On the Hunt for Sooty Grunter

Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp is just outside of Charters Towers in North Queensland. The Drabbles and ourselves decided we needed to go for a weekend of camping and fishing so we packed up the tent, camper trailer and fishing rods and off we went.

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It was very dry and dusty when we arrived, but we were assured there was water in the river and creek systems around the area, so we were happy enough.  Once our camp was set up, we got the fire going and started our own dinner prep. After dinner, with a few beers round the camp fire we planned the following day’s exploration and fishing.

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We were after some sooty grunter in the surrounding creeks and rivers and Drabs was the authority on where, how and with what to catch them. So, we woke early in the morning, and after a bit of brekky we found out that Di did not sleep very well last night. It seemed that the peacocks and snoring generally kept her awake. Well we could not do anything about the peacocks but we move dour tent away from their camper trailer to try and eliminate the snoring noises (just anote to say it was not me snoring by the way).

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Once we had cleaned up our camp and loaded our respective vehicles with fishing paraphenalia and lunch, we set off to find some not so dry creek beds down which we could drive in search of the elusive sooty.

Now there is always a lot of banter between Drabs and Mike, Patrol vs Prado, whose 4wd is better, who knows more about off road driving, who is the true blue “Aussiest”! This makes for some light entertainment for Di and I listening to them and their growing list of over exaggerated claims. Mike and I were relatively new to the whole 4×4 driving thing and I always deferred to Drabs on the fishing front (after all he has been doing it most of his life and I have only been fishing for about 10 years).

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Following the Drabbles we pulled off the highway onto a dry creek bed and promptly came to a halt. Drabs had got his Patrol stuck in the soft sand and we hadn’t even gone 200 yards! Well we laughed and laughed, cracking some jokes about Patrol’s vs Prado’s (like you do), as he pulled his Maxtraxs out and let his tyres down. We also reduced our tyre pressure and set off down the creek bed in search of the elusive sooty.

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We fished a few of the deeper areas of the creek and Drabs caught a couple of good sooty (I got nothing, but it was not for lack of trying). The area had narrow bands of water running over rocks with low hanging trees and good shaded areas where the sooty hang out. Perfect fishing country. After a big wet out here the creeks and rivers are in full flood, water rushing over the rocks, uprooting trees and flooding up to the banks. Unfortunatley the area had been in drought for quite a while and the creek beds were mainly sand with the creek running shallow and narrow in many places.

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Now Drabs is a diehard fisherman and he decided the other bank was the place to be so off he went, walking and swimming across the creek with rod held high out of the water. This was bit too hardcore for me, even though we were in fresh water I was still concerned about crocodiles and other nasties lurking unseen. He got to the other side with only a few little mishaps such as falling down a couple of big holes and almost losing his hat in the water, but his rod was kept dry and above his head at all times (told you he was diehard).

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As we sat on the bank relaxing and keeping an eye on him over the other side (to make sure he did not disappear down a hole or become croc bait) we heard a big whoop and he was on. He got a couple of nice sooty for his troubles. I looked on, enviously, but still not game enough to venture over. I was a bit chicken I suppose but even though I love fishing there are just some lengths I would not go to get the elusive sooty.

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After a spot of lunch, we ventured further down the creek bed and reached an area where we needed to cross the creek. Like a true blue Aussie Drabs took one for the team and went first. It took him a few attempts to get across, going backward and forward, trying not to get bogged in the middle. It was not deep but the sand was very soft (apparently, although the Prado made it in one go!). Maybe the Patrol did not like getting its feet wet!

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So off we set again and to find another likely fishing spot. As we were driving I looked out of my window to see the Patrol struggling to get up a very, very, very, small bump of sand. I pointed this out to Mike and we had a bit of a giggle. Reaching for the radio I asked if the Patrol would like a little push from our Prado to assist with the massive obstacle it was facing. For some reason Drabs did not find that too funny, although I am sure I could hear Di laughing in the background! After a few attempts the Patrol managed to climb Everest and we got back on the route down to the creek.

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Drabs caught several sooty grunters that day and I even bagged myself a little on. Unfortunately, I cannot find the picture of it, but I did catch one (honestly!). But truth be told it was a lovely couple of days spent in good company and exploring different scenery and having a few laughs along the way.

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Check out Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp and the surrounding creeks for your own sooty adventure.

https://www.facebook.com/bivouacjunction/

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Crab Claw Island, NT

Before I start this blog, I would just like to point out 4 things that we learnt during this trip away:

  • A dome tent was not made for marriage tranquillity (or for us either!).
  • Listening to families getting together around a campfire, playing instruments and singing is much better than sitting on your electronic device all through the evening.
  • Just because the sign says “10mins to McDonalds” does not mean you have to beat that time.
  • Wow the tides are huge up in the top end and you run out of water really quick.

All will be revealed, but for now let me set the scene:

Crab Claw Island is in the beautiful Bynoe Harbour, Northern Territory, just 130km’s by road from Darwin. This was where we decided to go for our first major camping holiday, towing the boat. Now the road into the resort can be a bit rough and lumpy for the 36km’s from the Cox Peninsula road especially after a heavy wet season. We did not have a 4wd at the time, so my poor old Rav4 had to tow the boat in through dirt and rough terrain. So, we took it slowly over some of the bigger cracks and divots, so as not to hurt or upset her (she is a little high maintenance, but don’t tell her I said so!) but made it in without any trouble whatsoever.

