Charles Wooley and his barra, caught at Four Mile Hole in Kakadu.
Charles Wooley and his barra, caught at Four Mile Hole in Kakadu. Supplied

Journalist's embarrassing attempt at NT fishing

ANGLERS come to the Territory expecting to catch the leviathans that regularly appear in the pages of the NT News.

So of course I eagerly accepted a fishing assignment in the naive belief that I too would pull a 40 pound barramundi and earn a place on the front page of one of my favourite newspapers.

Or the back page or any page for that matter would be most acceptable.

My guide was Alex Julius, for 34 years the legendary fishing writer for this paper.

What could possibly go wrong?

My trophy barra was already in the bag.

It would be a triumph in print as well as a great yarn on 60 Minutes.

After sunrise I was in Alex's big barra boat on the sparkling waters of Four Mile Hole in beautiful Kakadu.

The slanting morning light picked out the blinding white paper gums on the far bank.

The air was full of birdsong and a magnificent sea eagle circled overhead just waiting for some barramundi action.

I was readily convinced that Territorians have the best backyard in Australia.

"There are thousands of fish here, Charlie," Alex told me.

"Just cast the lure into the edge of the weed. You can't miss them."

He wasn't wrong. On my third cast the soft plastic lure was taken in a huge swirl of water.

I remembered the advice of Grey Morris, the NT News sports chief-of-staff.

"Mate, barramundi don't give you a second chance," so I struck hard.

The fish felt like a whopper.

It charged towards a tangle of waterweed and I needed all the power of the rod to turn it back towards the boat.

As the monster surfaced so did sad reality.

My barramundi wasn't anything like the piscatorial porn in the fishing magazines.

No way would it ever fill a centrefold.

Despite the fierce battle it put up this fish was tiny. It was in a word em-BARRA-sing.

It was a beautiful silver sprat, a 500 gram baby barra.

But according to Alex this was in fact a good news story.

"There are millions of fish like this in NT waters today. It's been the best wet season I can remember and the best breeding season," he consoled as he gently returned my catch to the water.

"This has been a boomer year. All those little fish like yours will grow up to be the monsters you dreamt about catching.

"On the back of this season we will host the barra Olympics for years to come."

Well here's hoping.

Certainly I will be back to see how my brave little barra grows up.

As Alex Julius always says, "If you can't catch the little ones how can you hope to catch the big ones?"

CHARLES Wooley and the 60 Minutes crew have been in the Territory this week putting together a feature story about the NT News

News Corp Australia

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