FISHING With Alex Julius
It was a swishing and swoffing affair at Corroboree Billabong last weekend when 28 anglers in 14 teams vied for the trophies in the annual Territory Freshwater Fly Fishing Open.
According to Darwin Fly Rodders President, Matt Hayne, Saturday the fly fishers chucked a multitude of feathers, fluff and fur while testing their skills waving the wand in search for barramundi, saratoga, tarpon and any other species living in this picturesque waterway.
“A change from previous years for safety saw anglers head to all corners of the ‘bong at 7am first light,” Matt said.
“With the large wet season, the ‘bong was scoured clean of lily pads which made anglers change tactics, finding fish deep up against the front edge of the dead and decaying lily stems.
“Fly colours that worked the best were the brighter yellows, orange and greens.
“Water visibility was poor but the fish were still thick and feeding well.
“Team Foreigners – made up of Keith McGovern all the way from Ireland and US Marine Dan Milbrand –managed their firsts on fly-caught barra, ‘toga and tarpon after DFR members loaded them up with flies and an hour or so of casting lessons,” Matt told me.
“Wind on both days played havoc with the fly lines when it picked up just after lunch.
“Quinton Pope and Glenn Hubble in Team Territory Towel-ups jumped to the lead after the first day with Team Master & Apprentice hot on their heels.
“All competitors returned to Corroboree Park Tavern to enjoy the major sponsor’s XXXX Gold from the supplied keg, while the ladies enjoyed the supplied bottled wine.
“Day two, a half day, started slow for many as they were up late swapping yarns and info.
“The billabong was extra dirty from the previous day’s traffic and the fish seemed a little gun shy.
“Small barra were patchy and in small numbers but the tarpon were thick as. “Working inch-long black calf-tail Clousers tricked over 100 tarpon for Team Togally Barraletic with at times a random ‘toga in the mix.
“Barra and ‘toga fell to larger flies tied with zonker strips or feathers.
“Catfish were found by most teams with the Catfish King awarded to George Vlazny for a fat 49cm catty.
“George walked away with a new pair of Tonic eyewear for his effort,” Matt reported.
Over 1200 fish were landed with Team Territory Towel-ups blitzing the field with 10,596 points.
Team GOFF (Grumpy Old Fly Fishermen), comprised of George Vlazny and Scotty Mitchell came second with 5573 points, narrowly beating third place Team Master & Apprentice (Roger Sinclair and Justin Dwyer).
Quinton Pope was Champion angler with team mate Glenn Hubble runner-up and the Catfish King coming third.
Matt said: “Every angler walked away with a prize and smile and vowed to return for the 28th Annual Darwin Flyrodders Fly Fishing Open held over the May Day long weekend.
Just in case you haven’t noticed, Darwin waters, and in particular the deep blue waters wide of fabulous Dundee Beach, have continued to produce sailfish and also black marlin in astonishing numbers.
According to top Darwin billfish angler, Doug Saunders, it’s been two years now that the fish have been staying all year.
“Normally, once the south-easterlies kick in, they bugger off, but not last year or the year before,” Doug told me.
“Personally, I think the ongoing run of billfish has had a lot to do with the bluewater coming in closer to shore; we didn’t have the big normal south-easterlies and associated dirty water pushing offshore.
“The great Dundee fishing for sails in particular really took off seven years ago. “We raised about 100 fish for a weekend in May leading into the full moon.
“Definitely the Facebook page Darwin Billfish Reports has had a big input by getting people new to it into the right area straight away… lots of people have been sharing info.
“At Darwin Game Fishing Club’s recent Billfish Bash, there were 57 sails and 6 marlin tagged and released between 22 boats over 2 days.
“This was followed by the Allgood Carton Comp when 92 sails and 8 marlin were caught and released,” Doug reported.
“There’ve been a lot of herring bait balls out there – if you find them, the sails aren’t too far away.
“Also, the last two years has seen better-quality sails in the 15-20kg mark compared to much-smaller fish before then,” Doug said.
“I just run skipping gar with a dredge teaser and a squid daisy chain, and always run circle hooks; in the carton comp, we raised 30, hooked 24 and tagged 18, and they were nearly all 10-18kg with one estimated 25kg sail.
“We sometimes bring a fish into the boat to photograph but it’s important to keep it in the water until everything is ready for a quick snap, and then release it quickly to ensure its healthy survival,” Doug explained.
There’s no doubt that Dundee Beach has become a fishing Mecca.
With the Finniss River and nearby creeks producing big numbers of barra, including 100s of metreys, with great offshore fishing for tasty reef fish and hard-fighting Spanish mackerel, with what is shaping up to be a world-class sailfish and marlin fishery, and with a terrific $8 million boat ramp next to Lodge of Dundee to access it all, is it any wonder that an increasing number of Darwin anglers are focussing on this fabulous coastal retreat?
1. Quinton Pope won Champion Angler at the Territory Freshwater Fly Fishing Open, and was also a member of winning Team Towel-ups.
2. Glenn Hubble from Team Towel-ups was Runner-up Champion Angler.
3. Doug and Elle Saunders release a sailfish at the amazing billfish grounds off Dundee Beach.
4. Nate Saunders fished with dad Doug to catch this small marlin in the Allgood Carton Competition off Dundee Beach.