Barramundi were jumping out of the water at King Ash Bay Fishing Club but they were just warming up for the wet. We were a little early, we were told, although here and there a boat came in with a fair catch.
We stocked up in Borroloola before heading north-east to King Ash Bay and once again realised we had failed to check the alcohol restrictions that apply in remote communities. Restrictions vary and information can be hard to find in advance. It's difficult to work out sometimes where the communities start and end. In Borroloola, we waited for the pub to open at 10am but learnt ruefully that cartons of mid-strength beer only were available at the shop after 2.30pm..
Fortunately the KABFC has an excellent open bar at the camping ground run mainly by volunteer workers. That was the happy venue for our last couple of nights with Barb and Phil before they pointed Narelle in the direction of home.
Our little convoy had a campsite right on the bank of the McArthur River above a ledge used for fishing. We were told we were lucky: only a week ago the camps had been three-deep, although the fish were not biting.
We poked rods out and sighed at a teasing 1.5m barra leaping out of the water.
The fishing club has more than 600 members from all over Australia. It was formed about 20 years ago when authorities decided the straggle of fishing huts thrown up in the area needed a more formal arrangement.
King Ash Bay Fishing Club was formed, a couple of hundred acres leased and some powered sites put up near the club house and bar. A strip of flat land was mowed for unpowered sites and fairly basic showers and toilets built. Membership costs a couple of hundred dollars a year and most work is done by volunteers who get reduced rates.
If you are really good you get to be a life member and can be offered a permanent site to put up whatever structure you fancy.
That’s what happened to Lynn and Tom Burton from Childers, who discovered King Ash Bay in 2006 and have been going back every year. Before they retired Lyn worked at the high school in Childers and Tom at orchards in the Isis.
The fishing club is now their second home. They have a boat they leave in a shed on their block and use the place as a springboard to explore the north of Australia in the winter.
Lynn was acting as caretaker in the office when we called in to book our sites. Casual campers on unpowered sites pay $11 per person per night, or $83 a week for the site; powered sites cost $35 a night or $177 a week.
The Burtons had been at KABFC since March. Boy, was the fishing good then! It went off in June. They were planning to go back to Childers in October after the fish began biting again and before the big swelter.
Concern that day was for an elderly couple from Brisbane, who had come up with a caravan and boat. He had injured his shoulder loading their gear ready for the trip home and had been taken to Darwin on the Royal Flying Doctor.
His wife thought she could tow the van home with the boat on top but would need someone to hook it up. The fishing club members were all pitching in to help out and make sure the couple both made it safely home to Brisbane.
“When you get crook up here or anywhere remote it’s always hard,” said Lynn.
We didn’t stay long enough to catch fish but we enjoyed seafood baskets caught and superbly cooked by someone else at the KABFC. The price was fine, the beer was cold and the company excellent for our last supper with the Dwyers.