo or two. What a great start to our day and both Terry and Les changed their lures so quickly they were both almost a blurr.

That snag produced another five fish to 75 cms. before we moved on to try soft plastics on the nearby rock bar. The shallow rock ledge jutted out five metres or so before it dropped off to a depth of ten metres. 130mm. Squidgey’s in the Drop Bear colour were tripped over the rocky bottom, where the sounder showed some fish life, but the only customers we found were catfish. Time prevented us from doing more work in this area with soft plastics which, I’m sure would have produced some XOS barra.

Motoring downstream we took a left turn at the nearby fork….this was the main channel and led us to an almost impassable shallow rock bar with water rippling over it’s craggy mass. We spread ourselves over the boat to maintain a level plane, lifted the motor and slowly worked our way up. Terry did the visual radar job directing me over some hairy looking rocks, but we made it and anchored up at the first snag in the deeper water just above this obstruction. Similar to the first ‘snag heaven’ we had just fished this tangled mass looked the business and on his first cast Terry hooked big momma! He strutted around the boat like a ballerina trying to keep this 90+ cm. barra under control. A sudden dash for the anchor rope was quashed as this master angler dipped his rod tip under the water and turned it’s head just in time….then it leapt a full metre into the air, what a sight! The fish was almost done and Terry led it towards the boat…then….the hook pulled. He looked up to the sky’s and muttered….The story of my life before checking his hooks then taking out his diamond sharpening tool to ‘touch up’ the points. A seasoned angler never let’s a lost fish get to him….it happens….even to the very best!

Eight fish later, and several jump offs we continued our trek onwards and upwards. Les was having a ball and set himself like a ‘pointer’ watching for it’s prey. Often he would see a ‘magic’ looking spot and point to it….then look at me in a begging pose hoping I would stop. Not that I didn’t want to but I knew that there would be better country upstream and time was marching on.

The stretches began to shallow inbetween some deeper holes, then we came across a cut – through. When you see these spots where the river parts and a flood plain is visible it is usually deeper at the junction…always fish them! Snags often build up where the two meet and barras love it as they can take cover behind the snags against the current where baitfish are washed down…..easy prey! I took out the video camera and asked Terry to make a cast just knowing that he would hook up, and on the second cast he did…and it was a ‘horse’. As he set the hooks the big silver stallion arched his back out of the snagpile and headed towards the boat. Terry was up to the task and wound like fury to keep up with it and avoided giving it slack…’game on’ again! He fought it like a piscatorial athlete running around the boat holding his rod high to keep the pressure on….another jump, this fish was huge! Five minutes later the hook pulled again and this time Terry looked to the heavens again and said…Why Me? We all get days like this, but his frustrations were soon to disappear!

A gutter some way up this arm on the left was snag filled and in a back eddy. The slower run saw water back up around the snags which had to bring food for wary barras! I made the first cast and hooked into a 70 cms. fish, and, as I was bringing it to the net both Terry and Les hooked up to what seemed like bigger fish. I quickly released mine and took a vantage point up the front of the boat with the video camera to capture the action…..and what a sight it was as these two seasoned pro’s strutted their stuff. Rods and bodies were flying everywhere as they tried to keep these two leaping barra under control, both fish well over 80 cms. You can guess the ‘Yahoos’ as they brought them alongside and Terry cradle lifted them onto the boat. This time he looked up to the heavens and said…Thankyou, his gesture to the fish gods that had treated him so badly that day!

A sheer rock face five metres high greeted us past the next bend and no doubt had it’s fair share of fish working it but as the current began to speed up I knew we were getting to the upper limits of navigable waters and we just ‘had to’ make it to this final point. Exploring is addictive and I am fanatical about reaching a pre determined goal, especially in such remote waters that I am unlikely to fish for some time. The boys shook their heads at me many times that day as I passed some magnifiscent looking barra signposts but the shallow rapids beckoned and we were going to make it!

The river narrowed and the fast running clear waters indicated we were near the end. Again the motor was trimmed as we motored through ‘tiger country’ and the boys flicked to likely looking structure. Terry hooked into a big saratoga that leapt all over the place and led him around a couple of overhanging branches. I call these pre-historic looking creatures ‘snake fish’ as they twist every which way when hooked. It weighed 7 pounds on the old scale and gave us some top video footage and photos.

We reached the final pool where we couldn’t push up any further. I would advise any would be explorers NOT to try and pull the boat through these upstream pools as they DO contain crocs. My rule is if it’s fast, shallow and clear I’ll do it, but when it becomes a little deeper and the water gets murky it’s not worth risking. We tied up the boat and began to walk the banks.

