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Tough Barra
  |  First Published: January 2010



Fishing Monduran with mates is the only way to do it, whether you’re with a guide or doing it on your own. The hours between fish, let alone strikes, can sometimes mean you have solved all the world’s problems quite simply!

Our recent trip up to Monduran was a case in point. Those dreaded south/southeasterlies were blowing at a gentle 20-30 knots and from all reports the fishing was tough. But with the houseboat booked and some mates from Melbourne and western Queensland joining me, we would just have to make the best of a tough situation.

Preparation

Preparation is the key to fishing Monduran. You need to make sure everything you take with you is up to the task and recently serviced. I was lucky enough to be testing a new rod and reel from Daiwa, a Steez Hotdog and a Luvias DA Custom 3000 filled with 20 Stren Microfuse, so I knew these would be OK, but I made sure my other rods and reels got the once over and parts that needed attention got it. I was supplying all the rods and reels for my two Victorian visitors so I may have over packed with a few too many lures, rods and reels.

I also made sure the boat and trailer were ready to go and discovered the lights on the trailer were playing funny buggers. Now that’s not unusual for trailer lights, so a generous mate helped me clean and rewire them so they worked perfectly.

My boat also had a deck extension go in, transforming my Bluefin into a lure casting machine and adding a massive amount of storage. I’d always wanted the deck extension, but the impetus to get it done before the trip came in the form of my best mate’s 70-year-old dad coming on the trip. A small front casting deck was no place for a 70-year-old in 30 knot winds!

With all the hardware prepared, we sat down and wrote out lists of other things to take. We briefed out a menu (which ended up nothing like what we ate!), organised the Engel generator so we could charge the electric motor batteries and camera batteries, packed a limited amount of clothing, some toiletries and bed clothing and then packed it all into the car ready for an early morning departure.

Lastly came the mental challenge of getting our minds into gear. We firstly got ourselves excited by watching a few barra DVDs, then waded through the internet for recent reports, made phone calls to all the guides and to Rob at Lake Monduran and went to bed early.

With a drive time of just over five hours from my house to Monduran we had plenty of time to talk ourselves into the right frame of mind. I warned the Victorians the fishing could be exceptionally tough, but the rewards would far outweigh any inconvenience of four or five hours casting without a hit. And by the time we unpacked the car and launched the houseboat, we were all ready for the worst.

Tough

The trip was tough. All our old haunts proved to be difficult and we found searching out new areas gave us our best success. We’d been advised to find a likely spot and really work it over, but unfortunately we couldn’t make this work for us. So with hours of fruitless casting behind us we decided to go into a slow drift and search pattern.

This pattern was deliberately chosen after a fruitless first day and a half and we chose to get away from our comfort zone of fishing the shallow points and concentrate on some slightly deeper water with different lures. This wasn’t a totally random choice, we’d talked to some other anglers, had a chat to Rob Howell and Jason Wilhelm and all of these sources provided us with information.

On the afternoon of our second day our new search pattern in deeper water paid dividends with a solid hook-up or two and a fish landed. Finally we were away.

The tough bite continued on the next day, with only one fish being hooked in the morning. Casting to a weed fringed deep edge a big barra liked my 130 Slick Rig in the new gold colour and, after two head and shoulder shakes out of the water, the fish slunk off into the depth while I wound in slack line to retrieve my lure that had been thrown a good 15m from the fish. That action was priceless as the hook-up, first run and head shaking jumps are what make barra so special. It would have been nice to give the big fish a pat though!

That afternoon continued our run of poor form as we just couldn’t get a fish boat side. We had our chances missing four more strikes between the three of us, but by the end of day three we were somewhat deflated. So, what to do?

Our decision was to make the trip up to Awoonga for the day as intel had it that Awoonga was fishing pretty well. We set the alarms, ate a beautiful BBQ dinner on the houseboat and went to bed enthusiastic about the following day.

Awoonga

The drive to Awoonga takes around and hour and a half and it is torture all the way because you know you should be fishing somewhere. But we’d been given the mythical Spot X and the magic lure so we had to see it through.

The day started in glassed off bliss but by 10am a very strong southeaster had materialised and turned the glassy main basin of Awoonga into a turbulent mass of white-water and waves. We were advised to anchor off prominent weed beds and give it a good hour before moving and this is what we did for the first five hours of that day without so much as a strike. The obvious doubts about the move from Monduran crept into our minds but soon we came across Jason Wilhelm and he said the bite would happen, just tough it out for an hour more.

We anchored off the next point from Jason on his advice and watched what he was doing with his clients when all of a sudden the fish came on. Everyone got a shot at a fish with hook-ups occurring every five minutes or so and we even got a ripper 1.03m barra in the boat on a 130 Slick Rig. It was great to be part of a frantic half hour or so, just to give us some confidence that we could catch barra.

