Fishing in Cairns with the giveaway boat

By: Jack Murphy, Photography by: Jack Murphy

Mossman Gorge The gorge-ous sights of Mossman Gorge. Mossman Gorge
Curtain Fig Tree The epic Curtain Fig Tree. Curtain Fig Tree
Boat on Lake Tinaroo Hair blowing in the breeze on Lake Tinaroo. Boat on Lake Tinaroo
Paronella Park in Mena Creek Following the sun at Paronella Park, Mena Creek. Paronella Park in Mena Creek
The big prawn You know what this is. Right? The big prawn
Towing a boat in rough country Towing the boat all this distance can sometimes be challenging... Towing a boat in rough country
Towing a boat by the seaside ...and sometimes it's just breath taking. Towing a boat by the seaside

Join the Trade-a-Boat crew as we take our Stabicraft 1610 Fisher giveaway boat on the first leg of an epic travel trek from Melbourne to Cairns.



Towing a boat to Cairns

The first leg of our adventure was a long haul drive from Melbourne to Cairns – just before the wet season unleashed its torrential fury on the Top End.

With the Stabicraft 1650 Fisher and a motley crew of mates in tow, we excitedly left a cold and grey Melbourne morning with our first destination pegged as Sydney.

After a suspiciously flawless start to the trip, we pulled over in Albury to grab some tucker and ensure the rig was in check. Lucky too, as a quick inspection to the oil bearings on the Transtyle trailer revealed a top-up was definitely needed. A speedy lubrication later, we were back out on the road and motoring smoothly north.

With a red duck curry hangover and only a few hours of sleep on the couch under our belts, we awoke early in Sydney and sluggishly piled back into the fully loaded Holden Colorado.

With some serious road miles still ahead of us, a plan was certainly in order. We’d head from Sydney to Ballina, then Ballina to Gladstone, Gladstone to Airlie Beach and Airlie Beach to Cairns. There we’d grab a couple of day’s R&R before attacking the sights of the Atherton Tablelands.

To get from Melbourne to Cairns alone, we were looking at a whopping 3500km. That’s 41 hours of non-stop driving or, according to Google Maps, 736 hours of non-stop walking – so we chose the former…

Life on the road is different to everyday life. You see, when you’re spending 10 hours a day staring at two white lines that go left, right and straight, you do tend to lose your sanity pretty quick.

So we played Eye-Spy, Moo, Windmill, Bananarama, Land, Sea or Air and, in desperate times, Road Kill Cricket (it’s not what you think!) and others…



Towing a boat through the Atherton tablelands

When we finally arrived in Cairns we’d pretty much spotted every windmill on the east coast – as well as seeing small cane fields, medium cane fields, big cane fields, harvested cane fields and even burning cane fields.

Amazingly, we’d also done the entire trip problem free. Usually on big excursions like these, the main concern is the boat trailer, as it’s often bouncing and rattling around on poor quality roads. However, the one bearing oil top-up we did in Albury saw the Transtyle trailer through to Queensland, maintenance free.

So after a few days chilling out in Cairns (which involved some diving on the Great Barrier Reef) we climbed the Great Dividing Range to the Atherton Tablelands – still with the boat in tow.

Reaching a maximum altitude of around 1300m, I’m sure some people were wondering what in the hell a fully kitted Stabicraft 1650 Fisher was doing up in the clouds. Regardless, we pushed on and took in the mountainous sights.

The Atherton Tablelands are home to some seriously cool natural and man-made attractions – you could explore the area for a month and not get bored. There’s a huge abundance of incredible swimming holes, pristine waterfalls and gorgeous gorges. Better still, you can even have a dip in most of them too. Yep, that’s right, no crocs in the high county … well, it’s very unlikely.



Fishing at Lake Tinaroo

With another 30°C-plus day beaming down on us, it was the logical decision to head to Davies Creek Falls to wet the gills for our first day in the Atherton Tablelands.

These freshwater swimming holes are an oasis – crystal clear and icy cold, they jump-start morale when the tropical heat gets you down. After a quick splash and dive in watery heaven we perused the map and found Lake Tinaroo was also only a stone’s throw away from our location.

With the Stabicraft all fuelled up and the 100hp Mercury outboard motor thirsty for a drink, we tuned our diving lures and headed to Tinaroo.

Constructed on the Barron River in 1953 and filled in 1959, Lake Tinaroo’s commercial purposes include irrigation and power generation. Recreationally, it’s a haven for watersports, sailing, houseboating and fishing. The lake is stocked with barramundi and sooty grunter and apparently famous for world record captures. I knew we brought the boat up here for a reason.



Boat ramp at Lake Tinaroo

With only the afternoon to fish Lake Tinaroo and the locals touting that the only way to go Barramundi fishing on Lake Tinaroo is with a stinky bait, I wouldn’t say hopes were too high as we launched the boat into the brown waters. We worked the snags for a few hours with plastics and hard bodies but didn’t get as much as a sniff.

There’s no doubt we found the fish – the Lowrance HDS-9 marine electronics was chock-a-block with marks for much of the arvo.

Still, with a bunch of mates, a couple of beers and a cracking sunset we didn’t mind letting the barra evade us this time.



Paronella Park in the Atherton Tablelands

For the next few days, the Atherton Tablelands really turned it on.

We visited the incredible Curtain Fig Tree, swam in Lake Barrine (a volcanic crater turned lake), relaxed at Mossman Gorge (an hour north), got soaked at Millaa Millaa Falls and ogled at the Spanish inspired castles of Paronella Park.

Along the way we met some pretty interesting locals too, one of which was Terry Osborne. Terry is the publican at Millaa Millaa Hotel and in his younger years had a semi-pro fishing licence.

Terry Osborn from the Millaa Millaa Hotel

Among other things, we was able to make some money from his passion by selling his catches to the local Co-Op. With almost as much character as Terry himself, his collection of old Penn overhead reels (which he still uses today) are a great look back into fishing history.

Check out our video (above) with Terry.


See the full version of this story in Trade-A-Boat #460, December 2014 / January 2015. Why not subscribe today?

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