Just like Lakefield in the run off, after the wet season, this stretch was picture perfect. Waters were being channelled through narrow rock strewn gutters opening up into wider shallower runs. The amount of food that had to be pushed downstream told us barra would be here in numbers…..and they were!

We spread out, Terry opting to wade over to an island with Les and I sticking to the main banking. As our casts hit the water our lures were ‘smashed’ by barra in the 65 to 75 cms range. We all seemed to be hooked up at the same time as these muscled up fish ripped line off and sped off downstream, fighting like fish twice their size. We were all ripped off, they were too good for us in this environment so a quick change to 40 pound Amnesia braid, heavier rods and 60 lbs. leader was in order.

Take two!!! The same scenario unfolded but this time we had more of an advantage and battled fish that fought like fury with the current in their favour. My scrap lasted five minutes before I grassed a 70 cm. silver barra, Les and Terry did the same. We’d found our ‘Fish Heaven’ and were savouring every moment as one fish after another gave us the fight of our lives.

The occasional sooty grunter latched on giving us yet another species for the day then Les, who was fishing a two metre rocky gutter, hooked a beauty and I saw him run up and down stream trying to stay connected. Comical to watch, he was oblivious to our laughs and finished the job off by landing a 68 cms barra, another fish I caught on video.

The boys walked further upstream and I decided to go back to the boat where the water was a little slower and deeper. I changed to a Tropical Rogue mid diving lure with brown and green tones, more of a freshwater colouration. First cast slightly upstream the lure was worked down and across the current, as it turned to wiggle it’s way back towards me C R A S H…it was monstered! I had heaps of drag on my Shimano Chronarch but couldn’t hold this fish…too big. I foolishly stuck my thumb onto the spool in an attempt to stop it but only succeeded in losing my thumbprint and pulling the hooks. Second cast the same happened except this time he wrapped me around a rock and snapped me off. I was determined to see how big these fish were and re-rigged with a 60 lb mono leader and an 80 lb tippet, tying the lure directly onto the line using a perfection loop. Third time lucky???? As I cast to the same spot I was ready for the take……B A N G! There she was and I gave it heaps, lifting my rod and walking backwards as I struck into this bruiser. Speeding off downstream again I barely hung on but with the “wind and walk method managed to turn it’s head enough to force it into a backwater some ten metres downstream. Quickly I ran forward, winding all the way, and grabbed at the almost beached barra..Whew!!! At 85 cms. I guessed this was the biggest I could ever manage out of this fast running water and took several pics. and video footage for posterity. This was one of the best barra scraps I’ve ever had and I bored the guys stupid repeatedly telling them about this ‘scrap of a lifetime’.

Time marched on and we had to make a run for home. Terry & Les had caught a bunch more barra and sooties and were well pleased with their efforts….what a place…..what a day!

The GPS track I’d made on the way up helped us to navigate these wide, shallow channels home as we recalled the days adventure. Probably fifty plus barras hooked…..around 35 landed and three ‘horses’ lost. Barra of this size and consistency don’t come along every day and we savoured the occasion. We all get on so well and share this common passion for the greatest sport on earth…and agreed that we had to do this again, and soon! The banter on the boat was like a sketch from the Comedy Channel.

Space doesn’t permit me to mention in detail but we managed a 106 cms. barra and a 20 kilo queensland groper whilst trolling on the Love River using the Classic Pro Alternative rattling lure….or the last evening when Terry, Les and I drifted a spot close to the Pikkuw on the run out tide and caught 25 barra and 5 jacks….the best barra measuring 102 cms. Or the numerous mud crabs we devoured! This is an amazing place and I only hope it will be protected so future fisho’s can experience just how good tropical sport fishing can be.

Our sincere thanks to the crew of the Pikkuw run by Aurukun Fishing Charters and the welcome company of the other guests on board…..John & Cheryl Richmond and Warren Heycott who all helped to make this trip so memorable.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


My most recent popper session was on the Russell/Mulgrave River system with my old mates Terry Holman and Les Marsh. The ‘Three Amigos’ managed to get out on the water again and did we have a fantastic day! Awesome would better describe the queenie action we encountered as these speedsters pounced on almost anything we cast their way, they were thick!

