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Back To Australia Part 2 Onto Australia Part 4 Return To Home

The Battlecruiser somehow resuscitated, it was back to blazing a trail across the Outback. Well, perhaps "blazing" is too strong a word. But somehow she manages to limp across to the east coast and finally wheeze into Cairns, and along the way even a line gets wet a few times as the poor girl is given a breather.

It was mighty fine to be out on the road again after so long in limbo, and having ran my finger around my maps the previous night, the next planned port of call was a dot called Karumba, some 500 kilometres up and away on the Carpentaria coast again. 

I was still edgy about the car letting me down, so after gingerly crawling out of Mount Isa, I stopped at Cloncurry to let the 'cruiser cool down enough to check the fluids and make sure all was still in order. It was perhaps not the best place to try and cool an engine down, being the scene of the hottest ever officially recorded temperature in Australia's history- 53.1 degrees centigrade, according to the 'Welcome to Cloncurry' sign. Mercifully the temperature was only a lightweight mid thirties that day, and everything seemed to be behaving itself under the bonnet for once, so further north we pressed. Another similar drive to the one encountered to Borroloola was endured- mile after endless mile of parched bush and arrow straight roads where a bend is an event to be celebrated, and after hours of boredom, the final run-in to Karumba was negotiated. 

Karumba is a small town which is dedicated almost exclusively to fishing, and because of the amount of  

Misguided. That's the only way I could describe the Pelicans hanging round me at Karumba!

A fish. Rare...

caravan parks and purple rinsed hair-dos it has the distinct feeling of being one big retirement home by the sea. I parked up the car, purchased some bait, and took a rod down to the water side at the boat ramp - the only bankside access due to the mangroves. A row of pensioners stood in a line along the muddy banks, all rod in hand, waiting for something to seize their baits, and a stiff breeze pushed upstream as the heavy tidal flow forced the turbid, brown, weed infested water out into the ocean. A more uninspiring scene it would be hard to imagine. During the couple of hours I fished, a succession of Jewelfish and Catfish came flapping ashore, all of which I returned to the water to the disappointment of the gaggle of Pelicans assembling around me. I decided to try and rent a boat the next day so I could get out and investigate some of the surrounding creeks and the like, since the shore fishing seemed to be pretty tame.

Over some food at the pub that night, I got talking to a bloke called Brian who was holidaying there for a week with his wife. He was into his fishing, and we arranged to meet up and split a boat rental the next day to maybe 

Karumba estuary sunset, and me and my pelican mates are looking for a fish or two. 

track down a few Barramundi and Threadfin Salmon in the estuary. I was optimistic about all this, and it would also do us both a favour by cutting the cost down a bit. As we sat there, he told me about a local notorious rough-house of a watering hole called The Animal Bar. This I had to see! After Brian and myself had arranged a rendezvous time the next day, he bade goodnight and left the bar to go for the tea that his wife was currently preparing for him. I asked the Irish girl behind the bar (whose name I can't remember) if she knew where the Animal Bar was.

"It's up in the town. I finish in a few minutes, so I'll show you where it is - I fancy a couple of beers. You'll probably be needing a crash-helmet though..." she said. Sounded posh.

So we jumped into the battlecruiser and set off in the direction of entertainment central. 

A small part of the 250ks of Tinaroo Shoreline. Now, where do I start?

  Unfortunately, The Animal Bar must have been really 'animal' that evening, because it had already been closed down for the night by the time we got there. The car was pointed back towards the river, and through the night we ploughed. I also ploughed through herds of suicidal Wallabies, all chucking themselves in front of the headlights like Lemmings. Having unavoidably bounced two of them across the bonnet in less than a minute, I stopped to survey the damage, the front bumper of the 'cruiser now smashed into two by the poor things. Had some gypsy placed a curse on this bloody car or what?! I dropped Irish lady back at her digs, then parked up near the boat ramp, crawled into the back and got my head down for the night.

Brian was waiting at the rendezvous the next morning as I drew up. He looked glum.
"I've gotta say sorry mate. I can't make it today. The bloody missus is playing up so I've gotta give it a miss" he lamented, shaking his head in apology. Borroloola Benjamin was right: tits and wheels. 

