Monday, May 29, 2017

2017 Top End Barra Series Round 2.

Hi there,

A few days ago the second round of the 2017 Top End Barra Series took place on the Daly River.
And here comes the tales of it...

Straight after work on Friday evening, I went home, got a shower and raced to Craig's place so we could leave in the evening and be there as soon as possible.
By the time we arrived to the boat ramp it was full on night time:

Launching at night.

Now, for the ones among you who don't know the Daly River, is a waterway full of big crocodiles. And to me standing on the water edge, in the dark, not being able to see what was or was not swimming in front of me was rather nerves wrecking. Luckily, Craig was quick to park the car, and we were then both able to jump in the boat and motor along the river.

But it was very dark, and misty on the water, we couldn't go very fast or very far.
So as soon as we arrived at Charlie's Creek, we decided to moor the boat and camp there.
I did try to cast a fizzer into the night, but no Barra were interested to play the game.
So we soon felt asleep. With me waking up a few times through the night, listening with attention but not hearing a single Barramundi feeding.
Still I slept well, as I usually do on a boat, under the stars.
One of my favourite place to sleep.
Just before day rise, I was up again on the casting deck, flicking my lure. For no more success than on the previous evening. 
Slowly the day came in and it was a rather cold one:

Cold morning on the Daly River.

As I sent a lure flying behind some logs in the water, Craig said that I would be a bit in a strife if ever I was to hook on a fish over there... Well as soon as he said it, a fish took my lure with gusto, and I got excited, but lost it in a few seconds, it hadn't been properly hooked. Which in insight may have been a blessing in disguise, as I don't know how I would have brought it back from behind all these snags.
After just another half-hearted hit for about one hour of casting this spot, we decided to move.

On the move, we saw BarraTragic who came towards us and who as a present, gave me this really cool advertising fishing lure:

A Coke fishing lure.

Yes, This is a Coca-Cola fishing lure, in regards to advertising fishing lures, this is pretty special.
Thank you BT, I am very happy to have this little guy joining my small collection of advertising fishing lures. And yes, this one was made by Reidy's, the Darwin local boys, one of my favourite lure brand too. What's not to like?!

The day was going to be glorious, I told myself.
Not far from there we found a little creek that looked good to us, so we stopped and started to flick our lures to it's entrance.
And this is how I got not the biggest fish ever, but my first one of the weekend:

First Barra of the weekend.

Yes it was definitively on the small side of things, but a fish is a fish, and that was our first one of the weekend on the boat.
Not long after while trolling a Laser Pro +2  I got another one, just a very little bit bigger...

Second little fish of the weekend.

As we were about to learn, this weekend was going to be a small fish bonanza, with not many big ones for us. Yet many small fish are often more fun than just one or two average ones.
So we trolled some more:

Trolling the Daly.

As you can see the two very beautiful hand made Blinky's lures on the windshield, were about as big as most of the fish we were to catch during the course of the weekend.
While trolling we came across Dave who was fishing a creek mouth where him and his mate keep having double hook-up. 

Dave reeling in a small Barramundi.

We stopped next to them, but weren't able to catch any fish ourselves.
Was there a curse on us? One can only wonder...
we tied the boat a bit further against the bank, and I finally got another small fish:

Smaller and smaller.

Yes, smaller and smaller seemed to be the order of the day.
So we decided to troll the gut of the river, to try to find better fish.
I put a Classic +10 in the Gasper Ghost colour, and bang I got a fish!
Slightly bigger, and much darker:

The darkest Barramundi of the trip.

