Sunday, April 28, 2013

Out Fished Once Again.

Hi There,

Yes I got out fished, once again. Yet, it was still a great day in the Australian outdoors.
Sarrge had invited me to go fishing with him at Salt Water Arms.
We had left Darwin early in the morning, with the plan to get into some Barramundi, and have a good time on the water.
We spent the travel time on the road talking about life, work and stuff. And as soon as we were on the water, the discussion turned to fish, fishing, and... How to catch some fish...

But not longer arrived to one of Sarrge favourite spot in Salt Water Arms, that we saw some bait being harassed by bigger fishes, between submerged trees and mangrove roots.
Quick as a flash, I flicked my lure straight between the branches and started to reel it back in. Nothing...
Sarrge did the same: nothing... But another big boof just against a tree. My lure flew just past this tree, so I could swim it past just right next to it. And... It got firmly stuck to an underwater root, no way I would get it back, the line broke. I was one lure down, and the fish were still smiling...

Sarrge told me to tie the boat to a branch, and we would be able to cast our lure just on the ther side of the tree, where it looked like there was even more action than on our side.
Tie the boat I did, and started to rigging my line with a new lure.
Sarrge, started to work a little walk the dog type of lure, and a Barramundi tried to boof it but missed.
Haha, we must be on the right side of the trees was our reaction.
So he flicked the lure a second time, walking it slowly on the surface, and bang! he was on!
Not to a Barramundi, to a very decent Queenfish who immediately started to go for a few jumps, and a long run. Like Queenfish do.
It went and started to jump near a partly submerged snag, and got Sarrge worried that it would wrap the line around it and break free.
But as worried as he was, Sarrge continued to fight his fish, from the comfort of his chair...

Sarrge reeling in the Queenfish.

This was a good fish, and went for a few more runs before ending close to the boat.
Now I had to net it, and it didn't want to. It turned away from the net a few time, before finally facing it, and guided in it by Sarrge. 
Happiness was definitively of the party!

Nice Queenfish on Barra gear.

This was the first catch of the day, and it made us very happy, I even thought that maybe this was the day that my fishless trips was going to end...
Was I wrong...
Anyway, as Sarrge was dispatching this fish for the esky, I had my gears ready and started to cast around a little fizzer, in the hope of a comparable catch.
There was this beautifull colour change, and we could see the Mullets swimming on the edge of it, in the clear water. And once in a while, a Barramundi would come out of the cafe coloured water, swim very slowly towards the Mullets and try to boof one of them. Sometime with success sometimes not.
This was a very exciting sight, well worth the trip in itself.
And of course, one Barramundi, came towards my little lure.
My little lure which was going: Fizz Fizz, pause, Fizz Fizz, Pause.... And as the Barramundi came under it, I paused the fizzer, the Barramundi came really close to it, and boofed! 
Just one or two centimetre on the side of it...
It must have been a cross-eyed Barramundi!
The sound of it had been like if someone had used a pistol just next to the boat.
It made me jump, but the fish was far from being hooked, he just swam back in the darker water, taking his time...

Then I put my lure up in a tree...
Luckily, I got this one back, and decided to change it for a small shallow diver.
By then Sarrge was ready to fish again.
And he just showed me how to catch a Barramundi:

Sarrge showing me what a Barramundi is.

Being just 56 cm, this one was put back in the water, to grow a bit more, and become more of a good feed later on.
The funny thing with this Barramundi, was that when I was about to put the net in the water to try to scoop it, it actually jumped out of the water, and landed straight in the net. 
With no doubt, the easiest netting I have ever done.

So yes, it was two fish for Sarrge, and none for me.
The day was still young, and I was hopeful to change that...
Yes, hope is a beautiful thing...

With the action seeming to slow down we decided to move and try to troll the narrow, and other place.
This was a great idea, on a tourism point of view, but on the piscatorial front, it was a disaster.
Not a fish, not a hit, just some nice landscapes.
So we decided to go back to where we had been able to glean a bit of glory earlier in the day.

