How to

Kakadu DIY

Al and Weeds with a double hook-up on ‘toga.

LAST year I hooked up my Quintrex Renegade and camped and fished my way around the country. I took in some of the most sensational and amazing locations, but one place in particular held me spellbound, so before I even arrived home I was making plans to return.

That magical place was Kakadu and Yellow Waters Billabong system, a place to me so different from anything I’d ever encountered and still so remote and wild. So, once unpacked, I set about finding a crew of two others. These were guys I could rely upon and could spend a month with. They had to have a passion and desire for an adventure and who I believed would complement one another as well as myself. Therefore, after fielding numerous replies and requests to accompany me, I choose long time mate Alan (Big Al) Dekker and Ian (Weeds) Weeden, as neither had been to Kakadu and both saw it as a chance of a lifetime.
4WD mods
After last year’s adventure I realised a number of modifications to my Ranger would make things much more user friendly. These included a custom aluminium canopy on the rear of the Ranger to enable more storage and keep everything waterproof. I had custom trays and angles made, purchased my own bearing slides and made my own fridge/freezer slides and installed these in the rear above my home made draws. I then installed two rotary ventilators in the canopy to allow excess hot air to escape and allow the fridge/freezer to remain cool. I also reinstalled the luggage tray on top of the new canopy for extra storage.
The plan was to leave on the Tuesday immediately after Easter in April to arrive in time to capitalise on the second best wet season in the history of the Top End. The planned journey was five days and four nights, with stops at Bourke, Longreach, Camooweal and Daly Waters, before arriving at Mardugal Billabong Campgrounds on the last day. That’s around 4000 km from home.
We would stay for 11 nights, camping and fishing all the connecting billabongs of Yellow Waters, such as Jim Jim, Mardugal, Home and Cooinda. These are all fed from the South Alligator River. Our main target species would be barramundi and saratoga on lure and fly, along with other species which would include archer fish, tarpon, sooty grunter and long tom.
The five day drive was filled with a million laughs and hundreds of stories and before we knew it we arrived at Mardugal Campgrounds in Kakadu. Due to the huge wet season No 1 Campground was closed for the safety of campers as high waters and crocodiles were a concern, although No 2 Campground and facilities were open, which was much more bush camping and only about a kilometre from the boat ramp.
On arrival, and after choosing our campsite for the next 11 nights, the afternoon was spent setting up camp. Alan and I were in my OzTent RV4, while Weeds was in his swag. I had purchased a fully enclosed insect proof gazebo which we used as our camp kitchen and dining area and it proved to be an absolute blessing as we discovered that the mozzies were in abundance. Once our camp was set up to our satisfaction we then rigged our fishing gear before a relaxing first night’s meal and early night. Everyone was pumped in readiness for what was to be an amazing adventure.
First day fishing
The Quintrex Renegade provided a great platform for casting lures from.

The next morning Alan and I jumped onboard the Renegade while Weeds drove us down to the ramp. 

Alan and Weeds both started with hard body barra lures, while I opted for the fly outfit in anticipation of a saratoga. After about an hour, and with the humidity going through the roof and sweat rolling off me, I was rewarded with my first fish of the trip, a toga of 63 cm on one of my own weedless deceivers in chartreuse and white. The remainder of the morning was very slow and frustrating with a number enquiries but no solid hook ups for anyone. We then stumbled across some local “Territorians” who became very secretive, hiding what they were using. Without making it obvious I positioned the boat away from them, but snuck a look at what they were doing…
During the afternoon session we had a new game plan. We rigged with soft plastics with paddle tails like Barra Wedgies, Slick Rigs, Z-man Minnows and Reidy’s Minnows. We chose a location that was like a funnel and then opened up into a wider deep water section where we set the anchor and began casting and slow roll retrievals. We had instant results with every one of us hooking up in what was to become a daily pattern for us with something like 100 or more barra coming aboard and more than double that dropped or busted off! But it didn’t matter as everyone was having fun catching and releasing fish.
Another saratoga from “Togaville”.

Toga party

After a couple of days on the barra I asked the guys if they’d like to give some saratoga a go and both excitedly responded in favour. We went down to Home Billabong and up past the Cooinda boat ramp and loading area to a very beautiful lily pad filled lagoon that had produced ‘toga on my previous trip last year. Although we had instant responses from the fish, hook ups just were not happening, and after a number of frustrating hours of lost fish we headed back to camp. While sitting around and talking about our day we decided something needed to be done to convert our surface hits into solid captures.
We’d been using a number of frog pattern soft plastics rigged weedless, as well as the River2 Sea Baby Bully. All of these had been producing strikes but no solid hook ups and it was decided that the larger frogs didn’t allow a good hook up, but the Baby Bully with some hook modification should work, therefore with the double hooks bent out and adjusted away from the body but still allowing it to be weedless. We set out to try them with immediate positive results.
This back lagoon was to become known as “Togaville” and provided many highlights of the trip, especially one when Alan and Weeds experienced a double hook up and each landed their very first ‘toga.
The only thing that was a put off for the whole adventure were the mozzies, which were in plague proportions. My good mate Tim “BC” Harding from the Darwin Flyrodders showed us a product called a “Thermacell” when he came down to visit and fish with me for a few days, and this thing is insane, like a magic bullet for mosquitoes and a must for anyone visiting the Top End.
An adventure like this can be undertaken by anyone and it can be done for a minimal amount depending upon your budget. For anyone interested in doing a similar trip. 

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