Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe
Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
December 4, 2006 - Location: Airlie Beach, Queensland
It's been a while since the last update and I've covered a lot of ground (literally) and a lot of fishing. I departed Exmouth a few days early because I was nearly blown off the Cape. My little piece of paradise at Winderabandi Point became a torrent of wind and flying sand. The Air-X wind generator was put to the test, however. At one point it was pumping out an impressive 28 amps! The conditions were superb for charging up the battery and for the kite boarders, not so great for fly fishing, or even enjoying the beach. After one night I packed up and started the drive for Cairns.
I did the drive from Exmouth to Cairns in 5 days, with a day stopover in steamy Broome. Although the distances I covered each day aren't that impressive, Australian "highways" aren't quite like the ones back home. Over here, it's 2 lanes with lots of curves and the occasional 100 kilometer straight away. Getting stuck behind a slow-moving RV or truck is a constant. I did days of 13, 15, 13 and 12 hours. The drive was sporadically somewhat scenic, but the most remarkable thing about it was the distances in which there is absolutely nothing. That is to say nothing of the thousands of miles of "secondary" roads that crisscross the outback connecting stations (Australian ranches) and villages.
Since they don't exist to the magnitude that they do here in Australia, many people are curious about the "road trains" that ply the less populated highways. Technically, a road train is truck with 2 or more trailers. If it is pulling 1 big trailer and 1 smaller trailer, it's merely "oversize." We saw road trains primarily with 3 trailers, which is quite a bit of vehicle when you are trying to pass it. Or I suppose, when one is trying to stop it. Anyway, according to the truck driver I chatted with in Mt. Isa (truly in the middle of NOWHERE), in some parts of the country road trains are allowed up to 6 trailers or 100 tons (and those are metric tons, so a total weight of 220,000 lbs!). Most flabbergasting of all, the typical road train gets less than 1 kilometer per liter of fuel. That's why many of the trucks are outfitted with 4 1,000 liter fuel tanks. Imagine pulling up to the filling station and dropping a cool $6,000 bucks! Some of the gas stations do provide free coffee to the driver though.
I pulled into Coconut Village Caravan Park in Cairns in dire need of a shower and some relaxation. Fortunately, the Coconut Village is more like a 4 star resort than a campground. There were acres of swimming pools, an outdoor movie theater, a mini-golf course and, most impressive, the world's largest jumping pillow!!! It's all the rage for the kids, but when I tried running on it I noticed a distinct propensity for dislocating joints. Or at least that's what it felt like. Another disadvantage of age, I guess.
I was in Cairns to fish for black marlin, having made the arrangements for a rather pricey charter boat months ago. The plan was to rig up the 17 weight Cam Sigler (it's more like a 20 weight) and the 16 weight Sage Xi2 with the Henschel reels (the most capable big game reels on the face of the planet), ignore International Game Fishing Association regulations for leader/tippet class and attach myself to a BIG marlin and then let all hell break loose. If there is any gear set up that could land a 500-600 lbs. marlin, then "these are them!" Like I said, that was the PLAN. To save any anticipation and trepidation, the trip sucked! I mean, not only did I not hook a marlin on the fly rod, I barely had an opportunity to break the fly rods out. The winds were 25-30 knots, the ocean was 10-12 feet and the marlin weren't biting. My friends Jill, Tom and me were puking over the side of the boat.
The last 2 days everyone was in good shape physically, but the fishing and weather continued to deteriorate. I managed to land a good-sized barracuda and a Mahi mahi on the fly. On the last day, Jill was the designated conventional tackle fisherwoman, and much to her family's pleasure, she caught some Mahi mahi, Wahoo, Mackeral and even reeled in a tail of some fish that was munched on by sharks. Overall, the trip wasn't a total disappointment, but it certainly didn't come close to being a success.
After the marlin trip, I met up with Greg Carter, a local guide and fishing guru. Greg operates a guide service, but lately he's found it gets in the way of his fishing. I was fortunate to have Greg as my salt water, fresh water and general Cairns-area guide. Greg was incredibly generous with his time, showing us fishing spots in Trinity Inlet as well as a couple of the reservoirs in the surrounding area. One of the dining highlights in Cairns was at the Red Ochre Restaurant. We feasted on distinctly Australian dishes such as Emu (a big, yummy bird!), crocodile (chewy, doesn't taste like chicken) and kangaroo (really puts a bounce in your step?). They were all delicious. A big thanks to Greg and his wife Danni, who despite being 6 months pregnant, let him hang out with us for hours on end!
I will be fishing my way back down to Sydney over the next 3 weeks. I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!