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A great article by Stewie Martin on the remote MINIMINI River system

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    60 www.modernfishing.com.au Modern Fishing 61

    MINIMINI MAYHEM

    An ambitious 500km over-water expedition into the heart of Arnhem Land. Stewie Martin recalls his time spent in the Minimini systemWords and images by steWie martin

  • 62 www.modernfishing.com.au Modern Fishing 63

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    62 www.modernfishing.com.au

    My 5.5m Ocean Master slipped effortlessly along the glassed out ocean, and as I sat back in my pedestal seat, I took in a long, drawn out moment to savour the view. To the south, the Darwin skyline was rapidly receding, with

    Gunn Point jutting out imposingly to my right. Ahead I could just start to make out the Vernon Islands, framed by late afternoon cumulo nimbus clouds turned golden orange by the last rays of the setting sun.

    My Suzuki outboard hummed its sweet song, whilst good friend and fishing partner in crime Roxley and his brother planed alongside in their vessel only metres from my starboard flank. I glanced down at the GPS, and noted the distance to go till our first pit stop at Cape Keith on Melville Island 96.50km! Here we would have a quick break, refill our under floor tanks from the fuel drums we were carrying on deck, and prepare for our final leg of 110km journey to Liamaryi River at the entrance of the Minimini estuary system.

    As we made our way to Cape Keith, a light sou-easter struck up, and while the travelling was still good, we made the call to pull into a creek just before Camp Point to refuel in the calm water there, rather than risk spilling precious litres of fuel attempting to decant fuel in sloppy conditions in the dark.

    I secretly prayed that conditions wouldnt deteriorate, as we still had the most treacherous leg of the journey across the Gulf before us. The Gulf empties out a massive volume of water, funnelling it between soldier point on Melville Island and Cape Don on the nor-western tip of Arnhem Land. Id heard horror stories of trailer boats caught in the open water in the gulf when wind vs. tide conditions turned sour and the entire gulf turns into a nasty choppy mess.

    We just made it into the creek in the dark with the first push of the incoming tide, and as we refuelled we found it hard to concentrate, hearing a few solid boofs of feeding barra working their way in with the tide. My brother Nick had joined me for this trip, and

    and forward spotlights blazing. Fortunately the weather was kind, and with the boat gliding along rhythmically and the outboard humming steadily we drifted into companionable silence, each of us alone with our thoughts of what the next five days fishing would bring.

    Without incident we crossed the Gulf, and on the top of the tide navigated our way into the Liamaryi River, dropping anchor at the entrance and unfurling our swags on the front deck. I fell into a light sleep, bent rods, screaming drags and red-hot bites filling my dreams.

    As we refuelled we found it hard to concentrate, hearing a few solid

    boofs of feeding barra working their way in with the tide

    as the sun sets on day one we make our way, fully laden to arnhem Land on our 500km round-trip adventure

    after months of planning and weeks of preparation, we could contain ourselves no longer, and fed out a Bomber and 10ft Barra Classic as we trolled up the creek with the tide. We hooked one good fish almost straight away, but with very little moonlight, it was hard going in the snaggy creek and we still had a long haul ahead of us, so the decision was made to stow the rods and push on for the Minimini system.

    Once again we headed off, this time in convoy formation for safety, with nav lights

    a beautifully conditioned arnhem Land barra. natural colour tones such as this Purple/silver Killalure 2deep proved the most effective

    the deep bends and snag piles were riddled with some exceptional jacks, and catching them on fly is a real challenge

    drifting along with the electric working snag piles, eddies and junctions is a fun and rewarding way to prospect the many tributaries of the minimini system

  • Floating peacefully on anchor as the sun sets on another magical

    days fishing in arnhem Land. the minimini is a truly magical place

    threadfin salmon are an erratic fish that can be hard to consistently work out; Pink/white and Chartreuse flies with some weight seemed to produce the goods

    twitching weed-guarded flies through snag piles is a fun way of prospecting the many tributaries of the minimini system. Here a rat barra manages to beat the jacks and fingermark to the fly!

    roxley with yet another chrome minimini barra, taken trolling an 8ft barra bait along one of the many rock bars

    Fly-fishing the extensive coastal flats of the minimini is a dream for the avid fly-fisher

    Modern Fishing 6564 www.modernfishing.com.au

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    The entire section of the creek was a foaming maelstrom of boofs, carves, splashes and detonationsto the boat before spooking off for the channel. A great opportunity missed, and we were to lament the missed chance at that trophy fish for the rest of the trip.

