Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Surprise Visit to Paradise!

It was my beautiful daughter, Britney's, 21st birthday on Sunday 22nd March...and I was not going to miss it!

And so the well made plans of mice and men; and Dad's for that matter, were hatched.
I had to have a couple of accomplices of course and that's where my other daughter, Kirby, and good mate Brett Parks, came into plans. You see, I needed a place to stay, a hide out from letting "anyone" know that I was in town (Cairns), someone to bring along the flowers, gift and cake - and as time would allow, someone to take me fishing.

And so it was that I boarded the 7:00am flight from Auckland International Airport. It was a chilly 11C as Debbie drove me down from the farm, but I knew that things would be a lot different back in Tropical North Queensland. The previous week / days had been racked with apprehension and anxiety. You see, I was intently studying the movements of two massive tropical cyclones.

Cyclone Pam had already wreaked havoc on the islands of Vanuatu, and my prayers and hopes go out to the people left homeless and without proper food and water and concern for their immediate futures. The left over storm was bearing straight down on the north of New Zealand and predictions included strong storm winds and possible huge tidal surges in the Hauraki Gulf (where I live). And across the ditch, Cyclone Nathan was harassing the coastal communities of Cape York, and being a very unpredictable beast he was. Would my plans be thwarted by two storms...would mother nature play a part in the success, or otherwise, of my carefully planned, but brief visit, to Cairns? Even as I landed in Brisbane, the path of Nathan was being determined and thankfully, he veered north west as he neared the coast and spared North Queensland from major destruction to any built up residential area. Flooding of the local rivers was also of concern and of course, my daughters big day!

Thankfully all was well and as Schefey picked me up from Cairns airport, I knew that my plans were still intact.

My first duty was to change out of my "cool weather" clothing...readers will know that the heat and humidity of Cairns just hits you as soon as you disembark from the plane. WOW...had I become acclimatised to NZ in only 3 months? A quick shower, toss on a pair of shorts and T shirt and off to the dentist. Yep...Kirby had arranged for some dental work to repair a tooth that had chipped the previous week.  Then I had to find a place to "hide"...and what better way to do it, and to kill some time, was to go watch a movie. I must have been a strange site crawling down the shopping mall with my spotters on, making sure that nobody recognised me, or me them!

Friday night is...well...a few drink were in order, at home of course. A quick check with my fishing buddy, Brett, as to confirmation of my pick up time in the morning and it was off to bed. I was excited. What river would we fish, what was the tide, how much rain had Cairns had recently and what conditions would present itself on the day?

My alarm rang loudly at 5:30am...and I was up in an instant. Donned my fishing clothes (long cool trousers and shirt for sun protection of course)..grabbed my hats, sunnies, 3 piece travel rod, phone and camera...and waited for Brett to arrive as planned. The morning dawned cool and clear with a spectacular light show from the hovering was going to be a good day!

Morning Clouds over Cairns city
Pleasantries were exchanged, good mates shook hands in a warm, welcoming way as only true friends can...and the conversation flowed. OK mate, where are we going to fish?

Tropical cyclone Nathan had crossed the coast by this time, but being located above Cooktown meant that any torrential rainfall that might have fallen during the night would have been north of Cairns. So we headed south. "How about the top of the Russell" I expressed. Brett had never fished this beautiful part of the river previously and was looking forward to exploring it very much, especially with Les Marsh (I had a chuckle to myself and the plan was set). We drove south to Babinda and I took him to my not so secret launching spot. Brett was a little apprehensive at first but I assured him that I had done it a dozen times and that even at low tide, we would be able to extract his tinny.

Of course we could do it!
My plan was to travel upstream as far as conditions, water flow, would allow. Now this consideration includes water clarity as well as how much fresh was pumping in the system and it was soon evident that there was still a lot of sediment in the river. Brett was a little concerned at this point as to the success of the day, but I assured him that once we cruised up above the swamps, river clarity would improve dramatically. And so we cruised along; up past fallen palms, across shallow sand bars and deep pools, under railway bridges and high road pavement...and at the third set of rapids decided that we had come as far as we dared (needed to) today.

