Try not to feel too sorry for him but David Granville had to endure a week aboard a luxury mothership, cruising and fishing the spectacular Kimberley coastline. With tales of big barra and 5-star cuisine we may never get him in a swag again.
If you did a survey of anglers asking them their ‘bucket list’ fishing destinations I reckon the Kimberley in Western Australia would rate extremely well. While its remote location and minimal human impact ensures great fishing there is much more to the Kimberley that lures visitors from far and wide. No words or images can really do the scenic beauty justice so it truly is a place you must visit at least once in your lifetime.
While many choose to visit the Kimberley by four wheel drive, if you are short on time or prefer a little more luxury then there is simply no better way to see the Kimberley than aboard a vessel such as the Kimberley Quest II.
The Kimberley Quest II is an impressive vessel that has been custom built specifically for the purpose of cruising the Kimberley coastline. It can accommodate up to 18 guests in nine cabins – all with ensuites and air conditioning. It also carries four purpose built tenders suitable for fishing and sight seeing.
While the majority of Kimberley Quest cruises are tailored towards sight seeing, each year the company allocates a certain number of dedicated fishing expeditions where guest numbers are restricted to 12 for a maximum of three anglers per tender. These specialist fishing tours can be booked through fishing travel specialists Angling Adventures who understand what anglers need and not only book all your flights and transfers but can offer advice on gear etc as well. They also get first pick of the best tides so it pays to get in touch with them if it is a serious fishing trip you are after.
Angling Adventures personally trial all the operations they market to ensure that their clients will receive the experience they are paying for. It had been several years since Angling Adventures boss Garry Barmby had personally been on a trip with Kimberley Quest Cruises and while he had heard nothing but praises from his clients it was time to check it out for himself once again.
I get pretty excited when the name Garry Barmby pops up on my phone as it generally means a memorable trip is forthcoming. He had just finished saying the word Kimberley and my schedule had miraculously cleared. Of course I am coming Garry!
It’s a fair old haul from Brisbane to Broome via Perth but it is made easier when you know what the week ahead could bring. We overnighted in Broome at the Cable Beach Club which has very nice accommodation and a couple of great restaurants as well.
Some of the Kimberley Quest cruises depart from Broome but on this trip the boat was stationed well to the north and much closer to our fishing grounds. This did mean another small plane flight but saved a heap of travel time.
We took a light aircraft from Broome to Koolan Island which is actually a working iron ore mine. It provides mixed feelings flying into a mine site in this spectacular part of the country but I guess that is the world we live in today. I chose to ignore the big hole in the ground and just be thankful that this operation not only provided us with a safe runway but easy access to the northern Kimberley and most importantly more fishing time!
We were welcomed aboard the Kimberley Quest II by its extremely friendly crew. There was seven staff in total which included the captain Dan who also guides one of the tenders, three other guides Dave, Brent and Brad, the magnificent chef Paulo and the best hostesses you could ever ask for Riss and Candice.
There were only ten anglers in total including myself and Garry. The Field brothers Andy, Dan and John with their mate Geoff are Kimberley Quest regulars who come every year while other siblings Barry and Robert were treated to the trip by Barry’s wife. David, Rodney and Kerri were first time KQ visitors.
We departed Koolan Island and headed north as we all got to know each other. It didn’t take long to work out it was a great bunch of people onboard and it was going to be a great week with plenty of laughs.
We headed the bow for Walcott Inlet with a slight diversion on the way to check out a series of isolated rocky outcrops which are renowned trevally and queenfish haunts. We did catch a couple of both these species but it was far from red hot so we continued to our first anchorage in the Walcott for the night.
Our first meal aboard was spectacular and this set the tone for the rest of the week. The chef Paulo is a genius in the galley and just as well you sweat a bit off up there otherwise I would have come home ten pounds heavier.
Having being spoilt with my own air-conditioned cabin complete with comfy double bed, a good night sleep was assured and I subsequently bound out of bed with excitement of what our first day on the water might bring.
After a big brekky we hit the water. Garry and I drew Dave as our guide for day one. We started on the rocky points at the mouth of Walcott Inlet. You could see that this would be a great big barra spot but we were still on spring tides and the massive waterflow exiting the inlet was making fishing the points very difficult. We got a bunch of small fingermark and blue salmon but just didn’t feel like we were effectively fishing the spots where the barra would be holding so we ran upstream to get out of the tidal flow.
As we ran up the inlet the tender was getting pushed from side to side by the massive tidal whirlpools and while at no time did I feel unsafe you could see how someone inexperienced could get themselves into strife here. The tides in the Kimberley are massive and demand respect.
Dave took us to a nice little creek further up the Walcott Inlet and we found some nice drains, snags and rockbars we could fish without the influence of the massive waterflow at the entrance. All of a sudden we felt a lot more confident as our lures were now getting into the strike zone.
Now we had found a bit of shallower and slower running water I switched to one of my ‘go-to’ barra lures – a Z-Man 6in Swimmerz. These are a confidence lure for me as they have caught me literally hundreds of barra and rigged weedless with a worm hook and a small chin sinker in the loop knot I can fish just about any structure and cover most water depths. I also like the fact that they seem to work best on a slow roll which on a week long trip saves you from the sore wrist you get from twitching hardbodies.
Garry was travelling light and using the boat’s gear so he had a choice of Classic 120s or Classic 120s. He did have a choice of colours and depths though. If you are going to have a choice of one hardbody in your kit to chase barra though – this is a bloody good one to have.
The first likely looking drain we came to I fired a cast in under the over hanging trees and just had time to engage the reel before a barra engulfed my lure. It was no monster but put up a spirited fight with plenty of jumps. It’s always nice to get that first quality fish of a trip and as I held up 70cm of chrome for a happy snap I was a happy boy indeed.
The creek we were in was draining pretty quickly so we started fishing our way out as this is definitely not a place you want to be stuck for 12 hours. There was a nice snaggy bank near the mouth of the creek and the mullet were starting to run the gauntlet with fear in their eyes.
Dave got a little rat barra around the 50cm mark then Garry’s lure was smashed right at the rodtip – showering us all with water in the process. He managed to stay connected and land a solid 74cm salty barra.
We continued to work our way out of the creek and the barra were starting to boof on the mullet. I saw one fish feed and lobbed a cast right on its head. It couldn’t resist my plastic offering and I soon had a nice 75cm model in my grasp.
The tide pushed us out so we headed back to the Kimberley Quest for lunch. On the way back we had a quick cast on the point at the entrance to the Inlet and I jumped of a real nice fish. Probably not quite a metery but certainly a fish in the 90s.
There was a fair bit of talk around the lunch table about the big ones that got away. The other boats stayed around the entrance and did hook some nice fish but most won their freedom it seemed. Andy managed a solid 90cm fish and Robert got his first ever barra at 95cm – not a bad way to open your account.
It sure was nice to get out of the heat in the middle of the day – sit in air-conditioned comfort while enjoying a nice meal and a cold drink and recharge the batteries in anticipation for the afternoon session.
We were greeted with a big flood tide for the afternoon session on day one so it was always going to be tough. Garry and I talked Dave into cutting the session short after a few fingermark but the other crews persisted and some were rewarded for their efforts. Brent managed to push right up a creek and into the fresh where Dave managed to land his first barra – just a lazy 104cm thank you very much! Many barra anglers go years before catching a wild fish of that calibre – and he catches one on his first day. You gotta love the Kimberley. John also managed an 89cm model proving the big flood tides aren’t a total waste of time.
While we were having breakfast on day two Dan moved the Kimberley Quest further up the Walcott Inlet to give us access to more of the upstream creeks. Garry and I had Brent as our guide on day two and as the tide was still high on our arrival we chose to fish some mid stream submerged timber with vibes and plastics. I started with a Z-Man 4in Swimmerz and gave Garry a Zerek Hotlegs Shrimp. While the fish weren’t big we had an insane little session on fingermark, Queensland groper and estuary cod. It was basically a fish a cast and a bunch of fun while we were waiting for the barra snags to reveal themselves.
With the tide now dropping Brent headed upstream explaining he wanted to fish a snag that he had seen last time he was there but didn’t have the right tide to fish it. Today was the right tide. We were in the main river and the tide was pushing onto the snag pretty good. Brent positioned the boat upstream of the snag and I lobbed my plastic right next to the timber. I was just letting it flutter down when it got slammed on the drop. There was a massive boil on the surface and I could tell straight away it was a nice fish. It was about now I was questioning my choice of running 45lb Schneider as leader. I could feel line on timber and I was going as hard as I could without breaking line. My heart sank as I felt solid timber and the fish had got me in the trees. I decided to freespool and could feel the fish move again. Despite still feeling timber this gave me a glimmer of hope. I went hard again and managed to break a tree branch which in turn had me tight to the fish again. It came up jumping and my heart was pounding like a base drum. Brent got the net under her and at 101cm on the lie detector it was my first wild metery for quite a while so I was elated. Garry kindly performed the photo duties and we sent the big girl on her way. Pretty damn happy that leader survived too.