This one must not have seen any salt water yet, and was coloured in the typical fashion of the fresh water barramundi. Hopefully after we released it, it will fin salt water and grow to become a big mama Barra.
Having caught a nearly legal fish with this white lure, I decided that it was the right one to use and continued to troll with it... And lost it to a snag a few minutes latter.
This was going to become a recurrent thing over the weekend. If a lure worked well, I would loose it.
So having lost it, I looked in my tackle box for another white lure, and found an F18 in the Albino colour. Beauty!
I was going to catch me some fish with that lure, no worries...
And we trolled again.
And then Craig said that I needed to learn how to steer the boat...
So we swapped places and I found myself behind the wheel. One hand on the wheel, and a fishing rod in the other. Craig explained, calmly to me, what to do if a fish was to take one of our lures: turn toward the centre of the river, and put in neutral. Then deal with the fish.
Yes, right...
I got a fish on my line, and screamed: I am on! What do I do! The boat's going the wrong way! Get the net! Where is the boat going? How do I put it in neutral?
You guessed it, saying that I am not very good at multitasking would be a serious understatement...
Still we managed to get the boat, not on the bank but near the middle of the river, and the net ready, I just had to get the fish close enough for Craig to scoop it.
Eventually it happened, and I finally got a legal fish:

My only point scorer for the weekend.

Without being a giant fish, this was enough to get me on the board, and to get the monkey off my back.
That fish had been caught in a beautiful part of the Daly River:

The Daly River.

From there we trolled some more, but without any success, I just lost another white lure to a snag.
There was no more white lure in my tackle box.

Craig trolling and steering the boat on the Daly River.

By now it was starting to be the end of the first day, and the sunset saw us trying to find the right spot to spend the night.

Sunset on the Daly River.

We found a spot in front of a little feeder creek, and decided to spend the night there.
the anchor was lowered, but the bugs and mosquitos were out in plague proportion. so we skipped the dinner and just took refuge in our respective sleeping bags.
I did hear a few boof during the night but couldn't tempt any fish with my fizzer in the dark.
All I managed to catch was a tree on the bank...
At first I thought about sleeping while the lure was still in the tree with my line attached to it. But quickly realised that if a boat was to drive by, between us and the bank, the line could get stuck on the throat of someone on the said boat, and that it would be no good at all.
So I decided to break it, even if it meant loosing the lure. Pulling as hard as I could, I in fact managed to get the lure off the branches and back in the water. This was my clue that I better get some sleep to be ready for the following day.

And the following day came fast and early:

Boiling water for the morning coffee.

And...

Cooking some bacon.

I am not sure that there is many things better than a good sandwich full of bacon for  breakfast on a boat before a full day of fishing.
And while the bacon was quietly sizzling in the fry pan, I couldn't help myself, but had to flick a Halco Scorpion down the little feeder creek.
This resulted in the first two Barramundi of the day!
even if they were small, it got us happy, and better thing were to come:


My two little morning Barra.

Due to there sizes, both were released to grow a bit more until the next time.
All this action took us straight to the time to eat a great breakfast:

Morning BLT on the river.

Just as we were about to dig in these great sandwich, Craig rod, which was strolling a lure F18 at the back of the boat, suddenly bent and a nice little Barra started to splash at the end of his line!
We both dropped our food, him rushing for his rod, and me for the net.
The fish wasn't very far, and quickly was boat side. It wasn't very big, but was still very green, and gave a good account of itself, and it took a few try to net it.
Finally it was in the boat, and this was Craig first fish of the trip, and it was a point scorer!

Craig with his first Barramundi for the weekend.

This had us cheering and enjoy our breakfast even more, laughing about this catch.
Once we had demolished our meal, we couldn't help to cast our lures around, hoping for another Barra from the same spot.
But alas, all we could get was another small one:

Another little one from the same spot.

After about one hour of beating the place to foam for no more fish, we decided to move along and try to find a good spot full of fish. Surely this must exist somewhere...
On the way we saw a few of the river inhabitant:

Daly River crocodile.

And we found it the spot where people were catching good fish!
Quite a few boats were working this trolling run, most of them with success.
As we arrived, Rossco and his son had just caught two Barramundi in the 70cm range.
We were full of hope.

Rossco and Son trolling the golden patch.



Trollin' trollin' trollin' ...

Yes a few boat were on it, and most got fish in front of us.
Beside us, behind us all around us...
But not us...
I think me constantly being snagged may have diminished our chances...
There I lost a brand new Rapala and an Halco Laser Pro +2 which had already caught me a few fish before.
We were the last ones to leave this spot, and maybe the only ones not having caught anything on it.
Such is life sometimes...