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We pulled up at our camp spot and busily set about getting our tent up and getting our camp organised. We had bought one of those cheap dome tents from BCF and we both thought “how hard can this be?” well as it turns our quite hard actually. After struggling for a while with a few choice words between us we eventually got the tent up and forgave each other for all the bad things we said while doing so!

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Lesson number 1 – go out and buy a 30 sec OzTent when we get home. Most certainly a marriage saver.

Once we were all set up and I had sorted out the fishing and boat gear for the morning, we started to cook dinner and settle down for the evening. Next door to us was a couple of families that were obviously camping as a group with lots of children.  Now I will be the first to admit that kids are not really my thing, they do seem to make a lot of noise when they are running around having fun (how dare they!), so camping next door to a large group was a bit disconcerting for us. As we had finished dinner and just settling down to enjoy a nice glass of wine before bed one of the children got out a guitar and started playing. The rest of the kids (and some of the adults) started to sing along and we found ourselves listening in and enjoying the ambience of the evening whilst being sung too (albeit unintentionally).

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Lesson number 2 – there are still families out there that can enjoy time together without electronic devices and facegram or instatwitter!

The morning arrived very early with the birds tweeting and the sounds of the camp stirring. We did not get much sleep that night, not due to unruly children, but due to the humidity and lack of air in our tent. But like the brave intrepid explorers we are we got the boat down to the water and set off for a day’s fishing. Bynoe harbour is a glorious place with umpteen creeks and estuary’s that hold an abundance of marine life. Or so we are told! We were still relatively new to this fishing thing and did not really catch much that day but did get to explore and see some beautiful landscapes and ocean vistas. By the middle of the afternoon we were both very hot (and tired) so we decided to pull the boat up on the sand and take a quick drive back to the nearest Bunnings to buy ourselves a fan, so we could get a good night’s sleep.

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We put the anchor up on the beach checking the rise and fall of the tide, so we would be able to retrieve the boat when we got back (being just over a 2½ hour round trip). Other boats were pulled up on the sand, so we thought, this should be no problem, give it enough anchor rope so it does not get marooned as the tide moves, she’ll be right!

Happy that the boat was going to be ok, off we set to get ourselves a bit of old fashioned air-conditioning. The drive out was much easier not towing the boat and we soon got on the Stuart highway heading towards Palmerston and the promise of a cooler night’s sleep. We were feeling quite happy as we drove up the Stuart highway, that was when we saw the sign “10 mins to McDonalds”. Now I know this was childish, but mike and I just looked at each other, obviously having the same thought “nah we can beat that time” and he put his foot down just a little bit more. That was when we came around the corner and lo and behold a speed trap was on the side of the road. Serves us right, yes, we really should not have been speeding, there is no excuse. As the police officer heads on over to us we just look at each other and shake our heads, we were old enough to know better. Now what do you say to the police officer when he asks, “what was your reason for speeding sir?” We calmly accepted the fine and drove off sedately to finish our mission.

Lesson number 3 – The sign is not a challenge it is for information only and speeding is not clever.

So, we picked up our fan and drove back to camp (under the speed limit I may add). We got back and went to find the boat. Yay it was still anchored, it had not drifted off with the big tides. The only problem was it was not in the water as such. The tide had come and gone and left us with a 5-meter tinny sat on the sand not too far from the water. So near and yet so far when you must push, and skull drag it back into the water. We gave up and went to get some dinner while we waited for the tide to come back in a bit. Eventually we did get it in the water and then back to the boat ramp without too much drama. It could have been worse, thank goodness the anchor held!

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Lesson number 4 – Always be aware of the tides (unfortunately this is a lesson we have not learnt too well but those stories are for another blog!)

So, we eventually got a good night’s sleep (due to our old fashioned aircon) and enjoyed our long weekend, fishing and exploring the beautiful area of Bynoe Harbour without any further hiccups or issues. All in all, a good weekend with some lessons learnt and even some fish in the boat.

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Share a Fishing Passion – Join a Local Fishing Club

Townsville Clubs

When we moved to Townsville my husband realised that I needed to join a fishing club to get together with like-minded locals and find out more about fishing. Now as you may or may not be aware, I am passionate about fishing, would fish 24/7 if I could, love it, love it, love it! The only problem was I used to flounder around, not really knowing what I was doing, dropping a badly tied fishing line in the water and relying more on luck than judgement if I caught a fish!

So, in order to gain some knowledge, we joined a fishing club in Townsville. I thought this club was pretty great to start with, full of very knowledgeable people, some of who even went fishing and seemed to know what they were talking about. It wasn’t until I had been in the club for about a year that I realised the club had issues. Now these issues were the same issues that many clubs all around the world face, money and people issues! The club was very financially solvent, and this led to bickering and arguing over how to spend the money. The meetings became more about the money less about fishing! So, when friends of ours (who had left and moved to another fishing club) told us about Alice River Anglers, we went along and promptly joined up.

