The Extra Mile – Talina O’Brien 2017

For decades now Cape York has been considered an iconic and bucket list destination for off road travellers in Australia seeking out the adventure of remote territory and untouched landscapes. With access roads constantly improving and the technology of 4WD vehicles and accessories continuing to evolve, the journey north into Cape York has become less arduous.

While the destination is still iconic some might argue that it no longer has that ‘remote’ status that made the location such an attractive challenge for some travellers.

Personally, I’m the sort of person who loves to seek out remote areas. One of the major enticements of moving to Bamaga was the opportunity to continually push the boundaries and confines of road and tracks. I thrive on that feeling you get when you are standing in a place that has no evidence that it has been visited before.

There is a certain thrill when you happen upon a place where you can drive, walk or fish for days and not see another vehicle, boat or person. It’s being able to wonder, ‘Has this lagoon ever been fished’ or am ‘I the first to explore this’.

While there is tranquillity in such remoteness it is not just about avoiding people, but being able to bathe in the amazing remote beauty that these places have to offer.

I have come to learn that having an adventurous and curious nature has led to some of my most unique catches in some truly unexpected locations. And because you may not always be prepared for what you might discover the thrill of using improvised equipment always adds an extra challenge.

It can seem daunting at first to go off the known track but with some planning it can feel less intimidating but extremely rewarding.

When you look at a satellite image of Cape York you will notice that it consists of a vast amount of massive river systems, creeks, lagoon and wetlands.

All of which offer anglers amazing opportunity and wide variety of fishing.

Many of the large systems can easily be accessed by visitors and there are many advantages of using these main hubs as a base camp. National Parks like the very popular Lakefield National Park that flows into the east coast, Oyala Thumotang National Park that flows onto the west coast and the Jardine National Park and all the bits in between, trust me they don’t just consist of the main roads you drive on or just the camp spots you camp on, there is so much more to explore if you go that extra mile.

Sometimes it’s all in the timing.

Just after the wet the rivers, creeks, swamps and lagoons are all full and flowing fairly consistently.

The wet season rains inject life, growth and change for another year and this wets the appetite of many of us Cape York anglers.

Although the most easily accessable major river systems within the Cape can always be productive, it’s the upper reaches of these systems where you can also have a lot of fun. Particularly as the rain stops and they begin to dry out some of the newly flushed systems.

As the dry kicks in, the upper rivers systems slowly subside, leaving the deepest pools of water left.

Inevitably fish like barramundi, saratoga, sooty grunter and tarpon that were making the most of the big wet by moving up and down waterways can get stuck in these isolated water holes.

Trust when I say, they are in spots where you would least expect and do require a determined and curious look.


Don’t Be Fooled – Locations Can Be Deceiving

During my time in Cape York, I have spent quite a lot of time exploring and have continued to gain experience and knowledge of the area. However I continue to be surprised when I visit a site I have been before that has experienced seasonal change.

There have been plenty of times where I have pulled up at a prior camp spot, walked to the side of the creek, looked down and felt disheartened by the almost dried up waterhole.

It’s when I have had a crack and thrown a lure in the puddle which has quickly proven me wrong.

I have pulled some of my nicest barra and saratoga out of nothing but a big puddle of water.

It is moments like these that can change your perspective on fishing opportunities and drives me to attempt a cast where previously I might not have bothered.

It also heightens my curious nature, motivates me to push the boundaries of unchartered paths and keeps me continually wandering through the landscape and taking full advantage of the allocated time I have for the trip.

I am always wanting to know what’s further along the creek, what’s around the next bend and find that deeper section full of fish that probably haven’t seen a lure in their lifetime.


The extra time and effort….

When you have the opportunity to be able to explore the waterways and lagoons across Cape York and you want to have the ‘ready for anything’ experience, it is worth taking the extra effort to plan for the possibilities of the terrain.

This will avoid potential disappointment of getting to the end of a lagoon that might be landlocked, seeing another in the distance but not being able to access it.

If there is the opportunity to put on a roof topper tinny this will allow excellent options to explore smaller stretches of river that might not otherwise be accessible.

When looking for remote fishing spots, especially within the National Parks, I quite regularly pick the camp spot furthest away from the main road.

While these campsites can sometimes add more time to your travel itinerary and possibly have more limited facilities they often give the best opportunity to explore some of the outer limits of the National Park that have been less traversed by previous visitors.

These outer sites can give you access to some pretty amazing untouched fishing opportunities.…..can be worth the experience

One of my favourite camping trips happened when spending four days with a group of anglers at one of these outer national park spots.

Although we had set up a camp spot on one lagoon, there was also another lagoon nearby so we used our small tinny to go back and forward exploring both waterways. We had a ball catching solid barra, stonker saratogos and sooty grunter.

It wasn’t all about the fishing though as the wilderness offered some other unique experiences. It was nothing to be fishing some snags with a large mob of wild pigs walking along the bank above you or using the camp fire to cook up a large feed of yabbies that had just been caught.

The most memorable experience though was crashing to sleep after a couple of big days fishing and being woken to mayhem on the lagoon in front of us.

There was chaotic noise and spray coming from the water in a situation that I have never experienced. After eliminating a mob of wild pigs rushing through the campsite, fighting crocs and gunshots we realised it was a school of large barramundi smashing anything and everything that moved.

Remembering the noise still gives me goose bumps and it is something I will never forget. It’s special moments like these that remind you how wild Cape York can be, if you go that extra mile.


Be prepared and get out there…

When travelling and fishing remote it is very important to be organised and prepared to ensure your safety, although I could harp about this all day, I personally think it comes down to common sense.

Remember how remote you are, ensure you have sufficient necessities like water, food, first aid and communication and also tell someone where you plan to go and ensure you stay within that area.


Be croc wise

Crocs are a little like barra, they can be everywhere and at times can be where you least expect them to be (both in and out of the water)

Well after reading this article I very much hope I have encouraged some of the potential anglers visiting Cape York to think outside the square and go that extra mile, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

Cheers, Talina