A day on the Wenlock River
Only an hour drive north of Weipa is Glough’s Landing on the banks of the Wenlock River. Although I have fished the Wenlock on many occasions over the years, it’s still a mysterious river holding secrets that only time on the river can unlock. My brother Brett Jenkins and Brother-in Law Graham Satchwill spend at least a week every year in Weipa for a fishing holiday. Their visit is planned around the tide chart; it’s almost become tradition that a minimum of one day is spent on the Wedlock. We intended to explore Tenpole Creek, one of the larger Wenlock creeks, which I needed a little more experience in. The excitement was high as we recalled past fishing trips on the Wenlock. Would the Wenlock turn it on like it had done on many other occasions was the question on everyone’s mind. Five o’clock the next morning we left Weipa to be at Gloughs landing on the high tide 6.00am.
The tide is one thing you must be sure on when planning to launch at Gloughs landing. It is a landing not a boat ramp and only accessible at high tide. We arrived just as the tide was starting to move out. It wasn’t long before the boat was in the water and packed with rods and tackle boxes. We started heading up River as the sun started to appear on this perfect day and before we knew it we were at the mouth of Tenpole Creek. Just inside the mouth of the creek, mangroves give way to Nypa Palms that line the banks and on this particular morning there was a thick fog that was looming over the water. We could be mistaken for thinking that we where fishing in a remote New Guinea River not a creek a little over an hour from home. We dropped anchor just out side of the first gutter that drained into Tenpole creek and as the sun dissolved the remaining fog the tide really started to move by now. We started casting lures up inside the gutter and retrieving them back through the swirling muddy water. We would have had at least 20 casts each for no result, which is unusual for a Wenlock river. Thinking that the tide is still too high and maybe the bottom of the tide is when the fish started feeding in the gutter mouths, which sometimes happens.
I decided that we would pull the anchor and head to a big gum tree snag not far up the creek. As I turned around to start the motor I caught a glimpse of something about 10 meters down stream beside a small twig protruding from the water. It was a large yellow tail just breaking the surface. I called out to Graham who was just about to lift the anchor “there’s a fish back here, let out some rope,” It didn’t take Graham long to spot the fish and we drifted back in line with the twig. Both Brett’s and my lures where first to hit the water as we watched the tail slowly disappear. Both lures made it back to the boat with not even a looker, Graham’s lure was only half way back when he shouted ” I’m on” an eight kg fish left the water shaking its head from side to side. You would think that we would keep our lines out of the water until Graham’s fish was landed, yes that would be the right thing to do, but not today. We were both back in, as Brett’s lure hit the water and it was inhaled by a huge fish. This is Bullshit, I thought to my self as I watched both guy’s doing battle with two nice fish, my lure was going to make it back to the boat for the second time.
My next cast landed right at the base of the twig. I let my sinking lure sink out of sight, twitched the lure twice and bang I was on, a triple hook up. My fish lept out of the water, a smaller fish maybe four kgs. Knowing that there should be bigger fish in there, my fish was quickly brought to the boat, the hooks where slipped out and the fish released. I was just about to pick up my rod again when Graham called “have you got the net ready.” His first fish of the trip, he was pretty keen on a photo, not that I was keen on taking it. A quick photo and back in the water. By this time Brett had gone quite, I looked over to see him wind in slack line, “I think I have lost my lure as well as the fish”. Checking the 50lb mono leader that had been worn through by the big fish’s sandpaper like teeth. By this time the fishing was really starting to hot up, every cast got a hit or a hookup. The size of fish had dropped to three to four kg. We had realized that the original big Barra we had spotted was now swimming around trying to get rid of my brother’s gold bomber. The snag was not holding the fish, they where holding up in a back eddy from the original gutter, keeping out of the main current flow on the big spring tide. This would be valued knowledge for the rest of the day. Our catch rate started to slow after landing eighteen fish but we where just inside the mouth of Tenpole creek. With better expectations of fishing up stream we decided to lift anchor and explore the upper reaches. Our plan was to travel up to the top of the creek and then work our way back with the tide. We traveled for over an hour to where the creek started to get narrow and shallow in places.
We past many great looking gutters and snags that we were looking forward to fishing on our way back down stream. The water had changed color from a brown to an emerald green. We stopped on a huge snag laying almost half way across the creek, Graham was first in, his lure hitting the bank at the base of the snag, he pulled his lure off the mud into the water. I watched with anticipation as his Barra Pro dived down into the depths. Just as the lure faded out of sight I saw a rusty red flash. I looked back at Graham, with his rod bent over and him thumbing the spool as his braided line cut through the water straight into the snag. “The barstard got me” His line now rubbing on the snag and the Jack still going deeper into the timbers. Before long Graham was trying on a new lure. Brett had managed to get a cast in not far from where graham had just been wiped-out. Again the lure had just faded out of sight when he hooked up, not a Jack like he had hoped for but a smaller Barra, it too was heading into the snag but was controllable. My turn, I had grown quite attached to my lure after our first session and wasn’t as keen to get it so close to the snag as the other guy’s were. My cast landed a metre off the snag up against the bank.
But that was still in the strikezone and I had only move it a meter or so when I got the first strike, miss it, I increased my retrieve rate twitched the rod tip a few more times and through the braided line I could feel the lure being inhaled. There was no doubt it was a Barra, size I wasn’t sure of. Line was quickly peeling of my Calcutta reel, the fish swimming against the current away from the snag. The fish came to the surface, a nice size Barra maybe ten kg, lifted its head out of the water and started shaking from side to side with its mouth open wide. We watched as its last meal was scatted across the water surface in a desperate attempted to get rid of the lure. The fish turned and started heading for the snag, I increased the drag pressure by lightly thumbing the spool, which upset the fish. It gathered speed and headed for safety of the snag. My thumb pressure becoming too much for the small hooks to handle and the fish was free after pulling the hooks straight.
We landed six smaller Barra and pulled the hooks on another Jack we think. Once the strike rate had dropped off we decided to lift the anchor and move down stream to a shallow bank with a lot of smaller snags covered in small baitfish. I changed my lure for a “C” lure, Head Master as Brett and Graham worked the snags. Graham was first to hook up again, another big fish and Brett wasn’t far behind him with a slightly smaller fish, both fish where fighting in amongst the snags so this time I left my lure out of the water. It wasn’t long before Brett had his fish under control and guided it into the landing net. Now we where both giving Graham moral support something I think he could of done with out. The pressure was on, if he was to loose this fish we wouldn’t let him live it down. The fish runs become shorter and jumps less frequent, slowly the fish was worn out, Graham pulled the fish up alongside the boat and into the net, a great 12kg fish. Back in the water it was action stations bait showering along side one of the snags, my lure landed in the middle of the nervous bait.
I cranked the lure down as if it was trying to get away as well. The hungry fish grabbed the lure like there was no tomorrow, a quality Jack and this one didn’t get away. As the tide dropped out finding fish holding gutters and snags was more predictable. Most places we tried, if we didn’t get a fish or a strike in the first couple of casts we would move on. Our time in the creek was short. I am sure we over looked many good opportunities.