outbackjoe

a camping trip of ridiculous proportions

mal with salmon


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Anzac Day Salmon Mission

Wow it’s been over a year already since our last long weekend salmon hunt. This year, instead of Easter, we headed down for the Anzac Day long weekend.

There are many things different between this camp and our camp from a year ago. A big change is that this time we took quite a varied supply of food rather than just potatoes, carrots and onions. But perhaps the most significant change is the addition of a little mini miss outbackjoe!

joe with baby

baby in the dunes

We’re training her up nice and early to become an expert salmon spotter just like her dad.

teaching baby to spot salmon

On this camp we experienced an amazing salmon feeding frenzy. Salmon arrived in plague proportions and were jumping around everywhere right in front of our camp. The salmon were chasing herring into the shallows and were swimming right around us, even bumping into our feet. The herring were jumping out of the water and beaching themselves on the sand in an effort to escape the pursuing salmon.

We caught a butt load of salmon. More salmon than I’ve ever seen. And as a bonus we had a free feed of beached herring that even the staunchest animal activist would be happy with, since the herring died of natural causes. We chucked back most of the salmon we caught but cruelly slaughtered a couple.

Catching so much salmon is extremely tiring.

salmon fishing is tiring

We tried something different with our salmon preparation this time – salmon civeche. Civiche is marinading raw fish in vinegar and citrus juice (plus whatever extra flavours you want, we used onions and chilli). The flesh goes white like it’s been cooked and remains mild flavoured and relatively tender. Sharni even described it as tasting “nice”, which is tremendous for Australian salmon. Last time she said it tasted like shit. There is a risk of getting food poisoning by eating salmon this way, but fortunately we have the finest sashimi chef skills so that we can safely prepare the raw salmon for marinading.

We also smoked some of the salmon. Last time we smoked salmon it was over cooked and pungently fishy. This time we were extra careful not to over cook it and it actually turned out pretty good. Also it helped that we discarded the darker coloured meat which minimizes the strong fishy flavours.

We had a great camp and improved our salmon preparation skills with some good civeche and smoked salmon. Bring on next salmon season! Maybe we’ll revert back to bringing bugger all food and living off fresh salmon and beer.

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tailor with nice beard


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Peak Beard at Wilbinga Camp

Just as I was starting to push through the itchy phase, sadly, a stern order was issued: the beard must go. What a tragedy it would be to have the beard removed without some photos of me flaunting it whilst fishing and camping. So a camping trip was commissioned to Wilbinga Beach north of Perth.

We caught a nice flat head and a tailor, both of which were deliciously prepared in the fish smoker. Fishing conditions weren’t ideal with the usual wind and weed keeping our bounty quite low. Other highlights included beach bocce and hours of fun watching people getting bogged on a particularly treacherous section of beach right near our camp.

The beard was promptly removed back home during the post camp washdown. I hope one day it will return bigger and better.

What’s Hong doing squatting on top of that sand dune?

nonna camping


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Lane Poole – First Redfin

A couple of nights camping mission at Lane Poole with Mum and Nonna saw me land my first redfin perch! This perfectly complements my recent freshwater success with trout.

I caught two perch from the Murray River running nearby our camp site. One was too small to keep and the other a bit bigger but good enough to fry up for breakfast. We camped at Baden Powell camp ground which is perfect for camping with the oldies, with good toilets and fancy camp kitchens. We camped a couple of months ago, before the fires in the area that devastated Yarloop. It was quite cold as you can see by nonna rugged up catching some early morning rays.

camping under the bridge


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More Warren River Trout

There’s no better way to cement our trout fishing prowess then to immediately follow up our first ever trout success with another successful trout fishing mission. This time round Mal, Hong and James joined in the action.

The trip started out with beers and pizza at the Pemberton Hotel. The pizzas were delicious and huge! We boxed up the left overs, chucked them in the car fridge and headed into the forest to find camp by the Warren River.

It drizzled throughout the first day but since we’re super tough we went fishing in the rain. Wet, steep, muddy slopes along the river bank, combined with a couple of beers, was a recipe for a few muddy bum slides and some exciting close calls at the water’s edge.

A few trout were caught, some undersized and a couple just a tick over the minimum 30cm mark. We smoked them up in the fish smoker using banana peel and garlic for the smoke source. The trout tasted fantastic. I’m glad to report the lingering salmon flavour from the fish smoker has completely disappeared after we burnt it all off on the previous camp.

James did not come prepared with waterproof boots or waders so suffered with soggy boots for most of the trip. After drying them off by the fire one night, he was keen to try to keep them dry the next day. He improvised a solution for the wet boots but it was a dismal failure – see photos.

trout fishing warren river


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Warren River First Trout!

After years of demoralising failure, finally, Hong and I have caught our first trout! And what a feeling! No longer are we taunted by this long running black mark hanging over our fishing capability. We are successful trout fisherman.

First trout was caught in the Warren River, near Pemberton, over the course of a camping mission during the Western Australia Day long weekend. Sharni came along for the camp too, although did not do any fishing, instead enjoying some reading and relaxing in the awesome forests in the area, as well as some fancy coffees and food back at Pemberton. The gargantuan trees and beautiful waterways in the region are really tremendous and make a great place to camp, trout fishing or not.

Both Hong and I caught a few undersized trout which we chucked back in. Then one of us caught a sized trout big enough for keeps. I won’t say who actually caught it, not because it wasn’t me who caught it (it could have been me), but because it was a team effort. I’m not just saying that coz it was Hong that caught the fish. We both posed for photos to celebrate the awesome teamwork. Although we will always remember the great moment of catching our first trout, the specifics of who actually caught it are so unimportant that it won’t be long until we’ve forgotten who actually caught it.

