|Last year, for my 40th Birthday, a group of friends got together and treated me to a long time wish...to fish for Barramundi in Kakadu.
A three day, mothership safari, whereby you stay on the water and shoot out each day to various locations in high speed aluminium dinghies, was my reward for having survived 40 years.
This story relates to just how unexpected things can happen when it comes to fishing. How we can spend so much time trying to fool the buggars and it's more about just getting the lure in front of them at the right time.
We were fishing the tidal Wildman River about 20 kilometres upstream. It was a hot and humid day in April and the run-off was in full swing.
The run-off is the time of year that all the rain that has flooded the wetlands over the wet begins to return to the main river system. It's pretty simple really. All the rivers enjoy this influx of all this fresh water, which of course, carries an abundance of food for the hungry. Frogs, small mullet and baitfish, grubs, insects etc wash out of the floodplains and into the remaining rivers. Some of the biggest barramundi in the NT are caught at this time of year
The flow can be very high at times too and this run-off was one of the best on record.
We were fishing a small tributary funnelling into the Wildman River at a fork. It was only about 20 metres wide. The water was brackish and a little brown with visibility of only about 6-12 inches below the surface.
We had tied up to a shady tree for lunch and then to fish.
The aim was to cast across the river as close to the snags and overhangs on the other side. The hope that a big barra was waiting in ambush was high. Apart from the heat, mozzies and flies, it seemed like a perfect spot.
Andrew Ettingshausen was just 50 metres away filming one of his specials.
The first couple of casts were more for practice...to get your aim and distance sorted out...then right in close to a big snag it landed.
BANG, or should I say BOOF.
No sooner had the lure hit the surface, the head of a big barra shot from the water and, with the lure inside it's huge bucket mouth, looked at us in surprise before smashing back under the surface.
Sadly, before the fight had really begun, the line had been broken and the big girl's efforts had been rewarded with her freedom.
As I retrieved what was left of my line, our guide selected a replacement lure.
Before we had a chance to reload, on the other side of the river, my lure popped to the surface. It had been thrown by the barra after the line had broken.
Keen to get the lure back, we untied the boat and dashed quickly to the other side. The river was flowing quite quickly so we needed to get over there fast before it could disappear just out of reach into a tangled maze of tree branches, grass and snags.
By the time we arrived, it was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to grab the lure itself but could only hope to somehow lift the trailing line to the surface and thereby retrieve the lure.
Remembering too that we were in a crocodile infested waterway, no hands were going anywhere near the surface of the water either.
A couple of our group started the push their rods under the water. They had their lures wound close to the rod tips with the hope of getting lucky and hooking to loose line.
With three guys leaning over the side of the boat working frantically to get a result, suddenly the water boiled, bubbled and splashed at the bow. In a display of sheer horror words, not able to be printed here, were shouted by all as a huge splash wet all three.
At first the cries were for "crocodile!" The free-board was only about 2.5 feet on this boat, and we'd already seen the jumping crocodiles at Adelaide River!
Horror was then replaced with excitement as one of the guys realised that a barra had boofed his lure, with only six inches of line at the tip, as he'd attempted to hook the lost lure.
Our guide reversed the boat away from the snags, which were only about 6 feet away now, and into the centre of the river to allow Dave to tackle with this very hungry barra.
Good drag setting, rod and boat technique saw a healthy, and obviously not fussy, 90cm barra landed within a few minutes. We don't think it was the same barra that originally threw the lure, but we didn't care either.
It took me at least 10 minutes to stop laughing out loud and another 10 minutes for my heart rate to get back to normal.
A story that I will enjoy telling my grand kids in years to come.