Winter wanderings and a few tips on what you need

Peter Hayes

Last night I downloaded my emails and amongst them found Virgin Blues latest cut price travel offers. Air travel has never been cheaper and we should all take up these opportunities more often than we do. After all we are all here for a good time not a long time.

Reminders of winters past
I have fond memories of my winter escapes over the past few years. Darwin and Weipa are two favourite places. The weather is sensational - every day. Shorts and light shirts are all you need to live in. The change of scenery is good for the spirit and these times have been shared with good fishing mates. The memories live long in my mind and I seem to get value from the trip long after I have returned.

My experiences
Weipa is certainly one of the greatest light saltwater fly fishing destinations in the world. Because it is in our own backyard many of us don't realise it. Some mates fish there each year and they regularly catch over 50 different species during the week long trip. If cricket scores are what drives you then you will be interested to know that they caught some 1200 fish between the eight of them  in the week.
Much of the fishing is sight fishing from boats however,  if you prefer shore based fishing you can walk the beaches for miles. There are always tremendous schools of tuna in the bay and these provide great excitement if it's a fight you are after.
A few years ago I spent a week on a fully guided mother ship trip out of Darwin. Michael Winterton organised the trip. We anchored at Port Hurd which is the site of the now defunct Barra Base. Again, we mostly sight fished on the shallow sand flats. I don't remember how many species we caught but it was enough to keep everyone happy. If you are interested in Barra then this has to be one of the best destinations for them. Interestingly if you are planning a fly fishing trip to anywhere in the Northern Territory you need to consider the tides. Neap tides don't move as much water as the floods and consequently it is clearer. A big help when sight fishing.
It was a luxurious experience to camp on a 4 star boat anchored within 5 minutes run of the fishing. Beautifully appointed double bedrooms and showers in the rooms meant we were very comfortable. The boat was 83 feet long and made something like 200 kg of ice and 500 litres of water each day. We drank and ate like kings.
Broome was another great winter escape from the cold winter of Miena. Lisa and I had two consecutive trips there. It is a bit of an exercise to get diagonally across this vast land and a little more expensive than Broome or Darwin but well worth the trip. The North Western Australian coastline is magnificent and the Kimberly region has to be one of the world's last unspoilt wilderness destinations. We camped on remote beaches where the fishing was fantastic.
I fished in two fly fishing tournaments for sailfish where I had the best of fun. If you ever get the chance to go to Broome you must have a go at catching sails. One sailfish would pull a school of 20 tuna backwards. They jump like mad and are spectacular fighters.

Get a guide
Philliskirk, Winterton
and Williams
Because of my work and family commitments I only get a short break each winter. It is important to me that I make the most of this fishing time so I always hire a guide. I think I appreciate this point because of my occupation. I see the results time and time again in my business. We get back to the lodge or the hotel and sure enough my two clients have often caught more fish than the combined effort of the unguided lodge guests. If my time in Darwin and Weipa had been unguided I would have had a good break away from the hum drum of my life in winter Tasmania. Because I was guided I had some of the best fishing times of my life. It would have been a great pity to miss it for the lack of a guide.

Quality rods and several lines
For most people this sort of adventure is a once every couple of years and for some a once in a lifetime trip. My advice is don't risk messing it up with poor equipment. On our Weipa trip last year 8 guys managed to break 6 rods. Inevitably they were cheaper rods. Take along a spare rod or two even if you have to borrow them. Buy quality saltwater fly rods. You will also need several lines in case fish eat them or wrap you around reefs. A clear intermediate or clear sink tip is the go.

Flies - keep it simple
Flies are very simple. You only ever need White Deceivers in various sizes and weights. Don't let anyone tell you different. Flies like this can be tied quickly and cost effectively over a few sessions before you go. Oh, woops-a few crab patterns are a must for Weipa.
Apart from the sought after permit that eat them they have a fish there called a blue bastard. I'm not sure of what they actually are but they are great fish to target. The bastards live on a mixed sand and reef bottom. In 3 metres of water you can see them plainly snooping around on the sand looking for tucker.
Blue bastards behave identically to a tailing brown trout  in that they have their heads down and they work a defined beat. They are very blue in colour and are big. In the sunny, blue sky, clear water conditions they are easily seen. If you are able to get a static crab in front of them they will pick it up.
The first one I hooked took off for the reef at a million miles an hour. I couldn't stop or turn him in the 15 metre dash for the reef and I broke the 25 pound line a metre before he made it into the rocks.
The guide suggested I use 2 metres of 50 pound next time as they were generally not leader shy. I hooked another one and the same fight was repeated but this time the wopping big stainless hook was straightened. I left after a week not having boated one but determined to return and win a round with these wonderful fish.

Other stuff
Most fish you catch will have a gob full of teeth and plenty of spikes. Long nose pliers are a great idea. A leatherman is fine. Take plenty of sunblock and a broad brimmed hat. Shorts and Columbia shirts are the order of the day as are good sandals.
Keep the water up during the day and you will be in good shape to down a few at night.

Do it
Find some time and some cheap airfares. You will never regret it and I can guarantee you will have a good time.
Peter Hayes

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