Walking the Walk! – By Luke Galea

I’ve just returned from an epic sweet-water trekking mission and I just had to put pen to paper while it is fresh in my mind and whilst I am still on a high. It was one of the most rewarding and amazing trips I have ever had and unlikely one I will not forget any time soon. Physically walking roughly 10 kilometres throughout the course of the day, it wasn’t easy but then again when is anything worthwhile ever easy.

It had been a while since I had trekked the sweet-water. I have had some insane sessions over the years and have encountered jacks, barra, sootys and a few sneaky jungle perch in the gin-clear freshwater reaches on these missions around Mackay. Without a doubt, the absolute prime time for these trips is October, partly due to the fact it is warmer, but also because this is when we often experience the first of the summer rains after a prolonged dry season. These rains spur these fish into spawning, migrating and recruiting. The rains also bring in oxygenated water and of course more food into a waterhole that is often devoid of food at that time of the year (as it is usually exhausted by its inhabitants).

One of the larger sootys caught…Its cloudy (presumably blind) eye did not stifle its feeding ability or aggression.

One of the larger sootys caught…Its cloudy (presumably blind) eye did not stifle its feeding ability or aggression.

Now for the first time in as long as I can remember, and as I mentioned in last month’s article, Mackay has actually experienced a legitimate winter. Most years I might reach for a jumper or jacket two or three times in the season if I’m lucky. This year has experienced single digit temperatures for back to back months and walking a sweet-water creek in the middle of winter is something I wouldn’t usually do as many people will know that the species I mentioned above bite more prolifically during the warmer summer months. Please note, despite this article going to print in the September edition, this trip was actually undertaken at the start of July.

There were two main drivers behind my reasoning to do this trip in the middle of winter. The biggest one was the fact Mackay received some record-breaking, unseasonal rain – approximately 250mm of rain over three or four days. This had elevated the river and given previous experience catching quality fish under similar riverine conditions, then I thought it was well and truly worth a crack despite the temperature and time of year. I was very curious to see what impact it may have. I make a habit of checking the Bureau of Meteorology’s stream flow gauging stations when it rains and have noted the optimum river heights for trekking safely through the creek and when I have had the best results. Any higher and it is too deep to trek the creek bed and any lower and it’s not worth going as you’re not taking advantage of the elevation in flow.

These heights aligned perfectly and there are only a few times a year where these heights marry up, so when this happens you just go… no matter the time of year or what other plans you have on your plate.

Another reason I was keen to go was the fact I have just started posting fishing videos to YouTube (Lukes Fishin Mission on YouTube) and I was very keen to shoot some content to show people the amazing scenery and awesome fishing that can be encountered doing this sort of thing. Like I said, it’s not easy from a physical perspective but the fishing can be great. Guys, I don’t usually ask for much but if you have enjoyed reading any of my monthly articles over the last 12 years writing for this magazine, then please check out my channel and subscribe. This will be a big help as I try and give this YouTube thing a red-hot crack and will be greatly appreciated! Just scan the QR code to get to my channel.

Hooked up solid.

Hooked up solid.

The stretch I chose to trek on this particular occasion was an upper stretch, so while I was hoping for a jack or barra, I knew that a few sootys would definitely be on the cards, and if I was extremely lucky, maybe a sneaky jungle perch….although I was unsure how the cold temperatures might affect them.

The clarity of the water was another element I was unsure about but as soon as I arrived at the spot, I could see that the clarity cleared up much better than I anticipated, so this had me hopeful.

I began trekking upstream, casting at any and every piece of structure that looked fishy. I started off early in the morning using a Bassday Sugapen topwater lure and was soon rewarded with a small to medium sized sooty off the top. It was great to get the monkey off the back with this fish. I was more than a little worried regarding how the cool temperature would impact the day but this fish gave me a little more faith to keep going.

The absolute prize! I was so stoked with the jungle perch…certainly a rare fish around Mackay.

The absolute prize! I was so stoked with the jungle perch…certainly a rare fish around Mackay.

I didn’t get a bite for the next little while and given the fact I came across a really nice, deep waterhole, I opted to change over to a little 60mm atomic shiner and give this waterhole a thorough working-over before moving on around the next meander in the river. Despite the fact it is certainly more fun to catch a fish on surface, never walk past a good-looking waterhole before smashing all levels of the water-column thoroughly….particularly if the topwater bite is slow.

A steady flow of sootys were caught over the next few hours, with some of them being reasonable fish over 40cm. It is always so much fun to see the visual strikes in the skinny, clear water, but the absolute highlight for me came later in the day when I unexpectedly landed a little jungle perch. It literally came off the same snag and same location that I had pulled a sooty grunter from two casts earlier. It is fair to say that jungle perch are considered rare around Mackay largely due to man-made influences such as barriers to migration, poor water quality and diminished riparian habitat. I have spent dozens of trips walking for 10-12kilometres per day, spent thousands of dollars on fuel over a number of years to only catch four jungle perch locally around Mackay. It is a bloody special day when you catch one. It wasn’t even a big fish, but do you think that mattered? Hell no it didn’t. It was just so special to come across one of these beautiful fish and to get it all on video was just awesome.

To view the video from this memorable day, please visit the following YouTube link https://youtu.be/Bq48-dPXrDQ and don’t forget to subscribe!!