Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Top End Barra Series Round 1

Hi there,

Yes, Last weekend was the start of a new Top End Barra Series.
2015 already promise to be an interesting year for the TEBS as it is affectionally known by many of its participants.

  • It was the first round for 2015.
  • It was at Shady Camp.
  • It wasn't easy fishing.
  • It was still a great weekend.
  • Most of my fish were caught on very small Reidy's soft plastic.
This time, once again I was teamed up with Brett, who had invited me on his boat. 
This was going to be at my advantage, as Brett as a good knowledge of Shady Camp, having fished the place for many years. This year the fishing was going to be very hard, I don't know if it was the wind, the storm, the heat or the lack of a good wet season, but the fish were not there in big number, and were playing hard to get. In these conditions, Brett experience had been critical in my ability to catch some fish.

We Launched the boat, early on Saturday morning, not before having installed our camp on the Shady Camp camping ground. A few people had already setup their tents, but the sheer number of car and trailer on the parking made it clear that we would not be alone on the water. After all, it was a weekend, and also the first round of the 2015 Top End Barra Series, in which about 110 anglers were taking part.
Our plan, was not to go to the mouth of the big rivers to try to catch a record sized Barramundi, but rather to go up the little creeks, and catch a big number of medium sized ones. Well that was our plan anyway... As it turned out, not going to the mouth of the big rivers was a good plan, as most people who went there didn't score the dream fish. Still one competitor boated a 125cm (49.212598 inches) Barramundi, a dream for many Barramundi anglers.
But overall, most people caught a small amount of fish, and from what I heard so far, not that many were big fish. I could be proved wrong once the officials results come out, after all some people prefer to keep their cards close to their chest, when it comes to fishing competition.

So after a few minutes of zooming the big river, we took a sharp turn in a little creek and started to go as high as we could... Only to be blocked by the lack of running water over the creek bed. So we stopped, and waited for the tide to catch up with us, so we could go a bit further up. Every now and then we were able to go up one or two turn of the creek, and would have to wait a bit again for more water to push through. 
I had rarely seen a creek with such a dark water.

Little creek with dark water.

As we were waiting about where this previous photo was made, casting to the little back eddy upstream and downstream of the boat waiting for the water to rise, a guid boat with two customers in it came and stopped just opposite of us. Just a bit more than a fishing rod length between the two boats. 
The guide was one of Brett's mate, so they started chatting.
I continued casting up and down, while the two punters on the guide's boat were listening to the conversation. At one point, my lure came back to me,with a few little weeds on it. So I dangled the lure in the running stream, just between the two boats, to try to clean it. Just as I was doing so, a little Barramundi, came out of nowhere and wolfed down my little soft plastic lure under the surprised eyes of us all!
We did boat the beast, and it measured a grand total of 51cm (20.07874 inches)!

First Barramundi of the weekend.

This was no big fish, but it was just big enough to not only be a point scorer in the Top End Barra Series, thus saving me from a donut. But it also got the two customers on the guide's boat in action and they started to pepper the water with their lures.
This little fish had taken the monkey of my back, I was now a very happy chap, with a little fish.

Eventually the water got high enough for us to get where we wanted to be, at the end of a small billabong, just above the only escape point for the water, and all the bait that swim in it. Hoping that a few nice Barra would have had the same idea, we started to flick our lures towards all the ambush point that we could see. This was a great plan.
But the Barramundi didn't know about it, and just a few very small ones were hanging around.
Brett got a few, while I could not put a hook in any of them.
It was good fun, but no point scorer there.
So we decided to try somewhere else.
Went to another creek that lead us into another even smaller billabong. But with lily pads, tarpons and all, another seemingly very attractive Barra habitat... Well seemingly, because very few were anging around... A sense of deja vus started to float in the air, Brett was catching little rats Barra, and I was getting nothing. 
Then I got a strike, and started to reel a little fish!
Alas, not of the right specie.

Little Catfish on the Zman soft plastic lure.

This was a small one, and it was quickly release, without any needs to get it in the boat.
Then I changed my lure, for a small Reidy's soft plastic.
And finally I got a little Barra too. Very small, but a fish is a fish!

Selfie with a Barramundi.

I was actually impressed by the dark colour of these fish. All the Barramundi that I had caught before were either full chrome with a yellow tail, or just a bit toned down, but these ones were really dark, with a black tail. Even Barramundi that I had caught in billabong were cleaner than these. These little fish had obviously spent more time in fresh water than in salt water.
Not having much luck with the big Barramundi in this spot, we decided to move a bit further away, in another creek. On our arrival we saw a big Jabiru standing guard at a turn in the stream.

Can you spot the Jabiru?

Here it is.

I like the Jabiru, because they remind me of the storks I used to see overseas as a kid. In fact Jabiru and stork are birds of the same family, as this article on Wikipedia explains.
Still not finding any fish there, we returned to the first spot of the day, and this would be the story of the weekend. Going from one spot to another to try to find the fish. Sometime without success, and sometimes with success.
This time it was rewarded with success as Brett finally caught a point scorer:

Brett and his point scorer.

His Barramundi was measuring 51cm (20.07874 inches), exactly the same as mine!
What were the chances of a coincidence like this one?
Now we both had a fish and both were on the board, no more monkey on anyone's back.
Brett then went on catching a few fish in a row, but being too small for being point scorer, he kept releasing then faster than I could photograph them.

Brett quickly release a juvenile Barramundi.

The place was beautiful, and here too the water was very dark, nearly black.

Little creek and flood plain.

The decor was great, but the action rather poor, so we decided to go where we had caught a few fish last year. This from my point of view was going to be a very good move, as I was to catch there in a few minutes, my two biggest Barramundi of the weekend. Now when I say the two biggest, don't wait for some monster fish, but they were going to help me to just raise in the first quarter of the score board.

