Catching Big Impoundment Barra On Lure & Fly

As I write this, the weather is warming up, the northerlies are starting to kick in and although it’s only the start of spring, a grin comes across my face with the new season and the range of species that come with it. Like a spoilt kid, I’m over winter species.

Kaydo writer Chris Adams with a monster fly-caught barramundi.

Kaydo writer Chris Adams with a quality fly-caught barramundi.

Of course I say that a bit tongue in cheek, it’s just that when compared to Barra, it’s hard to rate other fish. Living on the Sunshine Coast, it’s not easy to get that Barra fix by flying to some of the classic Saltwater locations such as the Northern Territory, the Kimberly or the western side of Cape York.

In saying that I couldn’t be happier than to live within a few hours drive of some of the best impoundment Barra locations in the world and some seriously obese fish. I don’t reckon it’s important to go on naming the locations, it’s not like they behave any differently to one another or that the approach is any different.

Getting To Know Barra

Aside from some minor eccentricities, all of the Barra in the impoundments basically behave the same way 99% of the time.

The problem most anglers have when holidaying to these massive bodies of water is finding the fish and being confident that they are sitting within casting distance firstly and getting them to eat secondly.

Both common problems that are incorrectly remedied by ‘caravan talk’.

By that I mean listening to what others have done – blindly rather than working it out for yourself. There is no silver bullet.

Fast Forward To The Fishing Grounds

Fast forward past the hours of tying flies, modifying hardbodies, boat prep, gear prep, extra work at your day job, checking fishing reports and promises to the missus, and let’s say you got to your chosen dam, after a steady diet of service station hot box food, now take a couple of deep breaths, it’s time to dial in, you should probably grab a beer first.

Cold early mornings might not sound like the best time to target barra but you never know if you never go!

Cold early mornings might not sound like the best time to target barra but you never know if you never go!

Looking For Clues

See the thing about landlocked bodies of water is that there are just so many clues. There are so many minor signs that are there to be observed prior to your first cast that simply need to be observed or the first few days of your trip could be nothing more than casting practice with a splash of sunstroke thrown in.

First and foremost we need to understand that Barra, like a lot of animals, are just there to eat and breed.

That’s all they care about, and with the impoundments they are spoilt for choice as far as food and companionship.

However they don’t eat all the time and they can’t get to home base, if you know what I mean.

The other big thing is that most of these Impoundments are massive bodies of water that have congregations of fish in certain areas at certain times for certain reasons.

It’s All About Stability

The good thing about these big bodies of water is that they are predictable to an extent, and so are the fish. In its simplest form everything an angler is after from these dams is centred around stability – Stability in the weather and stability in the water.

The wind is your friend believe it or not, the amount of times I have seen anglers couped up in the camping grounds, complaining how the howling SE wind “shut down” the Barra, is amazing. To a degree this can be the case, but it depends on what you define as “shut down”. The best scenario for example is a week of wind in the same direction, this is probably one of the best things that can happen, the harder the better and from any direction, yes even SW in mid winter, you don’t think they stop eating in winter do you?

This consistent wind is an example of weather stability, it pushes all the micronutrients to the windward shore, and it also pushes the warm water off the surface in the basin then into the bay. Once all those goodies have been caught in natures landing net (bays) we get more concentrated populations of bait fish and we also get more oxygenated water and turbid water, all things Barramundi love.

I am sure you are onto what I am getting at here, as there is no point being where the fish are not.

The bruiser of a barra took a soft plastic.

The bruiser of a barra took a soft plastic.

Blame The Barra Gods

The fishing Gods don’t smile on us all the time and sometimes due to planning trips weeks in advance the weather can let you down.

But let’s keep the word stability in mind. One thing I didn’t mention about location section is to consider deep water nearby. Although some of these fish are almost too big for a human to lift let alone a bird of prey, instinct would have the Barra keep an escape route handy nearby, usually in the form of the old creek bed.

When the weather decides it’s time for a change it would be fair enough to assume that the shallow water would fluctuate almost just as quickly as the atmosphere outside.

Find The Thermoclines

In this case stability in the water is not present. Yet below the thermocline, stability is always there.

When the fish move to this location, I would imagine it would take a lot longer to adjust and metabolise their food, I would imagine that they would also need less food and also not be as active. It’s easy to change tactics for this and the best thing to do is to do what they are doing and slow things down and try to keep whatever you’re presenting in their face longer. A good sounder is paramount in this circumstance, there are times you will see Barra schooling up, with their head down and tail up ( on side scan sounders) which in my opinion would indicate that they are sooking and metabolising their food, this would be the hardest time to catch them, but not impossible.

