Fishin’ Missions – Luke Galea Feb 2016

There are few fishing scenarios I prefer more than putting in the hard yards and walking a meandering rainforest stream into the wilderness. These fishin’ missions are right at the top of the tree for me for many reasons. First and foremost is the scenery.

Aesthetically pleasing, relaxing and untouched, it honestly feels like a dinosaur is going to come running out of the dense vegetation and hunt you down. These locations are timeless, pristine and they appear to have remain unchanged since the dawn of time. Secondly, there is a very real possibility that you may discover or even fish, waters that have NEVER been fished, or seldom fished at the very least. It all depends on how far off the grid you are willing to go or how much physical exhaustion you are willing to inflict on yourself.

For me personally, the most rewarding trips are those where I push my body to breaking point, whilst catching a bunch of fish along the way and particularly when the spot is a new one picked up by a keen eye on google earth.

Last year, good mate Zac and I accomplished all three on a northern escape chasing the elusive jungle perch…well elusive around Mackay anyway…pretty much as common as bream in the parts we ventured to. This trip was the culmination of six months of planning. In terms of planning, this included countless hours of desktop exploration via google earth, a few conversations with local lads in the know to ensure we were on the money and a significant amount of research looking into the extent of National Park boundaries ensuring we were legally able to fish where we had planned to.

I picked Zac up from the Mackay airports at 2pm and we began our long road trip north. The road trip was almost as fun as the fishing with classic trash talk becoming the theme of the afternoon before deliriously making jokes about some of the weirdly named creek names we crossed over on our approach into Cairns. Its amazing how funny some things are when you have been devoid of sleep and can barely keep your eyes open.

We arrived in Cairns at10:30pm, found our motel ate some quick takeaway rubbish and got to bed just before midnight. The next morning, we travelled a little further north into what can only be described as “Cassowary Country”. I’ll be completely honest here and admit that these oversized birds scared me even more than the prospect of coming face to face with a crocodile whilst exploring this country on foot. Whilst on the topic of crocs, these scaly critters are a very real prospect when fishing these rainforest streams. Although they are freshwater environments and ascend rapidly, it is worthwhile noting that they are very short and sharp catchments and we would often start trekking not too far upstream of the brackish interface. Some of the deeper ponds we fished could have easily housed a decent sized crocodilian.

Anticipation was sky high as we approached the first creek crossing we planned to fish. Stepping foot in the bed of the cobble-laden stream, we realised that our plan was now transformed into reality. Every pool we approached had a bunch of fish in them. Even though they were not overly massive, they were indeed the target species and the pressure to produce was relieved somewhat.

We started flicking around little poppers and stickbaits such as the Atomic Pop 50 and the Atomic K9 Walker. We certainly found the little stickbaits to be more effective at coaxing the bite in the gin clear water. There is just something about the seductive wobble of a stickbait which really gets the fish fired up. In my opinion though, nothing beats the surface bite and being perch, they are feisty little buggers and are always willing to have a go.

It was a common occurrence to hook one or maybe two fish (if you were lucky) from each pool before spooking the others. This obviously meant a lot of walking was required to keep moving between pools. One tip I can give regarding this is to ensure you release your fish into a downstream pool if feasible in order to minimise the disturbance to the pool you are currently fishing.

The streams elevated steeply and there were many occasions where we had to negotiate taxing climbs. The fish were pretty thick, and despite the fact we could have kept catching them on surface all day, we decided to mix things up a bit and catch them on a variety of different lures including small divers, plastics and even sinking stickbaits like the atomic semi-hardz. I loved catching them on the semi-hardz. Although you miss seeing the explosive surface strike, the weight of this tiny little lure was significant enough to allow me to cast well upstream from a fair distance below. In fact, often we would be casting at small pools 10 or so metres ahead of us that were level in elevation with our torso or heads. We needed to cast from this distance due to the JP’s exceptional eye sight in the gin clear water. If you got too much closer, they would see you coming and would swim off fleetingly. It is also advisable to wear earthy coloured clothes and try and tread lightly, although it can be difficult when the small cobbles grind beneath your feet with every step.

Walking the creek bed was certainly a far easier option than traipsing through the dense vegetation along the banks. First reason being there is far less chance of jamming your rod tip into a tree or vine and therefore breaking your tip. Now this would ruin your holiday wouldn’t it?? Secondly, there is less chance of standing on a snake which could certainly be a life threatening situation high up in a rainforest catchment far away from aid and thirdly, the “wait-a-while” vine can be rife. This vine has hard, thorny spikes that point backwards similarly to a barb of a hook. This stuff has been known to stop it feral pigs and even small crocodiles in their tracks so needless to say, it should be given a wide berth. Actually, quite a memorable moment was when Zac got his long, blonde, Fabio-like hair caught in the stuff and actually had to cut it out with his braid scissors.

We did this trip in November which is the ideal time to plan a northern assault on the JP populations. Firstly, it’s nice and warm. They are certainly renowned for biting better during summer. But more importantly, the large fish are still sitting high in the headwaters before they begin their migrations to the salt to spawn with the first of the wet season rains. Many people may not know this but Jungle Perch need access to saltwater to spawn, similarly to barramundi. With the onset of the wet, these fish will move to these locations and will be much harder to find as they disperse with the elevated flow. Needless to say, it is much harder to walk the creeks during the wet as you will have no choice but to walk through the vegetation which is pretty tuff as mentioned earlier.

The rod and reel combo I used on this trip was the new 3-8lb Samurai Cruiser matched with my Shimano Stella 2500FI loaded with 6lb braid and 10lb fluorocarbon leader. The Cruiser is a four piece travel rod which is absolutely ideal for these long road trips and walking through harsh terrain. They come complete with a hard case, but one of the best selling features is the fact that it comes with a spare tip section which is ideal if you break you rod tip in the vegetation or via a careless fall on the slippery boulders.

We fished five different creeks over five different days and walked roughly 12km per day. It was exhausting but we got a bunch of fish. Fuelled by muesli bars and trail mix throughout the day and refilling our water bottles in the clean, cool, running water, we ate like kings at night at the pubs and cheap motels we stayed at along the way. We came, we saw, we conquered, and what a mighty awesome feeling it was to venture into the unknown and achieve our goal. Give it a go, I’m sure you will love it BUT do it with a mate for safety reasons.

Live It….Breathe It….

Luke Galea.