28
Nov

It’s staying overcast and raining on and off, the creeks water levels are increasing and the jungle perch are biting.

Normally a very shy species with almost superpower abilities to detect threat, when the creeks rise and the water becomes full of debris it’s time to go fishing.

The other advantage of targeting them in the rain is less chance of spooking fish and less people at the usual local spots around Cairns.

So if you’re sitting at home on a rainy day wondering what to do, go hit up some of the local creeks and catch some of these beautiful fish. I find smaller minnows work better than plastics in tiny creeks.

Went down for an hour today and caught two, only took a photo of one as it was raining to heavily for the camera. But they are easily one of my favourite fish. First spot I missed three good fish first cast using a new soft plastic I haven’t tried before, won’t make that mistake next time and switched to a small Zip Bait hardbody. As usual, one cast and they were all over me, so I kept moving.

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19
Apr

With weather like the last few days we’d be mad not to get amongst it before the weekend crowds ruin the fishing and fun. We headed South to the freshwater and as usual it did not disappoint. Alex was in fine form, catching lots of fish and bounding through the scrub with enthusiasm. I didn’t catch too many and left the exploring to Alex. I was very happy just to be standing in cool water taking in the surrounds. The first spot saw a couple of Khaki bream each and many follows from wise jungle perch. Alex spotted the largest JP’s he’s ever seen at one spot and so he’ll be back no doubt.

Here’s some photos to give you a small idea of the natural beauty.

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We moved onto another spot where Alex caught two jungle perch and a sooty grunter from the same hole.

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Then we drove to the next section upstream and just near the road bridge I did a quick check to see what was lurking. Threw my lure in before I was within sight of the fish and noticed a heap of followers with some much larger swirling around beneath. Not to blow my cover I quickly retreated and took another angle. Casting upstream just past the snag holding fish, up under the bridge on the far side I nailed the perfect cast! Three twitches and a fairly fast retrieve back and I was on. The was a good fish I could tell. Suddenly my new rod didn’t feel so strong and she fought me all the way to the bank, in my head I was thinking ‘very big sooty’. When I saw it and I was delighted to see a thick set, very pretty jungle perch. Big mumma! Alex had already taken off so I just snapped a few pics from the bank then released her. I’d loved to measure her but I can safely say 38-39cm based on a few calculations using the lure length as reference. I will claim it as a PB anyway because what the photos don’t show is the girth on this fish, she was heavy. All the jungle perch up here were very thick and healthy.

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Zipbaits Rigge 56 custom tune strikes again!

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Alex walked as far as the eye can see up the creek in the photo above and then some. I wasn’t so keen and the last few days have taken their toll on my enthusiasm.

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We saw lots of sooty grunter, khaki bream, jungle perch and a fairly large tarpon here and it’s a great spot for a swim. Safe to say, we’ll be back.

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Spotted this ugly bugger on the way, anyone know what type it is?

25
Mar

With the water levels elevated after some good rain, we hit a local freshwater creek for some jungle perch (Kuhlia rupestris) action!

Second cast at second spot in the main pool and I had a good hit, twitched the lure twice more hoping for a return and bang, I was on. It instantly took to the air and I had it called for a tarpon as it went bananas on the end of the line, then it decided to go deep and pulled some drag and I stated calling it for a small barra due to the strength and deep bodied look of the fish. All assumptions were incorrect and I had my PB jungle perch on the line! After a few tense moments, I got down off the mud cliff and the fish was lip gripped. Impressive fighter and good sized JP!

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Healthy jungle perch caught using a Zip Bait Rigge MD 56SS on 6lb leader

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New PB at 38cm 😀

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Local Cairns creek scenery.

We did the rounds of all the usual spots for a couple of dropped fish and a fair few missed hits. Most of the fish were not sitting on the same snags as last time the water was this high. Tony caught the only other fish for the short trip, a healthy little guy on the last cast.

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Healthy little JP on a shallow crank

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Don’t let the photo fool you, Tony was stoked with his JP lol!

04
Feb

Mark & myself hit a local freshwater creek again. This time we did just over 11km walking through the water over slippery rocks & interesting terrain. We fished from around 7am until 5pm.

Starting by heading upstream, I caught a massive JP that got free before I could snap a picture. I caught some good fish heading upstream, but when we went back not much for me & I lost the best lure I own for these waters. Mark caught a lot of fish on the way back. Needless to say heading upstream was a better option in my opinion as it doesn’t spook the fish. Mark thought differently obviously.

