James worked the edge of the lilies.

First yak-caught barra

‘DO the miles, get the smiles’ is a phrase that has been thrown around in the fishing world for many years, and it definitely holds true in these modern times. Getting away from the more populated areas and your regular fishing haunts can enable you to not only get into some great fishing but also learn new techniques, land new species and enjoy new experiences.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to not only experience new things but also help others do the same. It all started with a plan for Peachy and I to head north and visit our mate Mark for a quick morning flick for bass, followed by time in the ski boat. Upon arriving at Mark’s on the Saturday afternoon, he had a cheeky glint in his eye and promptly told us there was a change of plan.

Instead of chasing bass in the morning he’d decided we should head a bit further north to target freshwater barramundi. Peach and I were fairly excited by this news because while we had all caught barra before this would be the first time chasing them from yaks, and it would be Mark’s maiden journey fishing from a yak.

With dawn still at least an hour away we loaded the last of our gear and ourselves into the Nissan Patrol and started towards what we hoped was a morning of firsts. The run up to the launch spot passed quickly with the usual good-humoured ribbing and talk of tackle, fish and all things male. The yaks were launched as the first rays of the sun lit the horizon and not long after that our lures hit the water.

We moved along the edges, working the snags and lilies with various surface lures. Only a few hundred metres from the launch site Mark’s frog got smashed and he hooked up to his first fish from a yak. The chunky, mid-60cm barra dragged Mark and his yak around a bit but he soon had the fish under control and boated.

This day was looking good. For the next hour we could only manage a few half-hearted swipes and a couple of follows until I found a little inlet with a decent snag in the middle and lilies running around the edges.

My Cultiva Zip ‘n Ziggy landed perfectly against the lilies and as I started to work it back the water erupted and all of a sudden my line was buried deep in the weeds. With some manoeuvring to change angles and help from Mark the barra finally came free of the weed and I soon had the twin of Mark’s fish yakside (along with about 2kg of salad).

After getting a few shots and on cloud nine from my first yak-caught barra I paddled over to the opposite bank and started working my way upstream. Within five minutes my lure was hit. This time it was a much gentler take and after putting some pressure on to keep the fish out of the weeds I found the culprit was a little bass.

This barra went back for the next angler to enjoy. Photo: Ken Rowling
This barra went back for the next angler to enjoy. Photo: Ken Rowling
Mark with his first fish from a yak.
Mark with his first fish from a yak.
Prime barra territory.
Prime barra territory.
The author nabbed a healthy barra. Photo: Ken Rowling
The author nabbed a healthy barra. Photo: Ken Rowling
The author’s first barra from a kayak.
The author’s first barra from a kayak.
It must have been one nervous fish in among these barra. As I continued up the bank I came to another section of lilies with a cutting through them.
I dropped my lure towards the back of the cutting and it was almost instantly monstered by a slightly smaller barra. Fortunately it took off towards the middle of the river and I enjoyed the fight and took in the sight of the bronzed barra taking to the air before slipping the lip grips into its mouth for a speedy release.

This concluded the time we had for fishing that morning. The short couple of hours we had managed to fish showed us the potential of the river, and as we headed off plans were already being made to return for another crack at the barra. On our next trip we could only afford to do a smash-and-grab morning raid.

With Peach in again, we also managed to convince our mates Ken and James to join us. After heading off in the dark we pulled up at the river a bit later than last time. The overcast sky gave us hope that the fish would be keen on surface lures again. The four of us launched and started, once again, working both banks with various surface lures.

James was a yak-fishing virgin and also happened to be the first one to receive some interest from the fish, with a solid hit that could be heard right across the river. But unfortunately the fish was off target and only managed to send the lure flying a couple of metres back towards James’s yak. Sadly this initial action was not a prelude for the day of amazing fishing we had hoped for, with the clouds hanging low and showers blowing through.

It seemed the barra had decided it was a sleep-in day and were sulking deep in their holes. After paddling about 5km without a touch, roughly 300m from the launch site I managed a good fish from the edge of a patch of lilies. But such is the nature of fishing; you can cover great country and find the fish back where you started.

However, ‘do the miles, get the smiles’ holds true for me. We covered many miles, and some may say it wasn’t worth the effort and travel for a couple of fish. However it was about more than the fish, it was about seeing two people develop a passion for yak fishing and exploring a new river with good mates, and to me it was more than worth it.

About Stewart Hansen

Ever since Stewart can remember he’s been chasing fish via many different methods. He enjoys learning new techniques and this had led him to meet some great people and visit beautiful locations. Since discovering kayak fishing, Stewart has found he loves the peacefulness that comes from drifting down a small bass creek and even more so the challenge of doing solo battle with a bluewater speedster. Recently he’s started working at Hooked on Angling & Outdoors in Tewantin, so if you’d like to have a chat and learn more about yak fishing, drop on in.

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