The Daly River experience.


Steve and Sass
For years I have browsed the second hand book shelves and collected stories about Australian history, individuals life experiences in the bush and classic stories about those who chose to record their sometimes brief stay in this wonderful country, a country which offers endless opportunities for out of the way places to work, to explore or simply live in.
The Daly River visit resulted from a novel I read years ago , written in the late 50's by a young lady with an exceptional education who chose to go bush to the Daly River with her new husband, an American soldier.
Their problems were unimaginable, young children, no doctors, crocodiles cruising past their frount porch, isolation and then a flood that exceeded all others completely inundating their shack. Rescued by the mission boat, then capsized by a massive log, a child lost overboard that somehow survived with the help of local Aboriginals all made for a particularly interesting novel to read.
So with a week off I headed for the Daly River and found the shrine where the author and her American husband lay and also the place where the once lost overboard child now lives.
Apparently nothing much has changed on the Daly as this year another record flood swept all before it down the river. The evidence is plainly visible; banks savagely eroded causing dangerous sand bars, submerged trees and debris hidden beneath cloudy or rippled waters just waiting for a unwary barra fisherman to pass over in a tinny.
A mate of mine who sells tanks in the NT gave me a tip of the best place to stay when I reached the Daly however, as I arrived at the special Barra Resort I was attacked by three aggressive dogs who lept up trying to bite myself and Sass. They were called off and I selected a shady spot to camp beneath two huge mango trees. I unhooked the gooseneck and set up camp, then as I expected along came the dogs so I grabbed the whip to defend the camp using all the skills I'd learnt over the years on stations. The dogs took off but then the owner arrived and after some interesting debate on how to control dogs I was asked to leave.
Half a mile down the track was another resort called Sinclaires, assuming the bloke that hunted me would have phoned the next place I was reluctant to call in but did so anyway.
Harold who owned and ran Sinclaires had been there since the 70's, a great bloke, dogs wern't a problem, fire wood was free and the residents were hard-core barra fishermen and so for the second time that day in a matter of hours I set up camp.
      Daly River crossing.
      Daly River shop, slightly elevated due to floods.
      By that stage of the day it was beer time and still about 35 degrees. Now completely relaxed sitting in the shade of huge African mahogany trees I wondered if life could get any better. Most of the locals in the camp wandered over for a yarn and no doubt to get the measure of the new bloke who turned up with a gooseneck horse trailer and Rugged Luxury stamped on his ute doors.
      They were keen to find out if I'd been barra fishing before and hearing this was my first go took the opportunity to offer some interesting and helpful advise.
      Next morning early I took of in the ute to follow the track down river to Browns creek where it entered the Daly, just short of this was a public boat ramp and a bloke and his family were just leaving the water  so I dropped over for a yarn. He had recently sold his property at Balranald down on the Murray and bought into some country on the Daly. After talking shop about cattle markets and the export trade for a while it was time to go and as he left he handed me a barra. I tried to refuse on the grounds that I wanted to catch one myself but he wouldn't hear of it so there I was , the proud owner of a 60 cm barra with instructions to return to camp to clean and fillet it as soon as possible as it was drying out.
      Now for the hard part which was walking through the camp to the cleaning table just twenty minuets after leaving but now with a barra in hand. Just as I expected they poked their heads out offering congratulations and well-done etc. and not being able to tell a lie I explained it was a gift from the next door neighbour.
      Fair warning.
      Croc trap on the Daly
      Next morning I headed off early to Browns creek again with my lightweight fishing gear.Here the river was wide with plenty of sand bars. Also lots of logs were visible from a distance or that what I thought they were. Getting closer to the action I realised they were crocs and there were more than a dozen and I began to realize fishing from the bank wasn't going to be as easy as I thought, bloody down right dangerous in fact as I came across a 7 meter salty hiding in the grass where I thought was a good spot to fish.
      From a distance I thought they were logs.
      Crocs everywhere.
      7 meter salty
      Over the next fews days I tried every way possible to catch a barra, then at last I hooked one on a lure. The bloody fish nearly pulled me off the bank into the water. I had no idea how aggressively they took the bait. Unfortunately the moment of glory didn't last long as I felt the line go slack realising my gear was far to light for such big fish. So home I went again with out the much sought after prize.
      The rules applying to your catch are fairly tight, three barra per person be it in the boat or fridge. The skin must be left on so the beast can be identified by the dreaded inspectors and those who are caught out have their fishing gear, boat, vehicle and anything else in your possession at the time confiscated and held by the department of fisheries for an unreasonable length of time even after paying a hefty fine.
      This is why the odd barra is given away as the fisherman get nervous  so they play by the rules pretty well and once again I was given a barra. Sitting back beneath the magnificent mahogany trees licking my wounds but at the same time enjoying lots of cold beer a friendly neighbour arrived and asked if I'd like to go out with him in his boat to catch a barra. John and his wife travel Australia spending as much time as they can keeping their lines wet and as well have a window tinting business which is very successful too I might add.
      Luckily I had upgraded my line to 30 pound, most use 50 with an 80 pound leader. John soon had my gear rearranged and the lure was discarded in preference to a monster hook to which we added live bait which was cheeriban, a yabbie type thing found up this way .
      We finally got underway and I sort of hoped the boat was going to be bigger than the 3.5 meter tinny we stepped into. Most crocs I'd seen were much longer and other boats larger, but not all. I consoled myself with the fact that at least my demise would be newsworthy if that's the way things turned out.
      We headed down river dodging snags and sand bars but something was lurking beneath the water and we hit it, and bloody hard too. The boat lurched and swung about and for a moment I thought my time had come however, John got things under control again but then the motor kept stopping. John found a way around this and eventually we arrived at the secret barra hole and tied up to a snag.
      I'd given up counting crocs; they were everywhere and big ones as well.
      Soon we had our lines in the water and the nibbles started. John caught a few small barra and catfish which he released then I had a monster of a bight  and I hooked him, then the barra lept out of the water and spat out the hook and bait.
      Not long after another huge pull on my line and John could see it was a big one so talked me through what I should be doing and at the same time got the net ready. Several times the fished dived and I managed to turn him and reel the monster a bit closer. At last he rose beside the boat and John skillfully swooped it into the net. I couldn't believe it, my first barra and 82cm, that's considered a good size, I think the smallest you can keep is 55cm.
      We did the photo shoot to record the special moment, one I'll never forget and will remain forever grateful to John for taking me fishing on the Daly.
      My first Barra, 82cm.
      Waiting for dinner
      Cruising near our boat.
      At this point it would be a fitting place to finish the story, but wait, there's more.
      The barra went off the bite as the tide turned and we talked about heading home but an old mate of Johns pulled up close to us and cast
      his line straight accross ours, sat back for a few moments then said, don't you hate bastards that do that.
      It wasn't just us who were bemused by his actions but half a dozen other boats that moved close to us when the saw the fish we hauled in. Scruffy has long grey locks and a full very long grey beard to match, a real top end character.
      After loosing more gear on snags we called it a day. The motor gave us more grief and finally chucked it in altogether. Luckily Scruffy came along and offered to tow us home to Sinclaires, thank god for Scruffy.
      Barra hunters on the Daly.
      Jabiru, resting position
      Dancing Jabiru
      A crocs favorite dinner.
      Daly River crossing by Steve Vroom using photo shop
      The last shot is by a good friend of mine, Steve Vroom who called in for a couple of days. He's very skillful with a camera and photoshop as you can see.
      Well that's it from the Daly.
      Until next time.
      Steve and Sass

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