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September 30, 2013

Fishing for Barramundi in Australia's Northern Territory

Searching for barramundi in Australia's Northern Territory provides an invaluable lesson.

With a fly rod in hand, excitement and adventure can strike any time, any place and without warning. However, when anglers travel to exotic destinations, expectations of these two experiences increase drastically. All too often, however, anglers fall victim to the mentality that the more hours it takes to get somewhere, the better the fishing will be. In many remote and therefore unpressured locations, this can certainly be the case. But in reality, Mother Nature can’t be sympathetic to every traveling angler’s schedule. What does this mean? It means that even world-class fisheries undergo slow periods from time to time.

When I booked a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory, arguably the best barramundi fishery in the world, the words slow fishing were as foreign to me as the country itself. I was absolutely certain I would return with a trophy fish to my name — I was right.

Inevitably, all fly-fishing quests start when the preparation begins, and for me, the first step of prep is hiring myself at my very own fly-tying sweatshop. For the Northern Territory, I was intimidated — I’d never been to Australia, let alone fished for barramundi. However, everything I’ve gathered over the years about this fish told me to treat them like snook, a species I’m quite familiar with. For weeks, I cranked out various baitfish patterns in different sizes and colors and felt as though I was good to go. That is until I searched Northern Territory barramundi on YouTube. When I did, it became clear that I wasn’t thinking big enough. I was undergunned, and once again, the tying frenzy ensued right up to the day before departure. It was then I realized I had a problem — I had way too much stuff. Why I was surprised, I don’t know — this conundrum happens every time I get on a plane to fish anywhere. And, just like on every other excursion, I crammed, crammed and crammed some more until it was all in.

Up and Away
The wheels of this trip started rolling sometime in November 2012, and a departure date for late March was set. It was also arranged for Chris Woodward of Sport Fishing magazine to join me. It had been many years since she and I had shared a boat, and I looked forward to it. In addition, I knew Chris would be throwing plugs, and selfishly I thought a fly-versus-plug unspoken competition would make a nice angle for a story.

Chris and I exchanged greetings in Dallas and boarded the nonstop flight to Brisbane. Finally, all that separated me from the land of giant barramundi was an 18-hour flight to Brisbane followed by a four-hour hop to Darwin in the Northern Territory. I was so close yet so far away, but even still, I could practically feel line burns developing on my fingers.