Report: More Tiwi Island adventures

THE morning sky was still charcoal black, there was no hint of the imminent approaching dawn. There was still time to grab a coffee and immerse in the stillness of Snake Bay on the deck of Melville Island Lodge.

We made our way quietly through the still sleeping community of Millikapiti and wound our way down to Timrambu Creek, no more than ten minutes from town. Golden sun was now beginning to light up the sand spit and we paused and rigged our fishing gear, Pete was using a baitcaster and I was using Wazza’s 8wt TFO fly rod.

We made a thorough check that no crocs were in the immediate vicinity as we, the hunters, didn’t want to end up becoming the hunted.

The tide had all but finished its ebb, a gentle flow still made its way across the shallow entrance from Timrambu into Snake Bay. Bait was balled up and nervous as hell, basically trapped in the last hole before the open water of the bay. Every well-cast fly or lure would result in terrified bait exploding in to the air …


Boof ‘o’clock. Early morning, Timrambu.

The water had stopped and very gently the flood tide began, at first very slowly but then gaining in pace. A shark was patrolling the shallow mud flat, at times sliding across the mud on its belly. It was waiting as we were for the fish to move back into the creek and feast on the trapped schools of baitfish and jelly prawns. A “boof” was the first indication that a barra was working its way up with the flood.

Pete Byrom’s Tango Dancer was soon engulfed in a spray of water and he came up tight on a good barra.

Soon after landing his first, Pete got boofed again and barra number two of about the same size fell to the Tango Dancer.

The small popper fly I was using was getting attention from a lot of smaller fish that I couldn’t identify.


The Timrambu barra loved surface lures!

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Col Gordon and a nice estuary cod that chomped a Cultiva.

I missed quite a few takes before coming up solid on a small queenie; these seemed to be in their dozens along with barra and more than likely some good threadfin salmon and many other species.

The flood tide was picking up. I’d landed three queenies on fly and Pete had landed two barra. The action was getting hotter by the minute.

Keen to catch a barra on fly I worked the popper while trying to avoid the queenies, but it seemed impossible.

With boofs and bubbles everywhere around us, one could be excused for thinking a hail storm was above us dropping hail stones the size of oranges into the water…

Pete involuntary let out a grunt as another unseen fish swallowed the TD. Soon a reasonable trevally was at his feet. It was then Pete said we’d better get going as the others were waiting for us back at the lodge and we didn’t want to miss the boat heading to Goose Creek.

“Ok … one more cast.”

About 20 casts later we turned our back on the action and walked back to the Toyota to go and find ”better fishing“!

Several times we turned back to look at the mayhem that was still happening now the flood tide was giving easy passage over the shallow entrance to the predator species that were right now were engaged in a feeding frenzy .

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Goose Creek has a very healthy population of saratoga that love to eat lures and flies.

The run to Goose Creek is a pleasant experience in itself. We were in a smooth sea in ever changing colours; turquoise water changed to cobalt blue and then we met muddy water that had been churned through the clear of the Timor Sea.

Looking over at the cliffs, bright red dribbles of bauxite ran down over cream clays and white sand, making the cliffs a rainbow of colours. Coming into the mouth of Goose Creek, white sand banks stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding green bush. Casuarina trees lined the white sands and tracks of crocodile, turtle and buffalo could be seen.

Where the white sand gave out, mangroves took over and the many snags and drains promised unbelievably good fishing.


Blue salmon are renowned battlers and fun to catch.


The author with a solid cod that took a curly-tail soft plastic grub.

Our first stop is the “Honey Hole“ and five lures arc through the air. In no time there is a triple hook up on barra … this goes on for 10 or 15 minutes before we move on to the next hole and more fishing action.

Further up Goose Creek, mangroves give way to bankside vegetation of paperbark trees, water lilies and grasses. Saratoga thrive in this upper freshwater reach and are stacked along the lilies, drains and over hanging paperbarks.

Rods soon bend and buckle as time and time again saratoga smash our offerings. The big silver barra from lower down in the system are replaced by the black barra of the  brackish and fresh sections.

Jacks and goldens can still be found up here in numbers at times, but this trip we were mainly into ‘togas, black barra and tarpon.

Floodplains can be a sea of black and white if the magpie geese are in residence.
Buffalo also work the flood plains causing immense damage; cutting tracks to the creek which in turn allows salt water back out into the flood plains where it should never be.

After finally calling a halt to our upstream travel we again move back down and hit the honey holes that fished so well on the way up; “Baxter’s“ is another honey hole that fishes extremely well on our way out.

On the trip back to the lodge we wondered whether we’d caught 100 fish or more – who knows? Next morning would find us back at Timrambu before we would meet the others and head for maybe Robinson Inlet, Jesse River, Snake Bay, Shark Bay or Runganinni.
Maybe a trip to the prolific reefs offshore where golden snapper to 15kgs can be caught or huge black jew, Spanish mackerel or the highly prized coral trout.

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Pete Byrom and a jack taken on one of his Bidgewong lures.

On our trip we used Wazza’s spin outfits as well as baitcasting gear and fly rods. We also took a heap of lures with us and they all were tremendously successful. Pete Byrom makes his own timber lures called Bidgewongs and Barry Byrom was armed with a heap of these lures from his uncle’s sports store. Col Gordon brought a heap of Cultiva and Berkley Lures, a mixture of poppers and bibbed lures, which all worked extremely well –  I did notice the Tango Dancers got a very good run… I brought along a heap of extra-long curly tail grubs from Edgecrusher Lures, my only mistake was not bringing enough of these as the toothy fish of the north loved them.


Fish on! – Youngster Jamie Smith hooked up at the Honey Hole.

Wazza has hundreds of lures from many companies and some are well proven fish takers. I borrowed some of Wazza’s newer lures that he was trialing – Barrablasters from A&B Lures. I had good success using these and I reckon they will take some big barra this coming season.

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A barra first cast is a great way to start the day!

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The offshore reefs at the Tiwi islands offer some great fishing for all manner of reef species.

It would be fair to say that the majority of fishing here involves lure casting as it really is a lure casting paradise! The fly fishing potential here is yet to be truly tapped.

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Jacks love softies. Wazza Smith with an average sized specimen.

The Tiwi Islands cover 8320 square kilometres; there are so many rivers, creeks and bays to fish I reckon it should be on the bucket list of every keen angler in Australia! If you’re interested in experiencing some of the best fishing northern Australia has to offer check out for info on a package that suits you.

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