Big Brag Barra
  |  First Published: December 2009

Cairns Airport can be a pain in the backside but it doesn’t seem to bother me this time. This time I’m just here to pick up my mate Mick and head off to go fishing. So the wait, traffic, people everywhere just seem to be invisible.

An hour later we’re home in Mossman swapping cars to a ready-packed Cruiser and on our way. Mick and I are pumped. We just have to wait for the other vehicle that Bruce is driving on his own because his crew pulled out at late notice. Doesn’t worry Bruce, he knows how good the fishing can be in the gulf.

Late afternoon we pull up at Musgrave and have our last taste of luxury - hot shower, steak and chips plus a few beers. At 4am, we’re away and hoping to have a good run to camp so we can have an afternoon fish. Needless to say we set a record time for unpacking a ute and setting up camp.

Someone said, “What about fire wood?”

“Are you kidding. Let’s go fishing,” I replied.

That afternoon’s fishing was a bit slow, but we managed a couple of barra around 60-65cm. After getting back to camp just before dark we scrounged up just enough firewood for dinner. Game plan for the next day was discussed. We decided to head up to another small creek next afternoon by car if things didn’t pick up that morning.

Another slow session in the morning with only some small barra and a nice black jew caught, so it was decided to go for a drive to another creek. This paid off for action but the fish weren’t up to scratch compared to other years. However, we did have a ball catching around 50 barra (which were all released in good health) that afternoon between the three of us. The fish were between 50-70cm. But still no horses yet.

On the third day we travelled even further to break into some new country but with little joy. Even though we caught some decent barra and raised some big fish, the fish were really sluggish and hard to find. And the 30 knot southeaster wasn’t helping our cause.

The following morning saw Mick and I luring a deep snag that we’ve fished before when I was crunched.

“Woo Hoo!” I yelled trying to rub it in to Mick a little bit. “She’s a good fish!” I stuttered as she cleared the water and started to peel some line. After a long fight and some great jumps in a strong current she was guided into the net. Some quick photos, measure and she was back into the water. I could have sworn she would have been a metre but she was just under at 96cm. Finally we had boated a decent barra.

That afternoon we went back down to where we had the good session a couple of days earlier. I saw some big fish lifting some bait down the beach so I headed down there with Mick in tow. He threw his Gold Bomber into 2ft of water and was instantly on. With a huge boil the fish was peeling some serious line. Mick was screaming out for me to get the video camera. As I jogged back to the car I could hear him yelling abuse to hurry the fudge up. Not wanting to believe the blatantly obvious that he was playing a bigger fish than mine I strolled back. It seemed to take forever because the fish had taken him another 100m down the beach. She had nearly spooled him on a Shimano Curado filled to the brim with 30lb knitlon braid.

We still hadn’t seen her until Mick finally got most of his line back when she gave a bit of run out towards Darwin again and launched. I’m not allowed to write what Mick said but you could imagine when this horse pretended to be a marlin and tail walked away from us! Soon he rode her in on a swell to the beach when I grabbed her and gently pulled her up. Mick was going off, but I couldn’t blame him. A few quick photos, measure and she swum away like a rocket. She was a big fat 109cm model.

Mick had taken over bragging rights and this one was going to be hard to beat. Next two days saw the fishing improve with some good fish between 70-90cm. Bruce came back to camp one of those days with ‘the-one-that-got-away’ story. He was trolling a rock bar on the way back to camp and got smashed up. Guess where Mick and I went for a troll first thing in the morning.

Couple of trolls past, nothing but a few hook ups on the bottom. “Mick these deep divers aren’t working. You got anything in your box that’s mid range and big,” I asked.

“Dunno Jules, have a look,” Mick replied. I looked through the tackle box and found a big brand spanking new Nils Master.

“Those rocks drop-off reasonably sharp so I’m gunna get right in close to the bank and see if I can lose your lure.”

“That’d be right.”

First troll in tight along the rocks and the rod was nearly yanked out of my hand. Quickly I gunned the motor and flew out away from the rocks. The angle of the line in amongst the rocks looked like I was done for.

After a screaming run precariously along the bank she started to come out away from danger. Again no jumps for most of the long fight until she was near the boat. We knew she was going to be big. Out of the deep murky water she rose, we could see the double in my line but no fish. Then out she came nearly in our laps right beside the boat. ‘Please stay on, please stay on’ thoughts were flying through my head. Finally we managed her into the net, don’t ask how because there was still some hanging out.

After a couple of laps crowing and cart wheeling around the boat, quick measure and a few photos later we put her back into the water. She was a bit tired but after some coaxing and a bit of reviving she swam away fine. All 114cm of her!

The Nilsy was a write off. Broken bib and all but one set of trebles straightened out or bent beyond recognition. We both opted for a mid range Tilsans for the next run past.

Exactly where we hooked the last barra Mick was jammed this time. Again there was no jump for ages and a slow lugging fight. I was beginning to think giant catfish when she rose near the boat and lazily cleared the water. Another horse about a meter, but when she jumped the small lure on the side of her mouth came free in slow motion. “Noooo!” yelled Mick.

“Unlucky,” I replied sarcastically with a laugh.

Just after the action Bruce drove around the corner and pulled up for a chat. We told Bruce in fine detail what had just happened. He took the news better than could be expected and immediately started trolling the same ground with little success.

Heading back to camp to pack up, driving past all the country you fished over the past week it’s hard not to get a little sentimental. Knowing we will be back again keeps a smile on our faces and morale up while loading up the utes for the long drive home.

Driving out along the flats, I bet we were all wondering how great next time will be. – Julian Harrold

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