Another day, another barra
  |  First Published: July 2007

Give any angler an opportunity to rattle off his wish list of fishing destinations in Queensland and I’d be amazed if Weipa wasn’t in the top couple.

I’d certainly vouch for the place after successfully fishing there a couple of years ago, and my recent trip for Creek to Coast has definitely cemented it in my mind as a gun spot.

I was hosted by Ross Fenn on his live-aboard vessel MV De Ja Vu and was joined by my eager angling buddies Dean Miller from Queensland Weekender and BCF’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Doyle.

From Weipa it was roughly a six-hour steam to the mouth of the Archer River near Aurukun. Ross has a great crew working with him that includes Dave the engineer, Dan the guide and Dan’s wife Andrea as hostess.

The plan for the first day was to fish the Archer for barramundi. Ross favours lures, so there wasn’t even a hint of bait on the boat. We spent most of the four days tossing 3m Barra Classics, Leads Hijackers and some Drop Bear soft plastics out of Steve’s tackle box of goodies.

As we ventured off from the mothership, our first stop was a place called Ross’ Corner, which was the ideal barra ambush point. A run-in tide hits the corner and creates a small back eddy behind which the fish sit and wait for prey.

We anchored up in this beautiful spot; the pristine water was a bluey-green colour like I’ve never seen. Ross often drops the pick rather than drifting, because he likes to make sure you put plenty of casts into the money spots.

We started to pepper the mangrove fringes and on my second cast the water exploded and I connected with a 75cm barramundi. It was awesome!

From that point it was on, with fish after fish coming aboard and Steve, Dean and I jostling each other to get the first lure in the water on each change of location. You know how fishing buddies get.

As we made our way upstream into the fresh, the landscape changed, with the river becoming narrower in parts and the vegetation closing in. We dodged rocks and shallows before coming to an opening on the corner of a bank.

We quickly grabbed our rods and Ross directed us where to cast. On my first cast I caught a 70cm fish, on my second an 87cm barra and on my third, a fish in the same ballpark.

Steve’s rod buckled over as well and he fought with, and won the battle against, an 80cm beauty. However, the clincher was big Deano Miller’s 95cm crowd pleaser. What a top session!

During our days on the water we found that the key to success was to get a cast in nice and tight, wind the lure down and then twitch it back slowly. Eight out of ten times the lure was eaten on the natural rise.

In terms of gear, Ross supplied us with Shimano Calcutta 200Bs on Ian Miller rods with 50lb braid.

Another destination that Ross Fenn favours is the Love River, about 20 nautical miles south of the Archer. We were headed there one morning when we spotted some big boils on the sea and feeding birds in an absolute frenzy. Of course we couldn’t resist throwing a few Drop Bears and poppers in amongst it all.

Third cast in, and Steve’s line was monstered by a queenfish over the metre mark that put on an amazing aerial display. Then I was locked in battle with a similar sized fish. There were literally hundreds of queenfish all around us.

It was almost painful to drive away but the Love River beckoned and our plan was to troll the mouth of the river for black jew or fingermark.

I had a Reidys B52 out the back and suddenly it got smashed. The fish turned out to be a 4kg black jew – not a big one by Ross’ standards but my first, so I was chuffed.

This was all good fun, but the highlight of our trip was probably spending the next day back up the Archer River. We parked the dories on the bank and set out on foot, casting into all the back eddies.

Some of these pools had less than a metre of water in them, but the barra were in there. The challenge though was to keep the fish in the slack water on the retrieve, because if they got out into the rapids they would be very hard to stop.

I thumb locked the spool on one little beauty as it made a jump for it, and had to lean on the rod to get it onto the bank beside me.

At the next pool, my catch had a bit more go in it. No surprises, because out of the water sprang a 65cm saratoga. Trying to stay connected is the hardest thing with these fish because their mouths are very bony, but I had him well pinned and was able to tick another species off my list.

On another expedition, Ross held onto a good-sized barramundi and took us over to the river bank so he could make up a fire and cook it fresh for us for lunch. It tasted like nothing else. One of Ross’ other party tricks was to hand feed a group of four gropers off the back of the boat each night.

I have to say we were pretty happy with our final tally of 147 for four days of fishing, with 96 of them being barramundi. However, Ross says he’s seen better.

Just about all of those fish were released again safely while they were still in the water.

For more information about Ross Fenn’s luxury charters, visit his website at www.mvdejavu.com.au.

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