This left me up the creek - and only in the metaphorical sense, unfortunately. I tried two boat hire centres, but neither would give me a boat since they had 25hp engines on, and I had no boat licence. I finally found one place that advertised it had a 6hp engine on a tin boat for rental (which the law stipulated I would be allowed to set sail in). When I asked the owner if he could hire it to me, he apologised, since it was already rented out. 
"Tomorrow?" I enquired.
"Sorry mate. I'm leaving town for a week tonight, so the business is closed for a bit". 
Yup, I was stuck with nowhere to go again. I went down to shore fish at the boat ramp and mud flat, along with a line of people resting their varicose veins in their picnic chairs, caught a few of the same species as the previous evening, and retired back to the car distinctly underwhelmed by the whole affair. I did the rounds of local tackle shops and boat places one more time, only to find that there really was nowhere that would rent me a tub to play about in due to my lack of a boat licence. 

At Karumba it came to pass that I just about hit as low as I go. I thought that arranging some fishing in Asia had been difficult at times, but I really began to feel that everything was conspiring against me at this point. I drove up the road a little, once I had ran out of places to call and ask around, then pulled up and sat in the bleaching sun on the bonnet of my temperamental four-wheeled travel companion. The 

distant panorama shimmered in the mid-day heat, and aside from the yellow grass rustling in the fan-oven breeze, nothing moved or made a sound. I spread out my map. Feeling pretty dejected, I made a snap decision. Forget Carpentaria. Just get moving. I decided to make my way over to the coast at Cairns, where I was sure I would be able to get some fishing easily enough - further cock-ups permitting. I noticed on the map, that, although some 600 kilometres away, I would be able to pass a large dam called Lake Tinaroo while en route and see what was happening there fish-wise. 

So 'plan X' came to fruition, and for the next afternoon the 'cruiser and I made friends again as she ate up the miles across the bush without incident, before crawling into the back for a night at a place called Mount Surprise (the surprise must have been that I couldn't see a mount there), and finally wheezing into the town of Atherton near Tinaroo the next morning. 

A call at the local tackle shop saw a permit in my hand to fish the lake, and I checked that I would be able to either bank-fish or hire a boat, to which the shop assistant gave me the nod. I was also encouraged to see dozens of photographs of huge Barramundi adorning the walls of the shop, all from Lake Tinaroo. It seemed I may have inadvertently stumbled on something... Although exactly what that was remained to be seen.

Above: Nuclear sunset over Lake Tinaroo.
Below: Thrashing the water to a foam with my lumps of plastic.

Just hoping that a big, fat Barra might just hang itself.

I left Atherton for the shortish drive over to Lake Tinaroo, and spent the afternoon shore fishing at several points around the lake at the dam end. I was truly a huge, wild piece of pond, with a strong breeze pushing white-caps across the surface of the gin clear water. 

To cut a long story short, I managed not a single rise to my lures before throwing in the towel that evening, but with over 250 kilometres of shore line to go at, I knew I could be acres away from the nearest fish. A boat was clearly required, so after another night eating Pot Noodles in the back of the 'cruiser again, with it being continuously buffeted by a strong, cold wind, I went and managed to rent a tinny and 6hp motor from a bloke called Barry at his place near the dam wall. Ok, so I had no sounder, which would clearly be a disadvantage, but at least I could work my way around several likely looking spots I had noted the previous day.

I had been trolling my lures for not much more than 20 minutes, and was working my way along a rocky stretch of beach not 30 metres from shore when one of the rods folded over in the holder. 


Alison: "Sectioned twice and proud of it, me..."

I knocked the outboard into neutral immediately, and grabbed the rod. The fish thudded solidly and hastily stripped a few metres of line from the clutch, before the line fell slack as it had slipped the hooks. I guess I should have been disappointed with this, but instead I felt encouraged. After all, with some action after such a short amount of time, surely it was just a question of when one of the huge Barramundi finally made a mistake and stayed stuck on the end.

Two days later, I was still awaiting my next bite... For hour after hour I tried different combinations of lures around all kinds of rocky outcrops, sunken trees, sandy beaches and steep escarpments plunging into the choppy waters. But to no avail. True, I felt hindered without a sounder, and true, I knew nothing about the water's moods and habits, but I still felt that maybe I should have been able to turn something up. Eventually I gave it best and dropped the tinny off back at Barry's place. He expressed a little surprise that I had actually hooked one, sympathised on my lack of success, but informed me that it was not unusual for people to go days at a time without their lures being undisturbed there... something he didn't tell me when I rented the boat from him!! I said yet another goodbye, lamented yet another unsuccessful interlude, tried to remember the last time I'd had a decent day's fishing, and put some more kilometres on the clock by heading yet further east. Luckily, I guess, the only way was up from here... 
And I still had my edict of 'something always turns up' to hang onto...

