Melaleuca Media
Dabbling in the Daintree (Fly Life magazine)

Always pack your rod. You just never never know.

As a journalist I find every so often a nice stretch of water will line up nearby an editors request and a bit of time can be squeezed in between interviewing, write up and long distance attempts at filing in net cafes or down mobile phone lines.

Mossman NQ was close enough to the Daintree for me to call an old contact who had once recklessly said “if you are ever in the area...”

Come and stay the night said his wife when she answered the phone, tempting the photographer and I with barramundi for dinner.

“Where do you get the barra from?”
“Our big dam has them”.
Gulp, did I dare? “I err, happen to have a fly rod in the car.”
“Bring it over”.

The directions were typically NQ. Turn at the giant barramundi near the Daintree crossing, go to a paddock, drive to the river and wait near the car at the top of the bank. Stay above the bank because of the crocodiles. She said she would row over and pick us up.

One sunset to fish and back across first thing to make the drive to cover the gig.

Touching the fly rod to the big barra on the way for luck, I wondered what its relatives would go for. My fly box isn't like other authors in this prestigious magazine. It is not neat rows of perfect imitations poised ready for the perfect flick in every situation. It is a mess of beginners enthusiasm, trial and error and creative ignorance.

The river crossing was under the soaring Thornton's peak covered by a wet woolly blanket of world heritage rainforest. The dark hills either side of dropped down to the Daintree River, long, wide, another shade of green. A richer blacker green.

The rangy and utterly capable looking Jane rowed toward us in the boat telling us to board fast as there was a big male crocodile's territory under that mangrove next to the car. Even the children obeyed the first time.

The river was full of quiet and very promising swirls.

The oars licked in and out of the water rhythmically as we silently contemplated our surroundings. How many shades of green are there? The grass in her bottom paddock was a light green relief to the olive green of the mangroves, the dark green of the forest and darker green of the river.

Comparing this stillness, and the clear indications of a rich fish biodiversity to the crazy life, deadlines and chaos of home I wondered if I refused to give her the copper coins perhaps she will promise to keep me on the other side of the river.

Iidle musings were interrupted. “You really need to be careful of crocs near our main jetty too, our cattle dog was taken by one a couple of months ago.”

“How do you know it was a crocodile”?

“Well, the tour boat guide told us he saw a four metre crocodile with a blue heeler dog in its mouth the day our dog went missing”.

“Oh”.

The ramp was climbed very, very fast.

After an agony of polite cup of tea and a chat time - the dam.

Just me, free in the forest, the mountains, that dam with barra and ....my audience.

One interested property owner, one photographer, two small children, two dogs and two puppies.

The dogs followed me and trod in the line, picked up the line and got caught in the line constantly. I spitefully pondered their inevitable future – lunch, dinner, snack, snack.

The back casts were wild (my notes say atrocious). Fortunately they found the trees and weeds instead of the surrounding audience none whom were ever more than three metres from me.

There were some big boils in the water if my fly reluctantly came in contact with it.

I was using the ubiquitous Woolly Bugger. I call it my blue jeans fly, you can wear it just about anywhere and mostly get away with it. And really I had no idea what was the PC fly to use in that situation.

Finally, I caught a reasonable barramundi who clearly had nothing better to do than take a ride toward the commotion on the bank.

Still, feeling quite proud I led the procession to the kitchen where upon Jane's son came down from the shed peering at it. “That wouldn't be legal in the wild that small would it Mum?”

I brushed past him. Fortunately his parents were politer and their Thai fish cakes were drop dead wonderful.

I managed to have a go in the Daintree river in the last bit of evening light. Jane's husband needed to be picked up from the other side.

The photographer rowed and I fished. From the centre of the boat. Sitting down.

Plenty of hits, one small tarpon. It was a mixture of fear and wonder being on that river at dusk. The feeding activity increased as night finally fell. This time we actually saw a crocodile. I walked up the ramp in the dark just a little bit faster.

The next morning, the mist was low, the time was past and the work clothes went on. Seeing a long face the kindly Jane said “we can wait half an hour, go and have another try”.

I stripped off, raced off and with only my photographer watching this time held my breath and cast.

Untangling the line from a wire which ran across the dam I wondered why I hadn't caught it the night before as I thought I had checked off every obstacle possible.

Jane had said at dinner she thought barramundi liked the colour yellow. Well it probably stood out from the greens in any case. The only bright yellow resident in the fly box was an orange and yellow deer hair version of a Bushies Bream fly.

Now the photographer was getting restless. No time for this was the easy to understand body language message. He peered up the hill. Just let me have one more try I pleaded.

Finally, a perfect cast. And a perfect hit. The fish ran hard straight ahead, and zipped side to side. I had a ten pound leader and there was a good weight on the line.

“Get the net ready Phil”.

“I thought I was supposed to take photos of you catching fish?”

“Bugger the pictures, grab the net”. He stood there patiently as the fish went back and forth, under the punt I was standing on, back out 50 feet and finally in again.

A very decent sized fish broke the surface thinking about the leader I felt very nervous. The first swipe of the net missed, the fish headed straight out again.

Oh gawd. I could really mess things up here.

“Can't I take one shot of you pulling it in” pleaded the photographer.

“Drop that net and I won't be responsible” I muttered as the fish swept back under the boat and took another big run. And then a few more runs.

I pulled in a good length of line and the fish seemed to lift near the surface and rest. Then it dove down and out with another burst of energy.

By then I was praying about my leader, my knots, the fly, the very very bent rod and the ability of the photographer to swoop the subject into the net.

The fish turned and headed toward me. Pulling in fast I warned Phil to be ready. It worked. He beached the barra and heaving it up the bank we crouched down for a good look.

It was possible. There was another shade of green for the Daintree.

Those luminescent bright green eyes.