The tide had fallen, big time, and after negotiating our way back to the mouth of the creek, through the sand barre and mud flats, in which we saw a nice stingray making a fast doughnut around the boat, (was it trying to tell me something?). We finally saw the extend of the snaggy terrain over which we fished in the morning.
And I could see the lure that I had lost previously in the day, now high and dry.
So Sarrge "beached" the nose of the boat, and I jumped on Terra firma to go and collect my lure.
Well Terra firma, was rather muddy, but I was able to walk through it and picked up another nearly new lure on my way to mine. So it was nice to get my lure back, plus another one that I had no clues would be on my way.
This plus a special lure that Sarrge had given me for my lure collection on the same day, mean that I now had two more lure, the kind of little thing that keeps me happy.

Walking among the mangrove roots to get the lures back.
(Photo © Sarrge)

After that we trolled a bit for not much and stopped up the creek to eat some sandwiches.
Looking on the mud bank, I saw these little crabs, running everywhere. They were so brightly coloured, that they looked like if they were already cook and ready to eat.

Not cooked, but alive and well.

No, I did not grab one to taste it, but to me they definitively reminded me of a nice big mud crab just cooked. Except that these were much smaller in size.

After lunch, made of soggy sandwiches while dreaming of mud crab and mayonnaise, we started trolling again.

This is when Sarrge, hooked a nice Barramundi, that must have been in the 80 cm.
Yes, the keywords here are: "must have been"...
As the fish made two or three quick jump to show us what it looked like, and then swam straight towards the boat.
But between the fish and the boat was, unknown to us, a nice set of underwater snags.
This is exactly where this Barramundi went. 
Sarrge could feel the fish still on the line, with the line rubbing against the branches, and this was not looking good.
After some tussle and some pull and trying from every sides of the snag, the lure freed himself and came back, without any fish attached to it...

And this, was the last action of the day.

Not long after, we started to make our way back in direction of the boat ramp, stoping here and there to have a few cast to some snag, but without any recompense we quickly abandoned and decided to get back home.

Despite, being once again out fished, this had been a great day, with two fish coming onboard, some good laughs, in some very beautiful places. The kind of days that if I was a doctor, I would prescribe to all of my patients.
Thanks again Sarrge for the lure, and for inviting me on your boat.

Yes, I still would love for this fish drought to be broken...

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

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 Top End Barra Series Round 2.

Hi there,

How was the round two of the 2013 Top End Barra Series?
Well, it was a lot of fun, but not a lot of fish...
It took place early April at the Finniss River, in the Northern Territory of Australia.
And in the week before the event, the Northern Territory Government made an announcement that shocked a lot of anglers in the Territory.
Basically, they said that because they had not been able to get to an accord with the Traditional Owners of the land adjacent to the river, and of the river, most of the river would from now on be off access to non Traditional Owners people.
In practical, it still leave 13km (8.0778255 Miles) from the mouth of the river and up to fish for everybody.
This is a controversial situation, and it is not for me to judge it, I lack way too much information to make a fair and just call about it.
Lets just hope that it will soon be resolved for the best of everyones involved.

So back to our fishing, once again, I teamed up with Nomad, and on Saturday morning we left Darwin, full of anticipation. Wondering how we would do in this round, as none of us had fished this particular stretch of water before.

When we arrived at Dundee Beach for the launch, early as, it was already chaos, with way too many boat in front of us, waiting to be launched. It basically took us nearly two hours to get launched and zooming along the beach toward our fishing destination.

As we arrived, we noticed some boat trolling the channel at the entrance of the river, and some other flicking lures to the mud flat.
We opted for the second and made our way to the mud flat, not knowing exactly where to start.
On finding a little drain with a bit of water trickling to the sea, we decided to cast our lures in the spot.
It didn't take long and Nomad was on a fish...
But it wasn't a Barramundi, and it was not hook properly. It was a Pufferfish, an animal considered to be the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world. So even if it is considered in some part of the world as a delicacy, this one was promptly returned to the water.

Nomad's Pufferfish.

