Winter barra on the fly
  |  First Published: June 2013

If you like a real challenge to test your capability with the fly rod and your ability to read water and find fish, then impoundment barra during winter will offer another aspect of fly fishing that has mainly gone unannounced.

As apex predators, barra will take a fly just as easily as they take a plastic or hardbodied lure. Conventional wisdom is that the warmer months have always been the most productive with the majority of anglers considering that the best bite comes when the water tips over the magic 25ºC mark. But there’s a lot more to barra on fly than simply catching them in summer, I’ve taken them in water that was less than 15ºC in surface temperature.

In essence, winter fishing is a whole new ball game. If the right approach is used there’s immense satisfaction in taking barra at a time when most anglers believe that the fish are shut down for the season.

Let’s look at the big picture in any one of the east coast barra impoundments. As days shorten and lose their summer heat the water temperature drops gradually. The fish are still in the impoundment and can be targeted by the fly angler willing to accept the challenge.

Barra are a warm water fish so cooling water will reduce their feeding times and they will become less active. Whether they see it as a source of annoyance or a food item that is simply too good to resist, the almighty jolt from a barra hit is so satisfying.

Banker’s hours fishing

Having fished Monduran, Awoonga, Teemburra Peter Faust and Kinchant dams during the heat of summer there’s a much more relaxed, and even enjoyable, aspect about seeking fish in winter.

In complete contrast to summer flyfishing, there’s not the slightest need to be out of bed and on the water simply because daylight is only around an hour away. In winter it’s the influence of bright sunlight on the water plus the warming effect of the sun from around late morning onwards that will kick start the fish and see them moving into open, unshaded, areas.

Shallow water clue

One of the vital steps to winter fly rod success is finding the habitat that will bring fish into an area and hold them there. I’m talking about shallow water; very shallow water. If it’s 2m deep, it’s likely a metre too deep! It just won’t warm up sufficiently to hold fish and you’d be wasting time fishing.

Finding such areas is a matter of simply watching the sounder and using a lot of personal judgement. Backs of bays, edges of islands, and shallow flats adjacent timbered points are also good starting points.

I like bays, the wider the better. And if the bay has a gentle slope at the rear of it rather than an obvious gradient, it’s a perfect area to make a start.

Once an area of shallow water is located, the next obvious step is to look for cover that will hold barra during non feeding, resting up, times. Lily pads or small, skinny, submerged bushes are highly desirable features and are an important key to fish holding potential.

In an impoundment, such as Lake Monduran, it will be likely necessary to travel to around ‘B’ bay to find flats with this potential. But once there, the exploring can start in earnest and there are a lot of potentially good areas to explore and work with the fly tackle. Keep in mind water depth, once over a metre in depth the chances of success drop dramatically.


I have always advocated 10wt fly tackle for barra, and nothing changes in winter. Following the flood events, some dams are turning up smaller fish these days but there are still plenty of large ones remaining. Just because the fishing in winter requires different strategy and timing, these big barra will still fight as good as ever – trust me, they will!

The same MO prevails, there will be a couple of jumps in quick succession then powering straight to the nearest snag.

I’d use a 10wt rod, a matching weight intermediate (clear) fly line plus a full floating fly line on another spool for an alternative approach to offering a fully sunken fly. The reel should have serious drag capability to keep control of fish heading for cover.

Next issue I will go into the tactics involved in finding suitable habitat, ways of approaching the fish, more on tackle and some methods I rely on to get barra biting

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