Of Bandicoots Bream and Tinas Scissors

Grab a seat, this may be a long read.

Friday night, 9 September 2011
We were once again at the Dragons Lair relaxing with ale and good food. Dragon had cooked up a really nice Indian curry that was ageing nicely in our cooking pot on the electric stove.
Tina escaped early because the Friday night football marathon was on the electronic opium dispenser (aka the television).
I hung with the boys and watched a full game of Rugby League (Dragons v Tigers). Then watched most of the Tonga v New Zealand Rugby Union World Cup opener. You may think this normal for a bloke to do. You know, sit around on the piss, talking as armchair experts about game tactics and flow. Taking the piss out of Dragon as his team crumbled from a potential winning lead to a demoralizing loss. But no. I haven’t taken part in that time honoured Aussie bloke tradition in over twenty years! Well except for the odd State of Origin clash of course. But that was with mixed company and Roy & HG calling the game on JJJ. The tv provided the vision.
I poured myself into bed about 1:15am and promptly passed out. Meanwhile, at about 2:30am, the girl housemate, we shall call her L, came home. She sits down next to Tina and gives her a cuddle, “Darling, good morning. Would you like to come in for a coffee? Or a cigarette? Have you got a cigarette? ” So Tina crawled out of bed and had conversation, coffee and cigarettes with L at 3am. I wonder if they had Tom Waits playing on the CD? I slept through until 6:00am.

10 Sept 2011
Saturday morning. Market day. Mmmm…Home made pies!
At about 08:30, we grabbed a beef & a chicken with asparagus, plus a sausage roll, then headed down/up to the old Pilot jetty to give the dogs a run and to feast on our Cooktown breakfast.

A bit later on, 4’ish in the afternoon, we organised some water and groceries, then headed off to the Annan River (croc country) again. Before we left town, we grabbed two new handlines, some tackle and some bait.
We collected firewood from the track on the way in. Our firewood comes from timber dropped when they backburned up the track near Crocodile bend.
We pulled up by the river in the same spot we camped with JJ and Charline last week. I pulled Pig off the roof and we got the fire started.

Tina cooked up a chicken casserole using wings and a bunch of vegies. Yummm. The Pig did its job to perfection as usual. Just after dark I caught my first fish in ages (years actually). It was a pan sized bream. Perfect with chicken casserole! I scaled and gutted it, rubbed some salt on the skin, sprinkled herbs and spices in its belly, then laid it into the pan I’d oiled and preheated on the Pig. I let the fish sizzle for five minutes and turned it over. This was repeated four times, then the fish was laid on a plate to rest for a minute.
The skin was almost crisp, but slipped easily off the meat. The flesh was white and fell off the bones with little effort. However, it was still juicy and held its delicate sweet flavour.
Tinas verdict: “Yummy!”
Between us we ate seven chicken wings and the fish, so I guess we’re eating well 😉

  Around 8pm we heard something in the undergrowth. Floyd the pup growled and barked, all the while looking between Jack on his and the mysterious monster in the bush. Jack meanwhile, just lay there looking into the scrub without any concern. We knew by his attitude that it was some sort of native animal. After we’d settled Floyd, the mystery creature became a little braver. It turned out to be a little bandicoot, so we enticed it closer with some dry dog food and fruit scraps. It came within four metres of us before finally heading back into the bush an hour or so later. Both Jack and Floyd ignored it and went to sleep. They’re good puppies. 🙂

I lost half a dozen hooks through the night from the current dragging the lines into tree roots. So I pulled up about 11pm. I’ll collect them on Sunday afternoon low tide. Tina can be my croc spotter.

Sunday 11Sept. 2011
Up at 06:30. The lines went in about 7:30am after coffee. We’ve made a soup from the casserole sauce and it’s heating up. The lines have ‘telltale’ soft drink cans attached, so we can hear if they run. They’re only 20 metres away, so we shouldn’t have any dramas reaching them quickly.
I think Tina and I made a good choice with Floyd. He is showing intelligence even at this early age. He would now be just on six weeks old. He sits on command, comes when his name is called then sits at your feet, and generally shows a natural will to learn. Jack is tolerating his puppiness, but puts him in his place when needed.

It’s still only about 11:30 in the morning, but we’ve eaten a big meal and did some tidying and we’re ready for a siesta. The lines haven’t interested a crab,let alone a decent fish 😦
I’ll try a doze and a line will go. The Sunbirds are just off in the trees, two males are trying to out sing or fly each other, while the lone female follows the show, singing in approval at their displays.

