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24.02.2010


 Low cost airfares have made Cairns a very viable fishing destination for southern anglers wanting a short break in this famous fishing mecca. Andy Galwey recently sampled the fly/guide opportunities available in this tropical holiday destination.       
Thank God for good old Richard Branson. Since the emergence of Virgin Blue onto the Australian scene, flight costs to the various destinations this airline visit have tumbled. The result is it's no longer out of the realms of reality for a Sydneysider, or Melbourne resident to dash up to Cairns for a quick fishing trip of over three or four days.
That's exactly what I did in January this year and what an absolutely great time it was for myself and two sons, John and William who accompanied me on the trip.
Summer fishing sorties into Cairns can provide many twists and turns, generally governed by the weather. However, after a year of simply hard yakka knocking out the magazine I just couldn't resist the temptation to do some hard fishing time in this famous fishing destination.
Cairns charter operator Kerry Bailey hadn't had his 5.9m Bajcraft, Gladstone built charter boat in the water for long before he got my phone for a short-order fishing trip. However, Kerry was more than happy to meet our request and soon had us booked for a couple of hard days fishing out of Cairns. As you'll read, it's exactly what we got!
Kerry has worked for some six years in the charter business in Cairns and has been known to anger his employers for often spending too long out on the water with the clients. He's just the sort of operator I love and I knew he was going to give us good value for dollar.
My two boys, John and William didn't need much convincing of the plan. John has been a constant fishing mate for the past 29 years and is now more than capable of showing his old man a thing or two about the sport. Two years of hard fishing in Papa New Guinea has certainly rounded his fishing skills off nicely.
William, the youngest at 16 years of age still suffers severely from the dreaded curse of seasickness, however regardless of the conditions he has never asked me to turn the boat homeward. This was certainly going to be big test for him since the winds a few occasions were pushing 25 knots and the days were very long. Despite such conditions he impressed Kerry and Lindsay with his sheer determination to shrug off the cursed problem.
Lindsay? Yep, he came too! In fact, Lindsay is a long time reader of TBF who I had the pleasure of running into on a previous trip to Cairns. With Lindsay it's a race to get the first fish aboard and the day is filled with jovial jest whenever he's around. As far as I'm aware fishing is his first and last love with a good yarn running a close second.
A solid days fishing aboard Kerry's boat, Blackout Sports Fishing, sets one back about 0. That amounts includes all the fishing equipment you'll need, a great lunch and a very solid knowledge of the tricks and treats out of Cairns.
Kerry is happy to build the trip around your likes and dislikes, and to my mind that what makes him such a good operator. Most importantly he's happy to head to sea at the hour that will get you the best fishing and return after the best period has had its run. There's no such thing as 9 to 5 for him.
Meanwhile Kerry's boat, the 5.9m Bajcraft rode the very sloppy waters we encountered with amazing ease and demonstrated its ability to comfortably fish up to four people.

Fly & Fish:
The airfares to Cairns fluctuate, however it cost me just 4 return from Sydney. Since then the prices have even got sharper. As I write this article (early February) Virgin Blue have yet another super special running for flights out of both Melbourne and Sydney to Cairns for just 9.00 return!
All I can say is good on you Virgin Blue, keep up the great work. Even without the aid of special airfares you'll be able to pick up a return flight for around the 0 mark, and that's still very affordable travel.
Accommodation in Cairns is plentiful and varies from as little as to 0 per night. We stayed at the plush four-star Four Winds Hotel in the centre of Cairns where a room for the three of us came to just 0 per night.
Given this cost structure I reckon three or four fishing mates could do this trip for as little as 00 each. And that's working on the non-special airfare of 0, three days boat charter and three nights accommodation! Not bad value, particularly when a fist-full of hard pumping GT's sends you flying home with a smile on your face. That's how it was for us and despite the high winds we had an absolute ball. It's a trip we hope to do again before the year is out.