Unfortunately the new camera is taking some getting used to. Also some photos were not taken at all (Mark can’t work the camera), what can I say, we are awesome cameramen!

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28
Jan

Yesterday will go down as a trip to remember for all the wrong reasons.

After driving for quite some time we arrived at our fishing destination for the day. There are many freshwater creeks in the area, however this one has it all. Beautiful gin clear water that shone lime green as the sun pieced the dense tropical forest fringes. The terrain is ever changing from shallow fast current with overhanging trees, to more open deep rock lined waters with large back eddies, to small fast running bottle necks, intermixed with sand & boulders of all sizes. Perfect, apart from the overcast day and rain. Target for the day, sooty grunter Hephaestus fuliginosus, khaki bream Hepahestus tulliensis and jungle perch Kuhlia rupestris.

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After a few casts Mark was straight onto a small sooty grunter that fought well. A few more casts and Mark was on again, his little Rapala trout lure was working well in the fast current. We ventured downstream, Mark wading downstream in waist deep water and I cut through the more open parts of the freshwater canopy popping out where I could get a cast in. I stopped and looked as the sun started to shine on one of the most magnificent sights I’ve ever seen. Emerald green water and sublime surroundings, ‘I have to take a photo, this is amazing’, I muttered reaching for my camera. Turn on the GoPro and beep, beep, beep, it turns itself off. Try again, no response – flat battery. Not the best start to a catch and release session so far from home.

By now Mark was some distance away and outcasting me 10 to 1 and I hadn’t caught a thing. So I changed lures, took a deep breath and launched myself into the cool fast flowing stream. Wow, how un-coordinated am I? I stammered from rock to rock in my trusty japanese riding boots, all the while trying desperately to keep my new reel out of the drink. Something didn’t feel right. No it wasn’t the reel, nor the fact Mark was using my beloved Daiwa Exist Hyper Custom 2508 that was worrying me, it was my chosen footwear. Normally my thongs are the ultimate highly fashionable fishing attire but this was a bad move. Past the point of no return off I went downstream into the unknown.

After a few land based detours around water too shallow or deep we found the fish to be quite spread out and their usual super aware selves. We pulled a few more ok small sootys before they started getting larger. Now I don’t know how many times it’s been said, but reading about it doesn’t do justice, these fish fight hard. A small sooty can put some serious hurt on an angler, the same sized mangrove jack you can water ski in with the drag settings required to land larger sootys.

A sooty hit my lure and started taking line on a nearly locked drag, finally, unbelievable I though, however the moment was short lived as I lost him mid stream as he glanced off a rock and flicked the hook.

Another half and hour downstream and the creek got a little deeper, we both changed lures to something a little deeper diving and this proved a good choice with some solid little sootys. We managed to take a couple of photos and then set off again. Now we’d been wading through some pretty deep water, stopping to take check of the situation on a rive bank, I noticed my tackle box quarter full of water. Worse still for Mark and our trip, his phone was now completely drenched in his dry box and wasn’t working. This is the second time Marks so called dry box has failed. Luckily I invest in some pretty expensive solutions and my trusty sandwich baggy did the trick, staying dry (again)! Oh well, no camera, one phone, rain, onward we march. At least we were catching fish!

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Along a fairly nondescript section of river bank we both caught a few more sootys. Some had the blubber lips, some did not (khaki bream + sooty grunter). So two clearly different species. Mark put a cast into some tiger country and snagged his lure, ‘should I get it?’ he asked, to which I gave my normal response, ‘of course’, I love quality entertainment. So Mark swims over and lets out this little ‘shiiiiit’ as the current fires him directly at the snag. How he didn’t hurt himself I’ll never know, but he managed to hold on somehow and start retrieving line working back towards the lure. As he got closer to the lure, unknown to me, his shorts started to slide and nearly came off. I was just wondering what was taking him so long, so he ended up with a treble hook half in his finger, almost lost his pants, but the lure was retrieved. Took a good hit on the shin after letting go of the snag and I almost regretted telling him to get the damn lure. But it was entertaining – yet again!