The drive home that night saw us much more jovial than we had been and we were keen to apply the lessons learnt at Awoonga to Monduran the next day, the same day another two mates were to arrive.

Egg on faces

The next morning we left early and entered Bay B after Rob told us of some success he had had with his clients the previous night. We peppered some points before going for a deeper approach and it paid off almost immediately with a solid hook-up and a bouncing barra doing its best to dislodge the 130 Slick Rig. Needless to say it did just that but that action gave us some confidence the fish were around.

We headed back to the houseboat for breakfast and our other visitors arrived. After a ripping bacon and egg breakfast we headed into Bay B and began working some deeper areas while the new arrivals peppered some shallower bays. After an hour of no action we dawdled over to the new arrivals and told some lies about the action (as you do) and just as we turned to leave they had a strike, hook-up and the fight was on. Paul Pocock, a Monduran regular, had nailed a good barra on a 110 Slick Rig Pro Light. We hung around to watch as the barra jumped all over the place before coming to the boat and a net was put under the fish, albeit after a nervous moment or two as the first net shot went completely pear shaped!

This action got us up and going again and we headed off a little bit annoyed they’d landed a barra on the first morning, but optimistic as only anglers can be, that the fishing was on the improve.

That afternoon was another zero afternoon for us, but again we had our chances, so we tallied up the figures to see how good or poor the fishing was and found out while we hadn’t landed many, we had interested more than enough barra to make it a good trip. The fish had just placed large amounts of egg on our faces way too many times!

Finish on a high note

Our final day arrived and we had one more chance to make the barra play ball and stay connected. We had fallen into a slow drift pattern that targeted entire banks instead of concentrating our efforts when out of the blue Ainsy’s rod buckled over and a neat barra leaped for freedom. Unlike 15 of its cousins, this barra stayed connected and after a torrid five minutes the barra was landed, measured and released. Just shy of a metre, this feisty barra proved my theory that any barra over about 80cm is a fantastic catch and gives you plenty of curry.

After the joy of that fish had barely worn off, a subtle peck on my line told me a barra was interested and a quick strike had another barra leaping for freedom while thrashing its head vigorously. Needless to say the lure came flying out of the fish’s mouth and we simply sat down and appreciated the moment.

That was it as far as action goes – apart from Ainsy’s cracking reindeer fish that went just over a metre and we were in a strange place mentally knowing we had toughed it out, encountered plenty of fish but actually landed very few.

Lessons Learnt

This latest trip showed us the value of being on the water and the houseboat gives you countless more casts over the duration of a week. We were fishing literally two minutes from the houseboat and getting action.

We also discovered persistence is not a wasted effort. We kept working the water and tried every method our limited knowledge gave us. We worked our way through lures from the omnipresent Slick Rigs and Berkley Hollow Bellies into Storm plastics and Tsuamis as well as Reidy’s rubbers and Bozo’s. On the hard lure front we fished surface lures at night, shallow divers at dawn and dusk, deep divers when the sun got up a bit and even used some swimbaits in the hope they would provide the magic ingredient.

When all the stats were tallied it showed we had over 25 strikes, 15 hook-ups and only four barra were landed. Now that doesn’t sound like many barra landed, but we had a blast. Sure there were some depressing times when another fish spat the lure, but I just love every minute of it and am already planning my next attack.

This impoundment barra bug is hard to shrug off and it is my type of fishing. It is one of the few fisheries I am really keen to learn through experience and I suggest that is the way to get better at it – just be on the water trying different things at different times and remembering the successes.

Facts

Houseboat

The houseboat can sleep up to 10 anglers but for a group of male anglers I reckon 6 anglers is about perfect. That leaves 4 anglers in the single beds and two lucky anglers with a queen bed each. The houseboat has a shower and toilet, three bedrooms and a roomy dining and kitchen area up front with the helm. Inside this front area is a massive BBQ that serves as the primary cook top.

The kitchen itself has hot and cold water, gas cooktop, gas fridge and freezer and enough supplied plates and cutlery to see you through any trip. Storage is not an issue for food as there is plenty of cupboard space and shelving. We had cool boxes with us too, so all out food was kept in tip top shape for the duration of the trip.

The houseboat is naturally very popular so it pays to really plan ahead if you want it. I love the ease of rolling out of bed and into a boat to go fishing any time you want – it’s fantastic. And you can drive the houseboat up into the middle reaches of the lake where prepared anchorages are already there. All you do is clip on to the anchorage and you’re firm in one spot.

The houseboat costs $400 per night and between 6 anglers (or 10) the price is fantastic for such unparalleled access to the water. By the end of a trip you really do appreciate how much time is taken up launch and retrieving your rig and getting to your fishing location.

The houseboat is booked through the Lake Monduran Holiday Park.

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