As we were leaving we passed a little creek mouth, where we saw some of the participants of the Top End Barra Series, who seemed to catch a few.

Boats at the little creek.

But the place was small and already crowded, so we decided to try to find our own.
And our own we found.
They were only small fish but in great abundance, all caught with soft plastic lures on the cast, which was good for our moral as we felt a bit low after seeing everybody catching fish, everybody but us...
Here is some examples of what we found at this little honey hole:




Lots of little Barramundi.

Other people who trolled close by seemed to catch better fish, but for once that we were having great fun, we din't want to move. You know what they say: don't leave fish to find fish...

Boats trolling near us.

Finally seeing them catching nice fish for a little while, we decided to try the trolling thing.
We put some deep hard body lures at the end of our lines.
And once again, instead of catching big fish, we went on the smaller size road:

Bigger lure for small fish.

So we decided to slowly made our way back towards the boat ramp, with a last stop near Brown's Creek.

Fishing Brown's Creek.

Here again we got many little fish.
So just in case you were not up to scratch with your fishing photography...
Here is the fishing photography 101 major tip-off: When the fish is small, hold it close to the camera:

Massive little fish.

Yes, we had a good laugh making this photo. And after all this is what it is all about, having a good time, filled with good laugh between mates.

The place was very beautiful and we are definitively lucky to still have this kind of spots. That modernity and development have not spoiled yet.

Sand bank opposite Brown Creek.

This sand bank was full of crocodiles. Of both varieties, salt water ones and fresh water ones.
As we left we even saw a face-off between to individuals of each species:

Salt water and fresh water crocodiles face-off.

We didn't stay to watch the end result, but I wouldn't be surprised if the bigger salt water one got the upper hand.
But for us it was time to head back:

Heading back to the ramp.

At the ramp a few vessel were already there, but it wasn't long before we got Craig's boat on the trailer  and were on our way back to the city:

On the road again.

This truly had been a great weekend, full of laugh, good food, and plenty of little Barramundi.
Yes they were small, but the sheer number of them is very good augur for the future of fishing on the Daly River. It look like we finally had a good wet season to start things up again.

Thank you Craig for inviting me on your boat.
And I can't wait for the next round of the Top End Barra Series, to spend another full weekend of fishing.

Yes, I know, I haven't yet caught a meter plus Barramundi from the Daly River...

But hey, It could be worse.
Have a good day,
Me.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A day Of Small Fish.

Hi there,

I hadn't fished in a long time, and decided to give it a go, as I was starting to show some serious fishing withdrawal signs...

So to an easy and close to home spot I went, East Point was the chosen location.
It was much later in the day than the time I usually fish there, and thus wasn't sure that I would be able to catch anything. Yet the idea to spend a few hours under the sun on the water edge was enough to get me there.

I first went to a spot where I have caught reasonably nice Barramundi in the past...
And it was not the spot to shine on this day.
Still, I quickly got a small Cod:

First Rock Cod of the day.

This made me happy, as I honestly thought that it was just going to be a day walking along the water.
It was a rather small fish, so in the water it went back, like all the fish I was going to get on the day.
From there, it didn't take very long to catch another of these little Cods:

Second Cod of the day.

Both fish at this location were caught using weedless soft plastic lures. The place is full of mangrove roots, and it has shown me in the past how a good fishing lure cemetery it can be. So now, I prefer to diminish my hook-up rate, instead of offering lure after lure to the mangrove gods, hence the use of weedless lures at this spot.

But the bite slowed to a crushing halt, things went very quite, and for the first time of the year I had a feeling that the dry season was either upon us or just around the corner.
And the Dragonfly seemed to think alike:

Dragonfly at rest on my fishing rod.