I first got my biggest fish of the weekend:

My best Barra of the weekend.

At 65cm (25.590551 inches), it was big enough to revive my spirit and hope, that all was not lost.
I caught this one on the left hand side of the creek, upstream from the boat. We could hear and see, small to medium sized Barramundi boofing around the boat. Some too far away to cast to, but some of them were well inside of casting distance. We could also see plenty of very nervous bait in this creek, and it should have gone like crazy, but it was still a bit slow. I was starting to wonder if this was due to the weather, as it was very hot. Even at the end of the afternoon, and we could feel a storm brewing. After a few cast in the same spot of  where I had just caught a fish, but with no more results. I decided to cast on the right hand side of the creek, thinking that the fish may have moved to the other bank.
I flicked my lure, the closest I could from the bank, really trying to hug the edge of the water, as this is where we could usually see the boofs. I reeled in very slow my little soft plastic, and a bit of a tap on the line, quickly followed by a bent rod made me realised that I was on again.
This one gave a much better fight that its predecessor, and I was expecting a better fish to come to the surface.
Only once it was boated and on the brag mat we could see, that in fact it was actually one centimetre shorter than the one I had boated just before.

Barramundi before the storm.

This one was just 64cm (25.19685 inches), but was proof that Barra were to be found in these waters.
We were starting to accuse the fatigue of the day, and the storm was practically upon us.
No matter how beautiful this looked like, we decided that it would be safer to zoom to the ramp, and head to camp.

The storm arriving on the flood plain.

Just as we arrived at our camping ground, we could see that the storm was truly on; just where we had been fishing just a few minutes ago.
I wanted to take a photo of it and I did...

Northern Territory storm.

Just after I made this photograph, as I was trying to get a second and better one, thunder cracked over my head, and lightning fell about one hundred meters in from of me. The sound made all my bones crush on themselves, and the light made me jump back. I turned around to see Brett quickly getting in the car and shouting at me to do the same. So we both sat there a few minutes, just to make sure that lightning was not falling on us, and laughing at what had just happened.
And decided to start cooking our evening meal.
With the rain half falling on us and lightning all around we decided that the best was to be as fast as possible, and went for the bacon and eggs.

Quick dinner.

Once in a sandwich, it went done rather well, and made us more hungry. So we then put two steak in the frypan, and had steak with potatoes salad.
By then we started to fell full and tired. Wondering if we should go for a bout of night fishing, and try to get ourselves a few good fish. But with lightning falling all around us, we decided that using graphite rods in these condition was tempting chance a bit too much, and opted for an early night.

All night, the lightning fall all around us. I kept waking up and seeing flash of lights lightened the inside of my small tent. In fact the storm wrecked my tent, as the two poles that are supposed to support it, broke during the night, and in the  morning the tent was a write off.

Two broken tent poles.

Yet the morning arrived, and wildlife was there to great us:

Kite on a Pandanus in the morning.

On one side the sunrise was beautiful:

Sunrise at Shady Camp.

But if you looked the opposite way, it was still very much overcast.
In fact as we launched the boat and started on the river, we saw a few boats who had passed the night at the mouth of Sampan creek, heading back towards the ramp. Some of them still wearing raincoat and looking haggard. 

Overcast morning on the river.

We tried a few places, without much success.
Then Brett showed me a place that he used to fish many  moons ago, and said that we could get a good surprise by casting to the snag against the bank. As he had has some good fish there in the past.
As we started to flick Rossco, one of the main organiser of the Top End Barra Series came to pass us on the water, and stopped for a chat.
We could hear and even see some boof, showing us that indeed there was some Barramundi in the vicinity. But we could not catch any...

Rossco, one of the man behind the TEBS.

We were having a few flick, a bit of a chat, then a few more cast, and chat again.
At one stage as I was flicking my little lure towards the snag, and listening to the conversation at the same time, a sharp jerk in my line reminded me without any question why we were there.
Line peeled a bit, the fish went down, then jumped, yes it was a Barramundi!
tIt then swam towards the boat, went under the boat, and because I was not very focused, my line started to dangerously rub on the propeller of the outboard. I had to put more than half of my fishing rod underwater to get rid of this sticky situation and finally get my rod on the same side of the boat as the fish was.
Brett did a good job at netting it, and I had my fourth point scorer of the weekend.

My fourth point scorer of the weekend.

This Barramundi came in at 63cm (24.80315 inches), and was going to be the last one of the weekend to give me a few points in the competition.
After catching this fish, the three of us really started to believe that we could do it, and our lures started to drop in the water all around the nearby snags. Alas, no other fish came from this spot.
We moved a bit further away, tried to troll, and flicking again. For nothing much really.
We moved back at the top of the little creek where Brett had got his Barra the previous day.
There I got another one, but a very small one:

Little fish selfie.

This baby one was release as quick as I could after just a quick selfie.
There we even tried some surface lure, popper and fizzer, and got some good hits on them. But once again, the fish didn't stay connected.
At one point I saw some bird footprints in the mud, and started to wonder what it would be like to be a water bird, on a river full of crocodile?

Bir's footprints on the muddy bank.

But it was starting to be early afternoon, we still had to pack up the camp, and drive all the way back to Darwin, so we took the decision to call it a day, and head home.

Thank you Brett for inviting me on your boat for the weekend, I had a great time.

The plan to try to find fish at the top in the little creeks, proved to be good, even if we didn't get as many as we expected. Out of about 110 participant, about 50 came back without catching any fish. So I personally see our weekend as a successful one. We had some good laughs, we had good food, and a few fish. What else does one really needs?

Yes, maybe if my tent had not been partially destroyed...

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

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