Last week, I was on a bit of an assignment, covering a day’s heli-fishing with the company called that very name: Helifish. It involved quite a few anglers, travelling south-west from Darwin in not one, not two, but three helicopters. As we crossed over the Daly River mouth and flew past the red cliffs of Anson Bay, I was reminded of that great Vietnam War movie, Apocalypse Now, which has an unforgettable scene depicting US choppers roaring down the coast to assault a North Vietnamese-controlled village. The only thing missing was Richard Wagner’s opera piece, The Ride of the Valkyries, which was played on helicopter-mounted loudspeakers during the assault as psychological warfare and to motivate the troops. If there’s one kind of fishing you can never get tired of, it’s heli-fishing, and this trip was a hell of a rush with the doors off while I took photos. One thing about hanging out of a chopper taking photos is that it sure gives your camera lens a good clean. Our first landing was on a white, sandy beach, and from there we trekked a couple of hundred metres to a small mangrove creek. The Helifish team certainly make it easy for you: three strong young pilots soon had all the gear at the creek, plus cooler bags of cold water and drinks. And they knew exactly where we should fish along the creek banks, pointing out holes and snaggy spots. The spring tide was about half way out, and it didn’t take long before we started pulling barra, all glistening silver fish – as you would expect – and mostly a fair size at more than 60cm. All were released, although Helifish will let you take a barra home for a feed. Before lunch, we choppered to another creek which was a classic lock-in situation as the mouth had closed completely with the low tide, leaving a deepish stretch of creek up inside. This too produced barra on both soft plastics and hard-body lures, mainly Bombers. In the spirit of Crocwise, the pilots kept a constant vigilance, although we never saw any crocs in the creeks, and all fish released went into shallow water that no croc could hide in. Little folding chairs and lunch in the shade of overhanging mangroves on the sand was even more pleasant thanks to a cooling sea breeze. I was especially surprised at the lack of sandflies, and perhaps the breeze had something to do with that. Our final fishing spot was a rocky ledge which I had fished before, both from a boat and on a previous Helifish trip a few years ago. On those occasions, there were some solid barra landed, but the incoming tide and onshore wind on the day meant dirty, choppy water and no action. All up, we caught at least a dozen barra, which wasn’t too bad, but I know that some trips produce many more than that, and often a metery or three for lucky punters. As you can imagine, there was a fair bit of Million Dollar Fish banter on the day, especially as Helifish is offering dollar for dollar to anyone who catches a 10K red-tagged barra on one of its trips… but it was not to be. The main thing about a trip like this is that it is not just about the fishing – which is usually pretty good anyway – but also about the adventure: the adrenalin rush from soaring over beautiful country and landing in remote locations. Two of our group had never been in a chopper before and at no time during the day could you wipe the smile off their faces. PHOTOS:
1. Crystal Neal (left) and Layla Innes with a brace of silver barra from a great Helifish trip.
2. The Helifish choppers descend on coastal creeks to start the day’s fishing.
3. The new Gillies Soft Mullet plastic lure accounted for this barra.
4. The green Bomber seems to produce on barra water no matter where you fish.