Hitting the ‘bong

It’s the dry season. The tidal rivers have shut down due to low water temps and the blue water is subject to the relentless south easterlies that blow hard enough to wash mud crabs up the beach. The billabongs are one of the only options left and luckily we have plenty to choose from.

Hitting the ‘bongs is a seasonal pastime that we look forward to because even if the fishing is slow the scenery makes it worthwhile. Kakadu is full of bongs and each has it’s own personality. Sandy Billabong has sandbanks (funny that!), deep edges and a ridiculously steep gravel ramp. The fish from there lack that muddy taste of the floodplain billabongs. Then there’s the bongs off the South Alligator River- Bucket, Red Lily and Alligator. These holes are less fished and can only be accessed with small tinnys via some hectic 4WD tracks. A local was pulled from his boat by a croc on one of these bongs recently. Yellow Water is probably the most famous billabong and links to Home Billabong in the wet. Then there’s Nourlangie, Mardugal and Corroboree… the list goes on.

Darwin Cup Day marks the last long weekend of the dry season so we loaded a couple of utes, hooked up the boat and headed into Katherine for ice and fuel. It was friday night and there were social distractions that we couldn’t ignore. A quick stop turned into a late night bender and we didn’t hit the road till the following morning with copious levels of caffeine in our bloodstreams.

The fireball whisky can take most of the blame for our late start!
The fireball whisky can take most of the blame for our late start!

 

38km doesn't sound that far. Add a sketchy creek crossing and multiple stops to check for trailer damage and it's a tense 1.5hr crawl through the monsoon forests
38km doesn’t sound that far. Add a sketchy creek crossing and multiple stops to check for trailer damage though and it’s a tense 1.5hr crawl through the monsoon forests

 

Paperbark forests fringe the entrance to the black soil floodplains at four mile
Paperbark forests fringe the entrance to the black soil floodplains at four mile
Our campsite  was squeezed between the main billabong and a wetland that was teeming with magpie geese, jabiru's and herons. It did feel like a croc highway but it was worth it being able to kick back in the deckchairs and watch the wetland scene from the shade of a tree
Our campsite was squeezed between the main billabong and a wetland that was teeming with magpie geese, jabiru’s and herons. It did feel like a croc highway but it was worth it being able to kick back in the deckchairs and watch the wetland scene from the shade of a tree
We launched as the sun was finally cooling off and headed to a deep edge where pandanus palms and clung to the bank and provided a likely looking ambush hideout for barra. Nick threw out a shallow diving minnow and nailed this fish on just the second cast of the trip. like all the barra we caught on the trip it was a fat fish and had plenty of energy for multiple jumps.
We launched as the sun was finally cooling off and headed to a deep edge where pandanus palms clung to the bank and provided a likely looking ambush hideout for barra. Nick threw out a shallow diving minnow and nailed this fish on his second cast. Like all the barra we caught on the trip,  it was a fat specimen and had plenty of energy for multiple jumps.
I was up next with this just legal fish. The trick in the billabongs while the water is cold seems to be throwing the lures as as far as possible into the snags. Gulps and Tailbaitz rigged weedless, and sometimes with no weight at all, do well but the hookup rate is reduced on anything with weedless hooks.
I was up next with this just legal fish. The trick in the billabongs while the water is cold seems to be throwing the lures as far as possible into the snags. Gulps and Tailbaitz rigged weedless, and sometimes with no weight at all, do well but the hookup rate is reduced on anything with weedless hooks. The electric motor is perfect for this approach because you can save a track and keep working the zone without tying up or throwing out a noisy anchor.
As the sun set we changed over to surface lures. Nick went for the 2Deadly popper/diver combo that did the trick on this black barra
As the sun set we changed over to surface lures. Nick went for the 2Deadly popper/diver combo that did the trick on this black barra

 

With the surface hits coming frequently I reached for the fly rod and hooked many a lily and palm frond but no fish. It also put everyone else on the boat at risk of loosing an eyball to my homemade gold bomber fly so I put it away for another day.
With the surface hits coming frequently I reached for the fly rod and hooked many a lily and palm frond but no fish. My sloppy casting technique also put everyone else on the boat at risk of loosing an eyball to my homemade gold bomber fly so I put it away for another day.
Fish or no fish, it's this sort of scene that will have us coming back to the billabongs in the build-up when the land is roasting and the mozzies are fierce
Fish or no fish, this is the sort of scene that will have us coming back to the billabongs in the build-up when the land is roasting and the mozzies are fierce

Overall we landed around five Barra and one Saratoga. We had heaps of missed hits on the surface though and the atmosphere out there will have us hitting the bongs again sometime real soon.

Good luck on the water!

Dan

 

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

One thought on “Hitting the ‘bong

  • November 12, 2014 at 8:33 am
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    Jealous! Amazing scenery … would love to do it one day.

    Reply

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