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Fishing Cairns Blog

October 11, 2010

BASALT BARRA
Keith Graham

It took three hours in searing heat, hacking away at rubber vines to make a track into our latest campsite on the upper Mitchell River. This is the price we paid to camp and fish in a near pristine environment for two glorious weeks in early September.

The crew are all seasoned bush bashers….namely Bill Spooner, Tony Simpson and Alex Bor. Bill and I being the mad keen fisho’s whilst Tony and Alex tend to favour pig hunting. It had been many years since I had been out bush with these guys and how things have changed!

Would you believe that we had a water pump and o/s hose to fill our water buckets in camp….and a bloody sprinkler to keep the dust down and lower the heat around midday. A chest freezer and three large Engel fridge/ freezers….a sink and draining system plus a kitchen set up worthy of a ‘Masterchef’ show, not to mention an electrical set up with 2 gennys. Sheer luxury compared to days gone by!

Heavy tents are out and we all now use 3 metre square sand fly mesh walled nylon domes with built in ground sheets that allow a cooling breeze to pass during the .night. It was good to see that our old Shearers Beds were still used….hard to beat when you throw on a thin foam cover…then your swag.

It took the rest of day one to knock the camp into shape by which time Spooner and I were itching to wet a line. The old Custom Craft tinnie was launched and we set off to explore this two kilometre long by 75 metre wide stretch of the mighty Mitchell.

An island opposite our camp formed a quiet narrow backwater that looked promising. It had depth, good snags…the odd rock bar and sandbars…….perfect barra country! Starting at its mouth we tied on smaller surface lures such as F1.11‘s and Stealth’s, flicking along the rocky ledges and under low slung trees. First cast Bill snared a small sooty…..I soon followed with a mongrel catfish…..then an archer fish. At least there was some action but as we motored up the hole using deeper diving RMG’s and Barra Classics when the banks became steeper it was obvious that the barra were lying low. We both knew the reason why but didn’t bother to mention it in case we were right! So early in the trip we liked to remain optimistic that barra would be on the chew.


Bill Spooner with one of his better boars

Success, at last, a hard fighting Basalt Barra

Spooner did eventually get a good barra

Alex with his first barra of the trip

Back in the main River we plied the banks with an arsenal of our favourite barra lures including Leads, Ron Gallo’s and Wally Gallina red cedars……….but it was futile. We decided to put in our freshwater prawn traps baited with fresh catfish and call it a day.

Sarcastic comments from the peanut gallery were evident as we walked back into camp. “So, where’s the barra for dinner then?” Tony mumbled. Spooner was quick to reply saying that we had let them all go cos he though the boys had taken out steaks to defrost! We knew our day would come.

Second night there and the heavens opened up! Hard to believe that early September would yield over an inch of rain in one fairly quick shower. This wasn’t the only rain they’d had up these parts so pigs were going to be spread out with so much water around.

We continued to fish the prime times in the freshwater…which are ‘from first light until the first ripples appear on the water’….then….’ around 4 p.m. to just after dark’ with little action apart from the odd sooty and of course catfish. I began to doubt the presence of any decent barra, then reminded myself what time of the month it was.

Hunting pigs is something we do during the early afternoon until about 3-30pm. The hogs are usually under the shade of trees near a waterhole or wallowing in mud holes along semi dry river beds. After having had a knee replacement earlier this year I was limited in the distance and on which terrain I could walk so left the long hauls to the others. They found some good mobs and nailed a dozen or so in the first few days. These guys rarely miss and it’s always good to see Spooner bowl over a trotting boar at around 180 metres with his 7mm….(I call it ‘The Cannon”).

I did manage to get my big boar using my trusty 308 pump action Remington and boiled out the tusks for bragging rights with my son Matthew. So many barra fisho’s now hunt pigs we have put a large selection of Hog DVD’s in and a range of archery gear / pig knives etc.


The authors 11 kilo…90 cms. Bauxite Barra….the best for the trip.

Good size barra for the fresh….Alex is still smiling.

Snag piles pushed up against Basalt Bommies held the barra

We had arrived on a new moon….which is not the best time for freshwater barra to feed. But now it was the first quarter and the moon shone bright over our water hole. (First quarter to the full moon is prime barra time). Spooner reckoned that they would be on the upstream side of the big basalt boulders that were strewn throughout the area. Some had snags wrapped around them by the last wet season that provided ample cover for prowling barra and sat in 2 to 3 metres of water…..we were optimistic! Spooner cast his B52 into the snags as dusk approached…’twitch’….’twich’

B A N G …he was on…and a big barra leapt skywards. ‘Told you they were here’ he said smugly! The fight continued as this 7 kilo fish took him over a rock…..T W A N G….his braid broke! Rooster to Feather duster in a millisecond! I cast my new Ron Gallo top water minnow….one twitch and I was on to a similar sized fish. What a great fight as he took me over one snag then under another…I just couldn’t stop him! Keeping gentle pressure on he gradually weaved his way back through the snags…….Spooner reckoned I have more arse than class! I netted an incredibly well conditioned 6.5 kilo barra. Someone had ‘flipped the switch’ and these barra were really on the chew.

Over the next five evening we actually caught around 35 barra, the best one going 11 kilos or 90 cms. How good is that!!! Spooner continued his run of bad luck and would have easily bombed another 8 BIG barra, mainly by pulling the hooks. He’s a top angler and anyone can have a bad run….of course I consoled him by saying such things as…” When are you going to put hooks on those lures Bill?” ..….and “ I used to fish like that….but learned better”. Nothing like a few words of encouragement from your mates. Spooner just muttered under his breath…words like “ Every dog has his day son”.

It was two weeks of sheer bliss for me……….and I’m sure the rest of the guys too! No TV…no mobile phones…..no newspapers…..not even a radio was turned on! The pressures of the world just drift away and good conversation takes over….plus reading a few books, magazines and doing heaps of crosswords. We all need this kind of break now and again!

Our last night came around all too soon and, although we only bagged around 30 pigs the barra fishing was fantastic. Predicting the barra bite in the freshwater reaches of rivers is tantamount to success……everyone should read Laurie Woodbridge’s article “Look to the Moon’, we have spare copies at the shop.



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