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Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:15 pm
by NBN
After a tough couple of months on the barra front (thanks for nothing QLD!) I decided to take the family to a Barra Farm up past Mossman. I wanted my 2 yo son to catch his first barra AND I was desperate to reacquaint myself with my silver paddle tailed mistress. The facility is an actual fish farm but has a large pond reserved for rec (paying) fishers as well as a couple of ‘go-to’ ponds in case the main pond is shut down. Which it was. On the first day (yes I dragged the family back for a second day); I toiled hard in the main pond but recent and overnight rain had dropped the temp and delivered a serious case of shut jaw. Interestingly, the pond was super clear, clearer than normal apparently. I could see plenty of barra, probably around 50 just from walking a ¼ of the bank. Most were hugging the bank, nosing up into the grass, other larger fish sat a bit deeper just off the bank and the remainder sat high in the water column just under a stream of bubbles from the aerator. I had a couple of half-hearted taps but no hook-ups so eventually moved to the ‘go-to’ pond. Success! The Littleman had his first barra under his belt, his smile says it all! Hooked solo and dad assisted with the capture. As it is lure only and a single barbless hook, it lends itself to soft plastics. By waving the rod around and then sticking the tip into the mud he had given the plastic just the right amount of life and then by default let it sit on the bottom, pretty much the way I work gulps. I went to my vehicle and grabbed a packet of gulp minnows and we proceeded to land a dozen fish to about 60cm. Good fun, plenty of excitement and no crocs to worry about. On the way out I tried the gulps in the main pond for zero touches.

That night I couldn’t get the main pond out of my mind. I wondered why a pond 30 meters away was fishing while it was not. The water clarity was certainly different, clear in the main pond and murky in the other. The fish were fed more often in the smaller pond but they were also smaller fish. Had the main pond been hammered recently? Why wouldn’t the same technique work in both ponds with at least one fish in the main pond showing interest and so on…So back we went the next morning.

The water appeared clearer again and with the absence of wind I had an even clearer view of the barra and their movements. I confirmed with the manager that only a few fish had been caught from the main pond over the past week and decided to make it my mission. I started with a smallish popper, moved to a smaller suspending hard body and ended up with an 80mm Drop Bear Squidgy Fish. Reaction to all offerings was generally consistent; complete repulsion. The barra rapidly retreated away from all offerings. I had a couple of lookers at the popper but no follows. Then the hard body session got interesting. I was working my 4th or 5th group (5 or 6 fish) by cranking the lure to depth then using a system of small rod tip movement followed by pauses of 3-4 seconds. By this time and given the behavior of the fish I had slowed my retrieve down significantly. Two barra in this group didn’t swim away in disgust. I cast past them, cranked to depth and further reduced the speed of my retrieve. This time they both turned and looked at the lure. They didn’t progress towards it, just turned and looked. Ah ha. Again, I cast well past them, cranked to depth and reduced my tip movement even further, the lure was moving approx. 20mm side to side. It was almost impossible to twitch it any slower whilst still moving it. I closed my eyes and imagined I was in the mouth of Elizabeth on the Daly working the top corner an hour into the runout. I couldn’t imagine working a lure this slow! The lure passed about half a meter in front of them, almost instantaneously they both lit up, a stripe appeared from their backs down their heads. I had never witnessed this before. They slowly moved towards the lure, (my heart was in my mouth) but stopped. WHAT! I cast again and repeated, this time the lure was literally going to hit one of them but before it did the other one smashed it like lightning. It cartwheeled out of the water throwing my hard body with single barbless hook across the pond. Game over.

I hit another 3 or 4 groups in a similar fashion with this super slow retrieve with no result before changing to the Drop Bear. I couldn’t work the Squidgy as slow at the hard body whilst still achieving tail action but found that the fish were more accepting of the smaller profile plastic. They moved out of its way but didn’t swim off. I noticed that the larger fish were less skittish so decided to concentrate on them despite being harder to locate. The first couple I pestered showed slight interest so I persisted. I would start with the retrieved at approx. 1m past their nose and then move in closer each pass until aiming to almost hit them without touching them with the line first. No joy. The third one I found looked around 80cm and was sitting deeper in around 2m of water. By the 10th pass I was ready to move on but she slightly adjusted her position tilting upwards. Hello. Six passes later right past her nose and she lit up like a Christmas tree and engulfed the little squidgy. Five times she broke the surface before I guided he into the net and boy was I pleased. She went bang on 90cm and fought as well as any barra I’ve caught sans the current and tide.

Witnessing a 90cm barra boof your lure 6-7m away in crystal clear water was sensational. It was great to be able to watch your lure and realise just how slow you needed to work it to have any hope of enticing barra that were (for all intensive purposes) shut down. In these conditions you need to think like a cod (Murray) fisher; just keep casting. There may be no desire to feed but it could be possible to attract an instinctive or aggressive reaction. Nothing new here for most, but some valuable lessons for me and a worthwhile experience.

Off to Hinchinbrook next, bring on the buildup!

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:29 pm
by Matt Flynn
Interesting. There are many wild locations where the fish would see so many lures they become educated.

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:47 pm
by Finatic2
Great story keep em coming

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:21 am
by NBN
Matt Flynn wrote:Interesting. There are many wild locations where the fish would see so many lures they become educated.
Yes with these particular fish that see lures every day it was almost like; ok here comes another lure, I'm not that hungry so I'll swim away because I can't trust my instinct to inhale it.

Swim away, swim away....Got. To. Fight. 10000 years of evolution..!!

Or just a scary looking retrieve.

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:24 am
by slamminsam
Awesome post. Thanks for the good read.

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:51 pm
by jeffish
It took 3 goes to read this NBN , but well worth it .
Cheers for taking the time to post up your info mate .
But nothing will help my Barra efforts this year :rofl: :mrgreen:

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:14 pm
by ozdodge
thanks for sharing - really interesting!


Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 4:12 pm
by Lats
Cool story. I've seen footage of a guru barra guide in one of the QLD dams pulling plastic frogs across the surface really fast. You could see the bow waves behind the frogs by the following meterys. Apparently speed is the key to get them to strike sometimes. Not saying that would have worked this time, but would have been interesting to find out

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:51 pm
by cuddlescooper
Reading the fishes mood is the key to getting a strike. Some days you are targeting a reaction strike, some days a defensive swipe ans some days when the nine planets aligne an all out agressive feeding action. Identifying the best action, depth, speed, and food size is anever easy. I guess the fact you can see the fish is a great education in there habits and the fact you know the fish are there is ahuge advantage. You have to go with this belief into the wild as well. Just one more cast will get the bite!

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 10:15 am
by craig.g
A very interesting read, thanks, even when you know they are there and where it seems like it took plenty to get a strike, must be 10000000000x harder when you cant see them and areguessing to get a strike, guess its important to use your sounder to locate fish 1st or all you are doing is practicing your casting !!!

Cheers Craig

Re: Barra lessons from a pond....

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:23 pm
by NBN
Jeffish; the year's not over yet!

Lats; have seen the same, good point prob the only thing I didn't try. Always nice to have a top water offering crashed.

CC; that's why I moved to Weedless plastics around 3 years ago to maximise viable presentations. I reckon it has increased my opportunity (I.e. No/limited snags and weed fouling) by around 50-100% translating into 25-50% more fish. More time in the water and greater access to likely areas.

Craig G; absolutely, and keep trying different offerings and techniques. What it has reminded me most it that when the fishing is tough I need to fish slower, much slower and really concentrate my efforts in the prime areas for greater periods of time rather than continually prospecting. That's the theory anyway....