A closer look at Impoundment barra
  |  First Published: December 2014

In last month’s issue I discussed the need to use a 10wt fly outfit with both a floating and intermediate sink rate line to maximise chances of catching a big impoundment barramundi on fly tackle.

The two fly line concept sees the floating line and a floating fly such as a Crease Fly, Gartside Gurgler or big Dahlberg Diver – all on 3/0 hooks – through the rod guides when the light is non-existent or well down. Barra love to feed at night and having them whack at a surface offering is mighty exciting if not somewhat unnerving.

When using the dry fly technique, the idea is to work the fly gently with a couple of tweaks, give it a chance to sit a bit and then give it some more tweaks. Pushing the rod purposely towards the fly as it comes to rest will ease just a small amount of slack into the system, which allows easier hook ups. I like to wiggle my dry flies every 10 seconds or so to attract a fish.

If using the wet fly and intermediate line, then it’s wise to use a dark coloured fly (dark red and purple is a great colour) so it stands out against any ambient light from the sky. Small tweaks and twitches are the key to success and don’t be surprised if a fish grabs the fly just as it’s about to come out of water right by the side of the boat. Long casts are not required at night as a boat sitting quite still – with sounder off and no bumping or noise within – is not going to frighten fish. Be ready, that’s my advice.

Playing fish on fly gear

The clue, whether using a sinking of surface fly, is to carefully select the correct spot to fish well before dark and locate the boat so a hooked fish cannot get into any timber within about 40m from the boat. If hard cover is further away that’s even better, but 40m clearance can usually work so long as the angler is not afraid to test gear to the max to stop a big fish in its tracks. By this I don’t mean high sticking the rod and hoping things hold together. There are plenty of fly rod catchable fish this can work on, but barra are not among them. I am referring to holding the rod very low and to the side while using it as a lever with the butt section really doing a lot of the work. At the same time, the drag (which should already be quite tight) can be locked further with the hand to keep the fish in check.

Positioning the boat

Let’s now talk about locating the boat. To me, this means keeping it perfectly positioned via a weed anchor (such as a small brick or other weight ) in a place where barra should pass in their evening travels. Weed edges, points, channels; all are perfect especially if, during the last of the light, a fish is already taken or a bit of surface action is apparent nearby.

The anchor rope can have a float on it so it can be jettisoned immediately if a powerful fish is obligingly heading away from cover and needs to be chased somewhat. If the fish is heading into cover, the anchor will hold the boat so it cannot be towed. Most times, fish are just too big and powerful! Remember that night fishing requires patience; barra have a definite bite period and whether it’s sooner or later in the night only hindsight will reveal the exact time. Normally, if a few whacks or boofs are being heard action shouldn’t be far away.

Leader tactics

A word on leaders. I didn’t expand on leaders last issue but my view is that the chosen leader should be able to turn over a large bulky fly tied on a 4/0 hook with ease. That leaves us with options of a store bought model, a twisted home made job constructed from 40lb leader material or (as I use ) single sections of Penn 10X or similar material connected to be less than 3m in over all length so joiner knots are away from the tip runner.

I opt for 1m of 60lb, 50cm of 40lb, the same of 30lb and a final 40cm of 40lb fluorocarbon tippet to prevent the fly from being chafed or gill raked off. Why the 30lb? If a big fish bolts into hard cover, it’s far better to break the leader than the fly line. This system has worked for me plenty of times.

Beware the timbered flats

How to avoid break offs in the first place comes down to choosing exactly the right place to fish and this does requires some thought. In any barra impoundment, there are plenty of enticing looking flats covered in timber. We know barra live there; they often boof happily when feeding and another angler will happily regale you with the tale of the big one he lost in that tiger country but, trust me on this, where that timber is thick is no place for the fly rod. You will get a hook up, sure, but the connection will be brief. Once a fish takes the fly line around a tree you can kiss it good bye. If, however, there is an open bay or point adjoining that timbered flat, I’d make it a first choice place to test the fly rodding skills. Small bays or point between sections of timber, creek edges without timber or even sections of weed beds adjoining open water are all prime fly rod spots.

In all, taking a barra on fly is very achievable in many of our impoundments. They won’t fight any less than their salt water counterparts but isn’t that part of the fun when tackling these iconic sports fish?

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