When Gerald Penkler and his wife Suzanne took a trip fly fishing Australia, they had goals. Specific species goals. From the fish to the fauna and flora, they got what they were looking for and then some. As featured in The Mission Issue 23.
This is not a story about trophies, but stories about a journey to find a jungle perch, a barramundi, a coral trout and a Blue Mountain trout. Why this eclectic mix? Why not GTs, tuskies, queenies and Murray cod? I have no idea, but would happily catch these too. My wife, Suzanne, and I started our Australian journey in the tropical rainforest, followed the Great Barrier Reef and ended in the lofty Blue Mountains.
Half asleep and bleary eyed I answered my phone. “What time will you be checking in today?” We had somehow miscalculated and were arriving a day later. A slight panic as we had booked a scuba class for 08.30am. So, after 30 hours of travel, we went straight from Cairns airport to scuba school. Even worse was that we woke up the next day with colds and ended any chance of diving. ProDive suggested we join a week later, which left us free to explore the forests and rivers for jungle perch.
Whump! A huge unmarked speed bump indicated the end of road and the start of the gravel. Scars on the bump showed that we were not the first eager visitors.
Clambering down through the bush to a deeply shaded pool we heard a splash. Rings rippled across the pool. It was only a couple of metres wide and knee deep. Peering through the undergrowth, I assumed that the moving shadows were jungle perch. I flicked out a small elk hair caddis. It may as well have been a rock as fish scattered and disappeared.
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This could have been a pristine trout stream with the clear water glides, runs and pools. A beautiful perch, tattooed from head to tail, launched at my fly. All 5 cm of it. We kept moving upstream and the terrain changed from a forest stream to big boulders, deep pools and fast cascades. A big pale shadow moved out from under a rock toward the dry. This was it! Until a dark shape blasted in front, snatching the morsel away. Fish on, briefly. Later I would learn that this was a sooty grunter. A great hike and a swim in a natural infinity pool, but not much to show on the fishing front.
We headed inland to camp alongside a new river. A cassowary, vanished into the forest before we could have a proper glimpse. With the light dropping fast I ran down to the river to scout. This was an aquarium. Eels, schools of sooty grunter, fish I did not recognise and a few good size jungle perch were all actively feeding. Content with barbequed steak, and listening to the forest night sounds I drifted off dreaming about jungle pools. At first light we hiked upstream in search of less pressured waters. Kilometre after kilometre we worked our way upstream, casting at likely looking lies with dries, nymphs and streamers. Nothing.
In the heat of the day we were hunted. Hounded. The swarms of horse flies had us squeaking and retreating into the water. Dancing or wading were the only options. I regretted wearing shorts. Dashing around a deep pool I jolted to a halt. There, dozing in its sandpit was a boar. An enormous, dog-like, hairy beast. We slowly, quietly, reversed back into the river.
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As the shadows lengthened fish magically emerged and darkened the pools. A few sooty grunter, also known as black bream, were active near a submerged tree. The indicator dipped and Suzanne lifted into a lively little sooty. They are surprisingly powerful and put the 4wt through its paces. Two decent jungle perch investigated the commotion, saw us and dashed back into the depths. The search for a decent jungle perch continued. We caught a number of sooty grunter but I would love to have targeted some big specimens.
For the barramundi and Blue Mountain trout, read the rest of Gerald’s story in issue 23 below: