Fly Fishing Andranangoo AKA Goose creek
“A fish from the history books” are the words that The Godfather of fly fishing, Lefty Kreh, used to describe the Saratoga in Goose Creek which is in Rod Harrison's sports fishing video “A New Frontier“ from the late 80’s, and now I know why.
Andranangoo Creek, which is the traditional name of Goose Creek, is a small river system that is fed by a spring up in the flood plains and ends up flowing into the Afafura Sea at the top of Australia's Melville Island. Melville and Bathurst Islands make up the Tiwi Islands and are off to the North of Darwin. The islands stretch 8,320 square kilometers and have many creeks and river systems that have mostly remained untouched, something that is so uncommon today.
AN INVITATION TO FLY FISH THE TIWI ISLANDS
After watching Parallel Lines last year at the Rise film Festival the CEO of Macquarie Bank Guy Reynolds asked if Nick Reygaert, founder of Gin Clear Media, would like to come up to see the Tiwi Collage’s Guide Program, an initiative for the college student to become a guide at the lodge that Guy Simmons and Mathew Hayden Australian cricket legend are proudly involved with.
Jacob Parmigiana and I were also invited along to be a part of the journey and stayed at the college for a few days with the guidance of Jason Ryan, the head foreman of the college and keen fisherman along with one of the young gun students in the guide program, Anthony John Lorenzo Guy.
After the short flight from Darwin we landed on Melville Island and went straight to the cultural centre to be shown through the art gallery and museum by Pedro Wonaeamirri. While having a yarn to him he mentioned that it was his father that had taken a pair of American and Australian fly anglers (Lefty and Harro) to Goose Creek and explained that he is now the custodian of Goose Creek. I asked him two questions, 1) can we have permission to fish his land? And 2) would he like to be taught fly fishing? Thankfully he said yes to both!
The hour-long drive down the red dusty road seemed to slip away as thoughts of the adventures ahead ran through my head. It was that vision of Lefty and Harro all those years ago that had me always wanting the fish this creek.
As soon as we arrived at the boat ramp Pedro was out of the ute and talking in Tiwi to the ancestors letting them know that he was there and had us with him. His voice echoed over the creek and through flood plains. The water was the colour of tea but to him it was clear and the lily pads and flowers lined the edges of the creek, just as I remembered from the film.
SARATOGA TIME ON ANDRANANGOO CREEK
Australia is the only place in the world that has Saratoga, an ancient fish that is well documented in the indigenous artworks of Northern Australia. We have two mainland species, the Leichardti which are in the eastern flowing rivers of Queensland and the Jardinii, which are in the rivers that flow into the Gulf of Carpenteria of Queensland and Northern Territory. The only other place is on Melville Island.
This was Jacob's first time up north so he was amazed at their fighting abilities and was in awe of their great patterns and colours. There was one fish in particular that I will always remember of Jacobs and that was the biggest of the trip. He placed a great cast along a tree-lined section with lily pads on the left and almost as it hit the water the line came tight. To see his face when he saw the size was priceless and he quickly had the fish under control after a great tussle. Jacob was over the moon when he had it in his hands.
I had previously caught the two mainland species so was more than happy to fish this great creek but what I witnessed was the best Saratoga fish that I have ever seen. After hearing stories from Jason and Anthony about ‘Toga hitting frogs and duck lures I had tied up a bird fly to give a go and I had a toga smash it on the first cast.
The next couple of hours was insane with us casting so many different flies, including a NYAP and double hand stripping the flies as fast as we could back to the boat with the ‘Toga making bow wave after them and hitting them so hard that many would launch themselves out of the water with their prize in their mouth.
We stopped counting in the end but it was well over 20 and something that I will never forget.
SWAMPIES AND SALTIES
Barramundi for me is a fish that I will never tire of catching on fly. They are a true Australian icon and the Goose Creek Barra live up to their mainland cousins. With no commercial and recreational fishing allowed this is as good as it gets, with large amounts of them in the salt and fresh water.
Goose Creek is surrounded by flood plains that are needed to make a great Barra fishery, with the fresh and brackish parts lined with paperbarks, lilies, bull rushers and drains that flood out from the plains and the saltwater adorned with great snags and mud banks. This is where the great work of the guide program and local knowledge had Anthony casting into all the likely spots producing a fish a cast in some spots and multiple double hookups.
The session I loved the most is when we had the Barra boofing surface flies, there is no better sound than the implosion of a Barra. It looks like a hole is left in the surface of the water when they inhale your fly, and once you have had a good surface bite it will have you always wanting more.
THE TIWI ISLAND FISHING LODGES
There are three lodges on the Tiwi Islands that are now in full ownership of the Tiwi people. The Barra base that started in the 80’s and was made famous for the great barramundi fishing is sadly not in operation anymore. The Melville Island Lodge is the main lodge that takes clients.
The last is the Johnston River Camp which is very remote and you get to fish some of the most off-the-grid river systems on Melville Island. This is an area that I will be looking forward to exploring more next time we go back to follow-up reports of lots of Threadfin Salmon, Mangrove Jack and loads of Barra.
For anyone that has an adventurous nature and wants to see remote untouched Australia landscape and fishing at its finest, just as Lefty and Harro did back in the 80’s, then this is a place you need to visit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shannon Kitchener is a fly fisherman, artist, fly tyer, film star, and destroyer of all things creepy and crawly. If you want to learn how to tie a few of his super effective saltwater fly patterns then just head to his YouTube channel.