What a disappointment! Instead of the usual dozen or more participants, we could only muster three beginners plus two regulars from two fishing clubs for our annual fish and camp on the Herbert River near Abergowrie.
Bob and I arrived on Friday night from Townsville and set up tents in the dark except for a small extension light from the back of the Toyota Prada. We yarned for a while and then turned in for a freezing night. I estimated the temperature dipped to around 12 degrees.
By first light we had eaten, set up our gear and approached the water that this year was much lower than on previous occasions. Maybe, because the ratio of fish to water was much higher, our luck was in. Bob selected a snag a few metres to the right of me and cast his fly upstream to allow the current to sweep it into position. I could hardly believe it when I heard his shout and saw his rod bent double. It must have been a huge sooty of barra judging by the disturbed water but we will never know as it made it to the snag and popped the leader.
Not long afterwards I scored a lovely sooty and managed to steer it into a shallow offshoot of the main stream while I fumbled around trying to get my camera working. After a change of batteries the camera worked and the fish was released without being lifted from the water. The barbless yellow and white clouser practically fell out.
Bob caught another five sooties before Dave arrived from Townsville. As he was new to the area Bob told him what to do and he soon snared a 36.5cm sooty-the largest fish he had caught on fly to that point so he was stoked.
We then decided a cuppa was warranted so we headed back to camp.
After a couple of hours in the middle of the day, Dave and Bob got bored with the inactivity and set off downstream for the next four hours. I was glad I stayed behind as I had a good lunch and bludge while they fished hard for two fish. However, Bob had scored the best fish of the trip with a 40cm sooty.
In the late afternoon we flogged all the old snags for a nil result.
We ate well, spent some time staring at a campfire and went to bed-fortunately to a much warmer night.
Breakfast, and another attack on the water.
I trailed along behind Dave and Bob headed upstream as far as he could with the intention of fishing back towards us. Dave suddenly said “We’ve got company”.
I went back to the camp site to find Kieran and his friend Anthony had arrived. We re-fished the snags but they had been so thoroughly thrashed there was little hope of catching anything.
Bob arrived back after catching a sooty and a tarpon so we returned to camp for a well-earned cuppa before packing up for home.
All went well till Kieran and Anthony got bogged in the soft sand. It took over an hour in the midday sun of digging, packing the sand with sticks, jacking the vehicle up and the use of a snatch strap to get them out. We then left in convoy and all got through safely.
The area we fished has changed dramatically and, in my opinion, would only support fishing by one or two rather than a large group. It is my suggestion that the club consider another venue for our next annual camp.
Despite everything I must say that, as usual, I had a great camp and fish, with good company