Lake Barra, from top to bottom

Peter Faust Dam is a huge expanse of water and up there as one of the best barra lakes in the country.

Peter Faust Dam is a huge expanse of water and up there as one of the best barra lakes in the country. As with all images on the Kaydo Fishing World site, click for full screen view.

Fishing buddy Mick Winterton and I hatched a plan, we decided to present still water barramundi from outside the square. The last thing we wanted was another ‘look at me’ style program, you know the type, lots of show but little share.

Our timing seemed right, twenty something years of unrelenting fishing pressure has seen the pendulum swing from boom to bust on the lake we decided to focus upon.

In the early days it was merely a matter of hitting the water. Any lure would work, many heroes were born. Nowadays it’s a far different ballgame with even the smartest of anglers often not just fishless but, more embarrassingly, flummoxed. Yet there are still times when the fishing quality can be as good as ever.

The moon, the temperature or both?

Opinion remains divided as to exactly what constitutes those conditions but some swear by the moon. Others are less lunar in their thinking – they wait till the water temp climbs through 27c and the breeze is in the north.
Another school of thought regards changes of light as a bite trigger; barra are superbly adapted to low light, conditions where baitfish are at considerable disadvantage. I like windward points and bays where wave action roils the waters but back when everyone was an expert I read the opposite.

Harro with a big Faust Dam barra boatside.

Harro with a big Faust Dam barra boatside.

Lake Proserpine was chosen for a number of reasons, the least of which wasn’t the half and half layout; half open water, half heavily timbered. Old Hughie came to the rescue in the final stages of construction during 1990. The fool of an engineer in charge armed his workers with chain saws and put them to work in the main basin. They were halfway through the tree felling when down she came. A finished job would have seen Proserpine a poorer town.

A first timers’ look at Lake Proserpine

We put ourselves in the shoes of first timers, or at least we tried. It’s not hard to imagine arriving at a lake and being confronted by all that water and timber. One mightn’t be blamed for feeling like the mosquito at the nudist colony.

We did the smartest thing beginners can do; hire a guide. There’s no knowledge like local knowledge and Col Slade has a way of sharing his decade of experience in a sage and laid-back fashion.

The plan was an early morning start – 4am at the ramp, alarms set an hour before that.

That left us with an afternoon to fill in so we decided to try some of our own luck. Trolling can often be a case of gliding around a lake, lures in tow and hoping for the best. It can also be an exacting science, using the boat to address fish where cast and retrieve is simply too time consuming. It’s a style of fishing that has knockers – people who don’t know what they don’t know. But any which way the arguments are cut – the majority of big barra are caught on the troll. It is also a wonderful opportunity for newbies – beginners are in with their best chance of their debut barra.

Afternoon delights

Mick Winterton retrieves a fly while targeting barra at the legendary lake.

Mick Winterton retrieves a fly while targeting barra at the legendary lake.

Mick went out with cameraman/director Peter Fonda. They came away with a beautiful sunset introduction to the programme, Mick’s, metre class fish backlit against a western sky and iconic Roma Peak.

Assistant cameraman Ben’O Agar and I shared the other boat. I fluked a good fish as my lure came off some bottom rubble into the old river bed, the boys were close for some boat to boat footage. It seemed a good opportunity to overstep the mark with the low rod angles that keep barra in the water and shorten fight times.

Ben’s rod bucked and a landmark barra launched into the twilight gloom, his first over the metre. The lure had impaled on the jaw, underside though fortunately clear of the vital gill latch region.

Location, location, location

The location hit one between the eyes; fair square in the nose to be exact. The odious flying fox colony became obvious long before dawn’s early light revealed the stand of arm and leg thick paperbarks. Col cited the burley effect the copious droppings as having a bit to do with previous successes.

The waist deep water called for presentations to accommodate the fishing fact of life, the shallower the water the higher the skill demands.

Mick went straight to the top rung, fishing’s highest harmonic. A good barra on fly is worth a hundred on lures. This is where Col proved invaluable keeping the boat in position, maintaining an ideal distance for Mick to get his flies into the horse-stall gaps in the trees.

After persevering with a Dahlberg diver, which produced a heart-stopping boof but no connection, Mick switched to a crease fly, the creation of striped bass guide Joe Blados over on the US eastern seaboard. The narrow head-on profile makes the crease an easier fly to cast than roundish popper flies. And when worked with a steady strip then pause retrieve, it throws up a little spit. It’s a lot like the Luckcraft Sami, my favourite hard topwater lure.

Hand to hand combat with big lake barra

Faust 3

The buck tail deceiver is not only one of the simplest flies to tie but deadly effective on lake barra.

Faust 2

The crease fly – a sensational fly for not just barramundi but a wide range of other species as well.

The fruit bats cried in alarm at the thunderclap of a strike. It was as if a hole had opened in the water and swallowed the fly. Mick’s rod doubled in a torturous bend. His line hand white knuckled as he took a wrap. It was a hand to hand stoush – the stop ‘em or pop ‘em reminiscent of steamy, ongo-bongo New Guinea rivers. The arrowhead of the barra bow wave surged inches from the timber as the fish ran parallel with the boundary formed by the trees. Mick maintained the pressure for minutes of tense see-saw but was finally to withdraw an armful of line from the fight. And then another.

The fly was demolished. A full blooded whack by Border’s cricket bat couldn’t have done more damage. Speaking of which, the fly had been taken deeply and there was some claret, which never looks good on film – but having said that, those things are part of the game and we do our best. Mick did the unselfish thing and effected the removal and release without the fish coming into the boat.

After a hit and miss surface presentation I switched to a swimming fly. None better, in my book anyway, than the bucktail deceiver, Bob Popovics’ deer hair adaptation of Lefty Kreh’s immortal original. The BTD literally breathes in the water and can be tied in big fish dimensions that remain a dream to cast. But that’s about all I did.

Three key lessons

Harro3

Rod ‘Harro’ Harrison revives another Faust barra prior to release.

There are three conclusions to be drawn from strikeless casting sessions. The one which sits best with anglers is the conclusion there are simply no fish. Less palatable is a “they’re not biting” scenario. Lastly, the one to stick in the craw, we’re not serving up what the fish want.

We pretty much exhausted all options. Topwater, midwater and jigging blades on the bottom – useful techniques all of them – but on their day.

Sure enough Col suggested the drought-breaker – a troll.

The lure, a fluoro-green Dr. Evil, a two-treble twenty footer of Rob Gaden design, had barely reached its operating depth when Col’s rod bucked in a holder on my side of the boat.

“You take it,” he said in a display of professionalism not every guide possesses – there are fishing guides, and guides who fish.

I didn’t have to be asked twice, especially with that memorable 120cm fish dancing on the other end.

 

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