Camping and fishing the Wenlock river.

Walking the Wenlock

Walking the Wenlock River for Saratoga & Sooty Grunter

By Dylan Brier Mills


Recently I went on a very quick trip to Weipa, A 4day round trip including the 10hours travel each way. Weipa is situated approx 850 road km NW of Cairns. Over half of the road is dirt so a decent 4WD & trailer is needed, luckily for us though the road was pretty good. We left Cairns late in the afternoon and arrived at the archer river in the early hours of the morning. A few hours’ sleep under the stars and we were up walking the banks targeting Sooty Grunter. The fishing was slow but we still managed a few decent fish on Stiffy surface poppers and small soft plastics. 

We didn’t waste too much time and we were on the road again. We arrived in Weipa just before lunch, it wasn’t what I expected it to be. I expected it to be something like my home town of Cairns just smaller but it was spread out and everything was covered in red dirt. Weipa is built dependent on the mine & most people up there that aren’t working are fishing in the beautiful waterways that are near the town. The town has many fishing options from Sooty Grunter & Saratoga in freshwater rivers/lagoons to Barramundi & Mangrove Jacks in the salt systems. Fingermark & Jewfish inhabit rubble patches offshore along with all northern reef species as well as small Black marlin & Sail fish at the right time of year out further. 

We didn’t have a lot of time up there to fish so we headed back out of town and hit the upper reaches of the Wenlock River and the surrounding lagoons. We didn’t arrive to the selected camping spot until late afternoon so we fished a few lagoons for some small Toga and then worked our way up the Wenlock. Once we walked a few hundred meters in knee deep crystal clear water the fishing started heating up. Sooty Grunter & Saratoga came out of anything and everything smashing whatever we threw at them. Before we knew it after an hour of saying “let’s just hit that next snag,” it was dark. We had to walk back down the Wenlock River in the dark with no head torches. Yes there are Crocs in the system and I was power walking very fast down the creek but keen fishermen always go to extremes to chase fish and sometimes that’s how you get the best results. When we got back to the car & sat around the fire we ended the arvo with a conservative count of 40 fish caught in 2 hours. 

Waking up in our swags under the stars yet again made us realise how lucky we are, not only because of the fish we have up north but the things we see and beautiful places we go to chase them. We decided to fish an ‘untouched’ part of the river my good mate Kyle knew about from when he grew up in Weipa. For weeks before the trip he told me how crazy the fishing was at this spot but I didn’t really believe him. Arriving at this spot that took us about 2hours drive down a bush track, it looked similar to the last but with no foot prints or tyre tracks in sight, a very good sign!

After packing some gear in our bags & tying up we set off in search of more fish. Our first goal was to find some lagoon that we think not many people have ever fished. It took us about an hour of walking and navigating through bush using our IPhone HEMA maps to find the lagoons. The first lagoon we fished wasn’t to flash, only small Toga and Archer fish. As we moved down the series of Lagoons they got bigger and the fish started to be found We were having a blast Saratoga were starting to come off every snag until we saw a bull drinking from the water...... Below the bull was a big Croc ready to feed, about 16ft we estimated him at. After seeing this we skipped the rest of the lagoon and moved to the next and found fish again. 

The lagoon fishing eventually dried up & we were back walking in the Wenlock again. First casts for the 3 of us saw a triple hook up on Sooty grunter all over 40cm, it looked like we were in for a good day. The fishing never slowed down from those first casts, it just got crazier with Toga & Sootys coming from every twig, rock or hole we casted at. One snag I remember from the trip most was holding a few Toga & countless Sootys so I sight casted 2 Toga off it and then caught 12 Sootys in 12 casts off the same snag. 

We slowly fished our way up the river walking knee deep water until we came to a deep spooky looking bend with lots of timber on one edge. This bend held many fish even a few Barra that we managed to jump off but the best thing was a Bull shark about 1.5meters long that tried eating every Sooty we brought to the bank, getting sharked way up in a freshwater river is a pretty cool sight to see I recon. About 2pm we had walked so far that the holes started to get to deep & wide to walk around, unless we wanted to be Crocs lunch, so we called it a day. With over 150 fish landed between the three of us I was very impressed as to how well the Wenlock fished. It was great to see that remote places still do hold lots of fish and if you put the time in to get there it’s all worth it at the end of the day. 

Gear Used

The stand out reels on this trip were Shimano Stradic Ci4s loaded with 4lb braid. I say it time and time again but these reels are perfect for every fisherman’s need. This trip they were ideal for casting long distances and having a strong silky smooth drag to stop Sootys up to 48cm’s.

My mates & I used a selection of rods on this trip but the best for the job was my Gloomis GL2 8-15lb & my mates Shimano Raider. Both were perfectly matched to the Stradics and were easy to fish tight with for Sootys & Toga all day.

The lures we used for the trip were a selection of hard bodies & soft plastics. They all seemed to work very well but in the Wenlock it didn’t seem to matter what we threw, they would have eaten a stick I reckon! 

Tips for a trip up north

My first tip for a big trip up north would be to plan it a long time before you actually leave so everything is prepared. 

Make sure you go in a reliable 4WD because sometimes those roads can get pretty rough and you’re a long way from anywhere if anything breaks.

If you plan to walk rivers and lagoons like we did firstly try and go with a local if possible, If you can’t go with a local be very cautious of Crocs. They inhabit most waterways in the north and aren’t shy if you’re in their way. 

Take a backpack full of every piece of tackle and equipment you think you may need because you never know what you might encounter. 

My biggest tip for this type of fishing is a decent pair of walking shoes that can get wet and a good pair of polarised sunglasses. The sunglasses I used for the trip were Costa Del Mar’s and they were defiantly worth their weight in gold. The boys even had a turn wearing them so they could sight cast some fish. 

Until next fishing adventure- Tight lines & Screaming Drags.