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  Gone Fishing  Stories

Barramundi BigTime

Departure from Adelaide

6th April, 1999
The day had finally arrived where a lifetime of dreaming was about to become reality - we were off to the Northern Territory to fish !

The hardest part about going off somewhere is the fact you always leave some one you care about behind. Chinook being the strapping, unattached, young man that he is, was dropped of by his father. Coho had the pleasure and company of his wife Carolyn, where as I ended up having a family entourage to see me off. This included my wife, son, and both in-laws. Luckily, the family dog stayed home.

The plane to Darwin was your base model Boeing 737-300. I'm sure that when the engineers designed these planes, they used African pigmies as templates for passengers. With Chinook at 6'6", Coho at 5'10" and yours truly at 6'1", we felt like a pack of sardines in a tin can.

The food served on the plane was your standard, adulterated hospital cuisine. I really wasn't interested in the in-flight movie, and as most of the flight attendants were male, and being 100% hetro, perving was out. Considering I had a lousy night's sleep and had been up since 4.30am, I ended up taking a nap. Chinook recons I even snore sitting up !

The best part of any long flight is the descent. It usually means that you will be landing in about 40 minutes. Some 3 hours 40 minutes later, around 12.30pm, we landed in Darwin Airport. We only had about 4 hours in Darwin till our connecting flight to McArthur River Mine, and we needed to get to Darwin City Center to buy some lures. The taxi rank was full of people, but no taxis. So we ended up hiring a car.

The famously renown Darwin weather hit us as soon as we left the comforts of the air conditioned airport terminal - the air was extremely thick, moist and humid. We expected it, but couldn't fully comprehend its effects and impact until we had actually felt it ourselves. Hats and sunscreen were definitely the order of the day, and we were hopeful that it wouldn't take too long to acclimatise ourselves to the tropics.

Darwin is practically brand new. Since 1974 when it was levelled by Cyclone Tracey, it has been remodelled as a tropical capital, with wide tree-lined streets, public buildings and hectares of landscaped parkland. It cultivates a relaxed outdoor lifestyle and has a current population of around 97,750 people.

There are some 3 or 4 tackle stores within the CBD (Central Business District) of Darwin, but we chose the first one we came to, Fishing & Outdoor World, on Cavenagh Street. It turned out to be well equipped and it had a fairly comprehensive range of lures to choose from. We spent about $140 each on lures, concentrating on colour schemes like Blue Mackerel, Elton John lures (bright pink, green, yellow and blue), Gold, Red/White and Black/Light Grey. We made sure that the ratio of deep diving lures as opposed to shallow lures was about 1:1. Several poppers were also purchased. When trolled, poppers sit about a metre below the water, and also break the surface, simulating a small bait fish in distress.

There were mainly three brands of lures that we purchased. In order of cost, from most to least, they were the Rapala, Nautilus and The Producers. Everyone knows Rapala lures, as they a synonymous with RMG Scorpion, and even though the lures themselves are superbly crafted, you do pay for it. Nautilus locally produce a lure called a Mack Magnet, local being Darwin, and are quite reasonably priced. The Producers make a lure called a Barramundi Mauler, and these lures were the cheapest of the lot. One drawback with The Producers, is the split ring that holds the treble hook to the lure is only crossed over once, making the ring the weakest point in the lure. Its highly recommended, that when purchasing a Producers lure, that you replace the split ring with a more robust version.

The staff at Fishing & Outdoor World were extremely helpful and knowledgeable in the use of lures, which lures worked best under specific weather, water and light conditions. I am glad to see that the art of haggling is still accepted, as they also gave us 15% discount for our purchase. The price of lures in Darwin are about 20% cheaper as compared to those in Adelaide. As far as the lure count goes, Chinook had 19, Coho had 15 and I had 12 lures.

Our flight to McArthur River Mine (MRM) departed Darwin at 4.15pm, flying National Jet Systems in a De Havilland Dash 8 Turbo Prop. The flight, with a cruising altitude of 23,000ft was surprisingly comfortable and smooth, with an occasional bank to the left or right to miss the odd rain cloud or two.

The flight also gave us an opportunity to view some of the Northern Territory's river systems, as well as trying to envisage how many Barra were down there waiting for us to hook onto.

We arrived at MRM at 6.00pm, and were met by Mark Hanlon, the manager and owner of Paradice Fishing Tours. When meeting some one for the first time, initial impressions play a part in how you judge a person. Mark's offering of a cold VB beer to each of us was definitely a true welcoming gift. One thing we did learn in the Northern Territory, is that you need to drink your beer quick, as it becomes warm in the tropical heat very quickly.

It was about an hour's travel from MRM to Borroloola, where we were to spend the night. The hotel we stayed in was called the HR Development Resort, a Bessa-bricked establishment, which offered the comforts of a TV, shower facilities and refrigerated air conditioning in each bedroom.

The town of Borroloola, or as the locals affectionately call it the "Loo", with a population of about 550, is approximately 80 kilometres from the mouth of the McArthur River, some 50 kilometres from King Ash Bay, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Borroloola is a town still being rebuilt following the ravages of Cyclone Kathy in 1984, which was more intense than Cyclone Tracy which destroyed Darwin in 1974. This cyclone was followed exactly one year later by Cyclone Sandy. As well as restoration of existing buildings, a completely new town is under construction comprising modern brick homes and a network of roads and essential services. Borroloola is a very popular fishing spot, well known for the offshore Sir Edward Pellew Islands, our primary destination.

You might want to review some local and historical information on Borroloola here or here.

After a cool shower, we had tea that night at the Borroloola Pub. Considering this was the last chance we were to have in consuming any kind of red meat, we all ended up ordering a beef snitzel with salad. I must say that they serve the most tender, juiciest, thickest and biggest beef snitzel I have ever had. The preferred beer up in the Northern Territory is VB, but we opted initially for Crown Larger, followed by Glen Fiddich scotch chasers - expensive, but we were all on a high and drunk with expectations of fishing.

Late into the evening, we met up with the local bouncer who went by the name of "Ant". Ant was of half Irish/half Maori descent, and had majored at University in Political Science. This guy was no ordinary bouncer, but an intelligent one. His solid 6'4" frame was by all means imposing, until Chinook got off his stool and dented Ant's ego by coming in at 6'6". They even compared the length and thicknesses of their social fingers, but I wont go into that !! Mind you, Chinook won that one as well !!

By midnight, we were all ticking over with joviality, and Ant invited us over to his place for a spot of Rum. I ended up having just one drink and hit the sack around 12.30am. Coho and Chinook partied on till 3.00am. Infact, the session finished when Chinook drank Ant under the table, something Ant was not likely to forget for a long time.

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