 It was still early in the  two days round, and we laughed about it, and were still thinking that we would catch a few Barramundi...
But not catching fish on the mud flat we decided to go for a little troll at the mouth of the river, and we didn't do much better. So we went up the river, still in the limits of the newly announced restriction, and saw a nice little feeder creek, with a beautiful eddy and some great colour change.
The place was full of branch and stick, it screamed Barramundi at us. Another boat from the competition was there, and they hadn't done very good, so we stayed next to then for a chat, all the while flicking our lures to the snags.
This is when Billster came and slipped between the two boat for a chat and like us he started to flick his lure to the river bank. And he definitively came with the goods! I first saw the head of the fish came to the surface and grab his lure not long after it had touched the water. My first thought was that such a large fish in the sticks was going to be a very hard battle.
But the big mama Barra went straight for the middle of the river, and showed us her shoulder, she was easily over a meter long. That was a great fish.
But just as I had got my camera ready to record the catch of such a fish, it came back up, put her head out of the water, shook violently her mouth and the lure flew away from her.
It would be fair to say that there and then, even the anglers who didn't had this fish on the line felt disappointed and sorry for Billster.
But as they say, it is called fishing, not catching...

With no more bites coming from there, we drifted a bit down the river, and found another nice eddy, and started to work it with our lure. Nomad made a cast just next to an half submerged mangrove tree, and as soon as his soft plastic hit the river bed, the line went tense. It was a good hit, and the line ran in the water and we called it for a Barramundi. But a Barramundi it was not, it was a rather beautiful Catfish. Which looked more like a koi than a traditional Northern Territory Catfish.

Nomad and his "Koi Catfish".

This was a very beautiful fish, but not what we were after. So we decided to move back to the mouth of the river for a bit of trolling.
Once there, we caught up with the Duff guys:

Duff on a boat!

We rafted up with them for a little while and had a friendly chat. It is good to see that even it the third year of this competition, it is still a very cordial one, where people are more out there to have fun than to be number one.
The light was nice and we went trolling some more...
Keep on trucking as they said...

Afternoon light.

In such a beautiful place, I was bound to get a fish.
And I did!
But it was of the wrong specie, and on the rather small end of the scale...

My only fish of the weekend.

This was a little Catfish, and more importantly it was going to be my one and only fish of the weekend.

The sunset came, and was grandiose.

Grand Sunset on the mouth of the Finniss River.

This is about when the raft up became serious, with some people even trying to get the raft up on the plan... They failed, so I guess that this would be considered as unfinished business and will be attempted again. Who knows?

With the evening we saw our first crocodiles of the weekend.
Or to be more precise, we saw the reflection of their eyes in our head lamps.
We planed to wait for the change of tide in the middle of the night to catch some fish. But it seems that Morpheus had other plan for us, and we fall asleep in no time after dinner. Anchored at the river mouth.
As usual, I woke up early, and started to cast a popper in the dark, one of my favourite form of fishing.

Popping in the morning.

As the day raised, we started to get in line with the other boats and trolled the river mouth.
Nomad got a good hit, and was on, I saw the fish jump and said that it was a Barramundi and a good one. Nomad hadn't seen it jump and wasn't too sure about my call, saying that it might not be a Barramundi.
But it jumped again and this time he saw it but called for a 60, maybe 70 cm. I said it was bigger.
It came to the boat still pretty green, and it took a few try to get it in the net. And I was starting to think that if I was going to miss it with the net one more time, I might be the one ending in the water...
But in the net it went, and on the brag mat. Where it showed that it was 84 cm (33.070866 Inches).
That was a good fish.

Nomad and his Barramundi.

This was a great moment for Nomad, as it was his first Barramundi for the year. And it lifted our spirit, making us think that we were back on the roll...
Well, after that, Nomad caught a very small catfish that was fool hooked, and that was it...
No more fish for the full weekend.

This had been a very hard weekend on the fishing level, but had been great on a social level.
Plenty of laugh, a new place discovered, and an envy to get back in it.

But now where does a doughnut leaves me in the overall score board?
Well, out of the 80 competitors, only 30 registered some fish, this is how though it was.
So With a big zero on the overall score board I am now in position number 37...
It is about time, that I start to perform a bit better...

