Report: Dave’s first barra

IT was Dave Grant’s first fishing trip to the Top End and along with his three fishing buddies, we sat around the bar with a cold beer discussing what to expect over the next three days.

Out of the four lads, only Nick “Zocky” Zock had tropical fishing experience. A couple more beers and the lads started talking about laying bets on who would catch the biggest barra, the most species … you know how it goes…

First things first and we reckoned it would be a good idea if the boys got the feel of using a baitcaster reel, which three of the group had never done before. Out on the lawn we went, with a bucket set at 20 paces and rods and reels loaded with lures (minus the hooks). For a bit of inspiration it was decided that anyone landing a lure in the bucket, would be shouted at the bar by Zocky for the rest of the night. A quick rundown on the basic skills of launching a lure with rod and reel (one more beer) and the boys were into it. To cut a long story short, Zocky’s wallet was still fat in the morning.

Out on the water Dave missed out on landing a barra on the first day but was leading the most species category. The others had all succeeded at landing a barra and after a few beers that evening, Dave had to put up with the jibes about being a barra “no-hoper”.

Beware the barra virgin…

Day 2 with Dave and Zocky on-board we headed for Goose Creek. Surely a better spot to catch your first barra would be hard to find. It started off very slowly with Zocky pinning a few small to mid-size barra and saratoga. Dave went close to hooking a dreaded toady.


Nick Zock with a typical Goose Creek ‘toga.

Lunch time was fast approaching and barra-less Dave had another close encounter with a bigger toady. Then it happened. Dave was hit with what seemed a small bump at first but in the blink of an eye this all changed as massive boils began to break the surface and a scene of mayhem started to unfold. With both banks riddled with snags and not much clear water between, the yet to be seen fish began to rampage up and down the creek’s muddied waters with Dave doing his best to hang on. Instructions began flying thick and fast!

“Keep your rod up! Don’t let it have slack line. Don’t let the line touch the boat. Don’t wind when you’re losing line”.

It was all happening.

Then the barra’s head broke the surface and we get our first look. It was BIG. The fish ran into and out of the snags numerous times without the line ever once becoming caught up. It ran beneath the hull of the boat several times and the line never once touched any sharp bits that alloy boats always have.

My first attempt with the net ended with the big girl leaping out without the hook becoming caught in the net (I love single hooks). After a few more lunges the barra finally slid into the net. A big high five and a few “woohoo!”s and it was time to put Dave’s first ever barra on the brag mat. Exactly one metre!

Now that’s the way to open your barra account.


After this the fish gods smiled on Dave and his barra count began to steadily climb. Dave also got within 5m of his first wild buffalo and witnessed a majestic sea eagle snatch a barra from the surface. Than a croc lunged at a barra right next to the boat and he also managed his first saratoga and quickly backed that up with a couple more.

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Sea eagle with a baby barra.

Upon heading home Dave reckoned it was a day he will never forget. Being a guide and hearing a comment like that makes you feel pretty good on the inside. I’m glad I was part of it.

Dave is sitting at the bar now having a beer and asking his three fishing buddies (for the 10th time) if they’d ever caught a metre barra!

Warren “Wazza” Smith is a highly experienced fishing guide based at Melville Lodge in the Northern Territory.

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