Obviously that one could not have found a more suitable, calm spot to rest...
I took a sip from my water bottle to give it a bit of time, then gently shook the rod to signify that I was ready for action again.
The dragonfly went it's way, and I started to wonder if I shouldn't do the same?
And the same I did.
I decided to try a spot I had often been told about but had never tried: the gun turret.
Got there, and found two other anglers who had gotten the same idea.
One was fishing with live bait, the other one with lures.
The live baiter wasn't catching anything, the lure guy seemed to catch a few.
Beauty! I told myself, I might get a fish or two.
First fishing on their right for absolutely no love, I decided to walk pass them an go further on the left.
Once there, I waded in ankle deep water to what seemed to me a good spot.
Where I was able to perch myself on a rock that was coming out of the sea.
This is when I saw just a bit further on the left, the bait being absolutely smashed by what seemed to be a few Barramundi!
Quick! I told myself get yourself over there and flick your lure at them!
Trying to be fast on unknown terrain can sometimes be a stupid thing...
And it was...
I put my right foot in a drop, and suddenly wasn't ankle deep in water anymore...
I lost balance and fell face first. It wasn't that deep, but enough to get myself and all my gear wet.
I told myself: "common boy don't be overtly sensitive, it is just a bit of water and fishing gear are made to be wet"...
Well yes kind of...
Anyway, I pulled myself back up, had a laugh and got myself, slower where I wanted to be.
And that was the spot!
I first got another little Cod:

Third and last Cod of the day.

Still happy to have caught this little fella, but slightly disappointed as I was really hopping for a Barramundi, because of the way the bait had been harassed just a few minutes before.
Any way, perched on another rock, it all become right...
I could now see them little Barramundi, swimming in the water not very far from me, eating small baits.
It was like going on a boat on the flat doing some sight casting, except that it was land based, and that the fish were smaller.
But the kick from it was the same, the excitement of seeing them was great.
This is how I got my first little Barramundi, the first one in about a month.
Not big, but mine mine mine!

First little Barramundi of the day.

Yes, to me being mostly land based, even small fish are sweet, and this one made me really happy.
I got another one in no time at all, but as it was at my feet and I got the camera ready, it managed to spit the lure and swim away. This one was a funny one, it was the first time I saw that, it kept boofing with the lure in its mouth, to try to dislodge it. (Which worked good for him). It was really fun to see this little fish going Boof, turning around and going Boof! Boof! Again.
Well it was amusing until it spat the lure, little bugger!
Still it showed me something I had never seen and was a good experience.

I moved to the next rock, and got my third Barra for the day:

Third Barramundi of the day.

This even if small, was going to be the best one of the day.
As they were obviously all too small to keep, I tried to photograph them all in the water, to minimise any arm.
That is all except the last one...
Because it was what I believe might be the smallest Barramundi I ever caught:

Smallest Barramundi ever on my lure.

It was fun to see such small fish get so greedy in their attack on the lure. And already displaying all the qualities of their biggest brothers and sisters: boofing, jumping and all.

By then I could walk all the way onto the turret, which I had never done before.
Once there, I decided to take a photo, but with my phone instead of my camera...
And this is when I remembered/realised, that my phone was in my pants pocket when I fell in the water.
Now mobile phone and salt water are generally not the perfect match.
And when I saw my phone, I immediately decided to go back home and try to save this wet phone...
Will it work again?
Only time will tell...

So all in all it had been a great morning, with 3 little cods and 4 of the smallish Barramundi I ever caught. Some people say that size doesn't matter, so let be honest, I had great fun catching them.
If it wasn't for my wet phone, it would have been a perfect last day for the month of April.

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,
Me.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

2017 Top End Barra Series Round 1

Hi there,

Last weekend was the first round of the 2017 Top End Barra Series.
For the ones amongst you who don't know yet, the Top End Barra Series is a very social and friendly Barramundi fishing tournament.
Made of six rounds over the year, in different locations at different times of the year.
Each round last for a full weekend.
The competition is now in its seventh season.

Once the last round of the year is done and dusted, most of the anglers who fish the Top End Barra Series, can't wait for the next year first round and all the thing to restart again.
And this was the case once again, with this year what a lot of people expected to be a much better fishing than the last few years, as we finally have the first good wet season since 2011.

Like for the last few years, the destination of the first round was Shady Camp.
A place known for its potentially very big Barramundi. This is where everyone goes hoping to catch the much sought after Barramundi over the meter in length.

