Road Tripping

We had been talking about a trip north to do some fishing and filming, and what better place than Queensland. We pulled out the maps and laptops and started doing our research, looking for island chains and long sandy flats along the east coast. After a month of planning and picking out our attack zones we packed up the boat and camera gear and hit the tarmac.

Fourteen hours later we were in Hervey Bay, unpacking and setting up for the next few days chasing tuna. With very little sleep we were on the water, coffee in hand, and soon onto a nice school of feeding longtails.

Ten casts, nothing. Twenty casts, five different flies, still no commitment. It was tough until we found that one group of takers, and we were on. Tuna on the 10-weight, and we were screaming.

After catching a few good fish and tangling with the local Fraser Island sharks for three days, the weather started to set in, with wind and rain coming in hot. We sat tight in our cabin, editing, playing cards, drinking, and dreaming of being on the water. Little did we know there was a Category 5 cyclone building off the coast and this was just the start, so we stocked up on booze and maps and did some research. Cabin fever had set in after three days so we headed further north, trying to dodge the cyclone.

After a bit of a rough drive through heavy wind and rain we were getting close to Seaforth — a small coastal town at the start of the Whitsundays — our next spot on the list. When we pulled off the highway and set up the swags we didn’t realise we had camped near a cattle pen. By 5 a.m. the cows were restless and the smell was starting to get to us. Back on the road, with clear sky on the horizon, things were looking up and we hoped to be back on the water as it had been a few days between fish and getting stretched.

This place is loaded with islands and more big flats than you could cast a fly in a lifetime, but where do you start? We set up camp for the next week or so on a nice little island with good shelter from the wind and a good bay to anchor the boat. The next thing to do was power up the GPS and the iPad to look for a few possible areas to fish.

We picked a small group of islands with promising looking flats, huge river openings on one side and coral reef on the other. It was here that I developed Barra Insanity. In these rivers and on these flats we found big fish, we hooked big fish, and we lost every one. This place was getting to me, day-in and day-out. We had to make it happen.

I was feeling beat after a few weeks of heavy rain and sand flies that would eat you down to the bone in minutes if they could. I called it, and pulled the pin.

It was time to leave Seaforth for another day, having learnt so much about myself and why I’m addicted to fly fishing — I’m insanely in love with the chase.

I made a deal with myself that one day I would come back here to regain my sanity and get that big barra.

Next destination was a spot that I’d been reading about, and it really had me going crazy with excitement. If you’ve ever been to Hinchinbrook you’d know that this place has endless flats and a mountain backdrop that shelters some of Queensland’s best fly fishing areas. The town of Cardwell has great places to stay, a great pub, good food, and on the weekends it comes to life, adding to the entertainment.

The first few days were slow — I’m not going to lie — so we were soon looking for new grounds. I had in mind a few little islands on the map within a 20-mile run from the ramp, and this is where we headed next day. What we didn’t know was how crazy the fishing was going to be.

When we pulled up on a patch of birds working a bait-ball and saw some bigger fish busting up, we moved in a bit closer to get a shot. They were big tuna and queenfish, so I grabbed the 13-weight. Within a few casts I was hooked-up to a fat longtail tuna, and after about 25 minutes of fun-filled action the fish was boated and photographed and set free to fight another fight.

We moved on from the tuna in search of a GT and about an hour later, as the tide started to run, we began to see loads of bait getting showered. We knew there would be bigger fish heaving around in the shadows so I sent in a few casts and — bang — GT on, pulling string harder than a freight train. I was shaking at the knees.

These fish don’t play — they are the gangsters of the ocean. With big mean head-shakes and big screaming runs they will put any angler under the pump till the very end, and even then they don’t give up.

After boating this fish we knew we’d found our zone. Then things got real and the big boys moved in. I managed to get my hands on one of the smaller fish in the pack — 115 cm in length, weight about 20 kg — and another fish that went 120 cm, weight who knows, who cares?

These fish drove us to the limits and put our tackle to the test. We hooked fish well over the 35 kg mark and we came off second best. Okay, it was time to head back to the cabin to tie new flies and leaders and reflect on the day’s insanity. I don’t think any of us slept that night.

Next day we sobered up and hit the water for round two. When we found another big patch of fish working we looked at each other and all we could say was, is this really real? There were big fish bust-ups everywhere. A few casts into the thick of it and — boom — we were hooked up to a big queenfish. Like Miley Cyrus, these fish really put on a show.

After catching some big queenies we pushed over to a new little reef edge and, yes, we found more GTs hunting down bait and making short work of whatever was in their path. It wasn’t long before Alex was hooked up to a nice GT. You just had to look at the guy’s face to get a feel for what was going on.

The GTs backed off and the queenies came on hard, so we ended up smashing a few more fish, cracked a few cans and headed for the boat ramp.

With bad weather coming we bunked down and took time out to send emails, edit videos and look at photos.

When the weather came good once again we headed out in search of madness. It was funny, I was just saying it would be great to get a few mackerel and, lo and behold, second cast, I was hooked up to an airborne Spanish mackerel. This fish didn’t like me one bit. As soon as it hit the deck of the boat it went nuts. Some quick photos and he was back in the water.

After losing flies to bigger fish, I re-tied with wire traces and we got stuck into a few more spotty mackerel and even more queenfish. These queenies were into everything. They will take any opportunity you present and give you a run for your money. After yet another crazy day we headed for home with a feed of mackerel and smiles all round.

After two weeks at Hinchinbrook it was time to move on. This place will have us thinking for months to come, maybe years. Hinchinbrook, we love you, till next time.

After saying our goodbyes we headed south, back to Fraser Island, as we’d heard that the tuna were really coming on the chew. It was a 15-hour drive listening to bad music and telling corny jokes between hours of silence.

We had a little sleep after such a long haul and were in need of a recharge, a big brekky and coffee. Having stuffed our faces we hit the water and soon came across a good patch of fish. Seeing a few bigger tuna busting-up got us kind of excited. Within a few shots Alex had hooked-up to a screaming mack tuna — his first tuna on fly.

After a fun afternoon on the water we headed back to camp to tie some small baitfish flies, as this is what they seemed to be hoovering like crazy. A few Sailor Jerry rums and it was time to get some sleep for tomorrow’s shenanigans.

Four a.m. wake up — you have to love it — coffee in one hand and the sun rising up over Fraser as we set out to chase our dreams once again.

The morning was slow but we hung in there and got a bite, with Catherine hooking a nice tuna on the 8-weight. This fish had her running all around the boat, with her better-half Alex trying to give advice on how to fight it. Let’s just say a few funny words were exchanged. Catherine was over the moon, as the last fish she’d caught was a ten centimetre brown trout. You could say she really stepped it up with this fish.

By then it was time to go home, eat, sleep, and do it all over again.

With a day of rain out of the way we hit the water for the last time, fresh with excitement, wondering if these schools of fish had hung around. And they sure had. In no time I was hooked up and had another tuna screaming along the flats.

Not long after 8 a.m. a heavy fog set in and we couldn’t see 20 feet, so we pulled up on one of Fraser Island’s beaches and had a nap for an hour or so until the fog lifted and we headed back to the fish. After boating nine more mac tuna and a nice shark mackerel it was time. After two-and-a-half months behind the camera, it was Keith the camera guy’s turn to see what it was all about. Within a few short casts he was on, and losing his mind.

We boated his fish, got his photo and headed back to start packing for the long drive back to Sydney. After a few hours of drinking and most likely talking a lot of rubbish, it set in that after all this time we were heading home to the cold of winter. Our next crazy adventure was already being planned.

From FlyLife Issue 83