Brent repositioned the boat and Garry’s first cast on the same snag sees him hooked up to a donkey of a barra that made my metery look like a guppie. It was an insane fight around the timber which was made harder by the strong current. You could nearly smell Garry’s thumb burning as the big fish took line under a locked drag. It was enough to make a grown man cry as the line went limp. I assumed he had broken line but he actually pulled the hooks. He had no choice but to go hard in that country but geez it is disappointing to lose the fish of a lifetime. If it wasn’t 120cm+ I’ll eat my hat.
The trebles were stuffed on that lure so Garry borrowed one of my Halco Scorpions. First cast with the new lure and Garry is on again but this time he does break line. It wasn’t as big a fish this time but his line must have been damaged from the previous encounter. I had kissed my Halco goodbye when that barra came up jumping and threw the lure so we went and got it back. Thanks barra.
Third time lucky on this snag Garry finally stayed connected and boat a nice 84cm barra – a bit of a consolation prize I guess compared to the behemoth he could have had.
We tried a few different creeks after lunch and it was pretty quiet besides an 80-something barra that I hooked right at the rodtip then proceeded to do a series of the most amazing jumps I have ever seen a barra do. I swear it thought it was a blue marlin. Anyway it fell off beside the boat but was a cool fish to have on the line.
We couldn’t resist the urge to go back to the snag where we had all the action that morning and sure enough first cast Garry got a lovely 102cm barra. Yes he had to outdo me by 1cm. We had our chef Paulo out with us and it seems he is not only handy in the kitchen but skilled with a camera also. He picked up my SLR while I was on net duties and nailed a cracking jump shot of Garry’s barra. A few casts later I scored an 84cm model and it was time to call it a day.
We were on the move again while dinner was being served and it sounded like it was a pretty successful day for most of the boats with a bunch of fish in the 70s and 80s caught. Garry and I were pretty stoked to get two meterys in one day though.
We anchored at Raft Point in Doubtful Bay after dinner and then weighed anchor again in the early hours to use the tide and make our way to the mouth of the Sale River. The Sale is a really pretty river and we had a quick early morning session but once again the high tide was against us and we spent more time taking scenic photos than catching fish. A couple of the boats decided to have a bait fish and they smacked the jacks and fingermark so there is always options if you are prepared to get your hands dirty.
We moved again while having breakfast to a spot called the Bali Impediment. This anchorage also provided access to the Glenelg River which is where Brad took Garry and I for our next session. The mouth of the Glenelg has a heap of big rock bars and rocky points where fish can ambush their prey. It also has a lot of tidal movement and once again care needed to be taken traversing these waters.
We decided to head upstream and fish the snags and drains and leave the mouth to the other groups. We hopped from snag to snag and ticked away at a few barra in the 70s but it was hardly red hot. Then we found a rockbar which was loaded with jacks and Qld groper. We had a mad little session and although the fish weren’t huge when you’re getting slammed by jacks every cast it is pretty cool for a southern Queenslander like me that will fish all day for one mangrove jack at home.
We trolled a steep rock wall on the way back to the boat and both Garry and I jumped off nice barra and Brad got a little one. Back at the mothership we learned that Dave had found his anglers a nice snag and pulled out a bunch of quality fish including a 104cm beauty for Dan.
We loaned our chef Paulo our boat and our guide as Garry and I enjoyed the sunset with beer in hand from the front deck of the mothership and sure enough you could hear the screams of joy as Paulo landed his first barra not far from the anchorage. I’m sure he enjoyed cooking that one up.
The tide was right for a really early start on day four so Garry and I joined Dan on this occasion for a daylight raid on creeks of the Bali Impediment. Dan ran straight to a creek mouth that had some mad snags at its entrance with another smaller creek joining it. This place was alive – there was bait flicking everywhere, barra were boofing and you just knew you were going to get bit. The sun had still not risen and there was just a pink glow in the sky as Garry landed a nice 85cm barra with his very first cast. I jumped one off first cast then Garry got smoked. I proceeded to catch a bunch of fingermark and cod before finally hooking the fish I was after. A metre-plus barra engulfed my plastic then took to the air in a series of insane jumps before leaving me standing there with a limp line. Yep he had got it deep and chaffed me off. Ahh those ones hurt but I guess they are also the ones that bring you back.
We moved to another creek and I decided to try one of the Samaki Vibes. I was having a ball catching fingermark nearly every drop but got a nice surprise when a little barra jumped on. Then I got another little baz – I was starting to like these soft vibes. Garry also got a few fingermark and a couple of small barra on the Classics so with the tummies grumbling we headed back to the Kimberley Quest for breakfast after a memorable early morning session. It seemed everyone had a pretty good morning with four or five barra to 85cm on each boat.
It was a pretty slow old arvo for Garry and I with a couple of small barra and a few odds and sods like a little creek GT that gave me a bit of fun but the big barras were eluding us. It seems the other guides had them dialled in though and Brent had put his crew onto some nice fish and so had Brad. In fact Dan was hooked up to an 87cm fish as we were heading for home so it was nice to watch him fight and land that fish.
Day five Garry and I were back on with guide Dan and were joined by angler Dan as well. We started on the rockbars at the mouth of the Glenelg and I jumped one off straight up, Dan go a nice jack and we proceeded to watch John catch a nice one beside us in the other boat. We decided to run upstream and fish the snags again. I had a mad little session on the vibes again. Everything was eating those things, barra, fingermark, queenies, bream and even a lost mackerel fell to the Vibelicious.
Dan got smoked by a nice barra and when it came up jumping to throw the lure I nearly managed to snag his line with my lure. Close but not close enough.
Over lunch we were on the move again to another spot they called the Three Ways. We ticked away at the other species here with a menagerie of fish such as fingermark, blue salmon, cod and trevally all hitting our lures and the only encounters with barra for the afternoon ended in tears. Yep Garry and I both got monumentally smoked. Garry in heavy timber and me on a rockbar.
We were back up the Three Ways the next morning and Andy joined us for our final day of fishing. We were working some small drains when the unmistakable sound of a barra boofing was heard. The boys had no joy with the hardbodies but I rolled the old Z-Man through there and bang I was on. It was a great fight in the relatively tight country and it was nice to hold up 75cm of chrome in the early morning light. These Kimberley barra are so shiny it is amazing. Next snag along Garry got the twin – another 75 and Andy got a nice jack.
After lunch we moved again to the mouth of Red Rock Creek so we could check out Ruby Falls. This is spectacular country and we couldn’t resist going for a quick swim. A word of warning if you find yourself here though – only swim in the pools above the waterfall as crocs can still reach the pool below the falls, and be very aware of the tides – they can drop very quickly in this area and leave you high and dry.
We spent our last night in a beautiful anchorage at the Horizontal Falls. These falls are very famous for their massive tidal flow and can be extremely dangerous for the inexperienced boater but fortunately our guides know their stuff. There are tours that run through the falls in large rigid inflatable boats but the next morning we did the run in the KQ tenders. The first set of falls at the wide point are relatively tame but looking at the second opening it is hard to imagine any boat trying to go through there. There was a six to eight feet height difference from where we were to the next gorge – there was that much water trying to escape this narrow opening. An amazing sight and certainly one I’m glad we saw.
After our exciting morning it was a relatively sedate cruise back to Koolan Island on the Kimberley Quest for our light plane transfers back to Broome. It was hard to believe the week had gone so quick but as they say time flies when you’re having fun.
Obviously a trip like this doesn’t come cheap but when you take into consideration the level of comfort, the food, the service and of course the fishing, well the Kimberley Quest trips are actually exceptional value for money. Sure you may not make it an annual event like the Field brothers but if you can save your pennies then I can highly recommend it at least once in your life. It is definitely a female friendly trip also and guys if you want to take your better half on an amazing trip and still sneak in some fishing then this may be your answer.
Kimberley Quest – 1300 156 035 – www.kimberleyquest.com.au
Angling Adventures – 1800 033 094 – www.anglingadventures.com.au
Australia’s North West Tourism – www.australiasnorthwest.com