The ‘old master’, Ron Pearson, will be chuckling away like an orange-footed scrub fowl when he reads this! When I visited him in Bremer Bay in Western Australia, he handed me his 2wt bream special fly rod, knowing full well I would be seduced into waving bits of spaghetti at all manner of saltwater beasties, and become hooked just as firmly as any of the fish!
I decided to buy one for myself but I didn’t go quite as ultra-light as he had, thanks to some sobering advice from Chris Dunham of Perth’s Flyworld. Even so, many anglers would see my chosen tool – a 4wt – as totally inadequate, given the reputation of most of the tropical fish brigade. However, the relatively fast taper of my Temple Fork Outfitters Lefty Kreh TiCr 9ft four-piece rod has a surprising amount of power for such a lightweight, a quality that makes it ideal for warm saltwater exploration.
Thanks to ‘Uncle’ Barry Ryan from Talon Agencies, and his Weipa contact Anthony Gomes, I managed to find a suitable intermediate line, rather than the usual floating model most 4wts use, and matched it with one of Barry’s new Aurora Trillium large arbor reels. The combination has proved sensational to use, and just about everyone who has tried out my outfit has agreed.
My biggest problem has been trying to cast the light rod like a 9wt; I’m putting too much power into the cast and the rod just doesn’t need that sort of attention. It’s better to lightly wave it around like a trout fisherman and let the beautiful action of the TFO do all the hard work.
When you have always cast rods at the heavy end of the saltwater flyfishing scale, adapting to something that requires finesse rather than brute force requires a lot of effort. I can now understand why the dry fly aficionados have so much trouble adapting their laid-back casting styles to the power-laden pushes needed to punch big flies into trade winds in the tropics.
So far, the outfit has accounted for a heap of small to medium sized queenfish and a couple of smaller golden trevally and has performed admirably. If you want to turn a 1kg queenie into a rampaging brute, catch it on a fly tied on a size 6 hook, cast with a 4wt rod. There’s no way you’ll beach that sort of fish in quick time. In fact, it may even have you well into the backing before you can slow it down on that initial run.
Going down in size in flies doesn’t seem to be a problem. Queenfish sometimes have difficulties accepting the larger offerings, but when the fly is small, all hesitation seems to vanish. My lightly dressed Clousers tied on a size 4 or 6 hook were often taken before the retrieve started during one hot session at the mouth of a small creek.
Late last year, I was extremely impressed with the attracting ability of certain flies used by a couple of clients who had used a new tying material called DNA. Thankfully, there was a full range at Flyworld and I was able to get my hands on some of the colours I prefer, mainly white, pink, yellow and chartreuse.
The new DNA tied flies worked an absolute treat, further endearing me to this very interesting material. Look out for it at your local flyfishing emporium.
It seems that every time I visit Ron Pearson, I come back wanting new tackle. It first happened in 1973 when he convinced me that chucking feathers at fish was great fun. Now he’s pushed my fun level up another notch following his latest indoctrination.
It’s become traditional to pre-fish before tournaments so why not before a guided fishing season? This sounded like the perfect excuse to round up a few old mates, initiate a new guide to the fold and wet a freshly-built hull.
Throw in a Loomis workshop, a couple of new Nikon digital cameras and plenty of friendly ribbing and you have a recipe for a fantastic week. Don’t forget to add a category 5 cyclone buzzing around only hours before you leave, then schedule the heaviest rain of the entire wet season for the duration of the trip, and you end up with a bit more excitement than you bargained for.
Unfortunately, poor old Warren Steptoe had prior commitments and had to miss his obligatory Cape York ‘fix’. However, his presence was compensated by the involvement of some of my other long-term partners in fishing crime: writer Ken Stien, Gavin Adams and Ross Johnson from Mackay.
Ross and Ken, part of the Loomis pro-staff team, were barely off the plane on a stormy Saturday afternoon when they found themselves in front of an audience keen to hear about some Loomis products that were on display. Rain threatened to end the outdoor proceedings a couple of times but, thankfully, held off, letting everyone get their hands on some rods they might not normally come across.
The next day, we negotiated a very damp track to the Pennefather River, only to find the beach wiped out with a heavy swell coming from Cyclone Ingrid, now terrorizing the NT coast. The river mouth produced a couple of queenies, trevally and a nice jack before the heavens opened and we quickly decided to get out before the road became impassable.
The big swell offshore and heavy rain for the next couple of days soon had us organising our attack according to the early morning Weipa radar picture each day. With most of us older than 50, our masochistic streaks had abated somewhat with the passing years and we were more than content to let the rain pour down while we sat at the table sipping green tea and having a leisurely breakfast.
Cyclone Ingrid had also interfered with my final fit-up of my new Hooker 5.9m, so getting it on the water was not an option. We made do with two other boats, my ‘old’ Hooker now in the hands of trainee guide, Cooktown lad Daniel Wright, and Josh Lyon in the Southwind 5.8m.
An afternoon heading up the swollen waters of the upper Mission River proved very quiet, but we did find a couple of fish working the mouth of one clear flowing side creek. Josh landed a couple of beautifully conditioned barra, the largest around 95cm, while the rest of us struggled to make the occasional strikes stick to the hooks.
Out of the blue, Dan had a strike from a 3-4kg queenfish, 30km upstream and in water that was running pure fresh. Some species obviously have an amazing tolerance to wide ranging levels of salinity.
The swell was dropping out by day five but the heavy rain persisted. The days were dwindling fast and urgency started to overcome the need for comfort. It was all hands on deck to satisfy the cooks order for tuna sashimi and barbequed fingermark.
We cruised through some heavy squalls and the rumble of distant thunder to the chosen area to find tuna and mackerel working the surface and fish marking on the bommies. I pulled three nice fingermark in three drifts on some new electric chicken coloured Snapback tails, rigged on 1.5oz TT jigheads before a shark or mackerel took a liking to what was hooked or snipped the leader on the way down.
Then, Gavin hooked a hooter of a trout that was eventually wrestled into the big Environet. It looked like the fingermark order now included coral trout as well!
Josh came over the horizon signalling that he had the tuna, and another big trout that he’d taken out of less than 1m of water on a cast lure. Once the hunting and gathering had been completed, the rest of the day was pure fun.
The feast that evening was memorable, although recollections tended to be faded by overindulgence in red wine followed by the dregs of an interesting substance that I’d found in my cellar called Fine Old Malmsey. Next morning, a surprisingly bright-eyed crew feasted on barbequed bacon and eggs before a final flycasting session at nearby Wooldrum Creek.
We caught fish from the time our feet landed on the sand at the creek mouth until we stepped on board the boats to head back. Small to medium sized queenies worked up and down the channel as the tide flooded strongly, providing the type of action that Weipa has become famous for.
It was a top way to finish a great week. The boys went back south with big smiles on their face while the guides were left behind exciting about starting the new season. It’s pretty tough, but somebody else will do it if you don’t!
1. Gavin Adams landed this big trout on one of Dave’s lead head jigs.
2. Having fun with his new 4 weight, Dave Donald about to land a small queenfish
3. The author looks pretty pleased with this feisty queenfish on spaghetti fly tackle.Reads: 820