So you want to catch an impoundment barra. Where do you start?
A barra novice who trolls might have a better chance of success because of the amount of water covered, but novices relying on lures, plastics or flies are going to do it tough unless they’re very lucky. I can’t say much about trolling for barra because I don’t do it; I’m a fly angler. However, I can confidently say that if the fly works in certain scenarios, so will the lure or plastic. It all comes down to fishing in the right places, at the right times and in the right way – and that’s what this article is about.
The first step towards that terrific wrench on the rod and the zing of braid through the guides is to look at the weather forecast. Settled weather, whether the breeze is from any given quarter, is one factor that boots barra into a feeding mode. Remember, barra dams are usually brimful of bony bream so the fish are never hungry, but certain factors seem to get them feeding. Settled weather is also a great confidence booster for the angler, which is vital. You must have confidence, not just hope.
If the weather isn’t cooperative and the breeze is chopping around from one quarter to the next each day, there are still plenty of chances if you fish places where the breeze has been blowing onto the shore on that day. Hopefully, the wind will have bought some warmer surface water into that area. Unwelcome factors influencing this might be metre high waves crashing onto the area (bad news for small craft), or really thick standing timber.
“Wait,” you say, “don’t barra like standing timber?” Sure they do, but tackle in the hands of inexperienced anglers does not. Why fish for a wipe-out? Barra absolutely explode on a lure and can stitch braid through the sticks before an angler can get control. A safer location is where the timber is not so thick. Alternatively, you can fish where a flat or point adjoins heavy timber but has some open areas to give you a chance of controlling 15kg of sudden pulling power. Impoundment barra grow to serious sizes. In dams like Monduran, Kinchant, Peter Faust, Awoonga, Teemburra and Tinaroo, a 110cm barra isn’t considered really big.
Light timber, a more open area, waves washing in warmer water – this is all good. Also good is the lee side of a point that’s seen wave action continually for some time. Warm water builds, the water gets dirty and the barra love it. Just remember, if the timber is really thick you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. A safer option is to find a flat or lightly timbered area, and then cast to the smallest, spindliest twigs and branches protruding above the surface. Barra seem to be drawn to skinny bits of timber far more than heavy trees, and they love horizontal cover as well. To find a few of these in an area where there’s 30-50m or so of cleared area to play a fish is gold.
Also, the older the timber, the better. Fish don’t like freshly flooded foliage. And never overlook weed bed or lily bed edges. These are always in shallow water and are prime hideouts for barra on the chew.
These fish see a lot of hardware and hear a lot of noise over time. If you find a good spot, you can bet that heaps of other anglers have as well, so the fish will tend to be edgy. Getting your electric motor into action well before you start casting is a big plus, but if it’s possible to drift, that’s also a bonus. When it comes to noise, less is better.
Next comes water depth. Feeding barra don’t hesitate to move into shallow water, where they just mooch about quietly, feeding or waiting patiently for something to come their way. You’ll find that working shallow areas, particularly if some of the earlier factors I’ve mentioned are locking into place, will be far more productive than casting at treetops in 10m of water. These days I don’t bother to fish deep water. Maybe up to 5m, perhaps, but if I can find water a lot shallower that’s always my best bet.
Many anglers swear by the lead up to full moon as the best time to wet the net under a barra, and sure, plenty are caught then. However, that’s at least partly because more anglers are on the water then. I’ve found that a couple of days after the full moon the fish seem to be just as eager as before. I’ve also experienced some really tough fishing on the day and night of the full moon.
When it comes to the time of day, there’s nothing better than being in your chosen spot an hour before sunset and seeing huge swirls as fish start to feed. At dawn, just as it’s becoming light enough to tie on a lure without the need for artificial light, there’s the excitement of loud crashes or boofs as barra hit surface bait, or some massive swirls or boils. The evening session can well continue into the night, while the morning session might extend to perhaps as late as 9am if it’s overcast, earlier if it’s clear. After that, the fish move deeper.
Whether you’re using a spin or baitcast outfit, make sure the drag setting is solid, that the tackle is comfortable enough to be cast repetitively, and that the connection between braid and leader (40lb and 60lb respectively) is up to scratch. The FG knot is the mainstay here, and you can find helpful videos and diagrams on the web.
Lure choice is mainly a local issue; it pays to visit the nearest tackle store to find out what’s hot and what’s not. The staff naturally want you to return to their area, so it’s in their best interest to help you succeed.
If you’re fly fishing, stick with 10wt gear throughout, an intermediate sinking fly line, 50lb braid as backing and rely on a reel that has a drag capable of being locked right up. Ensure the leader is no longer than rod’s length to avoid issues with fat connection knots at the tip runner when that first big fish is at the boat. The leader should have a sacrificial section of 30lb line prior to the fluoro 40lb anti-chafe terminal section attached to the fly, so if a fish does get into timber only the fly is lost, not the fly line.
Which fly? Store bought Bush Pigs and Bombers are hard to beat, and other big (size 4/0 or 5/0) barra flies. Floating lines and flies look like fun but strikes that result in a firm commitment from a fish are hard to come by, and casting big fat Gurglers or Dahlbergs soon becomes tiresome.
There will probably be a lot of casts between fish, but treat every cast as though it’s the one that will result in a walloping strike. Also think where a fish might be played when hooked, make sure the timber isn’t too tight. And when that big fish is finally in the net, treat it with care. Don’t lift it vertically by the mouth or you could break its spine.
Once on deck and on the brag mat, barra are easy enough to handle. Although the gill covers are razor sharp, the mouth makes a fine hand hold. If treated roughly a big barra can go belly up when released, so thoroughly support it in its mid section and use a mouth grip. When you put the fish back in the water, hold it by the mouth and drag it back and forth until it frees itself.
Mission accomplished: fish caught, photographed and successfully released. It doesn’t get better than that.Reads: 1653