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Now this was a club we could really enjoy. It was all about the fishing! The first meeting we went along to we realised that this was a group of people who really enjoyed fishing and used the club as a way to socialise with people who really enjoyed fishing.  The “business” part of the meeting was short and sweet, there were meat tray raffles and members draws every meeting, kid’s categories for weigh ins and prize draws and generally a much more sociable atmosphere. Yes, this was a club we could be happy in.

It wasn’t until we had joined this club that we actually started to catch fish by judgement rather than luck (luck still plays a huge part, but we are getting better thanks to advice and assistance from the members of Alice River). The first year there I think I only weighed in a couple of fish for the whole year, but the people in the club were all very free with their advice and assistance to enable me to improve.

From this…….

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to this…….

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to this ………

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The club has a very welcoming vibe, everyone is friendly and accepting of new members. There have been some membership and people issues over the years (what club does not get them), but the President and committee have done a great job of trying to filter and resolve those issues without affecting the main club and the members. The club is run for its members, not for any financial gain or status within the community. The focus of the committee is to keep the club running smoothly and to provide a great vibe and social space for like-minded fisher people to come together and enjoy themselves. I must say they hit the target pretty well. The focus is not on growing membership (although all new members are very welcome and are made to feel part of the group instantly), nor is it on how much money they can make. It is about raising enough funds through sponsorship, membership fees and club raffles to hold two social functions a year and to provide the members with prizes for the weigh-ins.

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Club meetings

We have been at the club for about 4 years now and the year before last they introduced a female angler fishing prize. Yay! I could actually win something (as I struggle to compete with the big boys and their big fish). The club genuinely wants to encourage everyone to get out there and fish and enjoy it.

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Winner winner

At the end of September, we will be going up to Lucinda for our annual club trip away on the long weekend. This is a fun weekend where club members all fish the same area and then get together in the evenings for socialising, with plenty of eating and drinking. Photos will go on my Instagram after (only if I caught fish though!)

So, if you want to mix with people with the same interests as you in a friendly environment where you may make good friends and learn new things join your local fishing club. We did and have not looked back since!

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From the Banks of the Jardine

The Jardine river in the far north of Queensland is a huge body of water that starts in the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and meets the sea near Mutee Heads.

It is the largest perennial river in Queensland. For those of you who are a bit shy to look that up, it means it has continuous flow in parts of its river bed all year round. The catchment takes up the whole of the Jardine River National Park, about 3,282 square kilometres of mostly uninhabited country. So, needless to say, this river is huge!

It is also beautiful, remote, pristine and peaceful and has become my favourite place in Cape York.

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We had travelled to the Cape with two other couples and spent some time up at Loyalty Beach near Bamaga. We then decided, on our way down, we would camp at the mouth of the Jardine to spend a few days off the grid, fishing and relaxing. Off we set, in convoy, heading towards Mutee Heads and then down the dirt tracks to some camping areas on the banks of the Jardine. Now one set of friends were towing a camper trailer (you may be familiar with them from my other blogs, yes it was the Drabbles). That camper trailer had issues! One set of bearings was almost shot, and the brakes were welded on. So, we took the Prado off down the tracks to ensure that the slopes and conditions were ok for the Drabbles to follow.

As we came around a corner we encountered some very deep and soft sand and oops, just like that, were stuck. So out we get, removing the max tracks and started digging. We radioed back up to the convoy to let them know not to take the right fork and set about extracting ourselves from the very, very, very soft sand. Now it was little eerie in that we had no response on the radio, we were surrounded by bush in the middle of nowhere and we were struggling to get ourselves out of the sand. In the distance we could hear a strange noise, a mixture of whining and grinding, getting louder and louder. My imagination was running away with me and I decided that we were going to be captured and sacrificed to some remote god in a spectacular fashion. The noise grew louder and as I looked over onto the other track (the one we should have taken) I saw the culprit! Here came the BT-50 freewheeling down the slope whining and grinding its way through the right-hand track sans camper trailer, (without getting stuck), to then end up in front of us, closely followed by the Greens in their Patrol and camper trailer. When they had had finished taking the good old Michael out of us and managed to stop laughing long enough, they hooked up the snatch strap our little Prado and dragged us out of the sand. Off we went again.

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(no pictures as the camera lady was a bit stressed, hot and bothered!)

We got to the banks of the Jardine and sussed out the camping areas. Mike and I decided that we would go scouting up to the mouth to see whether there were better campsites up there. Yet another mistake, second time in the same day we got stuck in very soft sand. Again, we had to get the Patrol to come and snatch us out. How very embarrassing! So, considering our failure, we decided to camp at our first stop, we just could not take any more humiliation.

(still no pictures of this as I was getting a bit cranky! Can’t think why)

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We made it back to the camp area only to find out that Di had photographed a map telling us there were bad sand bogs where we had just been. Thanks for the heads-up Di!!!!!! (With friends like that……. Need I say more!)

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The area was beautiful, we were camped in the next area along from the other two couples. Not that we are anti-social at all but there were some snoring issues coming from the Green’s camper trailer and I do not play nicely if I don’t get enough sleep! So, we set up our tent and then helped the others set up a communal area to cook and eat in front of a beautiful campfire overlooking the Jardine.

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We shared cooking duties for the next few days and I must admit the cooking, company, wine and views were amazing.

So, we got back to camp with tall tales of the huge ones that got away, over a few beers and a fantastic beef stew and dumplings. Wow another beautiful day in the far north of Queensland.

