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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.

Trophy at Last
The next morning, I awoke with a different attitude. The sense of desperation I’d felt increased each and every morning, but this one was different. I gave in and thought, I’m just going to do my thing, fish with my new friend John Cooper and enjoy where I am.

For our final day, Cooper told us our tactic was going to be to cast flies into little drainages. All morning and afternoon I did this. While I got hung up many times, I did have moments of triumph and managed to tuck casts into the mangroves deeper than I’d ever thought I could. Cooper was beside himself. He wanted me to get a fish in the worst kind of way. Over the last three days, the three of us had fished hard through pouring rain and hours upon hours of nothing.

As the sun dropped on that final day, Cooper said, “We can fish one last drainage but then we’ve got to get back to the lodge; this storm is going to be bad.” As I walked to the bow, Cooper said, “Before we get there, tie this on.” Cooper handed me a basic chartreuse-and-white Clouser Minnow. I figured, OK, why not? I’d spent weeks tying elaborate baitfish patterns in different sizes and colors and was rewarded with nothing, so let’s try the old standby. I made one cast that was slightly off the mark and stripped it back in. Cooper said, “OK, mate, we’ve got about five more minutes and then we’ve got to get out of here.” I picked up and cast with abandon, caring nothing about a tangle or a snag; this was literally going to be my final cast of the trip. As I shot the line, the only thing on my mind was getting that rusty-hooked Clouser as deep in the drainage as possible. It felt good and looked good, and by a frog hair, the loop slid beneath the overhanging tree and landed so deep I couldn’t see the plop from the dumbbell eyes. Before I stripped, I just knew — this was it. Pop! I strip-set and the fish came to the air. Cooper began screaming as though I had hooked a world record. I was simply in disbelief. I had finally hooked my trophy barramundi — all the generous 1 pound of him. Cooper gingerly netted the baby barra as though it were the meter length all Aussie barra nuts crave. As soon as the net surrounded him, the three of us celebrated accomplishing the impossible. Cooper hugged me and said, “Mate, that’s the smallest barramundi I’ll never forget.”
A poetic end to an absolutely amazing trip.

My first day back in the office after returning from Australia, an email from Cooper greeted me that read, in short, You should be here now; fishing turned on big-time as soon as you left.

Hard to believe as it may be — even knowing that I missed epic fishing by a matter of days — I wouldn’t change a thing about the outcome of my first trip Down Under. That one small fish is one that will never get mixed up or lost in my mind. I’ll remember everything about it. That small fish keeps me grounded and will always help me to remember and appreciate what a good trip truly is. That tiny barramundi is a testament that success in fly-fishing should never be measured in inches or pounds — it should be measured by the way you feel about the experience as a whole 20 years later. 

Make It Happen
Ben Currell
Vision Sportfishing
visionsportfishing.com

Grant Gilmour
Airborne Solutions
airbornesolutions.com.au

John Cooper
Bamurru Plains
bamurruplains.com