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International Skink Rescue

Being a fishing guide on Australia’s remote Cape York Peninsula I tend to see some amazing things while being on the water.  Sharks smashing into the back of the boat chewing on the prop and stalling the outboard, massive crocodiles eating smaller crocodiles, dolphins teaching their young on the shallow flats how to hunt permit, miles upon miles of tuna smashing bait on the surface creating such a roar that it is deafening, these are some of things I get to witness. With each day on the water bringing new and bizarre eye candy one would wonder what I may see next. Well Mother Nature has a funny way with things and while guiding my American client John Berzins the other day we observed another bizarre example of her at work.

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Holy Crap Batman

“Come on Phil hurry up and finish that cup of coffee. I need some berley out back here". The hulking skipper of “Tropic Paradise” downed what was remaining in his coffee cup and then sauntered his way into the toilet do his usual morning business and provide me with a chum trail. Yes you read this right. I was standing on the back deck enjoying the coolness of the morning before the fierce Australian sun would rise above the mangroves and be upon us. Ronald the fourteen foot crocodile swam leisurely by on his way out to sea as he does every morning. Queenfish and small trevally were busting baitfish along the edges of the beach. The massive Queensland Groupers that hang at the back of the boat were eyeing me like dogs waiting for a free meal. Right at this moment I heard the toilet flush and a couple of clients came out of the galley to see what I was up too on the back deck.

Toga Party !!

Toga party, forget the bed sheets , it’s all about the fishing.
 It was late October when my brother came down to Oz to fish with me and do a couple of trips on the “Tropic Paradise”. We just got back from a week at sea and had a few days off between trips. So I figured we take the opportunity to go fish the Jardine Swamps. These are a series of freshwater billabongs that can only be accessed by boat from Seisia. They are a short walk through the scrub off of the mighty Jardine River. Years ago they got fished occasionally but now they are all but forgotten by most people. Usually I try and fish them at least a couple of times during the season and have a small fishing boat stashed at one of the larger billabongs. It is perfect for rowing  around and casting to all the likely looking spots along the banks and in the lily pads. The billabongs are stunning with deep crystal clear water, banks lined with massive Paperbark trees and patches of water lilies which give the whole scene splashes of purple and white colour.

 The main fish we were there to catch was the Saratoga. A very primitive member of a class of fish called 'Bony Tongues" many know of their cousins the Arowanas of  South America but our Toga's have golden colored flanks, blue hued scales that are beautifully fringed in pink and hot pink spots that dot their emerald green fins and tail. Usually found amongst the water lilies and shoreline grasses they are an ambush predator occasionally seen cruising around their small hunting territories. Always looking up for a terrestrial meal to fall in they are suckers for dry flies. Flies like Dahlberg’s and big deer hair skating flies that I would use for Steelhead back home are a deadly weapon.

 But we found on this occasion that Toad style flies out fished the surface action. In the billabong Toga's are not the only fish that are caught in there. Barramundi, Archer fish, Tarpon, Coal Grunter and big Catfish all reside in the same areas as the Toga and are always a welcome by-catch. My brother hooked and landed a nice catfish that nearly pulled his arm off. A lot of the Toga’s and Barra can be sight fished this time of the year due to low water levels. This makes for some exciting fishing from a small boat. We had a couple of fantastic days on the billabong hooking lots of fish and enjoying the solitude on the water before we had to head back to Seisia. We all have our “ secret” little spots that we go to from time to time and this one is definitely one of my favorite ones. I can hardly wait till I visit the Jardine Swamps again this year.

What Shiny White Teeth You Have

Occasionally while fishing the mangrove lined banks for Barramundi and Mangrove Jacks I’ve had saltwater crocodiles eat the fly. They jump and twist and usually do a short run before you can bring them hissing to the boat for a closer inspection. You really have to watch out for their shiny white ivory they have while trying to unhook them. Most are small, between two and four foot long. I really would not want to deal with anything larger. Flies I’ve hooked them on are pink things and poppers. The surface take is pretty crazy when they chomp a popper. I don’t specifically target crocodiles on fly and they are only ever caught as a unusual by-catch. Being a protected species all have been very, very carefully released, unharmed I might add………..and YES, I still have all my fingers.

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