The Northern Territory is a fly rodders dream for much of the year. With just two seasons, the Wet and Dry, the transition between the two can be as sudden as overnight. With such dramatically rapid changes in the climate some species of fish will shut down their feeding equally as fast. The fly rodder who is prepared for change will always have a successful location at which to cast a fly.
The following is a brief run down of seasonal habitat and tackle for the most popular fly rod target in this part of the world.....the barramundi.
Usually at the top of the wish list of visiting swoffers, more barra will be caught at the end of the wet season than for the entire year. That period of time may be for around one month in duration and is when the backed up flood waters over the grassy plains recede into the rivers and creeks. Deceivers, Clouser Deep Minnows and Dahlberg Divers are the most common flies in use. These fish are quickly educated. Changing patterns, their rate of sink and opting for fast sinking lines to scour the hard muddy bottoms for fish laying in crevices out of the current will often turn a slow session into one that is red hot.
As long as there is a mere trickle of fresh water into a river system, there is a good chance barramundi will be in the vicinity. Slight colour changes will indicate an influx of fresh, and water the colour of white tea with a different colour stain coming in from the gutter is a good place to try. Back eddies and still water behind groins at creek mouths are likely resting spots for these fish. Bulky sinking flies such as collared Deceivers that pulse when stripped are worth trying.
A drain that is pumping fast dirty water at low tide in major rivers such as the Adelaide, South or East Alligator, will often run clean tannin coloured water at the top of the tide and for a couple of hours on the run out.
The cooling temperatures of the approaching dry season often will put the brakes on any hot bites. Fish in the main rivers will be hard to locate and will travel with the tidal influence once the bait stops exiting along with the fresh water off the plains. The next best target area is the schools of pop eye mullet. You will find them near the mouth of the rivers on the neap tides, moving up the river as the tide builds. The barra will not be too far away. Big surface flies which emulate a bait 7 to 15cm long should be tried here. The small muddy gutters near the coast will give refuge to mullet and jelly prawns. Other predators in attendance at this time of the year will be blue and threadfin salmon.
Inland billabongs come into focus during the cooler months. Thesouth easterly winds chop up the coastal waters making it less than ideal for fly fishing outside. Yellow Waters in Kakadu and Corroboree Billabong closer to Darwin are worth looking at, and a number of other billabongs in Kakadu and around Darwin will produce fish.
The brown slimy weed that lines the edges of the banks and lily pad patches will hide barramundi. Sinking lines and flies with mono weed guards are necessary to successfully penetrate this habitat. Sometimes the fish will be along the edges of lilly pads, but as deep as 3 metres, especially during the middle of the day if it is sunny. Dull brown flies with a flash of gold work well in this clear water.
A sink tip fly line with a weed guarded fly is often effective when cast back to the bank over the top of the large lily pads and allowed to fall off their edge and sink, before being drawn up and over the next pad. This is when the fish will strike. Often they can be seen pushing up from under the lily pad trying to boof the silhouette of the fly moving on top of it. This is also saratoga country and they are a more than welcome by-catch.
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