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,

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