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January 4, 2010

South Johnston Sooty Fishing

The first trip of 2010 – what a great day!

Lance & I headed off right on time at 6:30 am.

It was raining quite heavily as we headed south and the further we drove the gloomier it got. By the time we crossed the Mulgrave river at Gordonvale we were already contemplating contingency plans………if our intended destination, the South Johnstone River was flowing like tomato soup we would backtrack to the Mulgrave and give that a go. It was absolutely teeming down at Babinda, and it looked as though worse was to come.

As we rounded the hills just north of Innisfail we spotted a blue patch in the sky, the cloud cover lifted as if by divine intervention and things looked promising all of a sudden. The big test however was still to come – what water clarity would greet us? Trying to lure fish in red mud is a total waste of time, if you can’t find clear water you can forget it in this neck of the woods.

Launching at the township we headed upstream. The big 3m + high tide at 10:30 am still had heaps of water pushing in, a pre requisite for fishing the upper reaches of our tropical streams. Low tide would be a problem however as trying to navigate back down at the bottom of the tide would present problems. (WARNING - Our rivers are badly silted and have been getting worse for a number of years. I’m not blaming anyone here – its just a fact, and without the local knowledge or the right vessel you can forget trying to emulate our deeds).

We cast poppers at the swirling backwaters of an island upstream of the township – 2 barra, a couple of near misses and things were looking good.

We headed upstream, casting to likely looking fish holding stations along the way………..weed beds of swaying ribbon grass / the occasional bankside snag and the deeper channels near the mondo grass banks were our targets – we were sooty fishing after all! We cast small poppers and blooped them back to the boat – man I love summer popper fishing. We cast leeds highjackers to the verges, boofed them on the surface and hopped to attract a feeding barra or two – remember we were sooty fishing after all! We cast small minnow lures to back eddy’s, near logs, ribbon grass and shallow flats drowned by the rising tide.

I instructed my mate Lance to cast into a deep backwater, “get it right up the back I explained”.

Boof, a beautiful 75cm barra was hooked, and gently released – we were sooty fishing remember.

Cast right next to those grass patches up on the shallow flat I advised – boof and a feisty 45cm jack engulfed the lure. Remember we were sooty fishing right!

Cast right in that shady area next to that grass bed I explained - no Lance, that’s too short – I was in like a flash and “boof”…….another 65cm barra was quickly released.

Man it was turning out to be a great day………..beautiful hot steamy conditions, hardly any breeze to upset our casting, only 3 spots of rain all day and the sooty’s would come on the bite after lunch I explained.

And guess what, they did exactly that. Plump prime hungry sooties – they crashed our poppers, they crunched our minnows and one brute even took a highjacker – these lures are over 15 cm long but that didn’t stop this stud black bream from attacking and putting up a spirited fight amongst the snags.

It was time to pull the pin and head back to the ramp. It was getting late in the day and the water levels were still dropping. We actually bottomed out on the sandy flats and had to take it easy on the electric for a few hundred metres but we did make it down OK.

And the tally for the day:

  • 8 magnificent barra – all but one was of legal size
  • 8 fantastic jacks
  • 15 sooties – after all, we were sooty fishing!

It was two very happy anglers that headed back to Cairns – I wondered how much rain they had had at home!










Les Marsh



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