Barra battle of the ages

After months of organising and planning of our trip by Sydney-based tour agents Phil’s Affordable Barra Tours – and our group looking forward to it like kids to Christmas – we finally arrived in Darwin on March 22.

We took Phil’s recommendation and spent the next day acclimatising, visiting Doctors Gully for fish feeding, lunch with a beer and a Guiness beef pie at Shennanigan’s Irish pub, and a look at the Aviation Museum. Great tourist attractions not to be missed, but we were all itching to go barra fishing!

The battle lines were drawn when our fishing guide arrived from Territory Guided Fishing at 5am and the six of us were split into teams to travel in two separate vehicles. On the one hand we had “Dads Army” consisting of Ken (Gillie, 69) James (Jimbo, 77) and Bob (Canary Bob, 78).

In the second team, the “Young Guns”, were Dallas (Dal, 30), Adam (32), and Peter (Pete 38).

Phil, the name behind Phil’s Affordable Barra Tours had come along to check out Territory Guided Fishing’s brand new Custom Works 6.4m boat – at least that was his story. He would add a fourth man to the Dads Army team because the Young Guns reckoned the old blokes needed all the help they could get, and Phil’s in the right age bracket.

We arrived at Point Stuart Resort around 7.45am – our home for the next 4 days – and dropped our bags and headed straight for Shady Camp.

On the water by 8.30am we were trolling the mouth of the Mary River by 9.20 am. Within 10 minutes Phil’s line took off and after a short frantic fight Dads Army had registered first blood; a small, but legal 63cm barra and the old blokes were up one nil.

As the time rolled by and the heat and humidity intensified neither boat had registered another legal barra. We all caught several undersized models but they didn’t count for points in our contest. A couple of good threadfin salmon were caught on both boats – they didn’t count either.

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 “Canary Bob” and a nice threadfin salmon – unfortunately worth zero points.

We pulled in under a shady tree and opened our pre-packed lunches prepared by our guide Barnsey’s wife, Terri; it was as close to a Christmas dinner as I’ve had on the water. After lunch we were revitalised and ready to go again, but Barnsey said the tide had changed and we should head out wide and fish for black jewfish.

The wind had come up to make it a lot more comfortable temperature wise, but very choppy out wide. Dads Army had no trouble in Barnsey’s new boat but the Young Guns were doing it a bit tough in the small 4.9m job. However, it was worth every jarred bone in our bodies.

Once we reached the jewie grounds it was on for young and old. It was as if they’d been waiting for us all day, nothing under a metre was caught and after we had a couple of keepers on each boat for dinner that night (and some take home fillets) we caught and released until our arms were too tired to fight them anymore.

What a day! Dads Army 1, Young Guns nil.

We headed for the mouth of the Mary River and then travelled out wide to avoid shallow water. We followed the coast for about 7km to the mouth of Tommycut Creek.

It was like groundhog day for threadfin on the Dads Army boat, which by the way, was the smaller one, as according to the “rules of engagement” teams are to take turn about in the boats. One after the other they landed and released threadfin, the odd catfish and several small barra.

Phil had jumped ship from Dads Army’s boat as he needed camcorder footage of the Young Guns in action for his website. Lucky he did, as the Young Guns notched up barra from 68 to 79cm.

It was Canary Bob who saved the day for Dads Army after catching most of the threadfin and some more black jew. Late in the afternoon he bagged his first and second legal barras. Jimbo rose to the occasion and bagged his first legal barra for the trip.

At the end of day two Dads Army were still just in front. (Dads Army 4, Young Guns 3)

The Young Guns got an earlier start by skipping breakfast and heading to the boat ramp before light. You may have all heard the “old bull and young bull story” … well, the Young Guns got eaten alive by mozzies and biting bugs whilst hooking up the boat in the holding yard. To make it worse they left the Aerogard at the resort. They did however, get on the water fifty minutes earlier than Dad’s Army, but being in the smaller boat they only made it to the mouth of the Mary River and down to Tommycut creek five minutes before the old blokes who’d enjoyed a hot breakfast and experienced no problems with mozzies…

By the end of the day the Young Guns team leader, Peter, had caught an 83cm keeper and released a monster 98cm barra. Adam landed 3 legal barra ranging from 68 to 84cm. Whilst the other Young Gun Dal, had only managed one threadfin for the day.

For Dad’s Army, Gillie caught and released a 95cm barra. With the rest of the crew chipping in with 65, 68 and 79cm barras. Dads Army 8, Young Guns 8.

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Ken “Gillie” Gill of North Haven NSW and his 95cm C&R barra.

After a hot breakfast for both teams (the Young Guns learnt their lesson) we headed to the mouth of the Mary. With a tied result looking likely we decided to split the teams up into two boats.

Young Gun, Peter, landed and released a 95cm barra on the Dads Army boat right under Gillie’s nose, whilst Gillie couldn’t catch anything except small blue salmon and catfish. On the bigger boat it was also all Young Guns with Dal landing and releasing a 93cm fish and Adam a 95cm.

After four days of solid fishing Dad’s Army were like the forwards in a tough football game and couldn’t wait for the game to end. Luckily some lunch soon had them recharged and ready for the last couple of hours of battle.

With the Young Guns in front by three barra, Dads Army looked ready to concede defeat  when Gillie hooked up to what seemed like a torpedo. The barra put up a great fight, only to be equalled by Gillies determination and desperation to win for Dads Army. After a lengthy battle the torpedo was finally netted, measured, photographed and released – 98cm.

Gillie was on a high as his line screamed off again within minutes. This time he caught and released an 86Cm barra. Dads Army only needed two more barra to beat the Young Guns, providing the young fellas hadn’t caught any more since lunch…

Alas, all hopes for Dads Army were soon dashed as the boats came close together. Canary Bob & Jimbo, nil for Dads Army.  For the Young Guns Dal scored three barra: 96cm, 98cm and to top it off a 102cm “super barra”.

Final score: Dads Army 10, Young Guns 18 (including triple points for the metre + catch). 

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“Dal” and his 102cm “super barra”.

For more info on Phil’s Affordable Barra Tours ph: 0404 485 006;

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