We cooked our sole trout in Hong’s fish smoker. The same fish smoker we used a couple of months before to cook Australian Salmon. We noted the pungent smell of leftover fermenting salmon before cooking the trout but didn’t think it would affect cooking. How wrong we were. It was Australian Salmon flavoured trout for dinner. Yummy. We left the fish smoker on the fire that night to burn off any remaining salmon remnants.

Whilst camped up at Big Brook Aboretum, mushroom hunters visited to collect some orange mushrooms to eat. They said they weren’t sure of the name of the mushrooms. To me they did not seem very knowledgeable about mushrooms. It is not known whether they survived.

Visiting the facilities in Pemberton to download a brown-load, we noticed some black nightshade growing in the park. The ripe black berries are edible and taste slightly sweet with hints of savoury tomato-like flavour. They’re supposed to be pretty good for you, plus they’re free food, so we chowed down on a few. Apparently the leaves can be boiled up and eaten too but we didn’t try. Don’t eat the unripe green berries, they’re poisonous. They’re ripe when they are black and effortlessly fall off the plant.

kangaroo eating carrot


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Wrights Bridge Camp

For the Anzac day long weekend we headed down to an old favourite campsite of ours with some friends – Wrights Bridge camping area on the Blackwood River. It’s a picturesque spot in the forest with good camp sites and is close to Balingup. We stepped it up on the luxury level compared to the super frugal easter salmon mission. We had extravagant camp oven roasts, fancy cheese and wine and visited fancy establishments in the area. We visited Nannup and checked out some antique shops, had a drink or two at the Balingup Tavern and hit up the Heritage Country Cheese factory for some delicious aged cheese to suit our sophisticated pallets. The kangaroos that hang out at the cheese factory are quite tame and willing to get up close to visitors and pose for photos, particularly if you dangle a carrot in front of them. But then the lady running the cheese shop pulled out her biggest attraction – the little joey that she rescued from the pouch of a road killed kangaroo. What a little cutie! Some quick attempts to fish the Blackwood proved fruitless. The ever elusive trout are still on my things to do list, having never caught one in the wild (I have caught trout from the Pemberton trout farm). I think next time we return to these parts we will have to make a serious attempt to catch trout.

easter australian salmon deepdene


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Easter Camp Deepdene Beach

For Easter I teamed up with Hongo (again) for a traditional Easter salmon hunting mission in southwest WA. Our location of choice – Deepdene Beach, near Augusta – the place where both Hong and I landed our first salmon many years ago.

For this camp, for food, we decided to take only potatoes, carrots, onions and flour. The idea was spawned from Spudshed’s 9 cents per kilo sale on potatoes, carrots and onions and the desire to do away with the old wussy excuse of “Wah Wah Australian Salmon aren’t very nice eating fish I’m a big fussy baby” and actually eat the salmon we catch, along with any other fish we managed to land. This would be a good motivator to actually get off our ass and do some fishing. And maybe, when we’re hungry, Australian Salmon might actually taste good. That’s what we hoped.

food for easter camp

The food we took for a six day camp for two people.

Despite not being on the 9 cents / kilo list and being quite expensive (at a cost of several dollars), we included flour in our menu so we could cook up some beer damper to add some variation to our diets. So armed with Hong’s fish smoker and less than $15 worth of food, we set off on our six day adventure (we also had condiments like salt, oil, chilli powder, garlic and tomato sauce and of course a couple of cartons of beer).

First day on camp saw a salmon caught and immediately filleted and put into the smoker. It’s been a few years since last eating Australian Salmon so I had forgotten it’s unique smell and flavour. As soon as that smoker cranked up I was reminded like a swift punch to the face. Damn that stuff stinks like sh!t when cooking! A pungent, asphyxiating fishy bouquet that permeates far and wide. The taste is similar. We struggled through eating most of what we cooked and I suffered the rest of the day with a rotten fish taste in my mouth. How much more salmon did we eat for the remainder of the camp? ZERO.

smoking australian salmon

Lift the lid and the campsite is engulfed in the pungent aroma of Australian Salmon.

smoked australian salmon The occasional, rawer chunk of salmon tasted not too bad. We made a mistake with the smoker, putting it on the fire instead of using the little metho burner. This turned it into an oven and overcooked the salmon. The more cooked, the worse it tastes. We planned to try again but were somewhat disillusioned by the experience and managed to catch plenty of better stuff to keep us fed (mulloway, wobbegong shark, silver brim, herring and whiting).

Check out these dudes who rocked up in their V8 powered four wheel drives and set up shop right in front of our camp. Out of several kilometers of empty beach! And proceeded to fish and make noise into the early hours of the morning and then pack up and leave. Nice one. That’s our tent in the left foreground.

friendly fishermen at deepdene

Did we make it on the news? Whilst Hong was battling to land a large salmon this helicopter hovered above us for a bit. It was a pretty big salmon, I’d say yes it was newsworthy. I hope my hair looked ok in the shoot.

salmon season news helicopter

Some friends joined us for a few nights. I reluctantly admit we did steal some of their sausages, baked beans and Easter eggs to supplement our diet. Some other noteworthy events include assisting a four wheel drive recovery for some dude who thought it was a good idea to do a u-turn into the water, a trip to Augusta for beer and lunch at the pub on Easter Sunday and an Easter egg hunt around our camp site.

Simple food was fun. Easy to pack, no lengthy food prep, no washing up. Plus it’s super cheap. Next year I think we need to toughen up and eat a bit more salmon!