We stayed at this camp for 5 days in total, mainly because we were waiting for the bearings to be delivered to Bamaga for the Drabbles camper trailer, but also because it was amazing. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was great, the fishing was fantastic, and the company was awesome. But, as with all good things it had to come to an end and we had to head back to civilisation! (picture sad face emoji).

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So, on the morning of the 5th day we woke up and started packing up ready for the trip back to Bamaga. That is when I heard Di yelling, “Oi come and look at this!” we dutifully headed onto the beach in front of their camp and promptly freaked out to see the croc tracks leading up from the Jardine to just below their camp. The crocodile had obviously found something nice to eat just under the sand and then promptly wandered off back to the water again. In the immortal words of Steve Irwin “Crikey he was a big un!”

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Maybe it was a good idea to boot scoot out of there! So long Jardine and thanks for all the Barra!

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Renovations in Fishing Heaven

Lucinda, the place of my dreams. As you may have gathered I am a passionate and crazy fishing lady. Love the water, love fishing and love the Hinchinbrook area. Ever since moving to Townsville in 2011 I have been in love with the waters, scenery and fishing opportunities around the Hinchinbrook area. Pristine waters giving the avid angler a real choice of creek, river, open water and reef fishing. What more could a girl ask for!

Mike (my husband) and I started going up to Lucinda for fishing not long after finding out about the place. It is only 1 hour 40 minutes from home so easy for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. The caravan park was easy for overnight stays, pitching the tent and making the most of the time out on the water. I would say it was almost perfect, except for one small tiny inconvenience. Yes you guessed it, pitching a tent, taking up all your camping stuff as well as the boat and hot in the summer months (like dripping humidity hot!)

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We  often looked on enviously at our friends who had a semi permanent caravan at the park. They had comfort, a ready made home away from home and aircon whenever they came home from a hot days fishing. It’s true, I coveted the luxury of having a caravan in one of the best fishing places on earth!

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The Vision

I Want One

Now these semi permanent caravans are as rare as hens teeth, the park is only allowed to have a certain amount. My goal was to score us one. One morning, whilst browsing through Facebook I happened upon a post about a semi permanent for sale at the park! I could not believe my luck. So after very quick negotiations with my husband and a promise that it would be extremely beneficial for us to snag this van I contacted the person through a DM and told them we were very, very interested. After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing in the message department I was then informed that it was sold and we had missed out …………. gutted is too mild a word!!

But, as fate would have it, our friends (who have a semi permanent at the park) phoned and told us that the park owners (Shane and Genevieve) had a caravan that they would be happy to sell us!!!!!!!! Woohoo happy again. So, we promptly contacted Shane at the park and told him we would come up to look at it on the weekend. Excited much? You betcha!

We turned up on the Saturday and Shane showed us around and told us to think about it. So we did, it took all of about 5 minutes and I was in his office asking who I made the payment to!!!! Our very own bolt hole, fishing shack! Ok so it needed a fair bit of work, but still our very own fishing shack, how lucky was I!!!!!!!

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Our little piece of heaven

Now the only minus, in a world of positives, about owning your own semi permanent in your fishing mecca, is the husbands need to get everything done now! For those that do not know my husband is particular. He has to have everything done just so (ocd tendencies) and in a timely manner. He does not like to leave a job unfinished even if only for a short period of time. If he starts something he will go full pelt on it to the exclusion of everything else until it is finished! How to balance renovations (with a very impatient and task focussed husband) with the need to just go fishing? Now I am not sure how other people deal with this, but, I used bribery, coercion, compromise and a few other techniques (which I will not go in to here!) to ensure that every weekend was not devoted to the caravan renovations.

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Before reno’s

Renovations

Where to start? Well we started with the inside of the caravan, it still had the shower cubicle and old units (which had to go for aesthetics sake at the very least!). Mike started ripping out the shower cubicle, as we decided we really did not need it due to the park having very nice modern amenities, and it would give us more space around the bed. This in itself was a learning curve! YouTube is awesome for learning about plumbing, electrical work and general renovating tips! We had plenty advice and assistance from our friends; David Drabble (Drabble Inc.) and Mark Phillips, (who we call Capt. Mark Phillips although he has no royal connections). So the boys had fun demolishing and generally making a mess! Hammers, mallets and screw drivers were flying everywhere with a few “whoops”, “oh balderdash” and other words that I will not type here (children don’t need to be exposed to that kind of language!)

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Demo time

Just as a sidleine I guess I had better explain the difference between our friends in terms of construction and building styles. Capt. Mark Philips is very particular (having done construction as a full time job for most of his life) and like my husband he measures everything a minimum of 3 times so he only has to cut once. Drabble Inc. on the other hand is a cut 3 times without measuring (why bother with that time consuming activity) kind of guy. However we love them both and they both have skills which are extremely useful, especially when you have little or no idea how to do it yourself.

We spent more than a few weekends sleeping on a mattress in the annexe, which was a compromise because it meant that we did not need to spend every weekend working, we could enjoy some fishing too even if it meant the work got done a little more slowly than my husband was comfortable with. But we still had aircon, ah heaven!

