Reader’s Story: Anticipation on the Alligator

A FEW short hours after leaving Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney, I peered down from 30,000 feet at mangrove lined river systems and rain drenched floodplains as they poured tannin coloured water into the major estuaries of the Northern Territory. It soon hit me, I was back!

It had been four long years since my last Top End fix and with all the recent rains and a sunny forecast for the next couple of days, my anticipation was at an all time high.

With my gear and supplies loaded I headed east from Darwin onto the Barra Highway with a grin from ear to ear and pointed the Hilux in the direction of Kakadu National Park, where a long time mate of mine, Tom McCollough and “Mongrels fishing team” mate Johnno McTaggert were just winding up fishing the Kakadu Klash on the South Alligator River.

Driving ahead of schedule, thanks to the receding flood waters, I couldn’t resist a quick trip down to the South Alligator boat ramp where I caught up with the boys for some overdue laughs. We headed back to the Aurora Lodge to ready the boat for the morning and settle in for the presentation night for the Klash.

The next morning saw us venture about 30kms from the ramp towards the mouth of the Alligator, then up one of the many arms that leave the main river, tying up next to a drain which was releasing clean water, creating good color change.We proceeded casting squidgy slick rics soft plastics with almost instant success. A nice 60cm Barra sucked down the soft plastic with it’s bucket mouth and then came the street brawler fight you get when hooked to a wild barra. With all the acrobatic leaps, head shakes and snag charges, this little fella was soon on board and so was I.

Soon after, Johnno’s rod was all bent up, and the drag screaming. A solid 80cm barra grabbed Johnno’s plastic and headed for the snags, but some heavy handed rod work soon had the fish boat side and netted. It wasn’t long before Tom showed us how it was done by flicking out a surface fizzer and with an almighty bout, another battle had ensued, landing a nice 80cm-plus barra. We spent most of the day at the one spot which just turned it on all day. Resulting in over 30 fish captured and plenty more eluding us, me in particular.

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Day 2 saw us heading even further towards the mouth and with the previous day’s success in mind we kept to the basic theory of tying up near good colour change. The morning started off a bit slow but with Tom egging me on to keep at it, my “meat tray” (metre barra) wouldn’t be far away. Tom and Johnno started the morning account with a couple of nice chromies to 70cms long and a thread fin salmon which gave Tom a nice fight amongst the tight timber. These fish can really get up and move, leaving roostertails of water behind as they scream across the surface.

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After sitting back for half an hour to have a bite and a cold tin of happiness (XXXX), Tom jumped up and ordered the casting to continue and it was definitely an order timed to perfection. My second cast landed at the foot of the dead timber and I started the slow and jerky retrieve. As my lure crossed the cloudy to tannin coloured water, I felt my lure being inhaled with god only knows how much water, so I thumbed the spool and struck and almost instantly the silver head and golden reflective eyes of a South Alligator meat tray emerged from the muddy waters. Its gills expanding like a frill-necked lizard, the old girl set off with an aerial display and deep diving run. Tom immediately sprung into action yelling “metrey” and grabbed the net waiting for his chance to secure the big girl.

With brute power she charged the snags and rocketed skywards. All the while Tom the tour guide yelling instructions, whilst Johnno was busy capturing the action on film. After settling down a bit I managed to get the big girl close to the boat with Tom screaming “Get her bloody head up”, and tried to net her, but she had other ideas and fought on. Eventually on our third try Tom got the net under her and 103cm of chrome muscle lay on the deck. Hi-fives and cheers echoed though the marsh. I had done it! My first metre barra… and this Sly Mexican who crossed the Northern borders can finally lay claim to joining the metre club.

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Even though it was a quick trip north, surrounding yourself with the right people can make all the difference. We fished on during the afternoon with Johnno and Tom and got boofed on almost every cast, proving the famous run-off can truly produce some magnificent fishing.

Thanks to Tom & Kate McCollough, Johnno McTaggert, Dave O’Hare & Sara Storer for a memorable border hop.

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