I couldn’t sleep, so I went down on the bank, looking for sinkers and hooks. I found a sinker, then came across a top quality soft lure. It looks like a small greenish yellow mullet. Tina got me to hook it up to a handlines for while. So I climbed out on this big old tree that overhangs the river bank and proceeded to hand cast it out into the channel and jig it back in. The tide was on a good outrun so the lure was working well. It is internally weighted and sinks diagonally into the water, then when jogged, it make a lifeline paddle back up. A large Long Tom, full of teeth and needle like bones followed it in at one stage,but no strikes.
Then I hooked my other handline and buggered the whole show up. It took half an hour to untangle the lines while sitting over the river on tree trunk being swayed by 25 knot gusts. Then a legal size mud crab hooked up on the other tangled line. I couldn’t climb to shore to get within reach, so just hauled it two metres clear of the river before the big buck let go.
Bummer.
After untangling the lines, we rerigged and they’re out just on the edge of the channel. Maybe a big flathead might take a liking to my smelly old baits.

Low tide came and I took the opportunity to see if I could find some of my snagged tackle. I found one of my hooks and two sinkers. But I also scored half a dozen other hooks, ten sinkers and two wire traces. Score!
We’ve hooked onto our second big crab, but it too let go at the surface. I wish we had a big scoop net. We’re going to modify the long desnagging stick we have here so we can hold the next one to check its size and sex.
If all goes well you’ll see photos 🙂
Tina decided a haircut was in order, so she found her Wahl brand hair scissors…let me tell you about Tina’s hair scissors. YOU DO NOT CUT ANYTHING BUT HAIR WITH THESE SCISSORS!!
Tina bought this set, a pair of thinning scissors and a pair of standard scissors about six and a half years ago. She had always wanted a set of quality hair scissors. As a mother of four kids, home hairdressing was often a necessity. Anyway, this set was on special for $85, down from $250, so Tina snapped them up.
To this day, all they’ve done is cut hair. Maybe fifty haircuts in nearly seven years. They are very cool.
A Wahl 6.5″ thinning scissor  and a standard 5.5″ scissor. They are both Rockwell 57, 420 stainless steel, ICE tempered, and with a satin finish. They are super sharp.
So we both cut Tinas hair so she could see the scar and remaining stitches in photos. Check them out below.

Sunday Arvo around 15:30, or 3:30pm.
As the afternoon cruises on, one of the Sulpher Crested Cockatoos that resides in these parts flew by, screeching its signature hello on its way to somewhere unknown. A few Rainbow Lorikeets zip by, while just downstream a honeyeater calls.
Just on sunset I have the same luck. A nice break nabs my hook. I got him off and cast again. Five minutes later and bang! Something slams the line and wraps it up in the mangroves. Ah well. Another bream is good. Tuna is going to foil bake it with butter. The bandicoot is back and bolder than ever. Straight of the small rise and into the clearing. Damn! I forgot to put food and water out. I’ll do it now.

The bandicoot turned up about 6:45pm. It’s now 7:30 and it’s just on the edge of the light and the clearing, crunching a few little bits of dog food.
We’ve also just finished a superbly pan fried bream, courtesy of Tina. From hook to plate took under an hour. In environmental terms we burnt less energy catching and eating it than the fish provided us. Carbon negative? Probably not in the big picture. But it was guaranteed fresh 🙂
It’s coffee time. Tina has the billy on the go. We’re also snacking on plain brand fruit tingles.  Nomm Nomm! They come in the bagful!

Just in case anyone is wondering, today we also paid silent respect to all civilians and others killed by acts of terrorism and/or war.

The fish have either gone off the bite, or my last bait is gone. Ah well, next time around I’ll know when and where to fish for the bream.

08:00 Monday 12 September 2011
For the first hour after dawn it was calm. Then the regular breeze kicked in again. For the first time this year, we’ve felt mozzies. Not worth a mozzies coil but noticeable.
Late yesterday arvo, a local and his two boys came down and threw their crab pots in. I offered to watch them overnight and check them occasionally. This morning I pulled out four just legal buck mudcrabs and put them in an old Styrofoam esky with some mangrove leaves. That’ll keep them stable and calm. I’ve rebaited the pots, added extra rope to one and moved the other one closer to us, and they’re back in the river. Hopefully there’ll be more in an hour or so.
Our bama friend, Eddie, came back about 9:30 this morning to check his pots. I gave him the esky with the four crabs and told him the story. He gave us two of the crabs and left the pots in, saying he’d be back between 3:30 and 4:30 this arvo. We decided to hang around til then and keep an eye on them for him.

