Not long ago the fifth round of the 2013 Top End Barra Series took place on the very picturesque Corroboree Billabong, not very far from Darwin.
Nomad was not sure if his boat would be fixed in time for the round, so I was very lucky to be offered a spot on Peter's boat.
It was still dark when Muntzy picked me up, and on the road to the billabong we went, To catch up with Peter and Dingo at the boat ramp, picking up Dean on the way.
Last year round at Corroboree, had been an absolute fishing failure for me.
With just a minuscule Catfish caught in two days of very heavy fishing. I had not hooked a single Barramundi, and had been hit by countless Saratoga, but could not stay connected to a single one of them. For a full year, I had been waiting, to take my revenge... And more than anything else, I wanted to catch a few Saratoga, and if possible a good one.
Well, yes, for me during this round, it was going to be the year of the Saratoga.
Arrived at the ramp, before we launched the boats, in the morning light, Dingo gave me the Tonic Sunglasses that I had won for a photograph that I had made in the previous round.
The sunglasses, were going to prove themselves to be very helpful during the weekend.
They are great, simply the best fishing sunglasses I ever had.
We went straight to the Rock Hole, to do a bit of trolling first thing.
The Rock Hole in the morning.
I love the place, it is beautiful, with always a lot of wildlife to look at.
Other competitors were doing the same thing:
Trolling along the Pandanus.
Trolling a hard body lure along the pandanus, is a great way to get into some good Barramundi.
The technic worked fort the boat in the above photograph, as it caught the biggest Barramundi of the weekend.
It even worked for us, but not on the Barramundi front...
Peter and the first fish of the weekend for our boat.
In no time Peter got a hit and we got excited... He reeled in a little Catfish, yes, there is a lot of them in the waters of the billabong. But a fish is a fish, and we, or at least I was very happy, as I believed that this was proof that we were onto a fishy patch.
Well it would be a bit of time before the next fish.
Between the first one and the second one, we were lucky enough to spot a rather large buffalo, having a bit of a bath at the water edge.
Water Buffalo having a chill out time.
And not long after, Peter got a Tarpon:
Peter's first Tarpon.
This was Peter first ever Tarpon, and it is alway very satisfying to catch a new specie.
The mood was on the happy side of things.
Then, one more time, it was going to be a few hours before we get some fish on boards again.
To the extant, that we had a mini raft up with three or four other boats, chatting away, talking fishing and general fisher people's banter. All the while most of us were flicking lures towards the bank. Many of my friends, got hit by fishes, but none of them boated a fish on this occasion. I was the only one, to not get a single hit, this seemed very wrong to me. Most of them had already earlier in the day, caught either a Saratoga, a Barramundi or any other fishes that live in these landlocked waters.
But not me, I was yet to get a single hit, and was starting to question my choice of lure.
After spending so long thinking of a technic that would help me to have a better hookup rate than last year, I decided to stick to it a bit longer.
That may have been my wisest move of the weekend.
As the raft up disintegrated itself, with everyone going in opposite directions, to get on with the business of catching some fish. Just our boat and Nomad's boat, which had been fixed just in time to enter the round, were still tied together, and as we drifted to the other side of the billabong. Peter, Nomad and I exchanging jokes about anything and everything, with me being the only one still casting my fishing lure around.
This is when I got my first Barramundi of the weekend, while I was targeting the mighty Saratoga:
My first Barramundi of the weekend.
They both said that it was rude of me, to catch a fish while we were having a deep and meaningful conversation... Of course I did not share their point of view...
The fish was 61cm (24.015748 inches), not really a giant, but it was one of the mystery sizes of the event. So it won me a prize!
Seeing that I had caught a fish, both Nomad and Peter started to fish too, and Nomad got a Saratoga!
This was a nice fish, and made us think that it was time to take things a bit more seriously, so we untied the boats and fished in earnest.
I got another hit, I hooked up and I then reeled in a new personal best for me. But it was not a Barramundi or a Saratoga. No, it was the biggest Archerfish I had ever caught.
A rather nice Archerfish.
I don't know if it was pure greed, or territorial or familial protection that pushed this fish to hit my lure, but seeing the size of the lure, compared to the size of the fish, I was in admiration for it's determination.
After three fishes had been caught in the same area, we though that we were on the right spot at the right time, and decided to work it a bit longer. This resulted in a fish that made me very happy, my first Saratoga of the weekend.
My first Saratoga of the weekend.
Yes it was a Barramundi competition, but I really wanted a Saratoga. And in fact, there was also prizes for the best Saratoga of the round. Secretly, I hoped to get one of the top three Saratoga of the event.
The first one was a good one, but I thought that I needed better for that.
So I persevered, and got a second one! Albeit a bit smaller.
A smaller Saratoga.
This one was smaller, but started to make me think that I might be able to catch another one, that would hopefully be better. Still casting in the lilies, I got a hit, it connected and it pulled stronger. Was this the big Saratoga that I was pinning for? It jumped out of the water, and I could see that it wasn't, yet it was exciting nonetheless: it was a Barra!
