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,