The river was simply magnificent...clear running water, vivid green grass covered banks and tall sentinel rainforest trees and palms. I was loving heart felt good...Brett was very impressed. And now for the fishing.

I took my 3 piece Daiwa travel rod from its bag and clamped on my Quantum spinning reel...and out came my favourite Rapala SR5's. I had to spend some time however putting hooks on the lures, as I had had to take them off prior to travel - they are a dangerous weapon you know! But we were soon into it and casting to likely looking bank side cover and drowned timber. On about my third cast I came up tight to a lovely little didn't feel like a sooty however as it fought doggedly down deep. But constant pressure soon had her up near the surface where she jumped....a beaut little barra...I've still got it I mused!

It didn't take Brett long to hook up either and he soon had a quality sooty at the boat. I just love this light tackle spinning. Its easy on the arm, you can cast all day on light 4kg tackle and small lures in relatively skinny water and the rewards are amazing. Sooties of all colours and sizes (usually a mottled yellow / brown / black) and sparkling silver JP's, along with tarpon, crimson jacks, trevally and the occasional barra - I have hooked up to metre + barra in these locations too, so you never really know what might be in store for you. And the backdrop to all of this is a magnificent tropical I was stoked.

Brett and I drifted downstream, the fishing was awesome and I remember commenting several times on the quality of the fishing. The sooties were not huge, but plump and full of dogged fight. The JP's were simply stunning and the average size way up on previous trips. Maybe they were all pumped up after a good "wet" growing season. But whatever it was, we were having a ball. I distinctly remember Brett commenting on several occasions that "how beautiful was this river"...and as for the fishing, well we lost count of the numbers we landed but estimate the catch at well over 40 fish for the day.

Worthy of note was the effects on fishing of the discoloured water spewing from the swamps. It certainly looked dirty, but on more careful observation we could see that the water was still quite clear, more like dark coffee or tea coloured with the lures still visible. We did notice however that in this section of river, we experienced quite a lot of knocks and failed hook ups as compared to the cleaner looking water upstream - maybe the darken waters was just enough to change the striking patterns of the fish, maybe they too misjudged their strike. "Come on Les, these guys do it for a living" exclaimed Brett...but it was noticeable!

Check out that darker water colour!

Morning tea was had under the shade of some overhanging trees, lunch likewise; and so we drifted steadily downstream picking up fish from likely looking locations. At times we were amazed at how many fish were stationed on a drowned log / tree...dozens of them would scatter as the boat approached and then scamper back to their preferred lie as we drifted past. At times we would play a fish into striking our offerings...their inquisitive nature see them leave their sanctuary and approach our lures. A few twitches and pauses and they were was a lot of fun.

Lunch under a shady tree - awesome!

Unfortunately we did not see another barra, even though likely looking soaks an drains held discoloured water and ambush locations looked appealing to us! I guess that's fishing.

The sun was heading towards the mountains, the tall clouds building in the afternoon fading was time to go home. As we approached our launching spot, Brett was again a bit concerned at how we were going to safely retrieve his boat. Easy me I said. And so we relieved the tinny of a bit of weight, put the esky and loose gear like tackle boxes etc. up on the bank and easily winched his boat back onto the trailer. Simples!!!!


It was two very satisfied and happy anglers and friends that travelled along he Bruce Highway back to Cairns. Brett was stoked...he had wanted to fish that section of river for ages, but had not had the opportunity to do so with knowledge. I had returned to my home of some 30 years to experience again the pleasures of tropical river sport fishing. Yes, we had had a magnificent day...all said!

Note - Remember, this trip was carefully planned. No one, apart from a couple of key people, knew that I was in town. While slowly drifting along enjoying our fishing another vessel approached...gidday Les Marsh he said! (You can run, but you can't hide...amazing!)

