3Ts: A guide’s guide to barra on fly

Catching Barra on a fly is not only a fun way to put a bend in a rod, but also a far more productive method than a lot of anglers would imagine. The Barramundi’s food source is extensive, so being able to present an artificial morsel to temp them is sometimes easier on fly than with conventional lure casting tackle.
Barra

Barra

A perfect example of this is when a barra gets locked in to feeding on juvenile prawns more commonly called ‘jelly prawns’. Many anglers will know than when a fish has an abundance of one food source their trigger instincts to be persuaded to eat something else goes into lockdown mode. Jelly prawns are often no bigger than the eye of a 5/0 hook, when they swam in numbers the clouds of them can appear pink in the water. Barramundi will gorge themselves on these clouds, feeding on them like there’s no tomorrow. From the anglers’ perspective, being able to present something small enough to entice the fish when in this mode is difficult at the best of times. A fly rod is able to deliver unweighted, tiny imitations into their feeding area that is almost imposable with conventional lure casting equipment. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received about fly fishing for barramundi, was to use the fly rod to deliver something that will draw the fish into striking. Now that seems pretty useless info as that’s the object of most fisherman, but keeping fly fishing simple is often the best avenue to take. Much talk is directed to shooting heads, life like fly eyes, tailing loops and other jargon. My advice is to stick to the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle and just get the fly into the area where you think a fish will bite it. If you need a sinking line, weighted fly, popper style fly or exact baitfish style patters, that’s all good. But your homework should already be done before hitting the water. Barra are opportunist feeders. A recent example for me was in a lake where fish were cruising past a point. It was mid morning, the sun was shining, they were in shallow water and it was dead calm. In the ‘how to catch a barra book’, this is not the ideal time. The fish would have been feeding all night, bony bream and red claw I imagine, so getting a bite was going to be difficult. The guide I was fishing with suggested I try a big blooping style popper, 10 minutes later we were connected to a rampaging fish with shoulders like a front row forward. What did the popper look like? Most likely nothing it has seen in this lake. But as the old saying goes ‘fish don’t have hands’. The big bucket mouth inhaled the popping fly due to barra being opportunistic feeders. Keeping fly fishing for barra as simple as possible is a great mind set to take into it. Think about the following basics:

How to get their fly it into their strike zone

Barra

Barra

Think about the depth, tidal flow direction and obstacles such as snags or rocks that will interfere with natural drift or retrieval of the fly. If a tide flow is racing right to left past your favourite snag and the fish are holding 5 feet down, weighted flies are a must. Work out how far back up current you need to land your fly so the drift and depth goes through the strike zone. There is no point making a good cast and then stripping your fly straight back away from the strike zone. The fly rod and line becomes a tool to deliver your fly to where the fish will see it and hopefully bite it.

What fly will trigger a reaction strike

Mick Winterton

Mick Winterton

 Aside from the scenario explained earlier about jelly prawn feeding fish the barra is a very opportunistic feeder. A baitfish-style fly fished anywhere in the strike zone of an active fish will usually draw a strike. A fly designed by the legendary Lefty Kreh and named the Deceiver is one of the all-time best patterns to draw a strike from a fish. If I had to pick one colour to use, all white is the go. In shallower areas the Clouser minnow is a must have. Its dumbbell eyes kick puffs of sand of the bottom up as it’s retrieved in the strike zone. This imitates a prawn, crab or juvenile baitfish. Size and profile of the fly is more important than the colours and trendy dressings. So white again would be the go-to colour. The third fly in this simple range would be a surface popper. The Dahlberg diver is an old favourite that can be blooped on the surface to get a reaction bite, or walked across lilly pads with the use of a weed-guard to look like a frog. Estuary fish sitting at the mouth of a drain on the outgoing tide will wait in ambush for any baitfish to come their way. A nicely blooped popper through this area will give you a great chance of talking the fish into an easy meal- with a hook in it.
 

What gear should I use?

Barra

Barra

The average sized barramundi caught in Australia would be somewhere between 50 and 70 cm. A fish this size would weight between 2 and 4 kg. The great thing about Australia’s premier sports fish is that the next one that bites your fly could be 1.2 meters and 25kg. Fly rods and lines around the #8 or #9 weight rating are best for a multitude of areas and fish sizes. The rod and line delivers your fly to the fish. If you’re using big flies or heavily weighted smaller flies, the more power you have in the rod to deliver them is better. A #9 weight fly rod is the go. Vice versa for smaller flies in sheltered conditions. Barra have sandpaper-like lips and sharp gill spikes. A leader of somewhere around 30 to 40lb is recommended. For keeping it simple, I like to tie 4 feet of this to the fly line. This changes of course with conditions. Clear water and spooky fish equals lighter or big hulk shouldered impoundment barra where 60lb is required. Fly fishing for barra can be as complicated as you want to make it but with after reading these tips, applying the KISS principle and using the right gear both your fishing and catch rate should greatly improve.        
Mick Winterton

About Mick Winterton

Introduced to the sport by his grandfather at the tender age of 5, Mick Winterton has been a fishing fanatic almost all his life. At that young age his path was set for life - unless it had fins and swam in the water he simply wasn’t interested in it.

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