Today’s column is brought to you by Goat Island’s buffalo burgers, the chicken schnitzels of Crab Claw Resort and the ever-elusive Million Dollar Fish.
A few Sundays back my housemates, the soon-to-be-wed Lynda and Sexy George, announced an attempt at the Million Dollar Barra and dragged me out of bed at 6am. I don’t know anything about fishing other than you have to push the hook through the other side when you get it stuck in your thumb. Lynda and Sexy George don’t know anything about fishing either, but they have a wedding reception to pay for and the latter recently acquired a Sexy Boat.
The plan was to spend the morning cruising up Adelaide River dragging the lines before stopping 24km upstream at Goat Island for a few cold beers and a burger cooked by local legend King Kai.
The first snag occurred when it became apparent that neither Lynda nor I can reverse a trailer, particularly not when the boat ramp is the width of a tic tac and half of Darwin (the half that can reverse a trailer) are in the launch queue watching. Sexy George was in the boat shouting increasingly confused instructions at the increasingly panicked Lynda until one bloke took pity on her and offered to take over. Lynda climbed out of the driver’s seat and thanked him for saving her relationship.
The boat waterborne, Sexy George suggested we park the car and meet him at the jetty. Once we had the trailer tucked in a spot so snug that it was going to take at least two hours to get it out again, Lynda trotted off to the loo and I headed back. After some time searching the water, I spotted Sexy George tearing up the river on the opposite bank with the nose of the boat in the air, practically vertical, waving frantically before vanishing around a bend.
Mystified, I waited. Presently he came zooming back into view on the near side and past the jetty at breakneck speed shouting ‘TELLLYNDATOBRINGTHEFUCKINGTRAILERBACKIFORGOTTO…’ and he was gone.
Wondering what it was he could possibly have forgotten and why he couldn’t just slow down for a second to clarify, I went to find Lynda. As I passed the ramp I overheard one of the older blokes in the queue cackling fit to burst.
‘Did ya hear about that joker out there in the fancy shirt? He hasn’t got a bloody bung in his boat!’
Sexy George didn’t drown or get eaten by a crocodile, but the subsequent day of lovers’ quarrels, dodgy engines, dodgier driving, sunburn, a sudden drenching thunderstorm and the fact that we didn’t catch a single fish, a smart person would have given up altogether. I, however, decided to give chronic failure another crack.
A couple of weeks after the near-collapse of my housemate’s relationship, my colleagues and I headed to Crab Claw Resort for a ”work trip” full of bravado, unrealistic expectations and a total lack of fishing ability under the guidance of a pair of self-proclaimed Fishing Experts, Greg and Ed.
We unloaded the slushie machine on arrival on the Friday night (pre-loaded with three litres of vodka and a bottle of Pimms) and fortified ourselves with steaks, schnitzels and a couple of delicious Caesar salads at the elevated restaurant, returning to our cabins for a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity, where it became apparent that we are all, in fact, horrible people.
The next morning we piled into Ed’s Very Sexy Boat. Ed’s boat is way sexier than Sexy George’s. First, it has seats. Second, the engine works. Third, when you’re hit with a bow wave taller than a coffee cup you don’t cling to the Esky praying that it floats while frantically texting your mum to say you love her and you’re sorry you but it was you who set fire to the garage in 1992. However, we did feel two boats would be more comfortable, so Greg went to the main building to make inquiries of the general manager.
“Hmm. There’s a bit of weather about.”
The water in Bynoe Harbor was as flat and still as particularly flat and motionless glass, the sky slightly overcast and not a breath of wind, perfect conditions that did not escape Greg’s well-trained eye.
“Yep. There’s a bit of weather about. Not sure I can hire you a boat, anything might happen. Hate for you to capsize in a sudden squall … I’d be down a boat. And a couple of life jackets.”
Greg explained politely that short of a freak asteroid striking the centre of the water, engulfing Dundee in the ensuing tsunami, nothing remotely dangerous was going to happen. No dice, proclaimed the manager, we were going to have to make do with one. As a result, the Very Sexy Boat was packed tight.
And that was the most exciting thing that happened for the first two hours. A bunch of hungover non-fishos who were happy to have their rods hooked, baited and handed to them by the experts. Two hours of nothing before one member of our party turned around and said, rather foolishly under the circumstances: ”Hey guys, has anyone had a nibb..”
We’re still telling ourselves that absolutely no way was that barra tagged with the Million, as it zipped under the Very Sexy Boat and was deep in the mangroves well before our esteemed colleague figured out how to switch her reel into the locked position.
Later in the day (and about two slabs of beer later) it became apparent that our Experts were steaming drunk. Ed distinguished himself by flinging his rod into the water mid cast, then launching himself bodily over the side of the boat to scoop it out of the drink before it disappeared. In his desperation to assist, Greg nearly flung himself overboard as well. Then a dingy the size of a washtub sputtered past us, sending up a 2cm swell and darn near swamping us. Not wanting to give the general manager the satisfaction of losing a lifejacket, we turned for shore.
By the end of the weekend all we’d landed were a small catfish, a large stingray and a very teensy crab that nipped Ed’s finger, all for a net overboard loss of a new pair of pliers, one vape, a pair of pants, three hats, our dignity, Greg’s John West salmon and the Million Dollar Barra that got away.