It was a very short trip back to Cairns.
My "secret" was kept intact and my daughter was suitably surprised and ecstatic to see her dad.
Her birthday lunch went off perfectly with some very dear family and friends.
And after another quick day re acquainting myself with old workmates and friends - I was on the plane back to my new home in New Zealand.
I'll be back - why can't I have the best of both worlds?

Catch you on the water,
Regards, Les

The beautiful Russell River!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Hi Readers,

Well I know that its been a while since I posted here...many of you will know that I have moved to New Zealand to live. But that has not stopped me from continued interest in the fishing scene in Tropical North Queensland.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook: and

Will no doubt know what I have been up to!

Watch this space for more exciting developments to come....I can't give too much away yet!

Catch you on the water?
Yes, maybe?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Farewell my lovely – A reflection on the Daintree River and More!

Packing up and preparing to leave your country of birth brings many emotions to the fore.

And having to wait for weeks before you actually board the plane has many frustrations, especially when your boat has gone, your fishing tackle is boxed up and on the transport; you don’t even have a hat, polarised sunnies or a long sleeved shirt…let alone your own vehicle.

But thanks to good mate, Keith Graham from Bransfords Tackle Shop, who loaned me all this gear, we found ourselves cruising up the Cook Highway on Sunday morning heading for the mighty Daintree River. It was a strange feeling!

 I know this river like the back of my hand, I know its moods, its water flows, its hiding places and where to catch a fish (on most occasions)…but today it felt strangely different. In a way I was saying goodbye, not forever mind you, but at this stage I have no idea when I would fish these waters again.


We were fishing in Keith’s punt, but I was basically showing the way and telling him where and when to fish…and hey presto, we were having success. We cruised upstream this day and fished the shallow flats near Barratts Straight…Keith landed a lovely river trevally after a prolonged and dogged fight on light spin gear. A few casts later there was an almighty “boof”, a spray of water and a huge swirl but alas, the leader knot pulled through the double and whatever it was, was gone. The Rapala popper bobbed up a few moments later and at least he got his lure back…only damaged pride.


By now the tide was building and we commenced a slow drift upstream. Casting to bankside weed and swaying ribbon grass, my favourite haunts were still producing fish….it was as if time had stood still all these past 30 years as I was landing fish from the exact spots that I had done so for years. Had it really been that long…when would I do it again?


We had morning coffee under the shade of the overhanging rain forest, birds and butterflies flew by and it was just like yesterday (1989) that two old codgers chatted about politics, the economy, the footy, Aquis and Cairns real estate. Even Pauline Hansen got a run, again! And by lunch time we had landed half a dozen silver jacks (baby barra), real jacks, GT’s, queenies and spotties (archer fish).


Sure I was happy to be there, in a magnificent environment, on one of the prettiest rivers in the world, with a great mate having great conversations….but my thoughts were drifting off to the snapper and kingies of New Zealand. What tackle techniques would be successful over there, would I be able to use my beloved tinny over there or would my fishing be dominated by the blue water scene. Hell I love my river and estuary fishing here in OZ! Keith was a great listener, and offered heaps of educated advice…advice like “You get over there Les and sort it out before I come over and fish with you”.


The afternoon drifted by and the usual targets were in their usual locations…it wasn’t easy fishing by any stretch of the imagination, but for me it was like fishing in a “dream”….years and years of memories came flooding back. Remember that day when we landed……what about the time when….how about that time……all of a sudden it rained and we clung to the cliff face and overhang to stay relatively dry.  More chat time, more reflection on all the magic times that I had had fishing this wonderland of Tropical North Queensland.

I have had a very lucky life up here, and God willing, there is more to come.
I have fished from the Hinchinbrook Channel to Thursday Island – from Seisia to the Gulf…across the top end; Kakadu and the Kimberley have very special memories. 

And that’s only in the top half….the trout of the Snowy, the snapper of Whyalla (where I was born) and the tommies from the Ardrossan jetty…man it has been fun. And I must also give a very special mention to a dear friend from the States – John Oatley - who took me under his wing and showed me his back door; the Florida flats, 100lbs of tarpon, red fish and jacks. We even went to the Arctic Circle and fished for lake trout and pike, what an adventure that was.