Using light spin outfits loaded with 5 to 8 kilo Amnesia fine diameter braid we tied on a metre long 15 kilo mono leader via a spider hitch double. This gave us the desired ‘shock absorber’ in the system and allowed us to present poppers with a ‘clear’ leader rather than coloured braid, an important tip! Arriving at our spot where a creek entered the main channel there was a defined current line as the tide was till moving in. Terry’s Custom Craft sportfishing punt is well laid out with centre seating that can be moved around so three anglers can have their own space so we all spread out, dropped the anchor and began to cast.

Using 7 to 9cms poppers such as the Manns Chug'n Spit, Team Daiwa bloppers and Rebel Pop R’s we began casting towards the current line, the action was instant. C R A S H, I was monstered after only a few bloops as a leaping 3 kilo queenie strutted his stuff, he went hell for leather around the boat before coming alongside to be ‘tailed’ then gently released. No sooner had I let him go than Terry was on, then Les. I made a cast to the other side of the boat and soon became attached to another aerial acrobat. A TRIPLE hookup, it was a long time since I’d experienced this, and to make matters worse terry’s fish was hooked up the bum and was giving him all sorts of curry! Les and I had a chuckle and passed a few comments on his method of hooking fish and how we were beginning to worry about the lad!

All three fish were brought to the boat, photographed then released. You can never short change queenies, no matter what size they are they always give a good account of themselves. We switched poppers trying to see if we could tempt those ‘metre-plus’ specimens that are often found down the Russell system with bigger offerings but it didn’t work and we had to make do with queenies in the 2.5 to 4.5 kilo size bracket, which on the lighter spin gear and smaller poppers we still quite a challenge.

We barely moved from this spot for over 4 hours, and when the fish became a little wary we had a cuppa or something to eat then got back into them. Amazing stuff and something we rarely experience. We made a rough tally of over 25 queenies caught, all on poppers. Wow!!

As the tide continued to run out several sand bars and drop offs were exposed. This is ideal small G.T. country so we moved over and began the same popper routine. B A N G, it was on again as these hard pulling tropical rogues gave us heaps, one after the other. Sizes ranges from .75 kilo to 1 kilo but can they pull! Again we didn’t have to shift, and the beauty of lighter spin outfits with such fine braid is that you can cast a small popper a country mile allowing us to explore several gutters and sand bars. What a days fishing!

Making our way back to the ramp - yes it was still drizzling as it had been most of the day - we were bragging about our three triple hook ups on queenies and the 15 or so small G.T’s we’d caught but most importantly how much we all enjoyed popper fishing and the good laughs we had. Vic McCristal was right, there’s no fish in our local rivers that won’t take a popper and to see the ‘strike’ is one of the ultimate sport fishing thrills.

I took Capt. Cranky (Barry Cross – skipper of Joe Joe) down there the next week – we started late and only arrived there about 12:30 pm.

But still we landed 10 queenies, 3 trevally, two very good flathead, 1 jack and one barra out of the six that hit our lures. And no, we didn’t catch them all on poppers.

The highlight of the trip was when we went up the Russell for a look at low tide. The queenies had gone quiet so Barry took me to one of his old barra snags – unfortunately they were not there but just downstream from his spot a shallow rock bar juts out. I kept telling Barry how I often caught flathead from the “rocks which was very amusing to him. As we drifted closer he gave me heaps about flathead, I really do catch them here I explained.

Well on my next cast I had a strike but failed to connect. As we drifted over the rocks I could see the flathead sitting on the bottom only a couple of metres away – I cast my orange mad mullet over its head and retrieved it back to the boat – I connected just out of arms length and proceeded to fight and land a quality flatty to about 70 cm.

We were both in stitches but wait there’s more – Barry cast downstream a bit further to the end of the rock bar and was instantly hooked up. And guess what, he caught the twin to my flatty – we both had a good laugh I can assure you.

It sure goes to show that “fish are where you find them and that certain features (i.e. a shallow bar stretching out into the main current) is a prime ambush point for any predator, right!

If you havn’t tried fishing with poppers all I can suggest is to ‘give it a go’, you’ll have a ball!
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 10, 2007


It’s tough to find time off at our busiest trading period but Terry Holman, Les Marsh and I organised our Lakefield trip months in advance to coincide with the best moon phase.....the first quarter to the full during September. The spot was chosen after discussing a trip at a similar time the previous year when Terry latched on to 100 plus barra in five days fishing. Now you’d think that we’d be in for a field day, but as we all know barra can be as pedantic as Elton John at a press conference and as things unfolded we had to put every ounce of fishing prowess into play.

