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Fishing Cairns Blog

March 19, 2010

Girls….Take A Walk On The Wild Side!

It’s raining, it’s Australia Day…the boys have gone fishing down to the Mulgrave River. Silly me decided to stay home. Garden, paint ceilings, bake biscuits…like I said, it’s raining. Cyclone Olga is in town. The rivers will be muddy. I, regretfully, should have gone fishing anyway. The boys will be having a ball, laughing their heads off at me playing girls!

My name is Debbie Aldred. I own a real estate agency, have 4 sons & usually work a 7 day week, so to score a random day off is a bonus. I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of several stories written in fishing magazines over the past 3 years & I thought maybe it’s time for me to write one for the girls & encourage a few of them out there to jump on a boat this weekend & get a taste of what the boys get up to.

I guess I’ve never been an ordinary girl….Bought up on yachts in New Zealand, I used to skipper prawn trawlers in the Gulf, Northern Territory & Western Australia & absolutely loved it! Comes a time however, when you really “have” to get married & do the right thing by everyone. I left the boats at 24 years of age & came home to breed, look after my husband, run various businesses, etc. 23 years on, I’ve picked up another fishing bug…Barramundi fishing!

I guess… no, correction, I know I’m one of the lucky few women who have the advantage of having a partner who is a legendary fish whisperer…Les Marsh. After some 20 years with my ex-husband Peter, I made a huge decision to walk away from my marriage nearly 4 years ago. You see my husband was also a marine captain, big boats, big hunky men & big fish with big fishing gear. It was my life. I got together with Les a few years ago & when I first met him, I used to tease him about his little boat & his silly collection of lures (all 5 storeys of them in his tackle box. Were fish really so stupid to go for a piece of plastic being pulled through the water? ) In New Zealand we used to catch fair size ocean Kawhai on “spinners” when I was a kid growing up…but river fish? A bit poofy! Surely bait was the go?

Well to cut a long story short, I swallowed my pride, got dutifully dressed in an oversized beige fishing shirt, matching long pants & a flapping hat (Dear God, please don’t let my friends see me looking like a pommy tourist!) and ventured down to Deeral to launch the little boat in the MulgraveRiver . The esky was packed with bacon & egg pies & good ol’ home baked pikeIits. Then we went through this unusual little ritual, one that is now second nature to me.

Les backs the boat in (don’t let the axle go into the water), you pull “the blob” out of the boat, (a piece of lead- a la “the anchor”’s still poofy) hold on to the rope until his Lordship is seated. He checks the electric motor, (the one the fish can’t hear), then starts the Yamaha (a pussy 20 horsepower). Then I get to jump in (with “the blob”). Slap on the sun-block, don’t forget your toes. Then it’s the fun part. “What lure are you using today Darling?” Ah ha! They don’t have to match a dress, shoes or anything…but after a year, I worked out what the fish love. (I have been guilty of inventing my own sparkling lure creations compliments of the local craft shop). Keith Graham of Bransfords & Terry Holman, fishing guide extraordinaire, are huge supporters of my theories. The boys all sit around winking at each other when I gleefully announce I licked Les in the fishing score (mind you, he’s driving & trying to fish!) Blue, shiny Leads lures with orange or yellow bellies. White ones with red bellies…red shiny ones for the Sooties. Les is fun. He carries all 5 storeys of lures everywhere. Sort of like collecting matchbox toys, or earrings…however you want to look at it. As we sharpen up the hooks, they sparkle in the sunlight promising a day of excitement. Rods are unlatched from the boat and we are off. The seat is wonderfully comfortable, and I sit back and zoom off up the river with the wind in my face playing passengers!

It only took me 200 metres of zooming to realize, uh oh…this is really cool. Even if we did not catch a fish, this was awesome fun! The water like diamonds, amazing lush green rainforest leaning out over the crystal clear water, spectacular mangrove roots like exotic artworks. Yellow & orange native hibiscuses flow down the tide, the birds are incredible, and the beautiful tunes of nature as you drift up river with the silent electric gliding you gently along the river banks.

Les took me into a lagoon…a breathtaking silent & majestic experience; wild, vivid blue water hyacinths, white water lilies, Japanese-like underwater gardens with little fish darting everywhere. It’s magic!

Then there is the fishing! Wow! I am absolutely hooked! The first boof of a Barra on the line is unreal. Any fish is a thrill. I discovered quickly that fish do not live in trees, and taking a treble out of a mangrove root or a cottonwood tree is no fun at all with your belly on cold aluminum & your backside up in the air. Learn to flick your lures as close to the bank as you can. I’m now convinced bait fishing is for the girls. Lures don’t smell & they look good! Yes, it does require skill to chuck a lure, but hey, I’m a great believer that girls can do anything. My 12 year old son flicked a lure & on his second cast caught a beautiful 75cm Barra. If he can, you can! Fish love “structure” (a flash word for sticks & trees under water), sheltered headlands & “prickles” (sticks that look like witches hands coming out of the mud). It’s a whole new vocabulary I have had to learn. I have also learnt that men really do appreciate the beautiful things in life. They treat the fish so tenderly before gently caressing the fish back to the wild. They get upset with my constant motherly need to feed everyone…”Can we eat it? Can we smoke it?” What is it with men who go fishing all day long and think a fish looks too gorgeous to eat?

I have now fished the mighty rivers of the South Johnstone (by far my favourite local river), North Johnstone, Liverpool Creek (you almost need a boat like an ironing board for that one, anyone got a boat with a 4” draft?) the Russell (great popper fishing for flathead & Queenies), Mulgrave (good for a half day fix), the Cairns Inlet (always interesting!)And the Barron…a big surprise to catch such lovely fish literally in the City! Outback fishing is fun if you want to practice with the kids. The Walsh River & Leafgold Weir out of Dimbulah is great fun! The mighty Daintree River of course, but the tourist boats infuriate me. Caught one of my first big beauties way up river in the middle of the wet. Wrapped my hand around the fish to unlatch a treble & whammo. The ol’ treble in the hand trick! Les has an ingenious way of taking trebles out of tender skin, but hell it hurt! Don’t touch the fish girls until you work out how strong they are & how soft we are! Sticking ones thumb inside the mouth of a giant fish is still scary. Casting at the mouth of the Daintree with medieval bats eyeballing you is also an interesting experience, the Barra & Mangrove Jack fishing is nothing short of brilliant! Cooktown was cold & rainy at Easter. The Wenlock & Ducie Rivers near Weipa…absolute God’s country. Full of prehistoric forests, massive stingrays, Sea Eagles, flying river bank crocodiles, barramundi & crabs to your heart’s desire.

The boys all went off to the Kimberley’s recently. (Read NQ Boat Fish & Boat Dec 09 & Jan 10) I used to work the trawlers up there so I know what they were up to. Les went into withdrawals when he got home. The fishing is that incredible. Hint: Don’t leave Australia for a holiday until you have experienced the”Real Australia!” It will blow your mind.

Whether it be early morning sunrises on the rivers, or late evening fishing with the fish jumping all around you in the moonlight, I urge all you women out there who think this is just a boys game….get up the rivers and take a walk on the wild side. Let’s show the boys what we are made of!

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