Now as some of you might remember, I do not have a boat.
So for this round, I was to be fishing with Jason on the first day, and as he was going to leave in the afternoon of Saturday, I was going to jump into Rossco's boat for the reminder of the round.

Jason, picked me up at 4:00am, I had been up since 1:45am, unable to sleep du to the excitement of going fishing for the full weekend.
Yes I was going to be really really tired on Saturday night...
But it was worth it!
We had planed to take some ice and refill the petrol at the last station service on the road...
Well you know that thing that they say that sound a bit like "Don't wait until the last minute to do the things you got to do"... That was a bit of a case of just that...
The last service station was closed, and we had to go back to fill up.

Still we arrived at the Shady camp barrage at sunrise:

Launching at Shady Camp Barrage.

For me launching there has always been a bit scary, du to the large quantity of very big crocodile that inhabit the area. So I do prefer when there is already a bit of light than in total darkness.

From there we zoomed without stoping to the mouth of Sampan River to troll.
To our surprise, not that many boats were trolling the mouth.
Just a few in fact.
Once we started to troll it, we quickly understand why...
It was a bit choppy.

Chop at the mouth of Sampan.

We had made two passes and decided to troll a bit further, about two kilometres out.
On the turn, I changed lure and put a Classic Barra 160 +10 in the Green Dazzler colour on the end of my line.
A lure that had never yet produced for me at Shady Camp.
And this is where I would love to tell you that, I spent a few seconds to read the sea and the waves, Made the perfect cast, of 32, 7 metres in length, so my lure would drop just in the dip of a wave.
I waited for the sun reflection to flash on my lures, and gently twitched it in front of a nice Barramundi that I had spotted just there, who eagerly wolfed it down...
But this is not how it happened...
With this lure that I had received as a present from my friend Peter, I made the biggest cast that I could as far away from the boat as I could, and it was not far enough. So still in free spool I let the line run and looked at my lure which seemed to be further and further away from me.
When I started to think that it should be enough, I clicked the reel's drag on, and in less than a wink, just as the lure made its first move, a fish took it in earnest!
I first thought that it must have been a big Salmon, as I saw the splash but hadn't been able to put an ID on the fish. The first run was long, and the fish heavy, I could not stop it. Then it jumped, it was a Barramundi!
Just right then, I felt the pressure rise a few notches. Jason had practically finished to reeled in his lure, and was looking at what I was doing.
I told him that this fish was heavy and taking all my line, that I feared that it would spool me.
Jason put the boat in reverse, and this is how I first gained a bit of line.
When we finally saw the fish, Jason started to say that it might be in the 80s. When it was closer, I could then see the lure on the outside of the Barramundi mouth and started to stress that it was going to be able to escape my capture.
And then Jason said, "oh he might be a good 90s"...
Finally it arrived close enough to be scooped in the net, and on the deck.
The monkey was off my back and I may have danced a little bit on the boat.
It was a nice fish:

My First Barramundi of the weekend.

Coming in at 97cm (38.188976 Inches), caught before 9:00am, this was going to be my third biggest Barramundi ever.
Oh yes I was happy and I still smile thinking about it.
She did take a bit of time to be revived and to swim away strong, but in the end thanks to the perseverance of Jason, she was fit and kicked away.
We deducted from this catch than instead of trolling fast as most people do at Shady, we would try to troll slow:

With a storm in the back.

Well this didn't work very well and just confirmed that Lady Luck had just been very kind to me when she gave me that fish.
So it was time to change tactics, and we moved back into the river.
There we started to flick soft plastic lures to the snags.
I got a hit, Jason got a hit. We could see prawns being stressed and chased by some predators.
we casted some more and Jason line went tense, he was on!
It was a nice fat little Barramundi:

Jason's Barramundi.

At 57cm (22.440945 Inches) It was no monster in length, but it did make up for it in weight as it was as fat as a happy piglet. So it might not have be bacon, but in the esky it went nonetheless, as it was perfect size to be eaten.
By then, it was time for Jason to go back toward the city.
We looked for Rossco and found him, his boat rafted up with another one.
We went next to them and I passed on my gear from one boat to another. Said goodbye and thank you to Jason, and jumped in Rossco's boat.
And just then the sky opened up and the rain fell upon the hearth and the rivers...

