“You’re on Rossy, you’re on!”
Those were the words I remember hearing right before my 10-minute battle with one of the biggest fish I’d ever caught. That feeling you get when you see the line tweak and you hear the excitement from everyone around you. The anticipation and that fleeting moment that you think to yourself, “this could actually be a horse I’ve caught here”. At least that was the idea that Ed, from Bommi Adventures, put in my head when he yelled out in excitement about what I was about to reel in. And that just about summed up the situation. The banter and the laughs going back and forth between the boys mixed with the excitement of catching fish, but mostly just being out on a boat, so far away from home, with not a care in the world. Well not a care other than the battle I had on my hands to bag this slippery bugger on my line. And the, a glimmer of colour, like a piece of gold appearing from the depths of the ocean. Suddenly, it was real, and it was right there, “don’t lose it now” I thought to myself. Luckily, Mitch knew exactly what to do, and like the fish whisperer he is, latched onto the tail of this bad boy, and pulled calmly on to the boats deck. An 8kg Green Job fish. I’d never even heard of one of those before. But that didn’t stop the high fiving and back slapping. That was bloody awesome!
So how was it that TradeMutt, a social enterprise workwear company came to be on the same boat as Ed, Bill and Mitch from Bommi Adventures? Lets rewind a few months.
Dan and I started TradeMutt after working together as Carpenter for three years. Dan was a qualified Carpenter I was his apprentice. Naturally, we spent every day together talking absolute nonsense. These were the conversations that always made our days so much better. We were always talking about different ideas and plans that we had for our lives, like most people do. One of our ideas was to create our own workwear label. We didn’t know why no-one out there had made workwear fun. Could it even be done? We didn’t know. Should we give it a crack? Definitely.
In late 2016, Dan got one of the worst phone call’s of his life. The news on the other end of the phone was that one of his best mates had taken his life, while out the night before. I’ll never forget arriving at Dans place to see him and all his friends, huddled around together, crying and trying to console each other in what was sure to be one of their darkest days. I had never experienced suicide before and neither had Dan, but that scene is something that I won’t forget anytime soon.
The days, weeks and months that followed were hard for Dan. I saw the confusion and the grief that came and went at unexpected times, and although I didn’t know his mate that he lost, I knew it was my job to be there for Dan and support him in any way I could. For the most part it was just being there for him, going for a beer or a feed and talking about things. Apart from that, time was the only thing that helped heel the wounds.
It was this period and watching everything unfold that opened both mine and Dans eyes up to just how big of an issue poor mental health is in this country. Every day, 6 Australian men will die by suicide. That six different families and six different groups just like Dan and his mates, that will go through the grief that I witnessed.
In exploring plans and ideas for workwear, we were introduced to so many people along the way. One person would lead to the next contact, and the next one and so on. It was in the middle of 2017 when we were introduced to the idea of social enterprise – using a profitable business to effect socially conscious issues, or in other words, using profit for purpose. And that was it for us. We immediately knew that our mission was to create a bold and vibrant line of workwear that would be so eye catching, they would be a conversation starter. The conversation would be about mental health. If we could create a product that blokes everywhere needed, but make it interesting and fun, perhaps we could allow guys to be able to talk about issues around mental health not only for themselves but also for their mates, colleagues and strangers.
Not long after launching TradeMutt, Dan and I were contacted by a couple of early twenty something lads, who wanted to have a meeting with us to discuss an idea that they had. Ed and Bill Ovenden are two brothers from Brisbane who had spent their lives exploring beautiful tropical North Queensland, and everything this incredible part of the world had to offer. Whilst the lads are based in Brisbane and have regular 9 – 5 jobs, it was clear upon meeting the brothers, that their passion and motivation was driven by one thing – catching fish. The stories that the boys told us made it perfectly clear, that not only did they love outdoor adventuring and being on or near the ocean, but their passion extended further than this – they wanted to show anyone and everyone else out there how much fun there was to be had too. So they started their own fishing and outdoor adventure company, Bommi Adventures.
So what did Bommi Adventures want with TradeMutt? Well there is two things that both TradeMutt and the Bommi boys definitely had in common, and that is our shared passion for helping to address the issue surrounding mental health in this country. The boys had a pretty simple goal. To take people from out of their daily grind and struggles, and show them an incredibly fun time exploring Far North Queensland and all the beautiful and hidden secrets that only someone experienced in this part of the world could show you. The innocent and simple nature of the lads concept combined with their clear zest for life and the fun that could be had out there was something that Dan and I related to, and we wanted to know more.
Put simply, Bommi Adventures plan and execute epic fishing and outdoor expeditions in Far North Queensland from flights and accommodation, to transport, boats, food and drinks. Literally all you have to do is turn up to the airport on time and get on the correct flight. Places like the Daintree Rainforest, Bloomfield’s Escape and the Great Barrier Reef are just a few of the recognisable places that these boys know all too well. The many tropical islands that that make up the pristine Far North Coast, wrapped with such pure and white sands, as if they are floating in the most inviting turquoise water. Paradise!
Ed and Bill Ovenden invited TradeMutt to join them on an expedition to Bloomfield’s escape. This was the official coming together of two separate entities that want to lead the next generation of Australian men who are not only comfortable with the existence of mental health but want to create a safe and comfortable environment where blokes are encouraged to talk about anything and everything. The synergy between us all was perfect, and the idea that guys can talk about their feelings and emotions, whilst participating in classic ‘blokey’ activities. Creating this environment is one thing, but also allowing men to get out of their daily routines and have the opportunity to just unwind, relax and just really enjoy themselves is one of the most powerful things that anyone can do for their own wellbeing. Was TradeMutt keen to get along with Bommi for this one? 100% yes!
