One heli of a fishing trip
I MUST be the luckiest fella in Australia after receiving a heli-fishing trip for Valentine's Day. As a fishing tragic, this was the ultimate gift.
Heli fishing conjures up memories of that famous ad where the guy is fishing from the helicopter.
And while this didn't happen, our friendly guide Tim did drop us in some incredible fishing spots in one of the most inaccessible areas of Australia.
The feeling of remoteness and being in pristine wilderness enhances the "pinch myself" experience.
The day begins from the Noonamah airstrip about a half-hour drive south of Darwin.
The 45-minute journey to the Anson Bay coastal floodplains in a small but comfortable R44 helicopter almost eclipses the fishing as we have a scenic joy flight over the beautiful Litchfield National Park.
At this time of year, the falls are in full flow and we get a bird's-eye view of Wangi and Florence Falls.
The lime green Daly-Reynolds river floodplains, the red cliffs, white sand and the turquoise ocean are a sight to behold.
But it is when our guide motions towards a small inlet pumping brown muddy water into the turquoise and says, "This is the first fishing spot" that the adrenalin starts pumping.
We set down on a small patch of white sand where the only footprints are those of a wild boar and dismount and head to the water's edge.
As we approach, there is a loud splash and swirl in the mangroves not more than 15m across the creek.
And a few moments later, after we had started fishing on the creek bank, a 2.5m saltwater crocodile pokes his head up about 50m upstream.
No barra at the first spot is no problem. Our guide quickly packs us up and moves us about a five-minute helicopter ride down the coast to another beautiful, secluded spot.
This time we are in luck and within the first few casts, I hook a 72cm barramundi when the lure is almost back at my feet.
The barra hit the lure like a freight train and took off, performing some aerial theatrics only metres off the bank.
I land a further two "swamp rats" (darker barramundi that have lived in predominantly freshwater) of about 50cm before we decide to break for lunch.
Another brief flight and we land on a shady section of beach where we consume our lunch. As the tide is going out, the beach is some two kilometres wide.
After woofing down lunch, a short stroll brings us to the next spot and it doesn't disappoint.
After only a few casts, I hook a healthy silver 65cm specimen that would be at home on a plate in any fine-dining restaurant.
Unfortunately, all fish on heli-fishing adventures are tag-and-release so she is returned to the water after the obligatory photo session. I manage to hook another similar fish not long after but it spits the hook in a spectacular leap from the water.
After that, the fish go quiet and with an ominous tropical storm approaching, we jump in the chopper for our return journey.
We scout around the approaching storm and are treated to an electrical light show that tops off a fantastic day.
At a cost of $2500 for two people, heli fishing isn't cheap, but I can say that this is one of the top-five experiences of my life (and I've done a bit).
SCENIC AND SALTY