Rain over Sampan Creek.

It did fall hard, but not for very long, and once it stopped, we decided to troll our lures around the joint.
Which resulted in a very nice little Threadfine Salmon for me:

Little Salmon.

This one was also perfect plate size and as Rossco like his Threadfine, I gave it to him.

By then it started to be a bit late, and we had made plans with Peter and Rob to catch up in Tommycut, so we headed that way, in the sunset...

Stormy sunset.

We got lucky enough to not get rained on over the trip there. But we still ended up drenched, because of the wind and the waves:

Rossco steering his boat.

Once there we quickly found Peter and Rob, and rafted up the two boats together, in a nice and calm little spot. We had dinner and some good laughs. But once the night had fallen, I started to feel the the weight of a long day on my shoulders, and quickly crashed to catch as many Z as I could.

Night time over Tommy Cut.

As the morning arrived we were greeted by a rainbow and a drizzle:

Cloudy morning and rainbow over Tommycut.

A very quick breakfast and we were fishing again.
After a short troll run, Rossco said that we were now in front of a little feeder creek where one of his sons had caught some Barramundi in the past.
So we started to flick some lure in there.
Looking at the bait that we could see swimming around, I decided to change my lure, and to downsize, opting for a Junior B52 from Reidy's in gold and orange.
It took just a few cast and I was on to a feisty little barra.
When we saw it we both hoped that it would be a point scorer, but said that it wasn't sure...
Well it was 50cm (19.685039 Inches) on the dot.
So too small to keep, but just a point scorer:

Little Barramundi and Chupa Chups.

Yes, even if it was on the smallish side, I was still very happy to have a fish in my hands, for a quick photo and a release.
Noticing the quick success I got with the Junior B52, Rossco didn't waste anytime changing his lure.
He went for a Junior B52 too, but his was in the gold and black colours.
Well with that he nearly immediately hooked on a Barramundi.
But it was not exactly the mother of all Barramundi, it was rather the cute little brother, and little is the keyword there...

Reeling in a cute little Barra.

This one was too small to be a point scorer, but it definitively offered a great photo opportunity:

Baby Barramundi.

We had a good laugh about it thinking that if anyone saw us taking a picture like that they would have thought that we were crazy. Sometimes you don't need much to laugh.
The tide was falling and we still had regular hits.
This is about then that we saw Seano and Gavin passing by, and they stopped for a little chat.
They told us that like ourselves, they did find the fishing hard. Seeing fish on the sounder, fish that didn't what to eat anything. And on top of that, Seano had a few battery trouble on his boat.

As they left we restarted to cast  our lures and in no times, Rossco was on!
This time the fish seemed a bit bigger and gave an honest fight.
It was a better fish:

Rossco's last Barramundi for the weekend.

Coming in at 62cm (24.409449 Inches) it was going to be a good point scorer for Rossco. And a delicious fillet for me, as Rossco kindly shared the bounty with me. Once again, I was going to feed my family a fish caught by someone else.
Because the only fish that I caught after that was a small Catfish, which of course I let go.

We then made our way back to the mouth of Tommycut, trolled around for a little while, I did get a very strong hit, but it didn't stay connected.
We took the opportunity of a break in the wind to go back to Sampan.
There is was a bit of fishing again, but with not much success.
So we made our way back to the ramp, asking along the way to a few people if they were going back toward Darwin and could give me a lift, as it would have allowed Rossco to stay one more day to fish.
Alas, no one was going back so Rossco could not stay for the following day and he drove me back to the city.

The road back towards civilisation.

What a weekend it had been!
First round of the 2017 TEBS, as it is known by many.
I had fished from two different boats, thank you Jason and Rossco for offering me the chance to fish for a full weekend.
I had caught my third biggest Barramundi so far.
And I had a very good time in very good company.
When is the next round???

And yes, this is where it hurts, the next round is in about two months...
Two long months before being again in the ambiance of the Top End Barra Series, and a full weekend of fishing... 
This will be a long wait.

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,
Me.