Sunday, December 23, 2012

Birthday Kingies

For Chris's birthday we went out fishing for the day with Dan Selby to try to catch some of the elusive king fish.

We met him bright and early at 5:30 in Brooklyn to get an early start on catching some live bait.   We motored out to the headlands near Palmy and caught some yakkas to tempt the larger fish with.
When I was booking the trip, for Chris's birthday surprise, I figured that I'd be a bit greedy and request that we catch some kingfish before we headed up the Hawkesbury to try our had at some other species.  After chasing these for almost 3 years now while everyone else in the boat catches them, I was first on the board with a 59 cm kingfish which was unfortunately not dinner sized.
After some more trolling Chris had a fish on and pulled in this giant at 77 cm.  This one was definitely a keeper, and the biggest one that Chris has ever pulled in.
With a huge grin on his face we started planning dinner...
And then I had another fish on!  Not only was this my SECOND kingie, this one was also going to find its way to dinner at a respectable 74 cm.
At this point the fish decided that they'd had about enough of us and stopped biting so we turned inland and motored up the Hawkesbury river.  Unexpectedly this was amazing beautiful and like being in a completely different area of the world.  There were very few boats around and few houses, only accessible via the river.  We stopped at a completely isolated spot to enjoy some fresh as possible kingfish sashimi, complete with the soy sauce and wasabi.
After stuffing ourselves with the amazing fish, we quickly sent our friends this picture, hoping that they could join us for some fish tacos in the evening because we clearly had more fish than we were ever going to be able to eat ourselves.
The afternoon didn't turn up many fish but you certainly can't complain when you've caught some kingies.  We came back to the boat ramp to torment the pelicans and the other fishos with our great catch.
It was great to watch all of the other guys cleaning their little fish on the table when our guide dumped both of our huge fish onto the table.  Someone even waited around to take our fish frames to eat because those fish are so good.
After a well deserved nap we got some friends together and enjoyed some amazing fish tacos in victory.
And just because we don't often get pictures with these fish, one more of the birthday boy.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Saving the World

It is with much regret that I have to report that there was a recent outbreak of a newly discovered zombie plague in Melbourne.

I was called upon to assemble a crack team of seasoned commandos to go and mop up and if possible, contain the outbreak.  The rag tag group I was able to assemble was as follows from left to right:

Nick (Codename: Quiche):  The wildcard of the bunch, can turn any 3 objects into an explosive.  Always seems to save your skin when all hope is lost.
Myself: Team leader, master of strategy and tactics.  Every disaster is an opportunity waiting to be seized.
Trent: Raised in the backwoods of Missouri, taught to stalk prey from a childhood.  Can gut and skin a full sized moose in 20 minutes.
Ian: Grew up on the mean streets of London as an urchin.  To feed himself he had to steal on good days and hunt sewer rats on the bad.  Knows no fear.
John: Rhodes Scholar, studied international policy at Oxford, speaks 7 languages, and MI6 claims he doesn't even exist.
James: Edged weapons expert, no one you would rather have with you if things get close and messy.

We flew down to Melbourne Friday night, parachuting out of our blacked out plane over the target.  After gathering our gear, we proceeded legitimize our cover story of "having a boy's weekend".

Many pubs were visited.

We proceeded to the facility Saturday afternoon where we received our briefing and specialized equipment.  Things were getting worse by the minute, apparently Alpha team had already entered the facility and home base had lost contact with them just a few minutes earlier.  Our mop up operation was now a rescue mission.

We steeled ourselves as we breached the first door.  The smell of death permeated the air.  Every room we entered was searched for clues as to the origin of the outbreak as we swept he zombie scourge from the earth.

We did end up running into some survivors but without being able to confirm that they weren't infected, their fates were sealed.

The mission culminated in the discovery of the original zombie, known as Patient Zero.  After a hard fought battle we were able to overcome the tragic, doomed beast. and put the outbreak to rest.

The fair city of Melbourne will be singing songs of our heroics for generations to come.

What is that, dear reader?  Does this all sound too amazing to be true?  Fret not, the entire thing (minus the pubs) was caught on HELMET CAM FOOTAGE.

The edited video however is apparently too AWESOME/large to fit within Blogger's meager size limit for video so please use the link below to view it on Youtube:

Awesome video footage of the triumph of humanity over the zombie horde here

I suggest you click on the little gear button in the lower right hand corner of the youtube window and change the quality to 720.  Oh, and pardon the swearing, war is brutal.

The organization that put the whole thing together, IRL Shooter is set or organize events around Australia of a similar nature.  We are sure to catch the Sydney one when we are called upon.

Do you have Bug Out Bag for when the zombie apocalypse comes?  For info on bugging out and survival check out The Bug Out Bag Guide.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Northern Territory Part 3: The Mary River

After a night in Darwin, which turned out to be more of a back packer town than a holiday destination, we jumped in the car again and made our way to the Mary River.