Obviously, this is not my best year on records...

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

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Top End Barra Series Round 1.

Hi there,

Not long ago was the first round of the 2013 Top End Barra Series, and all the action took place at Shady Camp. For the people who don't know Shady Camp, this is like a big fish supermarket, a destination where people goes to break records, or at least try to catch their first Barramundi over the meter mark.
So let's cut to it straight away, I did not catch a meter Barramundi yet, but 8 of them were caught during the first round of the competition. This shows the potential of the place.

For this round I had found a spot on Nomad's boat, thank you Nomad.
We drove early, to be at the Shady Barrage at the same time than the tide, so we could launch, and launch we did. As we were zooming down the river, we heard a strange noise coming from the outboard at the back, as we worryingly turned around to have a look at it, we immediately understood...
The noise was not coming from the outboard, but from a small chopper that was following us at close quarter.

Straight on our tail.

This was in fact one of the choppers from Helifish, a company that photographed most of the competitors during the first day of the round 1. Personally, I have never used their service yet, but if I was to suddenly become rich, that is certainly one of the thing that I would do.

As we arrived at the mouth of Sampan, we were greeted with the view of about 60 boat already trolling the area. Despit the big number of boats fishing the spot during the whole weekend, everybody seemed in a very good mood and well mannered, which is certainly due to the very relaxed and fun spirited attitude that most competitor show in the Top End Barra Series.
And not long after we started to get in the line and had our lures in the water, that Nomad was on, to a nice sized Threadfin Salmon of 85cm (33.464567 inch).

First Threadfin of the weekend.

Just after getting this fish in the esky, Nomad bumped the brag mat in the drink... 
We had just started fishing in the competition, and we lost our fish measuring device... 
Lucky, he had a spare one tucked in the boat, so we were able to continue.

Yes this was going to be the weekend of the Threadfins. Good mates Seano and Sheeby told me that in the first day they had caught eighteen of them! And many of them over the meter mark...
I had never had a big Thready on the lure yet, and could not wait to hook on one, even if this was a Barramundi competition.

No long after that we saw Rosco, who gifted me a new lure for my little collection.
I am not sure if the lure is a KO Lures, one or not, I will have to ask him the next time that we catch up.
Anyway, Thanks for the lure Rosco, it is a nice one.

We saw Doors Off and Collen both catch a meter Barra. But it had seriously started to slow down for us, and I was starting to wonder if ever I was going to catch a fish...
And also if we were going to be able to dodge the storms that were all around us.

Storm over the mouth of Sampan Creek.

I could see people catching fish all around us, but I could not hook on anything.
We did get a few hit, but couldn't stay connected to any of them...
I had not been able to reel in a single good fish in a long time, and was considering that maybe, I had lost all of my fishing luck, the mojo must have drown...
When I finally got a jolt in the line, and I was on!
Just as we arrived at the end of the troll run, and were about to turn, and my Big B52's in the Guns N Roses had been nailed. At the end of it was fighting a lovely Threadfin Salmon.
I didn't know if I should have been disappointed as this was not a Barramundi, or if I should get excited to get my first Thready on a lure. In the end, a fish is a fish, and I was rather happy with that.
It was just shorter than the one previously caught by Nomad. 84cm (33.070866 inch), but was still so far my first and thus biggest one.

My first ever Threadfin Salmon on a lure.

I was very happy with that, and the spirit shoot back right up.
And we started trolling again.
Then we started to cast at some snag near the creek's mouth, and there we saw another competitor boat a Barramundi.

Get the net ready!

And yes in the background is the early beginning of the round raft up.
The Top End Barra Series raft up have become a bit of a tradition, where a few boat, sometimes over a dozen, raft up together and start to party.
This is generally not conducive to very good fishing, but definitely a very good spot for some great laughs. And a good indicator that there is still a lot of participant in this competition who are there more for the good times than for the prizes.

Then it was the evening, the storms had retired for a little while, and the place become illuminated by one of these end of wet season sunset that makes the Top End a magical place. As most boat were heading to the shelter of the creeks for the night.

Boat heading for the creek.

Fishing in the sunset.