A little Corroboree Billabong Barramundi.
At only 48cm (18.897638 inches), it was 2cm short to be a point scorer... I felt a bit like sitting on it, to see if that would make it longer, but instead, released it to grow a bit more for the next time.
This was fun fishing, getting the fish out of the lilies, on a soft plastic lure. I am more of a hard bodies lures type of guy. But flicking a lure among the lilies and Pandanus roots, I felt a lot more comfortable with a weedless soft plastic lure.
By then it was late in the afternoon, nearly evening and we decided to catch up with other people participating in the round, to see where the night raft up would be. With the time that it took us to find them, and to join the ones who had already started to raft up, it was night time.
Food was eaten, tales were told, and the party started.
All I will say, is that some loud music was played, and some multi-coloured disco lights were seen.
it must have been past midnight by the time I fell asleep. And the music was still going strong, lucky, there is not too many neighbours on the water...
It was a good raft-up, with enough boats to keep it alive.
Some coming and leaving as the night progressed.
But soon enough, it was morning, and the call for action sent some very tired fisherman, in search of their prey.
The morning on the billabong is always a sight to admire.
View from the boats before the rising sun.
DUO pocopoco and sunrise over Corroboree Billabong.
With its matinal warmth, the sun finally came up, before grilling us for the rest of the day.
Quickly, I rigged my line, with the same lure that had worked on the previous day, a weedless Gulp soft plastic.
Weedless Gulp soft plastic.
Not only I usually prefer to fish with hard bodies than soft plastics, but to top it up, the Gulp really stinks. From all the soft plastic that I have ever used, they are certainly the ones with the worst smell. Yet one of the main reason I wanted to used them, is that they are biodegradable. Having read about the destructive power of the Saratoga bony mouths, I thought that if they were to destroy my lures these ones would left less, if none pollution in the billabong water.
As a bonus, they proved to be very effective, for me on this occasion.
On the Sunday morning, we started to troll, on the edge of the water lilies. I could not resist and stepped on the cast deck at the front of the boat, and began to flick again, straight in the lilies and other snags.
While I had a rod trolling a hard body at the back of the boat.
As my trolling lure from the Saturday had not produced any results, I changed and put a little lure that had been offered to me by Peter Z.
And it worked I got a fish! it is just that, it was another Catfish...
Catfish on the Tilsan.
This was going to be the only fish I caught on a hard body and on the troll for the full weekend. All my other fish had been caught on a soft plastic, casting towards the Pandanus roots or in the lilies.
It was definitively exciting fishing.
And yes the Saratoga were on again:
I love fishing for Saratoga.
We saw a few very large crocodiles during the weekend, and tried to alway be on the lookout for them.
One of them swam past not very far from the boat, but by the time I got my camera ready it was well past us.
Corroboree Billabong crocodile.
Then I got one of these little fish that I really like.
A Mouth Almighty, this is a rather small fish, but with great character.
It is a mouth brooder, the male keep the eggs in it mouth to protect them.
When Barramundi are very young and small, it is one of their worst nightmare, but as soon as the Barramundi become bigger, the roles changes, and Mr Barra then feast on the poor little Mouth Almighty.
And here is mine:
Mouth Almighty or Glossamia aprion.
Despite their small size, they are considered a very good table fish. But I let him go, he was a nice little fella.
Peter, had decided that he didn't want to fish anymore, and was very happy to just steer the boat around, driving me to the best spot, so I could fish, enjoy the moment, and hopefully get to upgrade my fish from Saturday to a better one. This was very kind of him, and I asked him a few time if he wanted us to go back to Darwin. To which he alway replied that no, he was having a great time too, just sailing the billabong. It is true that it is a very beautiful place.
Then I got another Saratoga:
And I finally caught a better Saratoga, which I was hoping would get me in the top three biggest Saratoga of the weekend:
My biggest Saratoga so far.
This was my personal best Saratoga, at 72cm (28.346457 inches).
I know that they can grow much bigger, but this one was in fact going to be big enough to be the biggest of the round! It won me a prize too, this was two prizes for the round. It was a long time that I had won a prize for catching a fish, so two in the same weekend made me more than happy.
And also the fact that I finally had a revenge on the Saratoga that had proven so elusive to me last year.
I was indeed, very happy.
As a little extra, I then managed to catch a little Sleepy Cod:
Sleepy Cod from the Billabong.
This is another excellent eating fish, but I let it go too.
It made me happy that between Peter and I we had caught such a mixed bag of fishes. It shows that the system is very healthy, with a wide variety of fish living in it.
But by then, it was nearly mid afternoon, so we decided to catch up with other participants, for a little chat, and see what they had caught. We saw Moz, who had caught all his fish of the weekend, with his home made fishing lures. This was a great effort, and demonstrated the quality of his work.
We then left them fishing and headed for the ramp, then the road towards home.
On the road again.
This in my books, will stay as a great weekend.
Thank you Peter, for the invitation to fish from your boat, I had a ball!
Even if, yes I know, I have done the rude thing of out fishing my skipper...
But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,