June in the Archer River is a magnificent place to be. The raging torrents of the wet season have subsided and the river will have cleaned right up. There may even be queenfish pushing up the river, ready to compete with the barra for whatever hapless baitfish happen to be around.
It wasn’t a poor wet season, however heaps of shifting sand means the river is rather shallow and difficult to navigate in spots. This is nothing new for the Archer River and in a way gives the river its charm. Local knowledge is a must to help pick your way across the shallow flats, rock bars, sunken logs and other hiccups best avoided.
There will still be a small amount of freshwater flowing from the Archer but not enough to suppress the tide reaching those harder to reach places further upstream. Picking a high tide in the morning, scooting up the river then fishing it all the way back down with the receding tide is the way to go.
Large snag piles that sit in pockets and corners of the river are a good place to begin. Although it may appear on the surface that water is gushing past these log jams, underneath is a different story. A pressure point where barra can sit relatively quietly, unencumbered by the flowing water is created on the upstream side of the timber.
These ambush points are a great place to get a 10ft+ rattling diver down to really try and stir the fish up. Often you will need to make a bunch of casts to the one likely looking spot before a strike will come. Once you get a tap, keep casting to the same spot and once you get them interested, other barra may quickly follow.
Some of the larger fish hooked in this system come after you have already released a few rats from the same spot. If you hook a fish, next cast should be straight back to the same spot and even the next few after that. Barra are not shy in the Archer and larger lures with a heck of a rattle come in handy.
On one particular occasion, the most amazing thing happened while fishing for barra. We were casting lures along a length of bank heavily encrusted with timber using 10ft diving lures with a heck of a rattle; the aim was to wake a few barra up amongst the snags. At the end of a long drift, twiggy tendrils stood out from the waters surface and a huge log lay over the top, making an inviting home for a barra. Problem was, there was little room to cast in as the tinny had come to rest against the snag.
After a few casual casts, I wasn’t even following the lure until a casual glance down revealed an amazing sight. The gleaming orange eyes of a large barra loomed up directly below the lure. One last little tap of the wrists, irresistible noise for a barra and the surface explodes with twisting silver scales.
There was no room to fight this fish and it did all it could to free itself of the lure; jumping over logs, under sticks and against the bank. Hanging on whilst unthreading braided fishing line was the only option. Somehow everything untangled and the fish paused for a split second, but only a second.
Its next move was to dash under the boat and jump repeatedly on the other side until the braid snapped. The fish broke free, idling off to sit in a tiny gutter only meters away from the boat. In around 2ft of water, the dark tail could be clearly made out, with the tiny gleam of the lure underneath its jaw.
Grabbing a second rod with a deep diving lure, I cast it long of the fish then cranked it back into the current. Missing the first time, but the second time the lure was thrust past its head, things came up tight once again and the fight resumed. Amazing!
A few seconds later, the fish was winched to the surface on the second rod and boga-gripped aboard. Measuring up at 97cm and equipped with two large lures in its gob, this was one fight that wouldn’t be forgotten in a hurry. Nor the line cut burning its mark into my finger!Reads: 1861