During my time back in the Perhentian Islands off Malaysia, I had met loads of really nice people there, some of whom had stayed in touch via the e-mail once everyone had set off in their different directions around the world. One such pleasant type of old sort was English 


"Jesus... Andy... A quiet 20. Please."

Lynne, a Northern Monkey from the Cumbrian Riviera, specifically the sun-drenched resort of Barrow-In-Furness. It turned out she was spending some time in Cairns with Alison - her complete bezerker of a mate from back home, who'd come out to Australia (quote, "Been sectioned twice and proud of it, me..."). So being in a similar part of the globe, we had arranged to meet up, force down a few vodkas, and reminisce on old times in Asia. We managed to make our paths cross, and she set about showing me some of the highlights of the night time scene there. One such highlight was the bar of the infamous (in these parts) Rainbow Inn; a bar which is open until 6am, with a flexible drinks-pricing regime, and clientele stringently selected from only the highest castes of social groups. 

Put it this way, at one time it was a place where the local hookers all plied their trade, with cheap motel rooms and booze all in close proximity. And the patrons were for the most part miners or seamen who had been away from civilisation for weeks on end and needed to unwind upon hitting town again- with predictable results... As the proprietor has been quoted: "If you didn't get a f**k, you got a fight".

It's somewhere I have visited a few times since I have been here, for hours of endless voyeuristic entertainment. Whenever I think life may have gone a bit down, and I'm feeling a bit low, I now know that all I have to do is look to the 'Rainbow Regulars' to see just how tits-up things really can go. Whole hours pass with red-eyed sailors, slurring at anyone who'll listen, on 'repeat' mode, missing their faces with their drinks, falling off the barstools, trying to pull the bar-maid with their silver-tongued charm ("Whaddaya reckon mate? She's alright, but she's got no f***ing tits..." being one such line that didn't quite have the desired effect... for some reason). Something truly priceless happens on every visit. It wasn't recommended in the Lonely Planet though, for some reason. 

However, it was during a visit to another much nicer place called The Green Ant on my second night 


Above: Nice head. It must be love. But would you want to shower with either of 'em?

Left: Some fish at last! Just one of the heaps of Bream living in the mangrove creeks around Cairns.

in town, that Lynne and Alison introduced me to a friend of theirs who was living round the corner called Tim. After a really nice night out, it turned out that Tim's hobbies and interests were drinking beer and going fishing, and that he had a spare room at his place that I could use while I stayed in town. Great news indeed, cos I really didn't fancy spending any more time sleeping either in my car or in dorms right at that moment. I started to get a feeling that just maybe things had started to go right again. At long last. 

Tim, it turned out, was a really top bloke, a regular at Lake Tinaroo (along with The Green Ant...), and had taken Barramundi to 70lbs from the lake. He also did some deckie work on a Marlin boat in town. A complete fishing nut... as I found out when I went to the shower one morning to find the head of a Dogtooth Tuna defrosting in there like some out-take from a low-budget version of The Godfather. In due course, we spent a day fishing the creeks around Cairns from his tinny, catching a load of Bream and other assorted estuarine species, and then arranged a night fishing up at Tinaroo again- which ended in another blank. It turned out, once I told Tim about my lack of success there, that it had taken him some two years to get the Barramundi fairly well worked out in the place - so I didn't feel quite so bad about my two and a half day failure in the end!

Tim's pad: control centre to the time of my life for a few weeks. Cheers mate - wherever you are.

Tim searches for a monster Lake Tinaroo Barra..

A few days later, we were back at the lake again, this time for a two night stop-over. And this time Tim had brought his kids along, Sam and Georgia; both fishing nuts like their dad. We set some yabbie pots for the crayfish, and then all fished from the tinny the first night. For hour after hour, as the kids slept wrapped in blankets in the bottom of the boat, we trolled over mark after mark on the sounder, many of them showing huge fish hanging just above the rocks. One of the marks was the one I had actually hooked a fish over on my very first visit, which it seems I had found by complete accident. But as hard as we tried, deep into the night, not a single

Dozens of cute Sooty Grunter were more forthcoming than the Barra.

But Sam had to make do with a Mouth Almighty with ideas above it's station. Maybe next time... Or the time after... Or the time after that.

take was managed between us before crashing out to sleep in the wee small hours back at our camp at Platypus Rock.