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Our bedroom for a while

We modified the bed somewhat to ensure that the two of us had enough space to roll over without giving each other a black eye. Mike laid carpet tiles in the bedroom area and then it was time to get the bed back in. How exciting! Roxy and Lucas came for a visit and Lucas was drafted in to help Mike put the bed frame and mattress back in. Roxy and I gave them our full support and encouragement from the patio (with a glass of wine in hand), as our favourite Czech (Lucas) and my favourite pozzie (Mike) did a great impression of the Chuckle Brothers “To me, to you”! (I guess only pommies will get this reference).

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Our new bedroom

Well bed was in and walls were painted now time to relax and enjoy the fishing, before the next stage of renovations.

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Renovations then started on the living area end of the caravan so demolition time again! One part of the seating area was ripped out and the flooring was pulled up. This was to give us more worktop space in the kitchen, plus we were going to have a living area in annexe so did not need all the seating in the caravan. My husband worked about 5 weekends solid on getting everything demolished and prepped ready for a refit.

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Now it just so happened that I had to go Italy for 2 weeks (yes I can hear you say “Shame”, “oh you have a hard life” etc.). So, it was agreed that while I was away Mike would finish off the inside of the caravan (and yes I can hear you say “spoilt much?”). I had already painted the cupboard doors and the inside of the caravan (my contribution when not fishing), so all he had to do was put some cupboards in! Not too taxing (says she who is swanning around Italy!).

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Doing a bit of swanning at the Colosseum

Capt. Mark Phillips came to help Mike put the cupboards in and got the inside of the caravan finished whilst I was away. I popped in on my way back from a fishing competition (yes I was fishing 1 day immediatley after coming back from Italy, dedicated or what!). It was amazing coming back to a fresh, bright  and modern fishing shack (and the aircon still worked). All we had to do now was to enjoy the serenity and fishing for a while without any more renovating!

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Inside done

That sentiment did not last long! Just after Christmas we started planning the annexe renovations.

Again just as a sideline and to set the scene I guess I should define the term “we” used throughout this blog. There are varying levels of “we”, as most of you ladies will recognise. “We” renovated may mean that husband and wife or husband, wife and friends, had an equal part to play in the renovations. “We” could also mean that I did a lot of swanning around and fishing whilst “they” did the renovations. Just thought I would clear that up before proceeding.

Annexe Renovations

Now the annexe on the caravan was a soft annexe with a hardwood floor. It was very old and the canvas was torn in a few places. I dreamed of a good (lockable) and comfy room to compliment the caravan space. A room in which to sit on a sofa and watch telly (comfortably), store some fishing gear (securely) and have somewhere for guests to stay. Now I know what you are thinking, “gosh she wants a lot for a fishing shack!” but there is no point going through life uncomfortable! Our friends have a cold room panelled annexe and we thought yes, that is a fantastic idea. Our favourite Czech had told us in broken English that “when I was 14 I help father put up big room with panels for cold”, so we knew we could call on his experience if required. Mike went and spoke to the fabulous guys (and gals) at Norfoam in Townsville and worked out the plan to get a hard annexe put on the caravan.

Before we could get the annexe up we had to paint the outside of the caravan as it was looking very old and tired. So, we had to spend a weekend painting (I did take my fishing rods with me and sneaked off to the beach for a fish in between coats!). Mike also had to take the old annexe down, out with the old in with the new!

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Before and after

These panels come in a kit that is easy to erect and can be done by people with no building experience (apparently!). So, we hired a trailer and picked the kit up with a view to spending the whole weekend getting the annexe up. Mike was fully prepared with the plans, parts and tools with which to get this structure up. We got to the caravan bright and early ready to go. Capt. Mark Phillips (our construction engineer) was not available that weekend and our usual tool (Drabble Inc.) was fishing, so would not be able to assist until later that morning.

Now the caravan park is absolutely chock full of grey nomads and we just so happened to have a couple across the way from us who were not only very friendly but extremely useful too. John volunteered to lend a hand (well truth be told his wife volunteerred him, but same thing), and he came over to start the construction. Now we have found out that having a John trumps having a Drabble (sorry Dave and we still love you!). John has a wealth of experience, he is a welder and has a tool for just about every job!

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Men at work

Construction began. It was not long before the natural order of things emerged. John was the foreman, Drabble (who had arrived back from fishing) was the worker and Mike was the apprentice. I was cleaning lady and on tea duties, with the help of Di, Drabbles better half. Now us girls did not mind leaving the physical labour to the men although we did our fair share of propping up, passing tools, cleaning the worksite and generally encouraging the troops!

Now something which I learnt through the construction phase was there are varying different types of spirit levels. Now not being familiar with the tool myself I was startled to find out that you could get spirit levels with a small gap for the bubble to sit in (apparently that is the norm) or you could get spirit levels with a large gap for the bubble to sit in (that is a Drabble Inc. level). John preffered the small gap type (something to do with being more accurate) and Drabble Inc. preffered the large gap type (something to do with “she’ll be right mate”). I found the robust discussion that was had over the two types very interesting!

Us two girls (DI and myself) were given the very important task (by John the foreman) of holding the panels up until they were riveted and secured into place (we felt very important). So, all was going well at a cracking pace until ……… crash! The panels fell over and we had to start all over again.

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Hold it girls

One job girls, just one job!!!!!!!

