My old man, Bobby, said I’d never catch a barramundi. He reckoned The Gray Family Barra Curse would be the end of me.
Dad relived the many successes of his fishing past, with stories of huge Kingies – “They were so big you could ride them like horses, son,” – and yellowfin tuna when he lived and worked in Eden on my uncle’s Abalone licence. But he had never been able to land a barra, and after a lifetime of successful fishing around Australia had got it in his head that not just him, but the whole family, was cursed when it came to the hard-fighting, great-eating, silverfish with the glowing eyes.
I decided there was only one thing to do. I jumped on the phone to my mate Jamie Bein from Lake Monduran Barra Charters. Jamie’s confidence on the phone straight away
put me at ease. Thoughts of the Gray Family Barra Curse drifted away as I scrolled through Jamie’s Lake Monduran Facebook page filled with people holding up solid fish. I only had a limited window of opportunity, so it was going to be a strike-and-run effort. The plan was to finish work in Ipswich at 5.00pm, then grab a quick dinner and a few hours sleep before meeting Jamie in Gin Gin and get to the boat ramp for sunrise.
Those of you with a little more time than me can be picked up by Jamie from the airport at Bundaberg.
We’d unloaded the 5-metre Seajay Nomad, (with a top speed of 60kph) and were carving our way up the glassy waters of the stunning Lake Monduran as the sunrise colour blazed across the horizon, reflecting reds and yellows from the glassy water as we sped along.
Jamie shared his knowledge of the waters and all things barra over a coffee, and I began to understand why Dad thought he might have been cursed. If you don’t know what you are doing and are fishing in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could fish for days, if not weeks, and run the risk of not getting a barra. If you’re serious about catching fish, the knowledge and expertise of a great guide like Jamie Bein is the best sure-fire approach to a good catch.
As we pulled up at our first location, the tops of the partly submerged dead gum trees made for an almost spiritual experience. The red glow of the sunrise silhouetted the spider webs that joined the skeletal branches emerging from the glassy waters. There was no one else around and the silence on the water was amazing.
Jamie has his secret spots and knows where to look for the fish. Once in position not a single line hits the water until the sounder reveals good fish.
But, to Jamie’s surprise, the first spot was quiet with nothing showing on the Lowrance HDS-12 Carbon sounders.
A very slight and gentle breeze slowly brushed our faces, and Jamie instantly said, “I know where they are.” Within seconds the boat was tearing along to the other side of the lake. “The wind’s come up overnight,” he yelled over the roar of the 115hp engine.
Fishing in the bays downwind is one of Jamie’s successful techniques. We pulled up at the next spot and within seconds I heard him say, “Good fish here, mate. Good fish here.”
They’re the words every fisherman longs to hear.
Lure in a Tree
I lined up and released what looked like a near-perfect cast between some dead gum trees. The lure bounced off the side of a trunk and snagged on a branch. It was a rookie error, and to make it even worse, before I had time to register the epic fail Jamie had hooked up and was on a run that saw him catch his first and second barra within minutes. Both were good fish. Not quite up in the 1-metre category, but around 650mm-700mm was still impressive enough.
While we navigated the trees using the front-mounted electric motor to retrieve my lure I pushed my thoughts of Dad’s barra curse to the back of my mind. The excitement of Jamie’s double catch was epic and we high-fived each other. I had the cameras rolling, the drone up in the air, and the GoPro went into the water to get some great shots of Jamie’s catch.
Eventually things went quiet. The Barra had moved on, and Jamie decided it was time to head over to another mind-blowing, stunning location with eagles, pelicans, hawks and water dragons on and in the trees. It was spectacular.
By that stage we were right in the middle of the morning peak-hour bite session which Jamie said went from about 8:30am to 10:30am. He explained anglers will still catch fish before and after this window, but it was when Jamie would typically get most of his good fish. “They are pretty lazy, the old barra,” he explained. “They don’t like to get too active too early in the dam here.”
The sounder lit up again. “Throw it over there,” Jamie calmly and quietly directed.
My anticipation was killing me and a near-perfect cast in between a cluster of branches and tree trunks provided instant success. My reel screamed as the barra hit the lure and threw water all over the place, then it dived and looked for a snag. With a low rod tip I muscled him up and out of the trees before he took me for another couple of good runs, but soon enough I had him in the boat and the Gray Family Barra Curse was finally broken.
The day passed way too quickly. Some great stories were shared, and another two fish caught. Before I knew it, it was time to pack up and make the drive back to Brissie Airport as work called in Sydney the following day. But it was worth it. The environment at Lake Monduran was so spectacular, catching fish was just the icing on the cake.
Jamie’s record in the lake is a 1.34 metre barra some years back, but with a breeding program which sees 110,000 fingerling barra released every year for the last 21-odd years, there are more and more big fish just waiting to be caught. Barra are rapid growers and hit the 1-metre mark at 4.5 years old, so every year that passes more and bigger fish are going to be found in this great spot.
Jamie regularly takes out both first timers and experienced fisherman on Lake Monduran, with regulars coming back over and over. Call 0407 434 446 to get out there. His boat is very well set up, and he’s a top bloke.
You won’t regret it.