After collecting a plentiful supply of Yabbies for dinner in the morning, and re-setting the traps, we set about catching some of the many smaller species in the lake. Unfortunately, even these were on hunger strike too, and only a handful of Mouth Almighties and other such miscellaneous stuff came aboard. Not good, but the bucket full of fresh boiled Yabbies we ate on the banks of the lake while sitting in the bright sunshine that afternoon most certainly were. Tim very kindly allowed me to take his boat out alone for the night while he and the kids slept ashore.  

Again I tried to break this nemesis of  mine called Lake Tinaroo, and until 3am I fished likely spot after likely spot, almost without exception with them marking large fish on the sounder... and still, despite trying perhaps a dozen different patterns of lure, in a dozen different locations, I couldn't get a single fish to make a grab for it. I actually thought I had fished hard and well, but gave up when I could barely keep my eyes open enough to steer the boat, before crawling into the back of the battlecruiser again and blacking out, dead to the world. 

Dead to the world, that is, until Tim awoke me with a start at 5am. Just on first light, he dragged me from the car, to find a small group of perhaps 5 or 6 HUGE Barramundi crashing into baitfish right next to where we were sleeping, not 5 metres out into the lake. I quickly snapped a large surface popper onto one of my rods, and on the third cast, one of the monsters surged forward to engulf the lure, it's humped shoulders pushing a wake before it...

Sam fishes his head off as the morning fog clears at Platypus Rock.

Suddenly, although I couldn't see the actual fish due to the glare on the surface, a huge hole appeared in the water not 6 feet from my rod tip. My heart leapt in my chest as I waited for the savage wrench on the rod tip... but it never came! I watched the wake push out into the lake, as the black popper bobbed forlornly on the surface in the dispersing ripples... somehow the (not so) dumb bloody fish had missed it!!

That one brief encounter proved to be our only action of the morning at the camp- the Barra all stopping feeding and disappeared within minutes. We collected the final load of yabbies from the pots and loaded up the boat, before giving it one last try for a few hours up in the Barron Arm of the lake. Anchoring up at a spot, we had plenty of bites, catching Sooty Grunter, Striped Grunter and other small fish (along with various fence posts, tree trunks and strands of barbed wire submerged beneath the boat), and Georgia managed to pull in a nice Sleepy Cod, which made a great curry. Sam then finally stuck the hook in a small Barra at last, having a few tears when he was told he couldn't keep it because it was going to have to be returned alive! But this was only after one of the big lady Barras had again come up to eat a Mouth Almighty livebait, and with a huge 'boof!' left a chasm in the water's surface... only to have missed it again. I reckon these Tinaroo Barramundi must be blindfolded.

As a little aside from all this, Tim told me a nice story about fishing with his mate Simon and kiddie Sam on the lake a while previous. In order to keep 

Tim shows off Georgia's catch of the day and its looking like a Sleepy Cod curry for tea. 

the  language as civilised as possible on the boat in front of small children, Tim and Simon had taken to transposing odd letters around as they talked... so when they lost a big Barramundi at the side of the boat, during the general commiserations, Simon had bemoaned that the fish had indeed been a "muckin' fonster". A little later, another boat passed by: 
"Any good?" asked the other anglers. Before Tim or Simon could answer, the ever excited Sam shouted back: "Yeah- we lost a Barra earlier mate!"
"Any size?"
"Oh yeah!" shouted Sam, "Simon says it was a f***in' monster!!"... Oh well. Back to the drawing board...

Our Tinaroo mini-trip came to an end, without any spectacular success yet again. However, ages back I think I mentioned that things had been going tits-up and equally luckily... And judging by the amount of ball-ache and 

Monster Redclaw Yabbie. 

pain that's occurred in the last couple of episodes of drivel, you'll guess it was high time that the good-luck fairy paid a visit again... 

It turned out during conversation at the docks back in Cairns that Tim and some friends were heading out for a nine or ten day trip living on the ocean outside of the Barrier Reef in a week or two's time, all in pursuit of giant Black Marlin. Thing is, they needed a space filling... to spread the fuel costs... all I'd need to do is chip in for fuel and bring some grub... "what about you Andy- fancy filling that space?" I stuck my hand up... "Go on then. You've twisted my arm..."

As you can tell, I've been a bit behind with all this stuff as usual... but I'm nearly finished writing the Marlin trip bit now. Trust me when I say that the good-luck fairy visited- and she brought a six-pack and all her good looking mates too. I suppose that's for next time, in the interests of keeping things neat and tidy.

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