Unfortunately, due to other TradeMutt commitments, Dan had to sit this one out. So, although we had the time of our lives up there catching fishing and immersing ourselves in total paradise, we told Dan that the weather was pretty overcast, the water conditions were choppy and the fish weren’t hungry at all. That made him feel a little better about missing out. That is of course until he reads this.
We arrived in Cairns on the Friday and made a beeline straight up the coast to the famous Daintree Rainforest. The drive up the coast was simply spectacular. The Daintree combines tropical rainforest and white sandy beaches, with fringing reefs just offshore. A rare combination.
We drove to the cable barge that crosses into the Daintree Track and stopped for a few conversations, mostly about where we were from and where we were heading. Not to mention the questions about our funky work shirts. It always an interested response when you tell anyone that the shirts are a conversation starter about mental health. Everyone has been affected by mental health struggles at some point in their lives whether directly or indirectly, so it is always a respectful conversation.
A short stop or two for a creek swim, croc free, we finally made it to Bloomfield Escape where we were greeted by owners John and Debbie and their deck hand, Shane. I was shown to my accommodation and pretty quickly had my feet up, but the Bommi boys were straight into it, rigging up lines and getting everything ready for the next days adventures.
I must say, although I believed that the Bommi Adventure’s boys loved the outdoors, what I didn’t expect was the level of professionalism and expertise in not only organising this three day fishing adventure, but their execution was second to none. I didn’t have to worry about a single thing. The transport was easy, whenever the stomach asked for food the boys seemed to know and had any number of options ready to go, and when it came to the fishing, well they made that easy too. Rod’s were rigged up ready to go, GPS coordinates were set, and it was almost as if the boys had organised for the fish to be right where we were. All the while, everyone on the trip was looking absolutely fantastic, decked out in TradeMutt shirts. The long sleeve cotton work shirts made perfect fishing shirts, and I don’t know whether it was the vibrant clothing, the magnificent scenery or the friendly banter that we were throwing around, but the vibe was great, and we soaked up every bit of it. We were all there, as if time had stopped, and the only thing in the world that we had to worry about was which beer tin belonged to who.
We climbed into to stinger suits and dived down around the reef for cray fish, and we used a mixture of soft plastics, jigs and fresh sardines which worked an absolute treat for the Coral Trout, Small Mouth Nanygai as well as various Lipper species. Somewhere in the mix I latched onto my whopper of a Green Job Fish which absolutely made my weekend. Check the pictures if you don’t believe me.
We were taken across to a Sandy Cay in the inflatable dingy where we got to take in some of the sights, and the we spent the rest of the afternoon snorkelling and free diving around the fringes of the Pickersgill reef. We went for a dive in a pretty special spot that deck hand Shane called “Fish-Nado” where we found ourselves swimming in the eye of a fish vortex consisting of large Spangled Emperor, Tea Leaf, Big Eye, Golden Trevally and to our amazement, a school of Bone Fish.
Dinner that night back at Bloomfield Escape was fit for a pescatarian King. Our days catch of Job Fish, Coral Trout, Cray Fish and Sweet Lip definitely gave the BBQ a work out. No doubt everything was all the more delicious knowing we’d caught everything ourselves.
After dinner we took ourselves back down to the river to wet a line and get a little fire going. It was this moment where we all got to stop and just chill out that was really enjoyable. We really appreciated the chance to just stop and be in the moment. It was then that the importance of taking time out for yourself and getting away from it all really hit home. We sat there and talked a lot about how easy it is to get caught up in our day to day lives. Sometimes we forget what is truly important in our lives because we get swept up the fast paced nature of meeting deadlines and financial obligations. Is it our material possessions that bring us happiness and joy and or do these thing contribute to the growing issue of depression and anxiety? Right in that moment we were perfectly clear about how important it is to take time out for yourself. We discussed how much better so many people lives could be if they just stopped and re-evaluated what was truly important to them. Are you the priority in your own life? Do you give yourself the opportunity to be the best version of yourself? Could we all do with a bit of de-cluttering and just focus more on the simpler things that really bring us happiness? The reality was that being away from it all really gave me some clarity about a whole lot of these questions, and the most important thing that we discussed is just how important it is to take some time out for yourself. It doesn’t have to a 3 day trip up to Far North Queensland, but what ever it may be in our daily lives that allows us to switch off for a moment and just enjoy life. And at that, two of our Rods went off within 5 minutes of each other, with Ed and I both landing a Mangrove Jack. We put them straight across the coals for a little late-night snack.
Before we knew it, Sunday came and it was time to head back down the coast to Cairns, not before we headed to Cooktown to check out the sights. The Local Barra fishing competition was in full swing so the wharf was a hive of activity. Our TradeMutt shirts drew a lot of attention our way with everyone we crossed paths with wanting to know what they were about and of course we were happy to tell them. They definitely work as a conversation starter.
As with all good things, they must come to an end. New friendships were forged and the experiences that we had were some of the best of my life. I really soaked up the opportunity to just enjoy a few days away, but the real winner was the fact that a group of lads in their twenties could come together and really appreciate the importance of good mental health practices. Ed, Bill and Mitch from Bommi Adventures did an absolutely phenomenal job of catering for a truly awesome weekend. It definitely won’t be our last adventure up north with the lads, and for anyone out there that likes the sounds of our trip, give these blokes a shout and leave it to them. They will show you a time that you’ll do well to forget.