“Steve ‘Starlo’ Starling is arguably Australia’s best-known recreational fishing writer, presenter and communicator, with over 20 books and thousands of magazine articles and columns to his credit. Starlo lives on the far south coast of NSW and travels regularly in his 2006 HiLux in pursuit of angling adventure, and he relies on his Cooper tyres to get him there and bring him home.”
We all know that the further you drive and the rougher the tracks traversed in order to reach your dream destination, the better the fishing will be when you finally arrive, right? Well, yes and no…
Over the years, I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of stunning fishing action in genuinely remote and difficult-to-access locations right around the country. A few particularly magical spots along the west coast of northern Cape York Peninsula — up between Weipa and the Tip — immediately spring to mind, as do some other gems hidden away in the wild and woolly Kimberley region of Western Australia… They comprise a list of special places that dwell in the happiest recesses of my highly selective fisherman’s memory.
Up in the Top End, the infamous Four Mile Hole on the Wildman River system in Kakadu has a well-deserved reputation for breaking vehicles and drivers alike. But if you get it right, and are amongst the first crews to reach the Four Mile when the track finally opens well after each Wet Season (an event that can happen as late as July or even early August some years), the calibre of barra fishing encountered is often nothing short of monumental… It’s truly the stuff of legend!
These days, it’s exceedingly rare to have the Four Mile Hole to yourself. In fact, by mid-August there can be a veritable hamlet of tents, camper vans, boat trailers and even caravans parked along the tree-lined edge of the deeply buffalo-rutted black soil plain. It’s getting harder and harder to find genuine isolation every year. There’s nothing for it but to climb back behind the wheel and push on even further into the wilderness.
Without doubt there’s something especially rewarding about doing the hard yards (sorry “hard metres” just doesn’t cut it!) and earning the glittering prize. Fish caught at the end of the road less travelled seem to grow bigger, fight harder, look sexier and taste sweeter than anything encountered closer to home.
But as great as it is to go the extra mile (again, kilometre doesn’t really do the job!), it’s surprising how often we drive past truly great opportunities on our rush to what can sometimes turn out to be mediocre ones. While this grass-is-greener truism applies to a great deal more in life than fishing, it’s certainly applicable to that pursuit as well!
I well remember a day, many years ago, that was unexpectedly spent on a little mangrove-lined creek somewhere along the North Queensland mainland, up the back of Hinchinbrook Island, between Townsville and Cairns. My companions and I were full of expectation as we launched the boat at first light. Our aim was to blast out of the short creek and across Hinchinbrook Channel to explore some of the wilder, less fished waters on the inside of that mountainous island.
What’s that line about the best-laid plans of mice and men? With a sickening crunch, everything went totally pear-shaped just a stone’s throw from the launching ramp as we hit a submerged rock, destroying the outboard’s gearbox. Game over… or so we thought. However, as the vessel crawled slowly back up the creek, now powered only by the bow-mounted electric motor, we couldn’t resist flicking a few lures toward the snag-lined banks. Much to our surprise, we immediately hooked a couple of reasonable fish, all with the sound of traffic whizzing along the Bruce Highway clearly audible in the background. Interesting.
To cut a long story short, we fished that short creek between the highway and the sea for a solid five or six hours, until the electric motor’s battery finally drained and we had to disconnect the now defunct outboard cranking battery and use its juice to limp back to the ramp. We caught at least 10 or a dozen different tropical fish species from memory, including some quite nice specimens. Truth be known, we probably did better than we would have across on Hinchinbrook!
My point is simply this: don’t be in too much of a hurry to make tracks for distant horizons. It’s amazing how often the greatest prizes of all are lying literally at your feet.
You can follow Steve’s fishing fortunes, tap into his knowledge and communicate with him at www.fishotopia.com