Friday, October 19, 2012

Northern Territory Part 3: The Mary River

After a night in Darwin, which turned out to be more of a back packer town than a holiday destination, we jumped in the car again and made our way to the Mary River.

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The river is about a 1.5 hour drive South East of Darwin, and as you can see from the map above, is pretty far away from civilization.  We passed my favorite Aussie named town so far - Humpty Doo on the way, and also drove through the largest drive through liqour store (bottle-o is Australian) that we've seen on the way down.
Emma from the fishing lodge had recommended that we spend a night on a houseboat on the billabong which we agreed sounded like a great idea.
After speaking with some of the other guest at the fishing lodge who had done the houseboat before we were even more excited as they were gushing about all of the wildlife that they got to see. 
With a minimum list of instructions Chris drove us away from the dock, narrowly missing sideswiping another houseboat, and we were off for two days on our own on the river.
This was another one of these experiences, similar to Africa, where you go into it expecting that you're going to see a few birds and crocodiles, and are blown away but how much wildlife you get to see.
We took an extra bread roll and tossed some pieces in the water to watch the eagles and kites swoop down to pick them up.
Then we got an extra special treat as this eagle flew by with an actual fish in it's talons and then returned to the nest. 
We thought that it was going to start a fight with another bird in the tree near the nest, until we realized that this was actually the baby eagle (big baby)!
As we putted along the river we also saw numerous crocs up on the bank or lurking in the lilly pads.
We were warned to find a good spot to anchor and batten down the hatches in defense of the mosquitoes so we decided to stay the night near the eagles nest. 
As the sun was setting we finished up our dinner and put down the mosquito nets over the deck, assuming that these were just a silly precaution.
Little did we know that the mosquitoes here are actually a force to be reckoned with.  As the sun dissapeared you could literally see them coating the screens and hear them buzzing around.  We ended the evening hiding inside in the dark, enjoying a few drinks.
After a restless night huddle under a bug net, we woke up early to watch the sun rise over the river and were greated with a stunning view of the sun coming up through the fog.
We bravely stuck just the lense of the camera out through as small of a gap in the bug netting as possible to grab a few pictures as the fog cleared and the sun came out fully.
With it were a few enthusiastic fisherman who were clearly very eager to get started catching dinner.  How they weren't being carried away by the mozzies, we're not sure.
After breakfast we rolled up the bug netting and set off for a morning cruising the river.
Similar to the previous day, the scenery did not dissapoint.
We putted along the river for most of the day, enjoying the solitude and abundance of life. 
Overall the NT trip was spectacular.  The people were really nice and it's a completely unique part of the world.
Hopefully we'll be able to return someday to see it in the wet season when everything should be lush and green.
But until then, it's never as bad returning home when you've got a beautiful view out the window.

video

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Northern Territory Part 2: Fishing in Dundee

The second leg of out Northern Territory adventure consisted of travelling to Dundee Beach to stay and fish with Angler's Choice. An excellent operation if I have ever seen one.  http://www.anglerschoice.com.au/

beers on the balcony after a great day of fishing
The host of the fishing lodge, Emma, was extremely friendly and accommodating, it felt more like we were staying with extended family than a commercial operation. I am confident that anything else we needed Emma would have thought of and taken care of well before we could have asked for it. She is an excellent cook to boot and served up some amazing meals with our fresh catches.

There's nothing like eating yourself sick on fresh mud crabs
The guides at the operation, Mick and Matt were also amazing. Unlike some charters I have been on where the operators seem to be annoyed that you are on their boat, Mick and Matt were welcoming and infinitely patient.

$25 to have your boat launched by the tractor off the beach, $100 to have your vehicle pulled out if you tried yourself
They also seemed genuinely excited when someone got a fish on, scrambling for your camera and narrating video as you reeled in. We cannot speak highly enough of their operation so I will simply move on to the fishing. 
like a pro
Day 1:  We spent day 1 trolling bommies and reefs searching for the aforementioned GTs. After about 30 minutes of this, the very first fish that hits the missus' line is......A GT!!! It was actually a triple hookup. She was the only one who landed one however, with the other 2 busting us off.
The whole reason Amy wanted to go on the trip was to catch a GT - first fish on!
Had a couple other hits that day, managed to pull in a golden trevally, several Queenfish, a massive barracuda, spotted some more GT's and sight casted at them, and at one point we tied a rope through a snapped carcass and played tug-o-war with a 7 foot bronze whaler just for kicks.
look at the size of that fish!
Day 2: In the morning we had an amazing run of 11 massive black jews in about 3 hours. The one in the pic above was average sized. They just kept coming.
hard at work waiting for the next bite
Once the tides changed and they went off the bite we went chasing golden snapper and caught about 10 of them. Emma hooked us up with some delicious sashimi as our pre-dinner snack.
This is what victory looks like
The other boat we were with managed to catch (and release) a 7 foot hammerhead as we watched from about 50 meters away. A hell of a fight. 

 On the way back to the lodge that evening Emma drove us by the magnetic termite mounds.  They are very thin and all face in the same direction, apparently for ventilation from the heat and forest fires.
In Litchfield we'd seen some of these from a fenced off area, but it was cool to be able to walk around them off the beaten path in Dundee.
barramundi

croc out for a bit of sunshine
Day 3: Mich took us estuary fishing for barra and mud crabs. We had, according to him, a below average day and still caught 6 keepers and 12 crabs.
this one we called "dinner"
Over the course of the day we saw several crocs and lots of birds, it was a cool contrast from the sportfishing of the earlier days.
this guy chased us around the boat while the captain laughed and laughed at us
Emma cooked up the crabs from day 3 and jewies from day 2 into one of the best meals I can remember eating. I sat down with a fresh beer, stuffed my face as fast as I could and when done eating looked up at a now warm, slightly less fresh beer.
sunset from the balcony - goes best with a beer
I hadn't even considered looking up or pausing eating to drink, even with the sunsetting outside.
fish on!
Day 4: We had planned to go way out wide to chase spaniards for day for but the wind had picked up overnight and the plan had to be squashed. We ended up targeting sand bars and bays in the morning for queenies, managed to land a few.

Late morning the wind dropped so we went back out to the reefs and bommies to chase GTs again. I had a barra rod this day and managed to hook 2 GT's on this light tackle. What a ride!!! Ended up with one busting me off on the bottom after about 5 minutes. I got the other one to the boat around the same time as a bronze whaler showing up. Both fish dove and after a few seconds of the reel screaming....ping! Shark bait.

spanish mackeral
Ended the day with another good run on the troll which ended up being a spaniard! Sashimied him up at the boat ramp for an awesome treat.

We ended up flying home with 15K of fish in an esky, a mix of barra, snapper, jewie, and spaniard. We had to empty the freezer when we got home to fit all of the fish in!

It was an awesome trip, probably the best fishing I will ever do. A large part of this was due to the team and Angler's Choice, thanks again to them.