It is a bit like building a house of cards. Until you get the full structure up it is not too strong. So the day was spent generally riveting, screwing, holding, leaning and manoeuvring the panels into place.

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Still holding it

So the value of John you will ask? It seemed that the apprentice (Mike), although well prepared for the construction with half his shed of tools, did not have the right tools amongst his hoard, but John did! Very often during the day you would hear John say “have you got such and such tool” and then you would hear him say “never mind I have one”. Luckily he was only across the way so did not have to go very far for to get them.

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Still holding it

Eventually the structure was up and all that was left was the filling, cleaning and finishing off. Oh, and the sealing strip on the outside of the roof. Which meant someone getting up there, preferably the smallest, lightest person. Why was everyone looking at me? So bravely I said I would. Now I am not a great lover of heights and I still was not a great believer in the strength of the panels. But bravely I climbed the ladder and got onto the roof. And that is as far as I got. I sat on the roof telling myself to take deep breaths when around the corner our friendly Drabble came. Saviour! He got up there instead (true chivalry) and proceeded to put the flashing on the roof. I was still having kittens due to the roof panels flexing and my imagination that told me the whole thing could come down at any moment, but he did it.

So all that had to happen now was to lay the internal floor, build the furniture and decorate with some nicknacks. So, in true Tracey fashion, the following weekend I went to the Townsville Cup with friends and Mike went and finished the caravan.

 

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Townsville Cup

After another weekend of fixing up little things and painting the caravan is almost unrecognisable from when we first purchased it. Remember the vision ……….?

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The vision

Woohoo, caravan is finished and although it may not resemble the vision picture above it is now a comfortable little bolt hole for us to enjoy fishing and relaxing in the beautiful paradise of the Hinchinbrook area.

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The finished product

And yes I am 2SPOILT!

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Thats me!

That’s not a 4wd – This is a 4wd

The Prado

When we moved to Townsville, my husband bought a second-hand Prado. We needed it to tow the boat (as my little RAV was having a hard time), and we wanted something we could do more adventurous trips in.

The Prado was already set up with a long-range fuel tank, so we did not need to worry about that, but it did need some other extras. My husband went all out getting the mods done to make it capable of going off road. That included a 2-inch lift with old man emu suspension, snorkel, bull bar, winch, roof rack, side awning, drop slide fridge, road shower, a set of Drifta drawers for the back and the list went on and on. The car morphed from a comfortable dirt road only 4wd into something that could cope with a bit of rougher track and we could happily take camping on our adventures.

Our first real trip was to Fraser Island. It coped well and we did not really have any problems with it. The set up was fantastic and the convenience of having everything out of the back of the car was great. A whole new experience for us Pozzie adventurers! The Drifta drawers were amazing, I could keep all my food and cooking stuff in them and they gave easy access without having to dig through plastic storage boxes. The fridge was also amazing and was just at the right height for me with the drop slide.

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Yes we do eat a lot!

The Prado performed well on the sand, once we had mastered the tyre pressures and because it was relatively light had no problems getting places. We did have a couple of hiccups that I will elaborate on in a future blog, so you will have to wait.


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Camping Set Up

After taking the parents to Fraser (our second time) we decided we were ready for a bigger trip, so we started planning our trip to the Cape. We ensured that the Prado had its full check over and added a cargo barrier (just in case we had a mishap), breathers and a bra to cope with water crossings and the all-important UHF radio and spare before we set off. We also made sure we took a Drabble with us in case of mechanical emergencies, (see Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch). The trip up was good. The Prado did the hard yards, rescuing the BT-50 numerous times on the Tele Track and we thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck, getting out and generally running amok. The Prado did everything we asked of it, but we wanted more.

Campfire discussions were had with the other two couples we made the trip with. We began discussing and weighing up the pros and cons of a new 4wd vehicle, 79 series Landcruiser or 200 series Cruiser or another type altogether. Many a robust discussion was held around the campfire fueled by XXXX Gold tinnies and our own biases. Do we get a 200 series (for comfort) and chop it, or do we get a 79 series for practicality? Do the 200 series have too many electrical gadgets to go wrong? Are the 79 series cruisers too utility like (and uncomfortable)? These were answers we needed so we decided we would do our research once back home.

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Well anyway it seems like the Prado got a whiff of us wanting to trade her in. She must have overheard our campfire talk and got a bit upset, so she thought “I will show them!” On the way to Chilli Beach her alternator packed in (I think she did it on purpose!). Well that put us in a bit of a situation. After many discussions of what to do – put the generator on the roof (yes that was a real suggestion!), use solar panels, strip the car down etc. my husband strapped the solar panels to the roof, duck taped the wires down the side of the car and onto the battery and off we set for Cooktown. Luckily it was near the end of our holiday, so we drove from Chilli Beach to Cooktown without aircon (hot and sticky), windows open, red dust covering everything and not stopping (even for a call of nature). Luckily for my husband I sang all the way so he had music!!!!!

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Definitely a technical modification

Research, Research and More Research

So back home (with the alternator fixed) it was time for some of the famous Holmes research. My husband and I did our homework, spoke to heaps of people, took a few test drives and went to see our local (friendly) engineer (Mick at AEV) about the pros and cons of modifications to both the 200 series and the 79. It was decided that the 79 series Cruisers were the better option for our requirements (and minimal mechanical knowledge), spares would also be easy to come by as they are the most used vehicle in outback Australia. We also agreed that the 200 series Cruisers were too computer reliant which would not be a good thing if we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a failure.

