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Garry Smith FishTalk Tune in to ABC Radio's Garry Smith at his FishTalk web site for more local fishing news.

September 16, 2008


It was a miserable Thursday morning in July, cloudy and overcast when I met up with Ron Gallo at Portsmith to fish the Inlet. We’d been talking about a trip out together for a few months and I know that Ron’s favourite stomping ground is the Cairns Inlet….and has been for the past sixty years. He’s probably forgotten more about fishing than many will ever learn but he’s always willing to pass on a few tips and help aspiring anglers.

He once owned and operated ‘Purcells’ Tackle Shop in Cairns, which was well before the emergence of Bransfords and Erskines. He’s told me stories of how he used to go out and castnet most of the night to provide fresh bait for his customers…’s that for dedication. As competition became fierce it was time to sell up and Ron found work with the City Council which wasn’t a bad move as it gave him much more time to pursue his favourite pastime.

Ron applies gentle pressure to slow a running grunter.

This is the way to hook up a dead bait…..cutting the stomach open allows the scent to escape.

As an inductee of the Bransfords Fishing Hall of Fame Ron knows his stuff and has contributed so much to the local fishing fraternity over the years. Ask him about Lakefield or Edward River and his eyes light up before he talks in raptures of some of his fondest memories fishing out bush, and he still makes regular trips to these parts.

When it comes to tackle knowledge he knows the guts from first hand experience! He makes some superb lures, builds and fixes rods and gets stuck into reel repairs like a bull terrier. I’ve often heard his beloved wife Jean, ( they’ve been married over 50 years), make mention that ‘Ronnie will do anything for anybody….he’s such a softie’. And that’s true he is a gentleman, and a pity there aren’t more like him around these days.

I’d been looking forward to our session in the Inlet! Ron told me he preferred a gentle run rather than too big a tide and the water has to be reasonably clean. As we made our way up near the top of this vast waterway Ron pointed to a small snag near the mangroves that was slowly being exposed as the tide fell. “ This has been a good spot for me over the years….Les (Faithfull), and I have caught some good sized grunter her recently….want to give it a go?”. I saw the water was only a metre or so deep but readily agreed.

Not a bad grunter for the Cairns Inlet. It’s still a very good fishery.

A feisty barracuda was first to jump on Rons F1.11 gold lure.

Watching this guy put a bait on his hook was an education in itself. Using a long shank 5/0 he threaded the dead sardine through the back of the dorsal fin so the barb was well exposed halfway down the body then cut the stomach open to let out the scent. I’d never seen this done before…..always preferring to thread the bait from the gills. Ron explained that most fish take a bait head first and this method gave a better hook up rate…….and I soon realised how right he was!

Both casting in towards the snag, slightly out on the flats the bites came thick and fast. Grunter to 1.5 kilos….bream to .75 kgs. and the odd toadie just to keep us honest. In the next hour we would have caught well over a dozen good fish between us……not a bad start .

Another thing I learned from the master was how he held his rod. Ron prefers baitcasters and holds his rod horizontally in front of him. Keeping his finger and thumb on the line he free- spools his bites before setting the hook. This is a great way to allow the fish to pick up the bait without feeling any resistance. You just never stop learning in this game, especially from anglers as experienced as Ron.

As the tide dropped below a certain point we moved to a nearby creekmouth that had clean water …a current line and about 1.5 metres of depth. Pro active fisho’s always move with the tide knowing that certain species are present at different places at varying times of the incoming and outgoing tide. Again Ron was right on the money as we pulled several grunter / bream and even a pesky catfish or two.

Before the run slowed too much he suggested we go luring up the back blocks of one of the larger tributaries. Again experience paid off as we fished gutters and drop offs that held newly run fish from the draining mangroves. Ron’s first was a feisty barracuda taken on an F1.11 slow sinking lure….then a steady run of bites from jacks, cod and trevally.

As the tide bottomed out we tallied up over two dozen fish for the session with around 7 different species.We took half a dozen fish for the table and the rest were gently released to grow a bit bigger. There would be little interest until the tide began to run in so we called it a day…..and what a top day I had. It’s always a pleasure to fish with our local legends and Ron Gallo is certainly a top guy to fish with and one of the best anglers around.

Ron asked me if I’d like to do it again sometime………and we will!

Keith Graham
Bransfords Tackle

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