The first downside was that Les couldn’t make the trip due to work commitments, ( but as you’ll see later he was there in spirit), so my son Matthew stepped in to make up the team.....he didn’t take too much persuading! The weather was picture perfect as we made our way to one of this country’s most beautiful National Parks...even our late arrival at 8-00p.m. didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. The camp was set by 10-00pm and we were chomping at the bit for an early start the next morning.

Todays campers have it so easy! Engel fridge freezers, generators, flouro lights, quick pitch tents, and on this camp we even had Terry’s own design camp oven for easy cooking. Our 3.5 metre barra punt was loaded with features such as a Humminbird Sounder, electric outboard, swivel seats, under gunwhale rod holders etc. I well remember the days when we pitched a swag under the stars...pierced cans of beans and chucked them on the fire and used oars to get around in our 3 metre bush tinnie. How times have changed...and for the better!

Terry noticed that the waterhole was a good metre lower than the previous year and snags were showing well above the waterline that usually held a few fish. The water was also murky and more barra really mind? We were soon to find out as our first casts to bankside snags produced zilch. We worked the entire length and breadth of the hole using small deep divers such as Rapala Shadraps and RMG Scorpions without raising a fish! One thing we soon realised was that the barra weren’t in the snags along the bank and plan B. was to begin trolling deep divers like the Classic Pro Alternative 12+ and Manns Boof Baits. The deepwater snags looked good and fish were there but lying ‘doggo’ as our lures brushed over them.

We started ‘ripping’ our rattling lures as they were slowly trolled over these fish riddled snags in an effort to ‘wake ‘em up’ and it eventually happened as I hooked into a good sized barra from a snag 3 metres deep. One jump.....he was on and running but the fight was lethargic and I soon had him beside the boat....a fish of around 75 to 78 cms. Looking to be in good condition his silver colouring told us that he had only been in the isolated hole since last wet season, and had been feeding well. But why so lethargic???

As the day progressed we noticed the water temperature creep up to 29.5 degrees, from a low of 24.5 degrees. This combined with the lower water level was probably the reason barra were so how could we persuade them to chew?

Over a few beers back at camp that night we mulled it all over and by a process of elimination figured out a game plan for the rest of the week. In river systems, and overflows / lagoons formed by dry season conditions barra feed in several areas depending on water temperature and atmospheric pressure. If the water gets too warm they will often find a cooler ‘thermocline’, ( band of water that is deeper), and conversely when the water temp. is cooler they will often find shallower waters that have been heated up by the sun....or rock bars in fairly shallow areas that retain heat.

There are basically five different options when fishing the still waters of Lakefield, or similar wetlands, later in the season:-

Another good tip is to cast to the shadows as the day progresses and the sun nears its peak. Barra often find cover in shady places as the water temp. increases.

For the next four days we practiced all of the above and found fish, although in small quantities, using these techniques. They were lazy and not really feeding, but, with persistence we managed to rack up around 40 barra over the five days. Many of them were undersize however the bigger they were the less active they were.

A couple of other highlights of the trip, in addition to the good company and mateship were seeing Matthew put a big effort into setting and checking his cherubin traps. It’s best to set them just before dusk using ‘Goodo’ dog biscuits as bait.....they just can’t resist these! I t was a pity to have to use some of the bigger ones for livebait but when we caught fish up to 76 cms. it was a fair trade.

The other buzz came when Terry and I decided to chase small tarpon and archerfish using mini Japanese made minnows, and of course Terry took his fly rod to try some ‘swishing’. Both methods worked and we caught a swag of theses feisty predators, something we wouldn’t normally try. I had to laugh when Terry hooked a small croc on his fly. He was working it through some water lilies chasing tarpon when the surface erupted and this metre long mini croc was hooked. Taking him on a ten metre run it was the best scrap of the day......until I was the bunny who had to try and get his fly back. These little buggers have razor sharp teeth and Terry, who wanted his fly back more than I did, grabbed it behind the head...took out his fly....kissed it and let it go. What a legend!

A typical barra for the trip that fell to a deep diving lure trolled on the edges.

I’m sure many of you reading this article have had similar experiences at Lakefield when the fishing just ‘shuts down’, and hopefully these few tips may help you to find a few willing barra.

PS: Les Marsh, who couldn’t make the trip, ended up being re-created with the help of a rake...a shirt, cap and a couple of cardboard cutouts for his face and legs. Those dam crows wrecked our camp the first day so this effigy ended up being a great scarecrow which we nicknamed ‘Les’. Good on yer mate!
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Did you ever see that ad. on T.V. where the guy wins Lotto and goes fishing out of a chopper? He’s pulling on a fish as the chopper hovers over the water….I’m sure anyone who has seen it could dream of doing that one day.