Early Start:
We arrived at Cairns late in the evening and somewhat nervous when we discovered a strong southerly blowing. A quick call to Kerry confirmed strong winds for the next few days, however Kerry was quick to assure us there were was an array of fishing options and he was looking forwards to picking us up at the motel at 6 am the next morning.
The alarm did its trick and Kerry was punctually on time. Judging by his beaming smile Kinsley was not dissuaded by the 15 knot wind that was already blowing as Kerry ran us from the motel to the ramp. Williams however certainly was and suspect he might have been feeling the symptoms of seasickness even before the boat was launched.
With five aboard the boat made the sloppy wind-wiped waters look tame and Kerry was easily able to maintain a steady 17 - 18 knots on the run out to Fitzroy.
Once at the destination a quick cast of the net hauled in a fist full of Sardines. Then it was off for a short run eastwards where we parked above a sunken wreck.
Our baits had hardly hit the bottom before the first exciting adrenaline run of a hard-hitting GT ripping line from the reel. After a couple of hours my arms started to ache and the stomach was feeling the pinch from having the rod butt forced against it.
The winds persisted with the occasional gust reaching up to 25 knots. William did a mighty job keeping the berley running freely. A quick release of berley between GT's was the system he used, however as the berley supply started to dry up all we started to get was a very noisy attempt at his own berley release. It was at this point Kerry kindly suggested a run back to the shelter of a reef just south of Green Island was in order.
Poor Will took no convincing about the change of plan, although I was rather disappointed at having to leave a spot loaded with a never ending supply of GT's willing to test our stamina.
Heavy rain had set in and the winds showed no sign of abating. It certainly amazed me at how well this boat handled the condition. Kerry was not overly happy having five of us aboard, and certainly the boat would have fished better with two or three aboard. It just went to show that Blackout Sports Fishing   was an excellent fishing platform and probably would handle the harshest condition Kerry ever considered operating under.
The small reef south of Green Island quickly yielded a couple of good large-mouth nannygai along with a few reasonably sized spaniards (spanish mackerel) and shark mackerel. However, the fight of the day belonged to a large cobia that certainly aided in the muscle building development of Williams arms.
We were never really sure if it had been the winds or that cobia that pulled the anchor however as the evening skies were giving away to darkness it was decided to head back to port.

Mulgrave River:
After our busy first day we were more than content to grab a bite and get to bed early. Kerry had the announced the Mulgrave River to be target four our next day's adventure much to Williams delight.
The Mulgrave River system is a pleasant 45-minute drive south of Cairns as we found out the next morning. As we launched Blackout Sport Fishing at 7am the wind was already quite strong and it was no doubt this magic river system would come as a great relief to William.
The tides weren't the best for the occasion and the season was closed to barramundi. Not surprisingly the morning's fishing proved very quiet and although very relaxing we were struggled to yield any fish of any note.
It was not until after mid-day that the first decent fish took a swipe at a popper launch by John. It was a handy-sized GT that had the lighter gear really singing to a tune that would get the adrenaline running in even the most hardened fisherman.
After another three or four hard battles the GT left as quickly as they had come. Kerry was keen to set us up with bait to test the waters, however we urged him to allow us to continue with the lure casting. For us it was just as much fun flicking lures around the plentiful snags.
Although this day's fishing only saw a handful of GT's, a few small Mangrove Jacks along with a Javelin fish it was one of those exceptionally pleasant days to share with your two sons. It was so enjoyable we decided to extend our fishing trip to take in an extra day on the Daintree River.
The next day however would see us back out to sea and we would have to arrange the services of Terry Holman to take us fishing the Daintree following that outing as Kerry had a pre-arranged charter precluding from taking us out on the fourth day.

