Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

As our Australia trip progressed, we crept closer to the equator as we reached Darwin in the northwest corner. Still over 7000 miles from Bozeman, we were less than 700 miles south of the equator. This is a land of heat and extreme humidity, loaded with all manner of game fish offshore and in what seems to be an infinite variety of rivers, estuaries, and billabongs. Amid the CV craziness in the U.S., Australia seemed a bit laid back. Yes, precautions were clearly being taken across the continent, but it didn’t seem to be affecting everyday life in Darwin.

For the first time ever, we booked a trip online through Fishbooker and was not disappointed. Overall the booking experience and communications with the captain was very efficient. We got a bit of validation the day before our trip from a local fishing shop that our captain—Lincoln Kirby—was a good choice. It would be an early start—0530 just outside of Darwin. Once we met our captain, we’d drive well over 100 miles to the northeast to Shady Camp on the Mary River.

Shady Camp is a popular starting point for anglers on the Mary River as it is equipped with two very well constructed and large boat launching ramps. The two ramps allow access to a massive barrage that separates the upstream freshwater section of the river from the downstream tidal section. Other barrages downstream from Shady Camp would play well into my first Barra adventure. With an eight weight rigged up with a 5/0 Pink Thing we headed downstream in the raging waters of the Mary River. The Territory was at the tail end of the wet season and the massive flood plains of the top end were draining into the vast tidal rivers that flowed into the Van Diemen Gulf inside the Timor Sea. The tide was near low ebb and the exposed muddy banks of the river revealed a tide that might rise nine feet over the next four to five hours.

Our first stop as we headed down river was a small barrage protecting a creek from saltwater intrusion. Where the water flowed into the river I missed several fish, most likely small Australian Tarpon. There was a lot of bait in the water and surface commotions were evident everywhere. The fish were there, but they just weren’t that aggressive.

As the day progress we motored 15 miles downriver, stopping to test various creek mouths to see if any barramundi had moved in as the tide began to make its way upstream. Along the way Australian Sea Eagles lined the river along with numerous Saltwater Crocodiles and an endless variety of aquatic birdlife. At the mouth of the Mary on the Timor Sea, the tide pushing in at midday made the river run backwards. Unfortunately we found no fish midday near the mouth and headed back upstream to the barrages. Our guide Lincoln wanted to test a remote barrage that required a bit of unusual navigation. As we turned into the creek mouth, we could see the heavy flow coming off the flooded plains. What I didn’t know at the time is that we’d motor up the creek for well over a mile to reach the barrage. A short clip of the trip up the drain. Once at the barrage the tide was creeping up rapidly and we managed to scare up a few small barra but failed to hook one. Even Lincoln tossing a plastic swimbait couldn’t connect. After a bit of lunch, we headed back to the big barrages near Shady Camp.

We finally started connecting with fish as the tide pushed in against the barrages. My first was on a Pink Thing, but a Gurgler produced just as many explosive strikes. These weren’t big Barramundi, but they were my first. I hooked a nice Australian Tarpon but failed to land it as it threw the hook well into the battle. Lost a few fish to bite offs and bad knots. In fact after several barra landed, flies need retying as the 40lbs tippet showed a lot of fraying. Even the small barra were tough fighters and using the big 5/0 beast hooks was a good choice.

The Mary River proved to be a good introduction to Barramundi fishing even though we didn’t connect with anything of size. Having never been on a river with Sea Eagles and Crocodiles, that alone was good fun. I was pleased that most of my flies held up and the patterns worked.
There’s more to come as we have a least five more days of fishing in the Northern Territory and Victoria.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting adventure Mike. Learning a new watershed is always a fascinating exercise. Your barramundi photo reminds me of how ravenous they are and how much they resemble largemouth bass.

    Those green things are as weird as a thing could be. If I’d tied them I’d have named them “The Grinch.”

    – Mike

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