Barra on fly for summer
  |  First Published: December 2008

How lucky are we Queenslanders to have magnificent, barra stocked dams from Cairns to Maryborough? Such widespread distribution puts these fish within range of a lot of fly anglers. And make no mistake, barra are very catchable on fly.

when the bite is on…

Barra, as we know, are notoriously changeable and moody fish and are hard to understand at times but when the bite is on, the fly will certainly work. But let's take that a bit further; there are times when a fly will out fish lures.

Most of our barra dams seem to be either red hot or stone cold since late September, (with the possible exception of Teemburra, which fires along nicely most times,) so timing a trip to your favourite dam won't involve special moon phases, tide times or other issues. You will most likely go when you can, around work and family commitments, the same as me.

The weather is probably the most important variable to factor into a successful dam session, whether it be the pesky southeasterly or a hot northerly that's blowing. From my experience if the weather has been stable for a few days chances of a bite are stronger.

While we cannot organise weather for our trip we can at least have some expectation of fishing quality. If things look good there's a huge confidence boost, which is important for all fishing but especially if you are casting the fly and are not really sure if it will work. Trust me, it will.

Big fish need big gear

Gone are the days when dam barra were little tackers around 70-80cm. The last three that came into my wife's tinny from Monduran Dam were 101cm, 104cm and 105cm. They were big, fat fellows that pulled like tractors. These fish demand definite respect so my advice is to become accustomed to the use of ten weight tackle.

The rod is your choice. If you can afford a premium one then go for it, as it will be much easier to use in the long term.

That aside, I'm currently departing from this model and putting a ten weight G Loomis Xperience (a budget priced rod) to work and have caught a nice 105cm fish on it so far. It's stiff but strong and casts a country mile, which is more work, but you should understand that no matter how good the dam is fishing there won't be a barra behind every drowned bush or tree so plenty of casts are going to come between fish. So the sweeter the rod the easier your day will be.

Your reel will need a good quality drag and capacity for at least 100m of backing. You will need two fly lines. An intermediate sink rate line for most times with a floating line for fishing at change of light or during darkness when surface popping. After dark surface popping is a lot of fun, if somewhat frightening as those big fish make a huge explosion when boofing a surface fly.

A rod length leader can be simply made by connecting sections of 30kg, 15kg and 20kg line in even lengths. With the 30kg connected to the Gudebrod loop at the end of the fly line (or onto the incorporated loop if the fly line is a Rio) the next section should be the 15kg bit with the 20kg tippet on last to prevent gill razers from cutting off flies. The fly should be tied onto a loop, too, so it can work freely when retrieved.


Your chosen fly needs to be on a very strong hook, mine are tied on size 4/0 or 6/0 Gamakatsu SL12's. If you could only get one fly onto the water I'd opt for a gold one with some black along the back and a bit of red under the chin. It's easy to buy a Gold Bomber fly or other custom rolled jobs, which will work fine but if you like to make your own flies try a Deceiver tied with the afore mentioned colours.

I've taken barra on virtually every coloured Deceiver imaginable plus Pink Things tied as black Things, red Things and green Things. That aside, gold is a great starting point when tying a Deceiver, the same as it is in a hard bodied lure. The one outstanding thing about all my barra flies is that they are bulky jobs and are hard to throw on less than ten weight tackle but displacing plenty of water when retrieved.

Stealth mandatory

Barra in most impoundments will have seen a lot anglers and their tackle since the weather warmed up and have consequently become a bit nervous. Wouldn't you if every time you got comfy someone pelted a lure into close proximity?

While most barra won't have seen a fly they will certainly be wary of boats by now so the idea is to employ as stealthy an approach as is possible. I use the trusty Watersnake electric motor to get me close to the bank (as nearly every barra that Denise and I take on fly comes out of less than 2m of water) then drift as much as possible to keep the noise levels to a minimum.

The clue when using the intermediate line is to cast as far ahead as can be achieved then retrieve as slowly as possible without snagging up. The rod tip should be kept in the water to avoid slack.

When using the floating line with a Gartside Gurgler, large Dahlberg Diver or other popper on the tippet it's a different scenario. After each small strip follow by pushing the rod towards the fly to get some slack into the system or the fish will not be able to inhale the fly properly.

Where to find them

Unlike lure anglers the flyfisher will need to keep away from the heavily timbered areas if you want to take the tackle home in the same condition it went to the dam. We are not, after all, using 50lb braid and an overhead reel with the drag done up with multi grips. Flyfishing is hand-to-hand combat. Good fun but a bit rugged.

Accordingly we look for lightly timbered flats, points, bays and the like as good places to work the fly. Any small bushes protruding in less than a couple of metres of water are likely spots for a hook up but as I mentioned we just cannot expect a fish to be behind every one.

Without doubt the best times are around change of light but we've taken a lot of barra on fly gear when it has become decidedly hot, and we needed to pour a bit of water down the back of the shirt to keep cool.

The key to success, in my book, comes down to keeping the faith and working hard. Keep the casts going and don't make noise.

When the weather is favourable sooner or later a fish will get in on the act and then the fun begins. Impoundment barra on fly are a real test of skill. In my view, they are the best fresh water can offer.

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