Offshore Again:
It was rather pleasant getting back to the motel at a reasonable hour on day two. The weather had shown up my age and I was just starting to feel the odd ache and pain, here and there. A long shower followed by an excellent smorgasbord meal with Kerry, Kingsley and their families took care of that.
Unfortunately John received the dreaded call and had to head back to work in Brisbane the next day. As sad as that was for John, it didn't turn out to be a bad day for William, Kingsley and I.
Although the persistent winds were still present the day turned out to be far better than that first one at sea. By now William had started to gain his sea-legs and was actually able to hang onto his bacon and egg breakfast.
This time we'd been granted a small sleep in by Kerry and we didn't hit the water until mid morning. Once again we headed south for Fitzroy Island to gather sardines for live bait. We then headed out to the wreck for another bout of hard pumping GT fighting.
It was a great day, but as the sun fell sharply towards the hills, we decided to head back in towards a drop-off Kerry had previous enjoyed success on finger marks.
With great skill, Kerry positioned the boat to his satisfaction over the drop off and as tropical darkness fell the first of a number of Finger Mark slammed our lines. These hard hitting and strong fighting fish provided us with three hours of hard yakka. Although the wind was still persisting, we were actually in a bit of a lee, and the warm nights sky provided the perfect backdrop to an exciting fishing adventure. These beauties may well have kept bighting all night, however the decision was made to head back early rather than later no doubt to account for my aging bones and the fact we'd be up early the next morning for a trip to the Daintree.
Unfortunately Kerry had a previous charter booked the next day so was unable to join us on the trip, however the guide position was capably filled by Terry Holman.

Daintree Dabble:
Terry met us right on schedule outside the Four Winds Hotel at 6am the next morning. It's about an hour's run up to the Daintree River and Terry was able to give me a great insight into the local fishing seasons as we headed north.
It appears the premier fishing seasons for Cairns are from August to late October. Both river and ocean fishing is at its peak during this period. June and July can yield barra and ocean fishing isn't too bad either, however mid April through to end of May makes for great fun fighting large Queenies in the rivers.
The summer months are when Cairns gets its main rainy season, however this past summer saw almost in drought conditions. The rains are an essential part of the fish breeding cycle in the area so thankfully the rivers were in flood by the time I wrote this article.
Terry had his little bass boat launched by 7.30am and it wasn't long till before we could see why this magnificent river system is world famous.
If you are into throwing plugs at snags whilst enjoying the added bonus of crocs and bird watching, then this is definitely the place to visit. The surrounding rainforests are absolutely breathtaking and it's also a bird-watcher's heaven. The ever-present crocodile just adds that degree of majesty of this fantastic area.
The Daintree is a medium to large river that yields a wide variety of fish including queenfish, barramundi, fingermark, trevally and mangrove jack.
The best fishing times to fish this river are mid August through to February. Terry is an experienced charter operator and is a keen targeter of Jungle Perch in the high, upper arms of the river during the months of April through May.
Kerry too has a permit to fish the Daintree and if you head up to this region it's a river system you should make the effort to fish.

Summary :
William and I saw action with trevally and queens as well as the occasional barramundi. The season for barra fishing is closed in the Cairns region during Spring. This simply means that should you catch one of these magnificent fish you are compelled to return it to the river unharmed.
We happily obliged. Drifting over the vast weed beds, casting poppers is in my mind harder work than working plugs amongst the snags, however the sudden swirl and the taking of a popper by a large mouth barramundi is certainly heart stopping and great fun.
At 5pm we headed back to the boat ramp with both William and I feeling the effects of four solid days of great fishing, we were tired but satisfied. It was disappointing that John was unable able to share all four days but we've decided to rectified that situation with another trip up here about August this year. Terry has got me very interested in the idea of chasing a few jungle perch with him up river. And I believe you readers will want to know about it.
Kerry Bailey has been busy adding another exciting arm to his charter operation by including an overnight trip out of Cooktown. Now that's a must for me and having seen his operation I can testify it's great value for money.
Kerry is one of those charter operators where you decide when to head home! He has permits to fish virtually every river system from Cooktown down to Hinchinbrook, including the magnificent Daintree system. He also holds open water charter permits from Princess Charlotte Bay (north of Cooktown), right down to Hinchinbrook.
Overall Kerry's experience and enthusiasm combines to make him one of the better operators I've had the pleasure to charter.
Many Thanks to the marine.com

 
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