    There was no time to dwell on it however, as we noticed an absolute beast of a saltwater croc lying on the flats only metres away, possessively chewing on a freshly captured sea turtle. In years of guiding and fishing on northern waterways Id never seen this before, and we enjoyed the spectacle whilst taking a few hurried snaps. The croc soon got over us, and powered out into the channel to enjoy its meal in peace, disappearing into some tight mangroves with the turtle clamped firmly in its jaws.

    The first few bends of the creek were fairly quiet, with a small jack, fingermark and barra the only real action. Sneaking along quietly with the electric, we came across a small drain, followed by a sweeping right-hand bend laden with large stands of snags along its deep cut bank. Immediately, Nick was into a solid jack as soon as his Bomber touched down, and what followed next was nothing short of chaotic. I fired out a hurried cast that landed well short of its target, but it didnt matter a plethora of fish had followed the hooked jack out to the boat, which now all turned their attention to my twitched lure! Instant double hook-up!

    With two bent rods it was pandemonium, and in the clear water I could see fingermark, jacks, barra, queenies, trevally and a small whaler shark excited and curious about all the commotion. The next few hours were a blur of action as every cast was met with multiple fish competing for the lure, and if you dropped a fish it only took one or two twitches before you were hooked up again.

    I caught two jacks on one lure, and had a good barra boof my lure as it dangled off the rod tip while I was trying to land my brothers hooked fish. Amidst all the chaos, Nick hooked the frisky whaler, and I laughed while I pulled out my fly rod and continued to catch fish after fish while a constant stream of profanities echoed from his end of the boat as the stubborn shark worked him over during the hot bite.

    HIGH HOPESWe woke to a bluebird morning, no wind, high spirits and with a sense of anticipation bordering on obsession. To say breakfast was a quick affair would be an understatement, and with high hopes we headed into the nearest creek system. As we planed into the shallow flats at the mouth, huge bow waves motored out in every direction, obviously spooked from our noisy arrival. I quickly throttled back, and as Nick deployed the electric, I theorised as to the creatures behind the big bow waves. Had we stumbled across a flat loaded with metre plus barra?

    We cast out bombers ahead of some slow cruising bow waves, but after a few ideal presentations it was obvious they werent playing the game. Were they the elusive permit? I finally stalked up close enough to a bow wave to get a decent look, as the morning sun had now risen higher in the sky allowing me to get a glimpse under the oily surface of the water. A solid turtle powered off past us, its now familiar bow wave pushing up off its rounded shell and following it as it made its way hastily into the nearby channel.

    Abandoning the turtles, we used the electric to motor into the entrance of the system noticing some nervous bait showering on the edge of the flats. Using my polarised sunnies, I could see a metre-plus threadfin salmon gently cruising the flats towards us. I wanted Nick to have first shot, but he was struggling to see the fish in the early morning conditions, and frustratingly it swam right up

  • sunset queenies will keep you smiling all night long. theres a myriad of places to target fish like this

    Modern Fishing 6766 www.modernfishing.com.au

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    SPECULATING THE SYSTEMThe next four days were a blur as we explored the creeks, flats and reefs of the Minimini system. As we slept in our boats each night, we had the advantage of being very mobile, and would explore a different creek or river system most days, and simply find a good anchorage each evening after wed fired out our final casts for the day.

    A few mornings we were blessed with great conditions, so we would head out of the estuary to nearby reefs and shoals that wed never fished before, and they all held good concentrations of golden snapper, brassy trevally and queenfish.

    When the tide was just right and the sun was out, wed sneak up onto any nearby flats and would sight-cast at barra, threadies, and we even stumbled across some big golden trevally tailing in a foot of water.

    The Minimini is an extensive system, and even four full days is only just enough to scrape the surface. Unlike other estuaries, many of the river systems actually link upstream via a series of interwoven tributaries and creeks that j