We did the same, went in a nice little creek, dropped the anchor, and had dinner.
We then put some fizzers at the end of our line and started to wait for the tide and the boofs...
But the early start and a fulld day fishing got the best of us, and we just fall asleep...

I woke up at around three in the morning, to the sound of a boof not far from the boat.
In no time I was up, and casting all around.
For nothing else that one boof on my fizzer, and it didn't hookup.

As the day was starting to shine, the rain came with it.
But it did not last long, and as we were then well awake, we started to troll again.
And Nomad, asked me to steer the boat, while he would cast a fizzer at all the fish that we could see surface feeding. Well for the people who know me, steering a boat, is not a thing in which I am highly qualified yet, but at the Barramundi trolling speed, I was able to do it. 
Then we saw more and more of the fish feeding on the surface, so with Nomad at the front on the casting desk, I tried to get as close as I could and put in neutral, still twitching my rod with a lure at the back... And Bang I was on! As I was trolling with the spin outfit instead of the bait caster, we heard the ratchet going on, a sound I always like, at any time of the day. 
As I turned around to look in the direction of my fleeing line, I saw a nice pice of chrome jumping out of the water. It had fully jumped and I was able to see its entire body, there was no doubt, this was a Barramundi, and it was of legal size.
I was now trying to stay as calm as I could, but was worried that the fish would cut the line on the prop of the outboard, but Nomad told me to not worry about it to just worry about the fish and to reel it in. Which I did.
This was no monster fish, but this was my best Barramundi on a spin reel. It went 81cm (31.889764 inch).

Barramundi from the mouth of Sampan.

As you can see in the photo, it was early in the day, and I was still wearing a jacket. You know that you have acclimated to the tropics, when you need a jacket in the morning...
Just there, I told myself that this was going to be a day that I would remember.
And I am sure that I will remember this day, for some peculiar reason...

I then decided to change my fishing rod, and to get back to a bait caster, but to continue to use the same lure that had caught me my Barra, a Big B52's in the Strawberry and Cream colour. This lure was going to hook on something even bigger a bit latter on...

Then it was Nomad turn to hook and boat a fish. It was a nice Blue Salmon.

Nomad's Blue Salmon.

It was still early in the day, when my rod buckled down and I was on again!
Very quickly I knew that this was another Threadfin Salmon, but I also knew that it was bigger than the one I got the previous day.
I was going to upgrade my personal best Thready on a lure, if i could boat this one.
And boated the fish we did.
As the fish was still in the net, Nomad was telling me to be careful, that these fish sometime go mad in the boat, and that we didn't want any problem with the hooks. 
Well you guessed it, not long after he finished to say so, someone got hooked...

It wasn't me, it was him, as he was trying to get the hook out of the fish mouth. He was using a plier, but the fish had suddenly jumped all over the place, and by the scream and expletive coming from Nomad, I knew something was wrong.
One of the treble point was now firmly stuck in one of his finger, way pass the barb.
We had to get the other treble out of the fish, and start to think of what we could do.
Nomad tried to pull it out wit a piece of leader, but it didn't work.
Frenchy from the Tackle Box rafted up to us, and got his first aid kit out. And a little plier that he had for over twenty years, which was absolutely perfect to cut the hook. 
Then Seano and Sheeby rafted up on the other side of the boat and came to give us a hand. Seano tried to pull the hook out with Nomad saying: If you hurt me, I will punch you and send you swimming!
So Seano did what any one would have do in this situation, he took the biggest filleting knife he could find, and said with a big smile, no worries, I will just do a little cut on the top of your finger. 
After sharpening it with a sharpening stone, he put the blade on Nomad's finger and said, ok, at three I will make a little incision, and we will be able to pull that out. He started counting aloud, but It seemed to me, that he used the knife at two and not at three. 
Any way, I don't know if that because he had the knife, but Nomad did not punch him, and Seano was able to pull the remain of the hook out trhought the little cut. 
Frenchy passed on an antiseptic liquid from his first aid kit, and some band aid.
We were ready to roll. 
Ho and what did the fish that was the cause of all of this, looked like?
Here is it:

Nice and fat Threadfin.