View Larger Map

The river is about a 1.5 hour drive South East of Darwin, and as you can see from the map above, is pretty far away from civilization.  We passed my favorite Aussie named town so far - Humpty Doo on the way, and also drove through the largest drive through liqour store (bottle-o is Australian) that we've seen on the way down.
Emma from the fishing lodge had recommended that we spend a night on a houseboat on the billabong which we agreed sounded like a great idea.
After speaking with some of the other guest at the fishing lodge who had done the houseboat before we were even more excited as they were gushing about all of the wildlife that they got to see. 
With a minimum list of instructions Chris drove us away from the dock, narrowly missing sideswiping another houseboat, and we were off for two days on our own on the river.
This was another one of these experiences, similar to Africa, where you go into it expecting that you're going to see a few birds and crocodiles, and are blown away but how much wildlife you get to see.
We took an extra bread roll and tossed some pieces in the water to watch the eagles and kites swoop down to pick them up.
Then we got an extra special treat as this eagle flew by with an actual fish in it's talons and then returned to the nest. 
We thought that it was going to start a fight with another bird in the tree near the nest, until we realized that this was actually the baby eagle (big baby)!
As we putted along the river we also saw numerous crocs up on the bank or lurking in the lilly pads.
We were warned to find a good spot to anchor and batten down the hatches in defense of the mosquitoes so we decided to stay the night near the eagles nest. 
As the sun was setting we finished up our dinner and put down the mosquito nets over the deck, assuming that these were just a silly precaution.
Little did we know that the mosquitoes here are actually a force to be reckoned with.  As the sun dissapeared you could literally see them coating the screens and hear them buzzing around.  We ended the evening hiding inside in the dark, enjoying a few drinks.
After a restless night huddle under a bug net, we woke up early to watch the sun rise over the river and were greated with a stunning view of the sun coming up through the fog.
We bravely stuck just the lense of the camera out through as small of a gap in the bug netting as possible to grab a few pictures as the fog cleared and the sun came out fully.
With it were a few enthusiastic fisherman who were clearly very eager to get started catching dinner.  How they weren't being carried away by the mozzies, we're not sure.
After breakfast we rolled up the bug netting and set off for a morning cruising the river.
Similar to the previous day, the scenery did not dissapoint.
We putted along the river for most of the day, enjoying the solitude and abundance of life. 
Overall the NT trip was spectacular.  The people were really nice and it's a completely unique part of the world.
Hopefully we'll be able to return someday to see it in the wet season when everything should be lush and green.
But until then, it's never as bad returning home when you've got a beautiful view out the window.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Northern Territory Part 2: Fishing in Dundee

The second leg of out Northern Territory adventure consisted of travelling to Dundee Beach to stay and fish with Angler's Choice. An excellent operation if I have ever seen one.

beers on the balcony after a great day of fishing
The host of the fishing lodge, Emma, was extremely friendly and accommodating, it felt more like we were staying with extended family than a commercial operation. I am confident that anything else we needed Emma would have thought of and taken care of well before we could have asked for it. She is an excellent cook to boot and served up some amazing meals with our fresh catches.

There's nothing like eating yourself sick on fresh mud crabs
The guides at the operation, Mick and Matt were also amazing. Unlike some charters I have been on where the operators seem to be annoyed that you are on their boat, Mick and Matt were welcoming and infinitely patient.

$25 to have your boat launched by the tractor off the beach, $100 to have your vehicle pulled out if you tried yourself
They also seemed genuinely excited when someone got a fish on, scrambling for your camera and narrating video as you reeled in. We cannot speak highly enough of their operation so I will simply move on to the fishing. 
like a pro
Day 1:  We spent day 1 trolling bommies and reefs searching for the aforementioned GTs. After about 30 minutes of this, the very first fish that hits the missus' line is......A GT!!! It was actually a triple hookup. She was the only one who landed one however, with the other 2 busting us off.
The whole reason Amy wanted to go on the trip was to catch a GT - first fish on!
Had a couple other hits that day, managed to pull in a golden trevally, several Queenfish, a massive barracuda, spotted some more GT's and sight casted at them, and at one point we tied a rope through a snapped carcass and played tug-o-war with a 7 foot bronze whaler just for kicks.
look at the size of that fish!
Day 2: In the morning we had an amazing run of 11 massive black jews in about 3 hours. The one in the pic above was average sized. They just kept coming.
hard at work waiting for the next bite
Once the tides changed and they went off the bite we went chasing golden snapper and caught about 10 of them. Emma hooked us up with some delicious sashimi as our pre-dinner snack.
This is what victory looks like
The other boat we were with managed to catch (and release) a 7 foot hammerhead as we watched from about 50 meters away. A hell of a fight. 

