Teemburra Dam, situated just 65km west of Mackay, is proving to be a very productive barramundi and sooty grunter fishery. So far as sheer numbers of fish taken go, this is the most productive of our barra dams. The water level is down to around 20% at the moment, so the fish are even more concentrated than usual.
For those keen to take a look at this unique fishery, Teemburra Dam is located near the towns of Pinnacle and Gargett, which are accessed via the main road to Finch Hatton and Eungella. The turnoff to Eungella is around five minutes’ drive west of Mackay on the main Peak Downs highway just before the town of Walkerston. Eungella has a fabulous mountain resort and tourist centre and it’s well worth a look while you’re in the area.
From Pinnacle, you’ll see the sign to Teemburra Dam.
Launching at the dedicated boat ramp is still fine, despite the low water level caused by a drought that grips the entire area. A fair supply of chunky gravel (bad news for barefoot boaters) has been placed at the end of the ramp to prevent vehicles bogging.
Once on the water it’s an easy matter to follow the fairly wide channel out into the dam basin in search of fish. While the Kampe crew fished the dam I noted a wide range of boats, from modest kayaks through to 5m plate craft, the crews hunting the resident barramundi and sooty grunter. The thing to remember is that there are many sheltered arms in the dam so it’s easy to get out of a northerly if one kicks up after lunch.
Choice of suitable fly gear for this dam comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. If it’s just a matter of getting hook-ups and experiencing some short sharp fights and then a bit of re-rigging, use an 8wt rod because the barra will do you like a dinner in the snags. If, on the other hand, you enjoy photographing a nice fish and maybe eating one or two from time to time, up the stakes for a 10wt outfit and you will most likely stay connected even when fishing in the timber.
I used a G.Loomis GLX Cross Current 10wt rod set up with a Snow Bee large arbour 9/10 reel and an intermediate sink fly line, and was very pleased with results. The reel, incidentally, was set on near maximum drag when fishing around timber, with less drag when fishing away from the timbered bays and when casting around standing bushes or saplings on points, or the weed beds closely adjoining timbered areas.
I didn’t go to a lot of trouble with terminal tackle; I just set up around 1.5m of 18kg Jinkai mated to 1m of 20kg Siglon Sinking as insurance against being rubbed off by those razor-sharp gill rakers. Barra are only too willing to put these into use if given half a chance.
Flies were the usual barra stuff – Pink Things, big Crazy Charlies and the ever-popular gold Bomber style flies with plenty of bulk and flash to make them easily noticeable as they displace water. We had a few gold Bombers with rattles in them and they worked very well, especially at night.
Like most impoundment fishing it’s always a bit difficult when starting off. I’m the first to admit that on our venture to Teemburra last year we wasted a lot of time casting flies to totally unproductive spots. We cast flies to tree tops in 6-10 of water and, while lures might be ideal for such locations, we never attracted a fish to the fly after a day of effort. Once we moved into around 3m of water or less, the results started to pile up.
This year it was the same: it seemed the shallower the water, the better the fishing. And if we could find less than 2m of water in close proximity to the point of a timbered bay, a decent sized opening in timbered areas, or where a weed bed was adjoining a timbered bay, it didn’t take long for the slow ‘strip, stop, strip’ routine to bring a terrific wrench followed by a barra going hell for leather towards whatever cover he reckoned would let him escape. When fishing in the timber it was dramatic stuff.
A bonus when fishing in the sticks – and there are still heaps of timbered areas left despite the low water – was the fact that numbers of powerful sooty grunter also entered the fray at times. I don’t know much about the habits of sooty grunter, but we did notice they were most active at daylight (note: there is no curfew on the dam). They took hold of our flies with terrific strength and headed for the nearest bit of cover. We targeted them by casting against tree trunks and allowing the fly to sink a bit before starting the retrieve, and it worked well on these great sportfish. We southern anglers might liken them to bass but, sorry, they are much stronger from my experience!
Teemburra is one of those dams where barra can be caught all day long, if you’re prepared to stay on the water and put up with the hot conditions. That said, these fish are certainly more active towards change of light times. If you’re on the water just before daylight, or staying until after dark, it will virtually guarantee success and produce fishing in more agreeable conditions.
If there is one thing you don’t want to miss out on it’s the experience of fishing after dark. The clue is to find a suitable location – out of the timber is best for this caper – and then get in position just on sundown. Casts don’t need to be long; the fish feed virtually at the boat from my experience. In fact, they’ll often slam a fly virtually at the rod tip so it’s wise to be on your guard as the fly approaches the boat and is being moved towards the surface.
Casting surface poppers after dark must be nearly the ultimate barra experience, too. Fishing it with a slow retrieve, with merely the odd gurgle or bloop thrown in to interest a fish, will produce some very violent ‘boofs’, ‘crruumpps’, and ‘whoooshses’ that result in both a fright as well as refreshment as the displaced dam water contacts the face and upper body of the angler.
Popper fishing is great stuff but the hook-up rate isn’t high, the fish pushing the fly out of the way most times. It’s far easier to put on a spool with a floating fly line and fish a wet fly pattern that works through the day. We found the gold Bomber with a rattle was very productive when used on a floating line in less than 3m of water at night.
There are no camping facilities at Teemburra Dam, but you can camp nearby at the Finch Hatton caravan park and camping ground (ph. (07) 4958 3222). Non-campers will enjoy a stay at the Pioneer Valley Hotel Motel (ph. (07) 4958 3222), in the town of Gargett.
1. Fly angler Steve Kampe with his first Teemburra barra.
2. This weed bed edge is a good place to set up for some night time fishing at Teemburra.
3. Scott Kampe with a fly caught sooty from Teemburra. These fish are regulars around the timbered areas.Reads: 830