Weed Bed Action

The other place worth a mention for stability is the weed. Imagine having a doona that has all your food in it, protects you from overhead predators, is warmer than the open water, is darker all day long and allows you to conceal your colossus frame to hunt, sound pretty good for a Barra right? The weed would have to be the most consistent producer of decent Barra for all of the dams, just remember all the reasons why they are where they are as mentioned earlier, it’s not like there is a Barra placed in the weed every 5 metres around the entire perimeter of the dam, the water around the weed has to add up.

I think when it comes to gear selection you need to keep in mind endurance; there are a lot of casts between fish. High modulus graphite rods with lightened components are always going to add up to more productive casts as far as distance and accuracy, combined with a small baitcaster designed for freshwater (one with a Magnesium frame) would see you be able to back up that casting marathon for successive days.

The DK Dancer - a classic fly that has taken literally hundreds of barramundi.

The DK Dancer – a classic fly that has taken literally hundreds of barramundi.

Flyfishing For Impoundment Barra

My preferred method is Flyfishing, which does use a lot more energy than conventional gear so weight and balance is very important. This is not the place for bluewater reels, and although I have had Barra put me onto the reel its the exception rather than the rule. Like conventional gear the rod should be of a high modulus construction. I like to go a bit heavier with rod selection than others, getting bricked will do that to you, in saying that my preferred rod is a 12 weight GLX. Sure you can land $1.20 Barra on a 9 weight but not in close quarters, Lake Monduran comes to mind here, the quicker you can lift a fish next to the boat the less chance of chaffing the leader and preventing that meter more that fish can run into the sticks or more cabbage is a good reason to up the rod weight.

Anglers are spoilt for choice when it comes to Barra lures, there are so many proven lures that the only thing I could suggest is modify them yourself to suit what you’re doing.

Another solid impoundment barra boat side.

Another solid impoundment barra boat side.

Upgrade Or Lose Out

Hook and split ring upgrades, tungsten putty for more suspending type action, tuning bibs, scents, cutting down plastics, weedless hooks, single hooks on lipless cranks, the list goes on. For an out of the box plastic I can’t help but be ultra impressed with Happy Rock Plastics developed by Barra Guru Trevor Burgess.

With Hours of on the water experience Trevor has nailed it for anglers, with no modification needed, with his big 8inch model braining them at Peter Faust recently, his hand made plastics are in high demand.

With Flies, there really are a couple that I like, a 9/0 bendback deceiver has to be my favourite fly, I like to almost chuck it up on the bank and drag it through the thickest of cabbage or the gnarliest bunch of timber without any dramas,I really need to thank Harro for giving me my first one to try on a trip to Awoonga some years ago.

The Deadly DK Dancer

I am also impressed by the DK dancer that has been developed between Lionel Kemp and Paul Dolan and perfected by Paul Dolan.

The DK dancer would have to be one of the most innovative flies to have been developed, it has an interesting action that replicates an injured Boney Bream fairly accurately, it has accounted for many impoundment Barra over the years for Paul and clients of Fraser Coast Sportfishing, which is Pauls guiding outfit.

One Last Cast

The above is so so brief, but there really is no substitute for time on the water, make sure to learn for yourself, learn from a donut but just don’t get too fat from donuts and get overwhelmed by what others are doing, clear your mind and dial in, stability is the key to finding fish. Mixing it up on the day is the key to getting them to eat.

Chris Adams

About Chris Adams

My name is Chris Adams, I am based on the Sunshine Coast and have been fishing my entire life, from simple hand lines and a prawn on a hook off jetties as a kid to nothing but artificials from the age of 10. I cut my teeth on bass in the local creeks and from there, progressed from Lures to Flyfishing. Having been Flyfishing exclusively for the past 12 years, I have been to many places all over Australia and the world all thanks to my love of sight fishing. I have previously been the president of the Saltwater Flyfishing Association and a certified casting instructor with the Federation of Flyfishers (FFF), I am still a practising casting instructor and most recently a low volume commercial fly tier. These days I have evolved into a more all rounder and will mix it up between conventional and Flyfishing whenever I feel as though one has more of an advantage to the other. My favourite type of fishing is any type of sight fishing, from bream on the flats in landlocked lakes, to the pelagics cruising the flats inside Fraser Island, saratoga both wild and impounded to nones and GTs on the flats of Kiritimati. Sight fishing is my preferred style is of hunting but my heart will always be with Aussie bass.

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