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Robbie Wells

With the closing of the barra season looming and for many of us our last chromie caught all but a distant memory, our next chance of catching one of Australia's premier sport fish will probably be amidst our annual monsoonal wet season. Flooded rivers, creeks and flood plains... I love it! 

The one in 100 year, one in 50 year, one in 15 year and one in 7 year monumental flood events... all in the last 5 years, have all contributed to more than favorable, if not closer to perfect, breeding, recruitment and grow out conditions for our beloved barramundi. Every billabong, floodplain and saltmarsh, every waterway fresh or salt has been flushed and at times all linking together into massive coastal inland seas. Places like the Proserpine and the Rockhampton and Broadsound Deltas benefit greatly. Most importantly the duration of such flood events have opened up ancient juvenile barra runs and recruitment areas, with back up rain and flooding for longer than normal periods allowing the barra open range, while replenishing these areas with new barramundi stock and food.

With that in mind I count down to the end of the barra season and look to the beginning of the new season with the anticipation of what could be. With Google maps in hand, the off season gives me three months of virtual barra fishing, seeking out new backwater creeks, rivers, natural rock bars and manmade barriers like roads, irrigation channels and weirs that normally inhibit and minimize the potential for successful barramundi spawning, recruitment and grow out. With that bit of research, the land based angler has many outstanding options during the wet... no boat, no worries.

The last few years of our annual barra trip has been plagued by strong winds, torrential rain and flooding. Not ideal when you want to fish the flats and creek mouths. So adapting to Plan B - 'Backwater and Flood Barra' has delivered some of the most exciting fishing I've done, so much so that I look forward to the wet every year.

Barramundi are biologically quite special as they have the ability to go from salt to fresh and fresh to salt (Euryhaline) and even though they can live their entire life in the freshwater they must go to the saltwater to spawn (Catadromous). Once they reach breeding size, a female can produce up to 100, 000 eggs per kilogram, meaning a one metre barra of around 10kg has the potential of 1, 000,000 eggs! This is staggering and shows the importance of releasing the breeders for our fishing future.

However, just like any barra fishing, knowing where the fish are during these high water periods is the key. It's all about location, location, location. As mentioned, fishing the back country consists mainly manmade obstacles like old farmer's weirs, irrigation drains, channels and bridges, along with the natural rock bars and flood plains. Barra are opportunistic feeders in these situations and so as they swim in with the tide, the saltwater pushes against the freshwater, depending on the tide size and location you are fishing and equalizes, creating a feeding free for all between the rainbow fish, gudgeons, etc. in the fresh side and the mullet, gar, etc. mixing in the salt... a barra smorgasbord!

During these tides and high water events I have observed two behavioral patterns of barra. Firstly, normally the smaller barra, up to around 60cm, push right up hard against the barrier until the tide is right or high enough for them to get up into the freshwater. These fish tend not to be hungry and seem focused on the job at hand. The second is the bigger fish who come in for the aforementioned feeding frenzy, moving in and out of the current, back eddies and pressure points, slurping up small schools of fish and boofing the bigger mullet and gar. As the tide recedes they then sit up hard against any divot, crevice in the bank or back eddy, waiting for the bait to wash back out with the tide. This is by far my favorite time of the tide, walking the bank pickpocketing potential barra haunts before there is not enough water. In saying that, it's amazing how many fish will sit in the smallest and shallowest pools until the next tide cycle.

The technique is straight forward, using a slow to medium roll depending on how much flow there is where you're fishing. The TT 3/8oz 5/0 HeadlockZ HD / ZMan 4" SwimmerZ combo is deadly. You can go lighter on the jighead weight, but I find in the floodwater is normally too fast to give any real feel of what your ZMan is doing and more importantly you have trouble getting the plastic into the strike zone. I use a high rod tip, which also aids in less snagging as your plastic tends to skim over the rocks. It also creates more direct hook ups as the barra tend to hit hard in the current, so the high rod tip self-loads for an easy and positive hook set. Always swim your plastic with the current and into the strike zone. If it's a back eddy swirling around in a 45 degree angle try to keep it right in the zone for as long as possible.

My favourite colours for the backwaters are AYU, Shiner, Bad Shad and Pearl in the 4" SwimmerZ, but I always have a backup ZMan 3" MinnowZ rigged and have been messing around with the ZMan 5" Grass KickerZ with equal success. It's just a matter of getting out there... sure you get your average days, but the more you explore the area, in all tides and conditions, the more you will reap the benefits. 'The adventure is part of the journey' and Australia has miles of awesome country worth exploring, even without catching fish. Plus you can't catch them in your lounge room!

Barra are one of those fish, whereby the more you think you know about them... the less you actually do and there's always a curve ball.

How Good's Australia
Robbie Wells

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