An Easter Adventure on the Little Mulgrave
This Easter saw a repeat of last year's - a long weekend at Yungaburra with the family, my sister in law and family, and my parent's in law. Last year I was like many other visitors to the Tinaroo area - obsessed with catching barra. Also like many other visitors to the area - I left empty handed. In my case it was something to do with not choosing the time of day for land based fishing, and battling for quiet space among the recreational boaters, and perhaps a lack of angling talent. So this year was always going to be a freshwater river trip. I started planning early, using Google Earth for research into likely spots. Somehow my eyes settled onto the Little Mulgrave River. With a bit more research I learnt that a trip up to the national park at Goldsborough Valley would get me up to some likely looking areas. I'm not sure what techniques others use when assessing water on Google Earth - I always look for lots of grey areas indicating rapids, along with beach areas to cast from. I find the larger sections of these sorts of rivers that lack these features usually a bit hard to fish.
The weather forecast was looking a bit ordinary and left me a tad depressed, however on the chosen day it turned out the weatherman had got it wrong (imagine that? ) and instead of the forecast heavy rain we were greeted with fine weather with the chance of a late shower. This was important as we w faced two bridges that would have gone under had there been much rain.
After a bit of a drive - including the Gillies Range - we made it to the National Park campsite. A short trek along the Goldfield Way and we made our way through the scrub down to the river. There was plenty of water and the river was wide with no casting room from the banks. Anyway we started making our way up river, fishing as we went. I was a bit unsure how'd we would go from these larger sections, as the fish are notoriously jumpy when you get in the river. However it wasn't long and the little green frog burbler I was throwing had a hit. Despite a further three thousand and twenty two casts this fish wasn't going to have another go, so we moved on.
After about two hours of moving upstream, which included a bit of fishing, another hit or two, and more than our fair share of scrub bashing, my brother in law and I came onto a pool that just screamed jungle perch. It was a fairly small pool by this river's standards - and at the bottom the draining rapids took off at an angle, which meant there was a deep ledge and a decent back eddy. It was on my second cast into this eddy that my little green burbler - which is made with a a green and white two piece foam tied on top of some sparkle flash and tailed with green marabou and whipper snipper cord eyes - was nailed by a little JP. Some of you probably heard me from Townsville, it was well over a year since I'd caught one of these, so I was pretty happy. The little guy made several runs before I got him to the net. He went 34 cm and was a great addition to my North Queensland Fly Fishers Top Ten.
Anyway, after he was released I couldn't jag another from the pool so we moved on. Thinking about it now I should have tried a sinking fly just to mix it up a bit. The burbler pattern came about when I was trying the "Shuffler" featured in the current edition of FlyLife - I couldn't get it right so started mucking around a little. The interesting bit to the fly is that I have used the legs from a squid bait cover as legs for the fly. I can get the squid covers at $2 for a pack of five, they have a little bit of weight and usually a bit of inbuilt sparkle.
Next pool my brother in law, who was a little upstream of me, managed a nice sooty, on a burbler I had tied with a nice white marabou tail.
The river was nothing short of spectacular. The water was very clear and flowing nicely. There were plenty of casting challenges along the way - sections with variable drift, likely looking spots of still water sitting under an overhanging branch with only a raging torrent to cast across, as well as the usual trees on the banks that would jump out of nowhere to grab your fly in the middle of the best cast ever. The drawbacks would be that you need to get a decent way upstream before you can find some easy casting (allowing for forty feet of back cast) space. Also - in between the pools there is a bit of scrub bashing to do.. But hey - we put in at a reasonably popular national park and we were the only people we saw on the river all day - so who's complaining?
After this pool went predictably quiet post the fish release we moved on. This time we needed a bit more scrub bashing and the pool we came to had a few large boulders, but no beach area. My brother in law had a hit or two from some smaller fish at his feet, and I missed a couple from a submerged boulder just upstream of me. Interestingly I found that the dead drift was no good - by now I was fishing with a small green cicada pattern (shop bought) and when I worked it quickly it got plenty of attention. I noticed some small splashes indicating fish feeding on insects a few boulders upstream, so a bit more wading and boulder hopping later, I was in a position to make a cast or two. First cast I let it drift dead - no action. Second cast - I worked the fly as it came over the top of a boulder - sure enough a small sooty of 22cms grabbed the fly.
Another score for the NQFF Top Ten. (Last year's list turned out to be more of a designated decoy list - so with three of the top ten I'm looking good)
So at 1135 after four hours of fishing and scrub bashing we decided that we would be good husbands and go home early, figuring it might take and hour to get to the car and another hour to get home.
The suggestion was made there might be a shorter way than retracing our steps downriver by heading up the hill. Two males + similar age + our wives are sisters + suggestion of shortcut = BIG TROUBLE. It wasn't long up that hill (sans Sherpa) that we were in the thick of a ridgy-didge North Queensland rainforest, featuring wait-a-whiles, Cassowary footprints, vines, and more wait-a-whiles. I've done some serious scrub bashing before, but this was amazing. It felt like I was in the middle of my own Bear Grylls episode.
Two and a half hours later we made it back to the river. After a total of three hours we were ready for the hour's drive back up the Gillies and home. The mathematically inclined will have already worked out that we spent five hours total travel time for four hour's fishing. The rest of us will be saddened to learn the rainforest claimed the top two pieces of my brother in law's Sage 5wt .Anyway we lived to tell the tale, replete with scratches, bruises, cuts, but also pleased at some level (very very very deep inside, somewhere ) from our little adventure. The bizarre thing about the Sage loss was that although both of our rods were disassembled and stuffed inside one backpack, the tip of one rod went first - probably still swinging on a wait-a-while somewhere. After that we both carried our rod pieces in our hands. A little further in my brother in law managed to drop the next section of the same rod - we both heard it drop between two logs at our feet and stopped immediately to look for it. Tens minutes later we came to the only logical conclusion - that it fell through to Middle Earth is now in the possession of Gollum - "My precious....".
For those of you wanting a decent place to stay, I can recommend Hilltops, which housed all of us - six adults and five children - all at a reasonable price with views of Lake Tinaroo to boot - very comfortably.