Top End Adventures

Business Hours Barra

Getting home from work dirty and tired makes some solid couch time an enticing option but living and working near some splendid rivers means there’s usually a better offer. With the water cold and the barra bite slow at this time of the year I’ve held off on doing any big missions to that faraway hotspot. Squeezing in a cast after work is the best way to finish the day, and thankfully, it’s not always the river furthest away that fishes the best!

A quick flick after work had me on the banks of the upper reaches of the Daly River. It’s not just barra that hang out around the snags here– can you see what’s lurking under the log on the left?

The sun wasn’t far off setting when I slid down a steep embankment trying to balance beer and fishing gear. I had no idea if I’d be able to get back up the bank without the help of the SES because the agile wallabies, who’s tracks I was following, have certainly earnt their name and `human’ is probably just a translation of the latin word for clumsy…

It was a risky mission but the reward was a section of the gently flowing Daly River that was rarely fished for obvious access reasons. We were working on a property for the week that fronts this iconic river, a property which even has its own chain of billabongs that are flooded by the Barra rich waters of the Daly most years. Unfortunately, these fishy paperbark fringed oasis’s looked like a great spot for a croc to hang out so I chose the river…

Time was short as I quickly rigged a line for the Southerner that I was trying to put onto his first Barra. I tied a loop knot onto a big soft plastic and told him to simply cast and wind. Meanwhile I was going through my ridiculously large array of placcies to land on a black and red squidgy that was stained and stinky due to a leaked pack of that fish attracting goo that comes in the bag. Not deterred, I put it on and flicked at a likely looking snag. Southerner was first to get a hit but lost the fish as it headed straight for the sticks and he wasn’t prepared for the initial burst of speed that makes barra fishing what it is. I reminded him that this wasn’t whiting fishing and showed him how to screw the drag tight.

I was slow to get any strikes so I wandered along the bank until I tripped on a rockbar. Fish love rock structures so I was feeling confident. First cast hits the water and I swear I can hear the barra boofing as I retrieve it through the depths. Sure enough, as the molested little piece of plastic nears the shore I can see it is being hounded by a pack of smallish barra around the 50cm mark. It was interesting to watch as fish after fish would strike next to the lure while simultaneously turning with a solid beat of the tail to head back out away from the shore. All the while the lure remained untouched which got me thinking that maybe this was a territorial response, not a feeding one…

Meanwhile, Southerner was having similar bad luck. He wasn’t used to braid and didn’t know how to tie on a leader so was fishing without one. Braid has the strength of fairy floss when it is rubbed against anything while the line is tight and he found out the hard way when another good fish made it to the snags. Still, my job was done because he vowed to make a return trip up to catch that one that got away – another convert to barra fishing!

With the sunset burning an orange hue across the river my colleague was getting nervous that it was time to go – fair enough really because we still had to scale the eroded bank, navigate around a billabong and locate a backhoe driver that I’d set loose in the bush with a rifle in the hunt for a buffalo or pig.

I turned to yell out `one last cast mate’ (that’s a lie that always proceeds at least 10 `last’ casts) when I caught glimpse of something that had me jumping through the air and away from the log I was leaning on. As it happens, a huge Olive Python also thought it was a fine spot to take in the river and was curled up just a meter from my feet. After recovering from the initial shock I took a better look at the harmless snake to find it certainly wasn’t in a state to cause me any trouble as it appeared to have just ingested an AFL ball! Footys aren’t common prey in these parts and the bird droppings nearby suggested that the greedy fella had eaten a duck or possibly a pelican…

`What duck? I didn’t see any ducks…’

After a few pics I resumed my last cast sequence and finally it happened. I twitched, jerked and drifted my plastic into the jaws of a solid barra which then took to the air at my feet and gave a good tussle before allowing me to take a quick pic before setting it free again. Now that is a great way to finish a tough day at work!!

Nice fish, great sunset!

I should note that while my Buffalo hunter pal didn’t manage to shoot any wandering ferals, we did have an encounter on the way home that was straight out of Crocodile Dundee. We were bouncing along the bush tracks using just the headlights to hopefully spot something when the hunter quietly tapped on the roof in a signal to stop. With the engine off we could hear a huge animal (possibly elephant, but most likely buffalo) ploughing through the scrub in the opposite direction. The gun came out but with no clear shot it didn’t look promising. Then it got interesting… the hunter declared he would use a trick that an old Indigenous mate had showed him and began to make a guttural call that came from the depths of his throat in short bursts. I had to laugh, I mean as if this would do anything…

Almost immediately the beast stopped in its tracks, turned and came crashing through the brush towards us while making a return call that sounded like a duck (possibly as it was being strangled by an Olive Python). The hunter tensed up ready to take a shot but the buff wised up and stayed just meters from the edge of the clearing and no clean shot was on offer. Since that day I have been practicing my Buffalo call and pondering if there is a similar call I can use to attract meter long barra to my new local spot on the Katherine River!

I guess our adventures on the banks of the Daly just go to show that fishing is often just the catalyst to get you out amongst it, what you see once you are there is anyone’s guess!

June 2012

5 thoughts on “Business Hours Barra

    1. Cheers Richy! Those Buff are huge beasts and while i’ve never shot one i’m told the bullets bounce right off them. Turns out the bloke with the gun got real nervous when he realised the call was working because once they charge they are hard to stop and it wouldn’t have been pretty to have a tonne on Buff in the cab with me…

      How bout you send us a quick story on those big pike you’ve been getting some day? Would be good to see what techniques you guys use ay

  1. Good to hear from ya Danny boy. That’s an awesome tale. I reckon the shirt is perfect camouflage against the sunset 🙂

  2. Great post Dan! I wish I could go and catch barra after work…redfin just don’t really cut the mustard. Lee

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *