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FLY BY NIGHT TACTICS
  |  First Published: December 2009



I've chased barra on fly for over seven years and have now finally started to work out a reliable pattern for these rascals, especially for those that reside in Lake Monduran.

I’ve gone several trips without a fish at Monduran, but then the capture of just one decent fish around the metre mark saw the pattern emerging. That fish soon led to plenty of others and I cannot remember a trip without a fish despite sometimes difficult weather conditions.

The success story is plain and simple. If you want to catch barra on fly tackle the gear must be strong enough for the job and the fly must be worked in the right place at the right time.

Finding the right place is easy: anywhere a shallow bank or point meets deepwater close by is ideal. However, beware of spots that are decorated with standing timber or other cover in close proximity as a hooked barra can bolt into it with a few beats of that big square tail.

The right time is easy too. My best results by far have been during the night, with a PB fish just over 110cm. Barra feed best at night, however, you can fish for them during daylight hours. They can in fact fire up at the first hint of daylight. Nevertheless, for sheer reliability it's hard to beat those night moves.

The Plan

Fishing at night for barra with the fly rod is not for the faint-hearted. The fish hit without the slightest warning and if there is one thing that's guaranteed to wake up a half asleep angler it's the sudden impact of a feisty barra ripping the rod from the hand! So how do we go about this night fishing business?

A lot of impoundments are not the easiest places to navigate in daylight let alone after dark, so the trick is to get into position well before dark. A GPS is also an essential navigation aid at night as it ensures that you can get back to the ramp when you’re ready to go home.

So, the plan is to suss out an area with the sounder to see if there is at least 6m of water within 50m of where the boat is going to be tied up on the bank. Tie the boat up in shallow water, less than 1.5m, and cast out from the shore towards the deeper water close by.

I don't expect to catch a barra every half hour while fishing at night, but like all fishing there can be highlights. On a recent trip to Teemburra Dam, Denise and I had eight fish on in less than one hour after 9pm. We ended up landing six.

However, this is rather the exception than the rule. Despite not being so lucky on subsequent excursions, we kept with the same strategy. We'd find the likely spot before dark, tie up and just keep casting out and retrieving in that maddening, slow, twitch and stop retrieve that barra just cannot seem to resist. Sooner or later a fish would just come slowly by, as they do, and find the fly.

Barra cannot throw a fly like they do a lure. Once a fish is hooked if it can be kept out of the sticks it will come to the boat once the grunting and straining from the angler has been reduced to some semblance of calmness.

Playing at night

Playing barra on fly tackle at night is exciting. You cannot really see what is going on although a jumping fish is still spectacular. The best tactic in playing fish is what I call opposite moves. If a barra pulls to the right, I whip the rod to the left and keep it low. If it pulls to the left, I whip the rod to the right and keep it low.

Above all, I try not to pull the fish so hard it takes to the air, which might see the fly break free. A lot of drag is required, but some 'give' is necessary or the fish will start jumping.

The Gear

Night work on barra requires serious tackle. Remember, we want fish at the boat not just hook ups.

I advocate a 9wt or 10wt outfit for my barra work and have set up both a full float and an intermediate sink rate line on spools for the large capacity Snowbee Large Arbor reel. To prevent hassles with snagging I opt for the floating line after dark.

For the fly, it's hard to go past the reliable Bush Pig, given its great profile and bulk.

a New Rod

I've used several G.Loomis rods on barra and on a recent trip to Teemburra and Monduran dams gave me the chance to try out one of their new Shorestalker rods. I fell in love within minutes, and have decided to order one for future use. I can't wait to try it on tuna!

The new Shorestalker is an interesting concept. It's design by US legends Dave Whitlock and Flip Pallot as a rod to get quick and accurate casts in against cover or features to hook, and then hold, strong fish that live in hard to reach cover. If a quick back cast needs to be made, the rod has the power to lift a lot of line and see it getting right back there without undue back casts.

Accuracy over distance was one of the stated design parameters for the Shorestalker, but I found the 8'8" long 9wt to be capable of long casts and great accuracy as well. The rod feels very well balanced in the hand.

In short they are powerful rods! Not being set up with a 9wt line I used the Shorestalker to cast my 10wt Snowbee intermediate sink rate line in lieu and found it did a great job. Not only did the rod throw the big fat barra fly on a 6/0 hook with ease at the end of the 10wt but I also took my PB fish of 110cm with the outfit.

The four-piece rod, with a butt section that hardly bends at all, knocked the stuffing out of the big fish in around 15 minutes.

Along with the light weight and immense strength, the brilliant quick cast/back cast ability the price is a big factor as it's available at around the $500 mark, perhaps less given the strength of our dollar.

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