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At the end of this section was a narrowing s shaped bend. Wading through the fastest & deepest current we’d experienced so far I cast my Duo Slaver Shad 55 at into a nearby back eddy close to a logjam. I only had time to one or two very small sharp rips to wake the waiting fish up then I had to wrestle the lure back across the raging current. Rip, rip, wrestle the lure against the current about 1m and BANG! I was on, I pretty much waterskied this little fish in to find the cutest little jungle perch had smashed my lure so hard he’d effectively sown his mouth shut with both single hooks! I quickly released him and fired another cast at the same spot, almost in disbelief that a fish could swim against the current and take a lure, sure enough, I caught another and another before moving on. Just all small guys, but we had finally found the jungle perch. Skipping the next section after some fruitless casts into likely spots, Mark fired out a long cast that was nailed, he landed a decent little jungle perch after a solid fight through the rocky current.

As we crossed the river at this next bend the current was even faster, much faster. I opted to drift with it and Mark fired a cast downstream straight into the heavy part of the torrent. Bang, he was on, now how a fish could swim in this defied belief, but sootys do that – they defy belief! Another solid sooty to Mark! This is where it got interesting, I’m mid creek, current raging, trying to stay upright, not drop the reel in the water and keep my footing. Wearing thongs was pretty stupid, each time I lift my foot the current moved my foot about 40cm downstream no matter how small and how hard I tried to keep it there. It wasn’t looking good! Then it happened. Lifting my foot I lost balance and a thong. Mark got a hand on it but missed it and we watched it fire off downstream at a great rate of knots. ‘It’s ok’ Mark says, ‘we can get it in the calmer water downstream’, before he could even finish the sentence I’d lost the other thong and was on my side. Saved the reel though and floated around like a bloated animal stuck in floodwaters before I regained a footing and escaped the torrent! We never recovered the first thong.

Ok, no camera, no footwear, this isn’t looking good. To make matters worse, it was becoming too deep to wade and we had to bush bash. I trotted on for a while, really not getting far as it wasn’t that easy barefoot and I was freaking out a bit as to what I could encounter on the bottom of my feet. Mark says ‘here, use these my feet are like rocks’ and so I took his crocs. Oh the shame, but they actually worked really well (for this purpose only of course)! We set off and Mark suddenly fell. Weird I though! He’d stepped into this hole you couldn’t see that swallowed his entire lower leg just over his knee. My reel took some of the brunt of the fall and was now a less than mint Daiwa Exist Hyper Custom (oh no!), more importantly Mark somehow had dodged a serious injury and just had a bruised shin. Amazing! He could have so easily hurt his knee, ankle, or foot and we really would have been up shit creek!

After gathering ourselves we started trekking through some seriously dense and unforgiving terrain. Light was starting to fade fast and it was getting THICK. Firing a casts out almost simultaneously, I noticed LOTS of follows and from much bigger fish. I dropped a total beast, and another large model. Mark hooked and dropped a couple and it was almost last cast. Mark tied on a surface lure and we watched as jungle perch and sootys followed and took swipes at the lures. Mark hooked a horse of a jungle perch it was huge and easily the best sooty of the day, both shook the hooks at his feet. Bugger!

Anyway last cast was exactly that as we really needed to get out of dodge and fast, light had faded and we didn’t know which way out except to the left. We couldn’t go back, forward and with dark fast approaching we just made a bee-line hard left for the road. This is where it got a tad spooky, snakes, spiders, wet, one of us with no shoes, one phone (which later turned out to be down as Telstra lines had been cut north of Rockhampton), no torch and dense jungle to get through. No choice but to do it, we covered ground fast and came to what looked like a clearing, then it hit us, the clearing was just a MASSIVE patch of lantana and unpassable grass that there was no way we’d go near. Panic set in and we were starting to actually get scared, it was almost dark in there. I suggested we go around to the right and see if we can get past it. Sure enough and amazingly, we could. Turns out we had found an opening to the ONLY patch of cane field that had been cleared along the entire creek. How did we manage that we will never know. Crisis averted we walked for about 3 or 4 kilometers back to the car and headed home. Had we not have walked out near a cleared cane field, we would have to walk some cane. Mark used to live on a cane farm and was a snake keeper so we knew this was to be avoided at all costs, especially in that location, weather and just on nightfall!

Many things could have gone wrong here and we both learned a lot from this experience.

  1. Always take a headtorch
  2. Always take appropriate footwear
  3. If it needs to be waterproofed, make sure it is, double sure
  4. Take a charged camera or phone
  5. Don’t lend anyone beloved reels, even mates (I hope you’re reading this Mark :p No, all good, can’t wait to use your Stella!)
  6. Anything can happen, prepare for the worst (broken bones, snake bites, spiders, getting lost etc.)

