Dam great fishing!
  |  First Published: March 2004

THE BARRA fishing in Queensland’s dams can’t fail to impress any red-blooded fisho, and unlike our wild saltwater fishery it’s getting better all the time. So when I lobbed at my old mate Keith Day’s place at Mackay on a family motoring holiday early in the year, I jumped at the suggestion that we head out to Teemburra Dam for a fish – as soon as I could get my gear together.

While we were getting the boat organized, who should turn up but most of the editorial staff from QFM – a scruffy bunch of reprobates also on their way to Teemburra before heading to pastures further north. When lunch was placed on a huge table already cluttered with tackle being prepared – enough tackle, I might add, to fill the upmarket racks and shelves of the local fishing emporium – the QFM mob devoured the tucker quicker than a swarm of locusts, while mumbling something about fishing all night and being too busy to eat!

The dam was low, the wind from the south-east and gusty, and the fish quiet. The barra came on the bite just as darkness descended and Keith’s son Lachlan landed the only fish to reach our boat that evening – his best to date at 65cm. The QFM crew didn’t fare much better.

A couple of afternoons later we hit the place again! This time, I jumped in with my sometimes partners in crime, Ken Stien and Gavin Adams, while Keith and Locko crewed their Allycraft. Being committed ‘fur flingers’, Ken, Gav and I decided to work the shoreline so we could keep out of each other’s way.

On that first evening with Keith and Locko the barra seemed to be working the points of the headlands extending into the dam so we decided to concentrate on a couple of those areas. The wind had switched to the north-east, a promising sign, and eased as the afternoon wore on.

The barra switch flicked to the ‘on’ position at about 5.30pm, coinciding with the turn of the low tide at nearby Mackay harbour (an interesting fact that seems to occur often enough to warrant attention). I landed a succession of barra, a trophy-sized sooty and missed quite a number of other strikes along a stretch of shoreline barely 20m long.

Don’t let anybody tell you that dam barra can’t pull! These fish were in magnificent condition, deep shouldered, black tailed beauties that pulled line effortlessly when they decided to run. My first fish was the largest. It didn’t waste energy with jumps, just ripped line off the smooth dragged Orvis in a series of heavyweight lunges. I was pleased to be fighting this barra in open water. The same fish in the sticks would have been more than a handful.

One of my hand-tied yellow and white 4/0 sized Deceivers landed all the fish, even the sooty grunter. Gavin also landed a couple of nice fish on one of his Clousers. Ken was kept busy recording events!

The action closed down just before darkness fell, even though we persevered until we were casting by feel. Fly casting in the dark was a new and slightly unnerving experience for me.

All I can say is thanks to those hard working volunteers who have created a fishery that provides so much pleasure to so many anglers. Standing on the edge of a Queensland dam as the sun sets over the mountains, casting flies for big, hard fighting barra – who’d have thought, even just a decade ago, such an event could happen?


I’ve just driven the length of the Queensland coast and two items were the main topics of conversation, even amongst occasional fishers – the GBRMPA’s RAP program and south Queensland’s grey nurse shark closures. These restrictions are only the tip of an access iceberg that’s set to sink the sport of recreational fishing as surely as the one that sank the Titanic. You may think such a notion is ‘unsinkable’ but there are forces at work just as cold and formidable as that gigantic lump of ice.

There’s still time to change course but those at the helm of our sport must look through the fog of complacency that has stifled our progress for decades. For too long the recreational fishing lobby has been fragmented and ineffective. Now the extreme end of the green movement has taken up the cudgel and is getting ready to batter recreational fishing into a bloody heap. These people are passionate and generally regarded as scientifically on the ball, even though they don’t let facts get in the way of a good publicity campaign. Their most important asset is that they’re well funded, with numbers of full and part-time staff who have raised their profile and enhanced their credibility with politicians and public servants.

Meanwhile, recreational fishing organizations like Sunfish have been forced to lurch along scraping funds barely able to support a staff member here and there. Coordination between industry members – wholesale, retail and anglers at large – has long been relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket and any attempts at political lobbying virtually ineffective, although this is slowly being addressed.

RAPs and grey nurse closures have already cost Queensland recreational fishers a massive slice of their traditional fishing area. Our political masters constantly remind us of the freedom we enjoy in our great country. Well, that freedom has just been excised from over 30% of our own Great Barrier Reef and most of southern Queensland’s offshore reefs!

We need people at the helm of the good ship ‘Aussie Recfisher’ who are ready to set a course that will prevent our rights and freedom foundering on the icebergs that the greens, commercial fishers and their political masters are currently dropping in our path. Or we can mutter our customary, “She’ll be right, mate. They’d never let THAT happen!” as the ship goes down!

1) Mackay’s Gavin Adams with a healthy Teemburra barra caught while flyfishing along the shoreline.

2) Man, these barra can motor! The author with a beautifully conditioned Teemburra barra taken on a Deceiver fly.

3) In the middle of the barra this big sooty turned up, also on the yellow/white Deceiver.

4) Editor Stephen Booth just can’t pull hard enough to escape Weipa’s many denizens. At least he managed to pull this one from a set of jaws!

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