So, after taking the 79 series for a test drive, we agreed this was the way to go, but only if we could change the manual gearbox out for an auto (getting on in life and like the easier option). Our local dealer was a little vague about when they were getting a graphite one in stock and could not tell us until we had paid for it, so we ended up getting one from John Coles at Atherton. Service was amazing, and we got a discount! We made the trip up to Atherton and picked up our stubby little dual cab.

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What a cutie! (and the car, heehee!)

The Cruiser (aka my husband’s truck)

Now the real fun began. We wanted the chassis extended so we went back to see Mick at AEV in Townsville and had long chats with him over the best set up for the new vehicle. He did try to convince us to go to a six-wheel option (with a fully working 3rd axle) but we decided that was probably a bit overkill for us. He informed us we could get the chassis extended by 300mm and change out the manual gearbox for an auto. So, we dropped the vehicle into him and he started work on it. While in the shop we got him to put a 3-inch lift on, JMACX coil conversion (which rectified the rear tracking alignment), a brake booster, GVM upgrade and all our accessories including; snorkel (standard Toyota one is rubbish apparently), bull bar, winch, batteries, long range fuel tank, steel rims and new tyres and the list went on and on! (again!).

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JMACX Coil Conversion

Although extremely happy with the service it is slightly disconcerting to see your brand new hardly been used vehicle chopped in two before they reattach with the extension!

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Just to give a big plug here, the service and quality of work we have received from Michael and the team at Australian Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has been outstanding. Nothing has been too much bother for them and they are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and good at dealing with clueless Pozzies.

Then it was time to work out the canopy. The guys at Allytech built this for us and arranged to have the Redarc Battery Management and inverter installed. Of course, it had to have a rack for the tinnie (with and ATV winch because I am getting on a bit and like the easy life!), lithium battery, a potable water tank and the tray for when we did not want the canopy on.

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Canopy by AllyTech Townsville

Then we ordered the drawers from Drifta and when they arrived my husband and I had to install them. That was fun! Just getting the canopy off the back was an art in itself, on our sloping block we had to find genius ways of stopping it from falling over! Drawers installed, along with a 90ltr fridge slide and generator slide, we soon realised that the pull-out table was a bit too high for me to do anything on! So, I had to source some steps otherwise I would not be able to see what I was cooking.

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Hmmm cooking could be difficult

After buying solar panels, hot water system, gas bottle holder, and umpteen bits and pieces we finally had a car (took about 6 months from purchase). Must say though the husband is very happy and informs me that it will only need a few extra bits before our big Kimberley trip next year!

You know what they say; “Happy husband (and truck), happy life!”

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The Love of My Husbands Life!

Women Can Fish Too

Fishing should be a recreational past time that is accessible to all: men, women and children. So how do we fare in the fishing equality stakes in Australia?

Well let’s start with the media. Australia has an abundance of fishing shows, IFish, Hook Line and Sinker, Fishing Australia, Escape with ET, Creek to Coast, Fishing Australia, Fishing Addiction (and the list goes on!). These shows all have one thing in common, they are hosted by men and filmed from a male perspective using male gender noun and pronouns. Rarely do you see women on these shows and if you do catch a glimpse they are usually either bikini clad models or introduced as somebody’s wife.

So, what is my point? Well guys believe it or not women can fish (in their own right, on their own, without male assistance) too! Now do not get me wrong, I am not a raving feminist that thinks all men are oppressors of the female species. Quite the opposite actually. I have a very supportive husband who is very patient with my fishing obsession event though he does not share my degree of passion for the sport (he is long-suffering). I also realise that physically there are some things I cannot do as well as men (such as use brute strength to undo a jar of jam). But I can fish! I love fishing, I would be out on the water 24/7 if my bank balance (and marriage) allowed.

So, what can we do to address the gender inequality in the fishing world?

Let me share with you my experience of being a woman who lives and breathes fishing in a male dominated region of Australia.

Boats

I found my love of fishing in Darwin. We moved to Darwin in 2007 and no sooner had we settled in we decided that we should buy a boat. Well why not? The only safe way to enjoy the water in Darwin is in the confines of a boat (due to the big lizards with teeth they had up there). In truth I did not know that many people in Darwin and certainly knew less about fishing.

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Our new boat

Once on the water I quickly realised that fishing was my thing. I would convince my husband to take me out as much as possible onto the pristine waters of Darwin Harbour where we fumbled around trying to work out the best places and ways to catch fish. I must say not many fish were caught in the four years we were in Darwin, but it did confirm my feeling, that fishing was my passion.

I would do anything to go fishing (well almost anything!). I was lucky enough to have a couple of work colleagues who also went fishing with their partners so I could share fishing stories and ask for tips and pointers on how to improve. After a few years the girls at work decided that a day out fishing (girls only) was just what we needed. After organising who, where and what we were going to do we left the fellas at home and headed out bright and early one Saturday morning to a beautiful billabong for a day’s fish.

Bang that was where I caught my very first Barra, thanks to an all girl crew, and become even more obsessed with fishing!

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My very first Barramundi

This was when I realised girls can do this stuff! It was also when I realised that the boat needed to transform and I needed to lift my game in the fishing stakes.

