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FISHING With Alex Julius 16/01/19

I’m not going to bang on about the weather – or lack of a wet season – this week, except that it’s not looking good. According to the Bureau of Metreology, the North Australia Monsoon is not expected for at least another week. Basically, you can plan to go fishing this weekend. On a different note, let me tell you about the best fishing trip I had last year. It was to PNG where, after half a dozen trips, I hadn’t been back there for 14 years. With one exception, the previous trips had all been to chase that amazing piscatorial freshwater beast: the Papuan black bass. My trip last year was aboard Jason Yip’s fabulous mothership K2O, fishing the remote Fly River with a group comprised of friends and acquaintances. I’d put the trip together after considerable planning. On a K2O black bass trip, you enjoy six full days of professionally-guided fishing. It’s a slick operation that is very mobile, depending on the fishing at any given place or time. The boats you fish out of are fine with the latest Lowrance electronics, and the guides certainly know their stuff. What really stood out was the warmth that local villagers along the river conveyed to the crew and guests. Jason and his team have clearly cultivated strong bonds with the village people in the remote areas fished. At most places we wet a lure, a local tribesman would come with each guide boat and would be paid for the day. Apparently, this privilege is shared throughout each village. The boat itself has comfortable accommodation for 10, including two state rooms. The food is good and the beers are always cold. Everyone caught plenty of fish on this trip, and we’re not just talking black bass. On the Fly River and adjoining Aramia River, barramundi can be 50% of the catch. I certainly found the barra habitats – and fish sizes accordingly – different to the Northern Territory. At the start of the trip, we were more than 300km upstream in pure freshwater and we encountered serious barra. One went 124cm and there were a handful of other meterys; barra in the 90s were common. The bass were up to their usual tricks in the snags. Locked up Shimano 300 TranX reels with 65lb FINS Evolve exposed weaknesses in line joins, lure connections, split rings and weaker hooks without fuss when a big one was hooked. The biggest we landed went 13kg, but we caught plenty close to that size. However, the bigger brutes all seemed to be hooked trolling or casting snags, and no one was able to pull one out. It actually caught me a bit by surprise; I think my recollections of epic smash-ups had faded over nearly a decade and a half since I last hooked onto a big Papuan bass. Early in the trip, I hooked a monster trolling over a submerged wood pile and it took the lure on the strike. I wound in the line and to my embarrassment I discovered the locked blood knot on the 80lb leader had slipped; had pulled through. I couldn’t remember the last time that happened. It was tied to a Mustad Fastach clip which I like to use, and I was looking at a pig tail on the end of my leader… Strike 1. The next blood knot I tied had a dozen twists in it and a dab of super glue. On this trip, the go-to lure was the Classic Dr Evil. It comes with a solid-looking split ring on the eye. Although I changed the split rings attached to the trebles with Owner Hyper Wire super-heavy-duty rings, I didn’t worry about changing the eye ring because the only pressure on it would be a straight pull, whereas rings on trebles can get in awkward positions on a hooked fish. By big bass, I’m talking fish up around the 18, 20kg mark – huge Lutjanids which are actually caught regularly on K2O trips. The next one of those I encountered – again on the troll – also took the lure on the volcanic strike. I wound in to find the knot still tied to the Fastach clip, but no lure. It didn’t take much deducing to work out the standard split ring had failed… Strike 2. With super-glued, multi-barrel-rolled blood knots and every split ring for a hundred miles beefed up, I reckoned the next big bass was mine. I hadn’t mentioned it because it really goes without saying that all the trebles had been upgraded to 6xExtra-strong varieties. My third and last chance at a megatonic bass also came on the troll, but it was a different scenario. We were trolling open water along a channel a few metres out from submerged wood when the Dr Evil detonated, and I’d relaxed my drag a tad. Consequently, the fish took line, smoked my thumbs and naturally buried in the timber. I managed to retrieve the lure and half a treble was straightened… Strike 3 and I was out. It was my last big fish encounter, and each of the three of them had exposed the weakest link. All those years ago when I did my last Papuan black bass trip, I came away calling this super-tough adversary the Pig Dog of the Freshwater. Nothing’s changed. In September this year, I’ll be hosting a return K2O trip for 8 people, and there are still spots available. For information, email or phone 08 89831738 (BH).

Geoff Doig with one of many great bass that attacked the Classic Dr Evils as if there was no tomorrow.

What the hell was Paul Wiesenekker’s 124cm whale of a barra doing more than 300km upriver in non-tidal, pure freshwater?

David MacPherson’s 13kg black bass was the biggest landed by the group; plenty of much bigger ones went begging.


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