In reality there’s no way that kind of helicopter fishing could be done but there’s the next best thing and that’s to fish with Dennis ( Brazakka) Wallace on one of his Cape York Heli-Fishing adventures. It’s been on my wish list to fish with the legend north of Princess Charlotte Bay and when the opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands.

A long awaited trip to Lockhart River saw my son in law, Truls Fauske, and I fishing with mate Chris Flannagan for a couple of days. The extensive mangrove wetlands of the mighty Lockhart combined with the salt and freshwater reaches of the Claudie Rivers are a sight to behold! Teaming with fishlife these remote systems are not professionally fished so you can imagine they offer pristine sport fishing and the two days we spent exploring their limits were a real eye opener.

As can happen in any wilderness the fishing was tough. We lure fished the mangrove fringes and snags and did manages some fairly solid barra, jacks, queenies and trevally. By any standards this would have been regarded as a good result, but in these parts fish captures are measured similar to cricket scores and Chris constantly apologised for the poor results. Truls was overwhelmed by his first few barra captures and couldn’t understand why Chris thought the fishing was slow….well, when we visit this area again in 2008 I’m sure he’ll understand what the ‘best’ estuary fishing in Aus. is really like!

Brazakka had been fishing north of Lockhart with a group visiting Haggerstone Island. Our scheduled 3 day trip began when he ferried a passenger to the airport at Lockhart River for his return to Melbourne and his first words were…. The fishing’s been hard sunshine….have you guys been getting amongst them? Our reply only confirmed that the fishing had been slow up and down the coast but I had a feeling things were about to change….and I promise not a single word of exaggeration when describing this, our first days heli fishing with my good mate Brazakka.

We loaded up the chopper , tackle first of course. Special rods were designed by Brazakka and his mates some time ago for hand to hand combat fishing from the banks. The rod is a short, stout blank of around 120cms. with a pistol grip and called “Brazakka’s Barra Buster….just perfect for the job and custom built by Paul Herron. Shimano reels were loaded with 30 lbs. Amnesia braid and a metre plus length of 40 lbs. mono leader. To this was tied, via a perfection loop, to an Egg Snap…..Japanese in design these suckers don’t let go. Lures packed included B52’s, Gold Bombers. F1.11 and Stealth Bombers, Rapala Shadraps, Barra Classic 10+, RMG Scorpions in various sizes and a selection of poppers. We were ready to do battle and just hoped the fish were on the chew!

As we ascended above the Lockhart River community and headed south the view was just amazing! From this low altitude we could see the meanderings of the Lockhart and Claudie systems then in the distance the rocky headlands jutting out into the Coral Sea. It’s hard to put into words the exhilaration and adrenalin charged emotions that go with chopper flying….all I can say is give it a go and you’ll never want to fly any other way.

Numerous creek and rivers systems criss cross the plains before pouring out into the sea. To me they all looked good but Brazakka has over the years fished most of them and weeded out the average from the best. He places high importance on the stage of the tide and knows which spots are likely to fire on the tops, bottom, run in or run out. Our first stop was a narrow channelled creek with a deep gutter on the far bank….it looked good.

It takes a few minutes to wind the chopper down and any passengers must always remember ‘never’ to leave the chopper and move backwards towards the tail rotor. It’s best to wait for the rotors to completely stop before venturing out.

We were chomping at the bit as we tied on our lures and began casting , working our surface lures with a jerk/retrieve action. Barras and jacks attacked in packs darting every which way chasing our lures.Brazakka hooked up …then Truls and finally I was on…..a triple hook up on smaller barra around 50 to 55 cms. Bait schools showered as leaping barra crashed through them giving a great show and keeping us on our toes trying to stop them crossing over each other. What a place….what a start to our heli fishing trip!

It was on for young and old as this place fired up. For almost an hour one of us were hooked up to something….jacks to 1.3 kilos….small queenies and decent sized G.T’s to 3 kilos. Small black tipped sharks tried to get in on the action giving our hooked fish the ‘hurry-up’ looking for an easy feed. This place was alive and when the action finally slowed we tallied up over 35 fish caught and released. How do you beat that??

Our next stop was to a secluded gutter in dense mangroves. We walked through the scrub and over mangrove roots for ten minutes to reach the spot……and boy was it worth the effort! Wedged up against mangrove roots we flicked in our lures to the far side of the gutter, which was no more than five metres wide. Darting flashes of red collided head on to get first chomp….jacks, and some big buggers too. Again we started off with a triple hook up and landed jacks from 0.75 kilos to 1.5 kilos, it was hand to hand combat as they sped for cover in the dense mangrove roots and snags. It was like….twitch…hook up….hang on….then wind! Not exactly finesse fishing but so exhilarating.

The main river fed this gutter as the tide pushed in and we could see fish enter through a shallow drain. Just sat there watching barra, queenies, G.T.s, bream and jacks like a passing parade before we aimed our casts at selected fish. It doesn’t get much better than this. Brazakka hooked into a bigger barra that Truls and I had tried to tempt on his way along the line…it went ballistic leaping half a dozen times before tangling over one big snag then under another. The lad just hung on for all he was worth trying to duck and weave his fish back towards him….and it worked as he hooked the Boga Grips into a 51/2 kilo silver barra. With longer, fast taper rods it wouldn’t have been possible.

It must have been 35 degrees in the shade and the mozzies were giving us heaps but it’s amazing how you don’t seem to feel any discomfort when fish are chewing so well. After an hour in this ‘fish heaven’ we clambered back to the chopper totally exhausted trying to figure out just how many fish had been hooked and caught….we’d lost count!

Working our way down the coast we saw some incredible sights! In one weed bed area close to the coast we watched a group of around 40 dugongs grazing and I lost count of the big crocs basking in the shallows. To experience fishing of this magnitude was amazing, so too the scenery and sheer isolation of this awesome part of Cape York.

As the day passed we had another couple of great stops where the fish just latched onto everything. Most of the barra were around 50 to 65 cms but great sport….the jacks and other species added to the suspense of just ‘what’ would bite next!

Flying over flocks of magpie geese…thousands of them in this huge swamp was reminiscent of Kakadu. A mob of wild pigs wallowed at it’s waters edge and a couple of dingoes were chasing a sow nearby. Brazakka reckoned she was probably about to drop a litter and the dingoes were hanging around for a feed.

We landed as Coen that evening and enjoyed the hospitality of the folks at the Exchange Hotel, ( one local has put an ‘S’ in front of the name). A cold beer or two, a good meal and an airconditioned cabin….who could ask for more!

The second day was much the same as the first, perhaps not quite as many fish as the first day where we estimated over 90 caught and released. We tried new country and headed north again to visit the art gallery at Lockhart River where visitors can buy direct from local artists.

On the last day we headed south with the highlight being a stop at the famous Bathurst Heads, and not a camper in sight. This is a rare occurrence as the place is usually packed with visitors ,however the pending wet season had moved them on. The tide was half way out and Brazakka was confident of a barra bite.

We tied on deeper diving lures such as Nilsmaster Invincibles, RMG Scorpions and the Barra Classic 10 plus in my favourite purple colour. I was still tackling up when Truls yelled he was onto a horse…only to pull the hooks a few seconds later. Within 5 minutes he was on again and this time managed to stay connected for a couple of jumps before again losing what looked like a 40 pounder……to say he was excited would be an understatement. Only a few days earlier he had never landed a barra let alone hooked a couple of big bruisers.

I turned a couple of good fish but ended up staying connected to a king salmon…and not a bad one at 6.5 kilos. These suckers can fight and he led me all around the headland before giving up. Brazakka eventually got into a good one around 35 lbs. which gave him the run around before wedging under a rock. He kept gentle pressure on the fish and eased him out before he ran out to sea. This is where you want these bigger barras to fight when fishing the rocks letting them tire themselves out before bringing them to shore.

He played it like a champion and Truls managed to grab the leader…then the lure fell out…still he was well and truly caught. One up to the legend.

I got bricked by a big fella before I hooked the last fish of the day, again he led me all over the place and under a huge ledge. I thought I’d lost him for sure but by keeping on that ‘gentle’ pressure he popped up and continued the scrap. A dozen jumps later we weighed him at 10 kilos….not a monster by any means but a great fight off the rocks.

It was time to head back to Cairns and we stayed coastal for most of the trip…passing Cooktown, Port Douglas and a beaut view of the Northern Beaches. We had the trip of a lifetime, it couldn’t have played out to be a better scenario.

Whilst I appreciate these trips are costly it’s not as much as you would think. For the same price as a couple of fishos going to a remote lodge for 5 days fishing you could go Heli-Fishing for 3 days…and cover so much more country.
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