We’re going to break camp this afternoon and make a trip to Walker Bay beach. We need to get fresh water, and we have some long lengths of bamboo down the beach that we need to cut in half and strap to the roof of Jimmy the 4wd.
We also need to move from here for another reason. Crocodiles are crafty. A croc may swim by here and take no notice of us. It may do the same thing three or four days in a row. Then one day it will watch. It will learn the habits of the food on the bank over a day or two. It will come closer. We may get lucky and see it. Or not.
We’ve already broken two rules of croc country camping.

One: camp at least 30 metres from the river bank, especially if the bank has easy access to the water. We’re half that.

Two: don’t throw your fish cleaning scraps in the water. Well, the rule is technically, ‘don’t clean your fish at the river bank’. Now that would be plain stupid. We clean the fish in our long bucket away from the river, but we toss the guts into the river. It’s probably a good thing that the tides run hard here and drag the offal away quickly.
But having said that, I’m still very croc wary because I know there is a three metre croc that hangs around 600 metres upstream, and crocodiles happily tour hundreds of kilometres a month in a river system like this.

3:30pm Monday.
Our mate turned up and grabbed his pots. No more crabs this time. Tina got coffee going and we prepared to pack up.

Now this next paragraph you can choose to believe or not, but it did happen.
I walked over to the bank with my coffee to pick up some rubbish. A splash to my left startled me. A little five foot saltie got a front and shot across the water, diving as it got to the channel.

Time to break camp.

One final note. It is exactly one month since Tina first showed signs of being sick. She is amazing. 🙂

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Hedlow Creek

 

Hedlow Creek, Darumbal country, Central Queensland

Hedlow Creek, Darumbal country, Central Queensland

One our favourite places in Capricornia area is Hedlow Creek. It is an easy drive from the city, but is remote enough that not too many people come out this way. We’re just enjoying a late Sunday evening  after having spent the weekend here again. We had to, it was my Birthday on Saturday.
We try to spend a lot of our free time out this way, just sitting and listening to the bush. This place supports a myriad of animals: Turtles, Eels, many fish species including Barramundi, a huge variety of  birds, lizards, snakes, Possums, roos and water rats.

Hedlow Creek is quite deep in most places and has never dropped significantly in water level in the 22 years that I’ve been visiting.

I was going to post a heap of info about this area, so I did a little Interweb research and found some links. Rather than repeat what these sites have already posted, I’ll just point you in their direction:

This link comes from 2007, describing the climb up Mt Hedlow, a prominent landmark on the otherwise flat country:

http://www.yeppooninfo.com.au/archives/climbing-mt-hedlow

The next link provides some historical as well as geographical information about the Hedlow Creek area. This country is fragile and needs to be managed properly.
http://www.mycapricorncoast.com/localities/hedlow.html

Thankfully, one threat to this ecosystem has been halted:

https://thegreenbus.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/a-cause-for-celebration/

 

I will relate some environmental history to give you an idea of just how fragile this country is. Back in the late 1800’s and through the early to mid 1900’s, the land to the West of Hedlow Creek was prime dairy country. Gently undulating countryside with rich volcanic and Black loam soils produced beautiful feed for milk production. As the years passed, the farmers cleared the hills and flat country of trees to make way for more grasses.
Unfortunately they didn’t know how much the land relied on this tree cover to maintain the water table at a safe level.

Eventually, the excess run-off from the hills that wasn’t being absorbed by the trees, as well as the lack of uptake by non-existent trees on the lower country caused the water table to rise. This brought mineral salts to the surface. The continuing cycle of the water table fluctuations concentrated the salts on the surface in the low country, rendering the land useless. The hillsides eventually suffered from leaching and the topsoils lost their vitality.

Nowadays the land around here supports a few beef cattle and breeding herds, but still suffers from the effects of wholesale land clearing.

Surprisingly, even though it is just a very long lagoon for most of the year, Hedlow Ck still provides fresh and clean water for stock and irrigation.

Artificial Reefs For Moreton Bay

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/10/04/3028522.htm?site=sunshine&section=news

I read this article about the artificial reefs that are being sunk in the Morton Bay area. Many of the traditional breeding grounds in the area have been declared green zones to allow for fish stocks to rebuild. A great idea, really… but it makes it harder on Everyday Joe, who just wants to head out in his tinnie and catch a nice reef fish for dinner.

These artificial reefs are a good example of common sense being used to ensure that recreational fisher-people don’t lose out on the whole deal. The reefs are sunk in areas that are not naturally suitable to fish breeding due to the lack of hiding places for fingerlings. The ‘reefs’ are designed with this in mind… and with the hope that the fish they encourage into the area will end up on the plates of Mum and Dad fisher-people, like us.

It’s good to see that with a little thought, we can find a solution that will suit all involved. It’s a great idea, in my eyes.