 On the way back to the lodge that evening Emma drove us by the magnetic termite mounds.  They are very thin and all face in the same direction, apparently for ventilation from the heat and forest fires.
In Litchfield we'd seen some of these from a fenced off area, but it was cool to be able to walk around them off the beaten path in Dundee.

croc out for a bit of sunshine
Day 3: Mich took us estuary fishing for barra and mud crabs. We had, according to him, a below average day and still caught 6 keepers and 12 crabs.
this one we called "dinner"
Over the course of the day we saw several crocs and lots of birds, it was a cool contrast from the sportfishing of the earlier days.
this guy chased us around the boat while the captain laughed and laughed at us
Emma cooked up the crabs from day 3 and jewies from day 2 into one of the best meals I can remember eating. I sat down with a fresh beer, stuffed my face as fast as I could and when done eating looked up at a now warm, slightly less fresh beer.
sunset from the balcony - goes best with a beer
I hadn't even considered looking up or pausing eating to drink, even with the sunsetting outside.
fish on!
Day 4: We had planned to go way out wide to chase spaniards for day for but the wind had picked up overnight and the plan had to be squashed. We ended up targeting sand bars and bays in the morning for queenies, managed to land a few.

Late morning the wind dropped so we went back out to the reefs and bommies to chase GTs again. I had a barra rod this day and managed to hook 2 GT's on this light tackle. What a ride!!! Ended up with one busting me off on the bottom after about 5 minutes. I got the other one to the boat around the same time as a bronze whaler showing up. Both fish dove and after a few seconds of the reel! Shark bait.

spanish mackeral
Ended the day with another good run on the troll which ended up being a spaniard! Sashimied him up at the boat ramp for an awesome treat.

We ended up flying home with 15K of fish in an esky, a mix of barra, snapper, jewie, and spaniard. We had to empty the freezer when we got home to fit all of the fish in!

It was an awesome trip, probably the best fishing I will ever do. A large part of this was due to the team and Angler's Choice, thanks again to them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Northern Territory 2012 Part 1: Litchfield

Our first stop on the trip was in Litchfield National Park which is about an hour and a half south of Darwin and is basically in the middle of nowhere.

For the first time in Australia we saw speed limits of 130km/hour and if you passed another car on the highway you could remark on the "traffic".

Along the road there were these massive termite mounds everywhere. Apparently they can survive the frequent forest fires without any issues and are a huge pest for everyone living on the top end. All of the utility poles, and most of the buildings that we saw were built out of metal in defense of the bugs as well as the fires.
The park itself has a bunch of different areas where you can get out and hike a bit to see some waterfalls, or because it was the dry season, some dry river beds as well.

We stopped about half way into the park after doing an abrupt turn to avoid a contiki bus full of hungover backpackers, and took a hike to Tolmer falls where we found the amazing waterfall.

Considering that it was still running strong at the end of the dry season (literally no rain for months), we can only imagine what it's like when the rain is dumping down.

As we hiked around we came out on the top of the waterfall to this gorgeous expanse of babbling brooks and green trees.  Chris ignored the do not enter signs to ensure that we had the best pictures of this awesome naturally formed arch that the water flows under while I ran distraction incase anyone came up the path.  Thankfully the 34 degree heat (93F) did it's job and discouraged other tourists from hiking so we had the place to ourselves to marvel over how beautiful it was.

After a refreshing slice of mango cheesecake at a local store and the best icy cold bottle of water ever, we drove to our next stop in the park, Wangi falls. 
With our lunch and some extra water in the bag we set off on a few km hike through the bush along a stream, crossing it several times.
We caught up to a couple along the way who were bravely trying to cross the water at one point in their flip-flops, slipping around everywhere, and were happy to pass them by to have the place to ourselves.

As we were hiking around I missed one of the turns off the path and came up to a patch of these nasty looking spiders.  The Aussies will tell you that if it's in a web you're generally ok, but I wasn't taking any chances and did a fast back track to find the trail around.
After about 20 minutes of hiking we emerged to find the first of the pools of water.

If you've heard anything about the NT, or know your word associations, Dundee goes well with "Crocodile".  In the dry season you have distinct streams and pools of water, but in the wet season it frequently just becomes one big lake.    

In some of these more popular areas they monitor for crocs that might have wandered in after the wet season is over so that you can swim during the sweltering heat of the day.  After I jumped off of this cliff into the pool below with a big splash, I couldn't help thinking how tempting I might be to any hungry crocs! 

Thankfully there were none around, and we enjoyed an amazing dip in the cool water with absolutely no one around.  It wasn't until we'd gone to sit on the rocks at the top of the fall to eat some lunch that we saw any other people.
 After lunch we climbed up over the waterfall and walked up the stream bed a bit. 
 Once again we had the place to ourselves and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

 After some hiking around we headed back to the car to check out some more of the park.

Now that we'd been hiking around in the heat for a few hours we were feeling rather wilted, but decided to check out one of the most popular sites in the park, Wangi Falls.

These were two stunning waterfalls with a very large, deep, and murky pool at the bottom.  If I were a crocodile, surely this is where I'd want to camp out for the dry season...
We dodged the tourists here and took another quick plunge before enjoying a well deserved ice cream in the parking lot before heading off to our hotel for the evening.

Higher res version on youtube here, be sure to change the resolution on youtube

Here's some video from Litchfield and the drive to get there - really a spectacular countryside, like nothing we've ever seen before.  The fishing part of the trip will be coming up in the next post.