So yes, at 86 cm (33.858268 inch) at the fork this was a bigger Salmon that my previous one, but I still think that the biggest thing that my new lure had caught was Nomad...
And we did joke about it later on.

Nomad who till then had caught all of his fish on a Gold Bomber, decided to change lure, and put a small Taipan from Reidy's, grey with red strips. And that was going to prove a if not an unusual lure for Shady Camp, a very successful one.
On the first troll run he hooked on what we though might be a monster, but it was just a nice Catfish. A nice one, but not a giant one.

A nice Catfish.

Being hooked behind the head, it was impossible to turn the fish, and it did give a very good account of himself. We really believed for a moment that Nomad had hooked on a Jewfish. 
So the fish went back in the water, and the lure too.

It didn't take long, and this time it was a monster that took a liking to this little lure. 
It hit and run, at great speed. Just one very fast and long run. I was trying to reel in my own lure as quick as I could and was screaming: Thumbs it he's going to spool you!
And before I even got my lure back to the boat it was all over...
This big fish who took the small lure, had made a long run which ended in a little Ping! and there was no line left on Nomad's reel, he had effectively been spool in no time. 
This one must have been a big Jewfish, or a monster Barramundi. We will never know, but that was fast and strong, and very impressive.

So we went on a long troll so Nomad could get another eeel and rod ready, all the will I was swimming  one of my lures at the back. And fishermen being fishermen, we could not help discussing what the fish that took all of Nomad's line could have been. It was the first time that I saw a reel being spooled under my eyes, and I had some trouble to come to term with the speed at with it happened.
As we were talking about that, Nomad asked me why I hadn't caught another fish yet?
And as I was trying to make some excuse like I was just trying to be nice to him, and not catch a fish just after he lost one... Wham Bam! I was on again.
In very shallow water, and it was heavy as, and I had some problems to reel it in.
No jump, it wasn't a Barramundi, it didn't fight like a Salmon, and wasn't as fast as a Jewfish, what could it be? A big Grouper maybe? 
Well no, it wasn't any of these, it was a small stingray, which after the hook in the finger incident, made me think what will happen now?

So when it was at the boat, Nomad netted it:

Stingray in the net.

As we looked at it wondering what to do now, we realised that her barb was stuck in the net:

Stingray barb in the net.

This made things much easier for us, and I got my lure back.
This was going to be my last fish for the weekend, and all of my fishes had been caught on Big B52's, so I think that this will be my go to lure the next time that I will go to Shady Camp.

After that we trolled a bit more, but started to get worried about the tide, and if there would be enough water to get out at the barrage. So we decided to head back. And it was a wise move, as we arrived in very shallow water, and nearly got stuck on the rock, before being stuck on the mud at the ramp.
Thankfully there were other boats and some friends there, and with every bodies helping every bodies, we were able to get the boat on the trailer. Even if in the process both Nomad and I lost our shoes to the mud of the ramp.

We were then back on the road, destination home, when Nomad said: Have you seen the buffalo?
To which I replied that no, I hadn't, so he mad a u-turn, so I could get a photo of them.
We couldn't find them back and just as I was starting to tease him about him having some water buffalo vision, we saw them:

Water buffalo on the track.

And just then a car with some tourist from down south stopped to have a look at them too...
And they got out of their car and started to walk towards the buffalos. We shouted at them not to do that that they could be very dangerous animals, but they didn't really seemed to trust us, and continued to walk in the buffalo's direction, camera in hand.
Luckily for them, the buffalo ran away.

And then it was the road, with more talks about fishing and the ones that got away, and finally home.

It really was a great weekend, and I was very happy to have been invited on a boat once again, and to have been part of the first round of the 2013 Top End Barra Series.
Thank you Nomad.

Score wise, I ended up in place 22, out of about 80 competitors. I will need to lift up my game in the next rounds if I want to do any good.

Yes, poor old Nomad, in this round, lost a brag mat, got a hook in one of his fingers, got spool by a great fish, and lost his shoes in the mud... A hard weekend by all standards. 

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