There are some very special people still here that I must thank, and apologies to anyone that I might have forgotten to mention. You’ll just have to remind me of your worth and I’ll let you come over to NZ and fish with me in my new home.


Keith Graham has been a rock…a very special and dear friend and companion.  Not only have we had some amazing fishing, just check out Bransfords Tackle Shop’s web site and look up his CD collection. Its not a co-incidence that our combined exploits feature quite regularly! But Keith has also been there during the “dark days”…thanks heaps mate! A very warm thank you to his son Mat too, we have witnessed this young man grow in all facets of his life and I, as well as his dad, are very proud of him.


Then there are my fishing buddies of long standing, some of you have dropped off the scene of late but the memories of past exploits still sit vividly in my brain…the likes of Kevin Venese, Brett Parks, Capt. Kim Andersen and Rob McCulloch…and I could not leave out Holman!

Many of you have followed my exploits over the years, I know that I have influenced your fishing choices, your tackle selection and hopefully guided you in some way to better fishing…I sincerely appreciate your fellowship and goodwill…Heff from Port Douglas / Lineburner fame has been a big player in this regards also, thanks mate.

I am heading off to New Zealand shortly with my beautiful Debbie and a whole new world to explore, sail and fish. It will be challenging to find “what works” in my new domain, but it’s a task that I am extremely excited about. We will be based in a little farming / tourist region called Matakana, approx. one hours drive north of Auckland. If you are ever in the region please look us up, I’d love to have a beer or two and if you’re a keen angler, why don’t you bookmark my new Facebook page at and see what I’m up to.


And so it is with very mixed feelings that I sign off from this Blog.

God bless you all, see you on the water!


Kind regards, Les

Monday, August 25, 2014

Opportunities....take them when they come your way!

Now this is such a "truism"....and so often reflected in life, as well as in FISHING!

How often have we said "I wish I had taken that trip?" i.e. the Kimberley's with Keith, Matt, Kerry & Gibbo - what an awesome fishing experience that was. Or when a friend asks you to fly to an interstate destination to partake in a once in 20 year reunion, or to go watch the footy or even just a night out etc. must take them when they come along!

And so it is with fishing, when that big barra cruises up from the depths and sucks in your see it all happen right in front of you so vividly, that it almost appears like slow motion in your minds eye! And when it jumps out of the water three times....when it tears line from your drag, jumps again and is gone. Man that's a lost opportunity!

But I'm getting ahead of myself again......Keith Graham and I had decided to fish the beautiful Daintree River last Sunday. The tides were looking good and the weather Gods were smiling at last. TNQ had received quite a bit of wild, windy, rainy weather of late and in fact, I had not fished for four weeks due to bad weather conditions. I guess it is "winter" in the tropics after all.

Picture Perfect - Daintree ramp

Happy are we Keith?

So the Daintree it was....launching at the ferry ramp is a simple exercise; although I wish the authorities would pull their finger out and fix the floating pontoons. They won't float high and dry sitting in the car park. This lack of urgency to fix what is a well used facility, during the height of our peak tourist season, with hundreds of visiting anglers from down south....its stupidity!

Now I just love fishing with Keith. Not only is he a good bloke, he is always full of great conversation to help pass the time but most importantly, he owns Bransfords Tackle Shop, Clifton Beach and always has some new "toys" (read lures / tackle) for us to try out in the field. New lures, new reels (love my Quantum reels) new rubbers and soft plastics etc. and this day was no different.

Keith handed me a little "package" and inscribed on the front was the word "LES" Wow, that's me!
The first thing that caught my eye was a brand new rattling minnow from the Storm stable. It looked a beauty, all shiny and bright yellow / green / looked a treat and I just could not wait to clip it on and give it a go on the barra. It was called an "Arashi" and had some impressive in-built features including;
  • Circuit Board Lip
  • Self-Tuning Line Tie
  • Internal Long-Cast Mechanism
  • Dives to 2 feet
  • Was 11cm long and weight 17g
  • In normal configuration  it was suspending or very slow sinking
I was so impressed and chuffed to be chosen to field test this brand new offering to the local market.