Fishing Clubs

We moved to Townsville in 2011 and I got very worried. I had left my fishing chicks in Darwin and moved to somewhere that was so much busier, too many boats on the water. How was I ever going to find the right places to fish, where could I go, who could I go with. My trusted husband was there of course and he put a lot of time and effort in to get me out on the water and find me places to fish. In fact, he was the one that suggested we join a fishing club, so that is exactly what we did.

We joined the Townsville Fishing Club and I became very aware that there were only a couple of women in the club who actively fished (and enjoyed it!). I became firm friends with one of the women and also made friends with a few of the fellas. When a few of the members moved clubs, we joined them and became members of the Alice River Fishing Club. This, again, was a male dominated club but I was made to feel welcome and slowly the club evolved into a more female friendly environment.

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It’s still a fish!

Clubs are a great way to meet like-minded individuals that share your passion. It can be daunting to join a club that is male dominated, but there is just something about fishing that makes most men forget your gender and talk to you like a normal human being. My advice would be to go and get involved, go to club meetings, speak to people (including the dreaded men) and get as much information from them as possible. Many times, I have been in a situation where my love and passion for fishing has seen me meet new people and break down the stereotypical views that some men hold on women and fishing.

Women Can

I was a little fortunate in the fact that I learnt a lot of my boat driving skills in Darwin where it was sparsely populated and so I did not feel the pressure as you would on some of Queensland’s busier waterways. I learnt very quickly how to drive the boat on the trailer, due to a healthy respect for the big toothed lizards in the water up in Darwin. This would stun a few blokes at the boat ramp (especially the ones that were holding and manually winching their boats on to the trailers). I have lost count of the times some bloke stopped and stared as I drove the boat up onto the trailer, some congratulating me on my skills, some just too dumfounded to speak (omg it was chick that did that!). For me, to be able to do these things is a matter of female pride and I have to admit I get a great sense of achievement when I do it right. I do not always get it right though, I still miss the mark sometimes and pray that no one is watching, but I do breathe a sigh of relief when it all goes well when I have an audience. Although, I must admit that I am absolutely hopeless at backing the trailer down the boat ramp! I definatley need a lot more practise at that before I am allowed to do it in public, (typical female I hear you cry!)

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Ladies Game Fishing Competition

I also had to learn to look after my own tackle and tie fishing knots. As previously mentioned my husband is not really that keen on fishing, so he would drive the boat and I would rig his rods and lures as payment for his services. I spent a lot of time practising knot tying and I must say some have failed me through the years. I also spent a fair bit of time in my local tackle shop (Fishing Warehouse in Townsville). Now I have to say these guys at the shop are amazing. They give me so much assistance and impart their knowledge to me on what bait/lure to use, where to use it, how to use it etc. They are an amazing friendly bunch even if they are all blokes!

It pays to get in with your local tackle store. They have a lot of local knowledge and will even assist you in how to rig your bait, lures and line etc. Make the most of the “woman” thing and pump them for their expertise!

Find a Friend

Fishing is always better when you can enjoy it in good company. I have been fortunate enough to have a few good female friends who love to fish. I met my current fishing buddy through friends in Townsville. Mad Mel they call her (and for a very good reason I might add). She is your typical independent, passionate fisher. She is very outgoing and is not afraid to get out there and give everything a crack (so much so she scares me at times!) She owns her own boat called Miss Adventures, because she is very accident prone and goes fishing on her own a fair bit.

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Mad Mel in Miss Adventures

Now we are polar opposites. I am an original pom, not too fit, bit of an academic, work in project development, base career is an accountant, outdoorsy in a comfortable way. She on the other hand is an original true-blue Aussie, gives everything and anything a go, pretty fit, very independent, scrubs dunnies for a living (her words not mine) and calls me a bit of a princess (just because I have my finger nails painted on the boat!) We only really have fishing in common, but the friendship works! We work well together on the boat (that is mainly because she bosses me around and I let her!) and we get out there and have a crack.

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Fishing Buddies

We started entering fishing competitions together and I must say we have an absolute ball. Many of the fishing comps in our area are male dominated so we take great pleasure at turning up on sign in night to see a room full of men go silent as we walk in. You can almost hear a pin drop and you can see what is going through their heads … “hey love, looks like you are in the wrong place!” or “well this should be fun, what would chicks know about Barra fishing!”

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Cardwell Barra Bash

But being the fearless ladies that we are we get in, get on and mingle with the guys. I must admit that once they are aware of how much we love fishing we become part of the clique in no time. Luckily neither of us are shy so we just start talking to the other competition entrants and eventually get accepted. I do have an ulterior motive in that these guys usually know a lot about fishing so playing the unknowledgeable female can usually score me some good tips and pointers.

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

And the Point Is?

The morale of the story? Ladies put yourselves out there! There is nothing in our DNA as females that stops us from learning how to drive a boat, back a car, rig rods, tie knots or find fish. If you love fishing and want to enjoy the great outdoors, as Nike said, JUST DO IT!

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And if you need any help or a bit of encouragement, I am willing to impart my vast array of knowledge (just joking I don’t know that much, I will refer you to Mad Mel).

Check out Mad Mel Fishing facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Madmelfishing/