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Engel Fishing Trip The Barra Debate By Dave Hodge I don’t think any fisherman could fail to enjoy barra fishing, whether it be in an impoundment or the wild surroundings of a northern Australian river, stream or coastline. The debate rages over which is the most satisfying and exciting, and to each angler priorities vary. I love anything to do with barra lure casting, and each environment has its own unique appeal. The safety of a croc free impoundment, where the population of meter plus fish per hectare of water is usually higher than in most wild populations, is an ideal spot for family fishing.

As for eating quality, well, give me a saltwater barra and I’m happy, give me a dam fish and I’ll ask for snags or steak, the difference is that significant. I suppose it’s what you get out of the challenge, the chase, the environment and the relaxation of fishing. Personally I would rather chase fish, any fish, in their wild environments, as it’s the true game of reading the habitat, understanding the species, delivering the right offering in the right place at the right time and then working it right.

I used to visit Cape York every now and then, and the drive was one of the things that made the trip so satisfying. How sad will the day be when any Joe Blow can jump in a family sedan and drive to The Tip, no adventure, crowds at every turn — the sense of the adventure would no longer be there.

Outback travel has become safer, and we all can be more prepared for most of what we come across. The seclusion, untouched wilderness and fishing have been the light at the end of the tunnel that make us take more remote trips, and almost everyone treats the time away as bit of chance to escape the everyday grind and return recharged.

Back when I just had myself to worry about my camp kit basically consisted of a swag, an Engel fridge, and the rest of the available space filled with fishing gear! Now blessed with a family consisting of my missus, 2 girls and a new baby boy, remote travel is set aside for those trips with the boys where luxury is just not needed, or to be honest wanted. I love nothing more than to go feral, and the duty of controlling body odour and appearance are forgotten. Aaaahhh… now that’s fishing.

On the other side of the coin, I love to spend as much time as possible with my family and last year decided to take them barra fishing for the first time. Actually I didn’t “decide”, the missus told me straight out. “We’re going barra fishing”. I decided to preserve my jiggly bits and agree.

Awoonga was to be the destination, 6 ½ hours drive from our home in Brissy, with no crocs, showers, toilets, kiosk etc on hand. I still can’t sleep in a tent so we packed the tent for the girls and my faithful old swag for me. The Engel, as always, was packed for the trip. This time with chockies for the missus and flavoured milk and snacks for the girls — oh yeah, we did manage to fit in the meat and veggies for when we actually had to eat. All the things that seem so unnecessary on a blokes trip were packed and tied in. The tent was pitched, the table set up, the clothes line stretched, the mattress blown up for the girls and the bed made. Sheesh, what a effort just to go fishing.

Long story short, my missus’ first ever cast at a barra saw her Halco Scorpion disappear down the throat of a 103cm barra, and stretch her to the limits on her spin outfit. Being the first arvo, the big camera was back at home and the little camera was all we had, just in case. I grabbed it and rattled off some shots for prosperity.

Next I landed a couple of meteries, and will never forget my famous last words. “Now babe, don’t think that it’s always this easy, sometimes they can be pretty hard to find”.

The bloody words had no sooner slipped from my lips when she grunted then yelled out “YEP, I’M ON”! As the fish climbed those invisible ladder rungs into the sky, I think I mumbled something like, “holy #*!?”. At 121cm it was a horse and her second barra ever.

“Now that was just too easy,” she said. More piccies and it was time to bail. As we walked into camp, our neighbors came over to check how we went. As they looked at Trace and the slime imprint on her shirt and she proudly broke out the camera, they just started to laugh in disbelief.

Our poor old neighbors had traveled from Sydney and been doing it pretty tough — not even a sniff in several days fishing. I hate to see people travel that far to catch the fish of a lifetime and go home disappointed, so a plan was devised to hook their boat onto ours, and we would sneak around together and cast the same water. I tied a Scorpion 125mm onto each of their rods and away we went.

That arvo we all caught fish, included our new friends, with their best being 111cm — an awesome effort and well deserved. That night they cooked us Scotch fillet steak, washed down with silver label Bundy, and bought a stuffed koala as a gift for our 3 year old daughter. Genuine, honest, good-hearted people that appreciated a little friendly gesture made the trip extra special, and the two father and son teams are welcome in our camp anytime. It was a pleasure to meet them.

Would I have swapped that trip for a trip to Cape York? Not on your life, not for all the money in the world, you just can’t buy memories like that. Even though I’m more at home in the bush than a caravan park, and would rather fish in a wild river if given the choice, the impoundments have made it possible to catch a barra for those who aren’t confident enough to travel into remote places and experience barra fishing in its natural environment. I suppose the debate will rage forever as to which is the most creditable or satisfying — the best thing is to give them both a go and make up your own mind. Hodgie – The barefoot fisherman On behalf of Engel portable fridge-freezers


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