A simple trek can soon turn south very fast. Welcome to the jungle!

10
Jun

Mark (mdlures) and myself hit the Russell for the first time in search of a few fish to catch and release on Friday. We were both shocked by the excellent water quality and natural beauty of the area.

Not actually knowing where we were going, we followed the nearest tinny off the main highway and ended up at a boat ramp. Only problem being, we were not even on the Russell, but up the Mulgrave. So we journeyed down to the mouth over some very shallow ground and up the Russell, checking out all we could along the way. The Russell and Mulgrave are a twin river sharing the same mouth.

Most of the morning was spent looking around and being genuinely shocked at the brilliant waterway before us, as well as wondering why we were so stupid to have never fished it before.

Lots of photos were taken, and we felt more like sightseers than fishermen (apart from one little GT caught by Mark). The fish were not playing the game and it didn’t matter. Even the guides were having a rough time. We saw a ton of fish: jacks, barra, grunter, bream, bony bream, scat, jungle perch, something HUGE that looked like a jack on some serious steroids, fat tilapia, tarpon, schools of different types of mullet, and some we just didn’t know…

After exploring a stunning creek with crystal clear water, we ventured upstream. Taking in a new vista at every turn, we could have been in any tropical country, Mark was thinking PNG, I was thinking East Malaysia. True paradise.

The tide was racing out and the current strong. After getting far enough upstream (a fair way!) we drifted back down using the electric to hold on some areas for no more than a few casts, or to retrieve snagged lures, or fish.

Wasn’t long and I was onto a little Jungle Perch sitting in a front eddy off a snag.

Not far around the corner and Mark let out a good “Yep” and his rod was buckling HARD. Keeping its head up out of the sticks and finally under control, Mark excitedly started yelling, “Look at the colours on this Sooty” and sure enough it was a healthy Gold Spot Sooty Grunter. The colours of this fish in the water were totally different and what a pretty fish.

Taking a photo and releasing it we found ourselves sitting up against a bank in a very strong back eddy. We took turns at holding the boat under some branches while the other cast upstream into the eddy. It was a hot bite indeed with three and four hits per retrieve. As soon as the lure hit the water you got a hit, usually followed by one or two mid retrieve, then always a last on just before the boat, all in the space of 3-7 metres. “Yep, OH, Yep, OH, Yep ON” was heard a fair bit. While we caught a few, we certainly lost a fair few as well and tarpon were usually the culprits with their bony mouths and blistering turns of speed. After 10 of the hottest minutes of fishing the bite was over and we headed downstream.

Casting anything and everything, we tried both sides of the bank. Mostly searching for eddys that would hold fish. Coming across a section of river bank with slightly less current Mark suggested we make a move to the other bank where all the fish had been coming from, two casts later and I was hit HARD. Struggling to keep the fish up without breaking the leader, the fight was fast and dogged. I called it for a big trevally (GT) but I was wrong and eventually up popped a flash of red. “Yes” a nice sized freshwater Mangrove Jack!

Not more than 10 minutes later “Yep”, Mark was on. Another magnificent freshwater jack. We motored over to the other side for a picture and a fish near a nice looking stream running the clearest water you’ve ever seen into the river. As we got near I cast my lure over landing it within an inch of the bank near the undercut bank and slowly but firmly twitched the lure back hoping for a double. As I pulled the lure from the water another good sized Jack took one last swipe just missing the hooks. Bummer, nearly had a photo to remember. Mark’s jack was a nice fish as you can see in the pictures.

The next reach I caught another Jungle Perch.

As the sun started falling on the tree-line we decided we’d better get the f out of dodge as we had a lot of ground to cover and not much time until dark. The ride back was one to remember and ensured our regular fishing trip soon became yet another MD “fishing odyssey”. You see, Mark and I have a knack for making a normal fishing trip into something a little more grueling and adventurous. Beaching the boat nearly on dark in a river system that had shown up at least 4 crocs, including one total beast, getting into the water and pushing the tinny out was all we needed, but we survived (again). One of these days we’ll get a regular trip in, but in the meantime, it’s good to be able to tell the story and adds to the adventure.

You can see the look on Mark’s face as we venture up the last section of river in 1-2ft of water. Not the best way to end a trip, won’t happen next time though!