Fishing World Reports

Mick Fletoridid of Fishing World reports on fishing from purpose built Barra Boats with Darwins Barra Base at Corroboree Billabong in the NT.

On Safari with Darwins Barra Base

A day spent at Corroboree in the NT with a couple of hard working guides left Mick Fletoridid with a lasting impression of two neat plate boats.

Allan Beale is typical of the current crop of fishing guides found in the Northern Territory. He's passionate, hardworking and loves getting his clients hooked on fish. based in Darwin, Beale and his wife Heather run the successful Barra Base B & B which caters for travelling fishos and their families from all parts of the country. he specialises in Barra or Bluewater Sportfishing Safaris and a lot of his trade comes from day-tripping tourists - many of whom have never turned a reel handle.

When I met with Allan it was at the back end of a five day Territory visit and he was keen to show me around Corroboree billabong ( 90 minutes from Darwin) before I headed home.

It was a surprisingly chilly start when we pulled up at the Corroboree boat ramp to launch the flash new Beales boat ( one of two specialist plate sports fishers he now runs). Despite the brass monkey conditions at dawn, the day was expected to reach a balmy 26 degrees; for the month of May it was a pleasant prospect for this Sydney sider. Allan had a paying client, John , aged in his late 70s and a barra virgin, in tow.

As mentioned, Beale runs two boats; his other striking bright blue boat was under the control of Peter Burcher, a keen young guide recently introduced into Beales employ. The two had a brief "conference of war" and we hit the water. Peter had on board a couple of young blokes from Kangaroo Island in South Oz and it wasn't long before he had them hooked up to leaping billabong barra along a stretch of water Beale had previously found success.

Guided fishing at popular snaking waterways like Corroboree generally revolves around trolling ( as many clients can't cast) and guide boats are often seen jockying for position along the more popular trolling runs. Trolling hard bodied minnows such as Reidy's Little Lucifers, Long A Bombers and Halco Scorpions in bright colours ( indicated by names like "Guns 'n Roses" and "Elton John") lands Allan Beale a lot of fish for his clients. Lure actions are enhanced by rod tip "whipping" thrown in at regular intervals while trolling. This increased action would hopefully get any lethargic dry season barra on the bite. Corroboree billabong isn't renowned for monsters, but fish over the magic metre mark are caught there. Beales best is a 103cm fish and he and Peter have taken a few barra in the mid 90cms range between them.

6.8m Hydrocraft

Allan slotted the 660 Hydra-Craft a safe distance behind the smaller 550 boat driven by Peter Burcher - all three on board were hooked on to leaping barra.

6.8m Hydrocraft

Our Little Lucifers were soon smacked; as was the case each run we made along that particular stretch of the bank. The first couple of fish weren't barra, but decent sized saratogas that jumped about contorting their bodies to rid themselves of the brightly coloured lures.

The vastness of the Corroboree Billabong floodplains - which only a few weeks earlier were metres under water due to a late cyclone season - has to be seen to be appreciated. The billabong is part of the Daly River system which winds it's way to the mouth, roughly 70-80kms from where we were fishing. As we went about our trolling, getting bites and hooking fish at regular intervals, we crossed paths with a few of Corroboree's resident crocs, which are obviously in healthy numbers. A couple we saw sunning themselves at the waters edge would've easily been over four metres in length. Corroboree billabong's fauna and birdlife is well worth a visit alone. We saw water buffalo, wild pigs, wallabies, brolgas, jabirus, magpie geese, kites, eagles and more.

The day finished up with about 35 barras caught between the two boats. They averaged between 50 and 60 cms with a couple of bigger fish to 65cms. They were typical billabong barra and scrappy fighters on light baitcast outfits. We'd also landed half a dozen saratogas and some locally maligned catfish. It had been a fun and memorable day spent in an amazing part of the world.

Allan Beale
Allan Beale with a nice little Corroboree Billabong barra taken on the troll

Mick Fletoridis fished Corroboree Billabong courtesy of Darwin's Barra Base (08) 8945 0376

The boats

6.8m Hydrocraft

The 6.8m Hydracraft is one solid and well designed boat that, according to it's owner, lends itself well to both inshore and offshore fishing.

When Allan Beale was in the market for some new boats to service his growing clientele he went for a couple of specialised plate craft that would take the hard knocks involved with regular guiding in northern Australia's harsh environment. He didn't want agricultural style boats that are as tough as tanks with a ride and finish to match. Beales took his business to Darwin's GS Marine who build a range of boats to suit discerning fishos, including an exciting new line up of "Xtreme" side and centre console models. GSM's handiwork can also be seen in the two striking blue Hydracrafts featured on these pages.

Allan Beale's boats are manufactured to "2D survey" and built to last. Both are constructed from marine grade alloy (5mm bottom, 4mm sides, 3mm deck) foam filled and sink tested,have fully welded gunwhales, a plate deck and are self-draining. They feature enormous internal freeboard which makes them great for offshore work as well as for fishig the Territory's large river systems. A guides boat can never have enough rod holders and these two carry six each.

 Hydrocraft Specifications

Allan's model measures 6.8m LOA and his second boat, manned by Peter Burcher, 5.6m. Both look decidedly bigger on the water, and feel that way once on board. Allan's boat boasts a mile of fishing room, which he needs as he can cater for up to five clients at any one time; a large water cooler situated at the front of the consoles keeps clients well hydrated in the heat.

The "bull-nose" style of the Beale boats is accentuated by custom fit halogen driving lights recessed in the bow section. As you can see by the photos, they have high sides and large reverse chines that widen as they taper to stern. According to Beale , the chines do a good job of keeping him and his clients dry when running in choppy conditions offshore.

The skipper mans his helm from a pedestal seat directly forward of the transom, a configuration popular in the Territory. I had a drive to get a feel of a "Territory boat" and quickly found it to my liking, although sitting so far astern gives the driver a hindered view until the bow drops down to planing attitude.

boat controls

The skipper has a centre console fitted with required instrumentation, Humminbird sounder and Garmin GPS, has storage below and a well positioned binnacle for controlling the Suzuki mounted on the transom. The larger boat is fitted with a 200hp engine, the 5.6m a 140hp. Both Suzukis proved to be very smooth and noticeably quiet. The 200 had plenty of torque, easily pushing the heavy 6.8m boat around the twisty sections of the river when I took a stint behind the wheel. The driving position was great underway and the big plate boat felt quite nimble and was a lot of fun.

bow casting positions

The boats feature large bow casting platforms, swivelling pedestal seats, loads of storage and a Porta-potti. The casting deck on Allan's boat offers a great view as I discovered while peppering a few likely looking snags.

Allan's mounted another Humminbird sounder above floor level, below the casting deck for his clients. but hasn't installed an electric motor, preferring to use the four-stroke's power instead. Large venturi-fed kill tanks are built into the floors.


These boats certainly stand out from the crowd with their bright two-pack blue paintwork and signage. In the guiding business having an eye-catchig boat can be an asset, but looks aside so far they've lived up to Beales expectations."For a guide's boat it has absolutely everything", he told me. You can't get better that that!

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