Drifting along a mangrove lined bank, Keith and I cast to the shallow mangrove prickles (aerial roots)..the new lure was working a treat. It cast extremely well without hooking up to the leader, looked tantalising good at rest and swam beautifully on the retrieve. I was indeed impressed. On about my sixth cast a beautifully conditioned legal sized barra shot up from the gutter and engulfed my new lure. She climbed all over it, jumped into the air and crashed back to fight again...tore  a few metres off my reel, jumped and jumped in a flash, she was gone. Darn....I was peeved at loosing such a good fish. Not to worry, the day had only just started.

I did manage a little trevor on the new lure!

We headed upstream that day, I figured that in the strengthening winds the upper reaches would offer more protection from the predicted 25knot winds and hence improve our chances. Bara don't like windy conditions and catch rates drop considerably in bad weather me!

I found a nice little backwater with plenty of fringing ribbon weed and cast my shiny new lure right to the back bank. Twitch, twitch, twitch....BANG! I was onto another feisty barra and this one too was well over legal size...she tore off a few metres of 30lb braid, jumped a couple of times and again threw the hooks. Now I know that I was a little rusty, but this was ridiculous....and when I lost my third legal size barra a half hour later, thought it was time to get my act together. must take them when they come along!

And I knew exactly what I was / had done wrong...and kicked myself for not taking action sooner.

My last big barra trip was up at Aurukun a few weeks ago...I was used to fishing with my drag set a lot tighter than I normally use back home. These quality fish had fought quite hard in the relatively shallow waters of the Daintree and I had not given them a chance to "play themselves out". And the real Cardinal Sin, I had not changed the hooks!!!!!!

Most overseas made lures come pre fitted with brown / black freshwater hooks...they are ideal for the likes of pike, bass, salmon and trout etc. but with no disrespect for these northern hemisphere species, they are just not strong enough for the likes of barra and mangrove jacks (or any of our tropical species for that matter)....they MUST be changed BEFORE you use them. Not after loosing quality fish like I had experienced. Man I was stupid...I knew it, but just got slack!

So what did I do during lunch...changed the hooks on that beautiful new lure offering and chastised myself for being an idiot of the highest order. Not to worry, I had the afternoon to redeem myself.

Keith with a F111 - new colour

Nice jack mate!

Juvenile barra

Now that's better hooks I see!

We fished all the way up to the township, we caught a few rats here and there but lamented on the ones that got away.

All thinking barra fisherman know that the tide plays a critical part in the activity of feeding fish, and knowing where to be to target them at the right time of a tide cycle is paramount to success. Oh yes!...I knew exactly where we had to be and soon had us drifting towards the snag pile. Drop the lead Keith, its the last of the run  out and we should find a few barra here.

We switched offerings to a new plastic prawn....I remember having a go at Keith for bringing "cooked" prawns as these new ones were red in colour. But here too opportunities would soon present themselves. Fishing was a bit slow for the first handful of casts...I landed a little tarpon that offered their usual acrobatic fight and then hooked a feisty little rat barra. But right on cue the  tide changed an started its run back upstream. Like flicking the switch the barra came on the chew and we were into some great action on light sticks using these new prawn lures.

Keith is the spotty king!

Here' that little tarpon

The best barra landed for the trip!

I must say that we dropped or missed about a dozen prime barra each, but still managed to hook and land enough to satisfy the keenest angler. It was a steep learning curve - toss your lure / let it sink / twitch the rod tip upwards and let it sink - was that a hit or did I hook some timber? You can't teach an old dog new tricks they say... we are still learning this new art of fishing with soft plastics and our catch rates are climbing considerably. Watch out Mathew Graham, we will catch up with you soon!

Catch you on the water, regards Les