Rain Dance

Jonathan Jones tackles impoundment barramundi in the wet

If you like torrential rain, big barramundi and 100% humidity then this will get the blood pumping through your veins. Over the past few years I’d heard stories about barra coming on the chew during heavy rain and flooding. With rising water in the impoundments, the barramundi cruise the grassy flats and the edges of the banks, searching for bait to harass. I’d been keeping an eye on the weather in the Mackay region for a few weeks when I saw a big system forming and starting to roll in on far north Queensland. It was the beginning of the wet season and the perfect time to head north to see what the rains would bring, so we grabbed our gear, packed the truck and hit the road north for a lovely 25-hour drive. BARRADISE Having pushed through heavy rain and minor floods we made it to barradise. First thing to do was to check the radar and latest weather report to get a feel for what we were in for. The lovely guys at WillyWeather were forecasting 150 mm of rain every day for the next 5 days, so it was either going to be game-on, fishing-wise, or one wet trip. After a good night’s rest we woke to the sound of heavy rain and strong winds. I was excited to see how much the Kinchant Dam had risen overnight and my friend Benny was super keen to get out there, so we grabbed our rods and started to walk the banks. Within minutes we’d found a good looking spot where the wind was pushing all the bait on to a grassy point. This is a key element to look for when chasing barra in the dams — wherever the water is pushing and the wind is blowing you’ll find the bait, and not long after you’ll find the barra. It was time to start wading. We had been seeing small baitfish swimming along the lilies, so Benny put a few casts in tight to the vegetation and within minutes, out of nowhere, we heard the BOOF — bang, he was tight to a nice looking barramundi. It was exciting times as this was Ben’s first barra. After a few tense moments, with the fish putting on a nice little show for us, we had it to hand and it was all smiles after a few photos. Having seen what was possible we pushed on through the pouring rain for a few hours with hopes of tangling with more cruising barramundi. But that was not to be, so we headed back to the cabin to dry out, hit the vice, and tie up some fresh new flies to entice the bite. We had noticed that the fish were feeding on relatively small baitfish and needed to tie something to match. After spending hours at the vice it was time to check the weather for the morning. Being prepared and well informed is a must for any barra mission — even landlocked in impoundments these fish still run off tides, moon phases and barometric pressure. Once you get your head around that, then you just have to get the weather and moons worked out to get your finger on the bite time. Things will change, as we found out over the next few days of barramundi mayhem. WILD & WET Falling asleep with the rain and waking up to it was becoming super relaxing. We knew we had some time on our hands so we boiled the kettle first thing and made a fresh pot of coffee, sorted out flies and prepared our gear for the day. Once the sun had started to rise it was time to hit the water. Along one of the grassy flats we found a big line of dirty water pushing in. This was sure to create the perfect ambush point for big barramundi so we pulled the boat up onto the grass and started to wade out closer to the edge where the dirty water met the clean. After a few casts Ben was hooked up and the fish was airborne. Within seconds it spat the hook and left Ben a little frustrated, to say the least. We soon started to see a pattern in the way the fish were feeding. They tended to go off the bite as the sun and rain cleared, and as soon as the wind and rain came back so did the fish. If the water was moving, that’s where we found our barra. Some of the best action was at the head of the dam with the water level rising fast. Here small inflow creeks were coming alive with activity and big barramundi, and as the weather worsened the bite really turned on. Having experienced one of the most insane sessions we both sat back and looked at the time. We had been out in heavy rain and strong wind for over nine hours. It was time to pull back and head to the cabin to dry out. Little did we know that the fishing was only going to get better and the weather only worse. MORE RAIN After hours of dreaming of sunny skies I woke to the sound of the alarm and thunder. Great, another beautiful day in barradise. I dragged myself off the couch and stuck my head out the door to see it was raining heavier than I had ever seen. The phrase for the morning was, ARE YOU KEEN? Hahaha. After talking it over we decided to sit it out for a few hours to see if it would ease up, but when we headed out to get bacon-and-egg rolls and coffee a minute or so down the road we realised that we were flooded in. The road was five feet under fast running water. That was that — we were going to be stuck here for a few more days. Luckily the Kinchant campgrounds have a pub and serve good food. After getting a fix of breakfast we convinced ourselves to head out into the unknown. One of the creeks was really pouring into the dam and we could see the barra just smashing bait along the edge of the bank. My eyes were about to drop out of my head. Having anchored the boat we hit the grass flats at the mouth of the inflow. Pushing just a few metres up towards some long grass on the side of the creek we could see three big barramundi creating absolute chaos. We both sent a cast into the mix and, bang, we were on like Donkey Kong. The day only got better and better as more and more rain fell. The water was really starting to run off the land into the dam and pushing way up onto the grass, bringing the fish out of the depths of the dam and onto the flats. This was something I’d only heard about, and to see the fish behaving like this, first hand, was mind blowing. With all the rain we were finding it hard to film the action, but by using a jacket to cover the camera we were able to record some of the mayhem in between storms. PERSONAL BEST And it wasn’t over yet. We had a late start the next morning as we’d spent most of the night looking over the last few days’ footage. After a quick bite to eat we were back at it. With the road flooded, other boats couldn’t access the dam, so we really had the place to ourselves and took full advantage of this. Everything was lining up, with the sun showing its head and the wind now pushing bait up onto the grass flats on the north side of the dam. With a lot more water over the grass than when we had fished this spot a few days earlier, we anchored the boat and started to wade. Within about an hour, Ben and I both landed personal best fish. It was a fairytale ending to one very wet trip. With those magical moments replaying in our minds we were ready to pack up our rods and flies and face the long drive back to reality.

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