New upgraded Barra Lodge kicks off with a big start in 2016
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March 2016
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Don Russell’s 108 cm Barra was his second metre-plus barra landed on consecutive days fishing at the Lodge at the beginning of March.
We can laugh about it now, but the last nails went in only hours before the first guests arrived at the “brand-new” Arnhem Land Barramundi Nature Lodge.

That was at the beginning of March, and an A-grade team of fishing guides were biting the barbs off their trebles in anticipation of some great fishing.

There’s no hiding the fact that the wet season of 2015-16 has been a disaster. The quality of fishing in some of the big tidal rivers close to Darwin has been abysmal. During what is normally the best time of the year to fish – the Run-off – there was hardly any flood water running off the big tidal river floodplains. Fortunately, the Barra Lodge's vast catchment areas received some great falls only this week from the monsoon that drifted across to Cape York. But well before that, a lack of run-off didn't seem to matter at the Barra Lodge.

Three days before the first guests arrived nearly three weeks ago, the guides went out on a reconnaissance and surprised themselves with the quantity and quality of barra caught. One boat landed 140 barra, and that was whilst checking out different spots and often leaving the fish biting.

After such a great “preview”, it is no wonder that the guests who fished these first couple of weeks from season start have had a ball. Most boats have been catching 20 or more barra a day, with some beauties amongst them. One angler, Don Russell, had little to complain about: he caught two metre-plus barra on consecutive days. Don said: "We had Jason Hill as our guide for the 2 days when I caught the 1.0m and 1.08m barra. I think he was more excited than I was... which really shows that he loves his work and tries really hard to satisfy his clients.
Don Russell with his first metre-plus barra which measured a neat 100cm.
Joe Ray almost made the metre-plus board with this beautifully-conditioned 99cm salty barra.
Plenty of other well-conditioned mid-range 70-80cm barra have been caught by Lodge guests, reinforcing the fact that “run-off”, while important, does not mean that a below-average “Wet” constitutes a barra drought, as recent Lodge guests have been finding out!
Peter Woodhead (above and below) got amongst the barra action just before Easter.
An interesting start to the season has been the abundance of strapping big black jewfish. These are an occasional incidental catch whilst lure fishing for barra, and they go like the clappers. For many Top End barra anglers, catching a black jew on a lure is a bucket-list ambition. Well, judging by the number of big jew caught so far this season, the Barra Lodge is certainly the place to tick that one off.
Jarrod Smith with one of many black jewfish that have been hanging around with the local barra.
Black jew are always great to catch on a lure because they tear off at great speed and with serious power. They are very much a serious sportfish.
Out on the blue water, it’s been very much same same: abundant Spanish mackerel, marauding queenfish and tasty reefies on lures. It’s also been good to see the return of the giant herring. These amazing sportfish turn up every three or four years, and tend to hang around right through the dry season. Giant herring have been likened to a cross between a bonefish and a tarpon… because they run like crazy and bound out of the water like there is no tomorrow.
These giant herring may not look so giant but they are one of the fastest and aerobatic sportfish in tropical Australia. A fish this size can quickly spool a small baitcasting reel if you don’t get after it fast.
It’s been a pleasant surprise for Lodge guests to encounter the mighty Spanish mackerel so early in the year. Noted for that initial blinding burst once hooked, the Spanish mackerel is truly an Australian bucket-list sportfish… and huge schools are prevalent in the often-balmy waters fished by the Lodge.

New Lodge Accommodation

There’s no doubt that the facilities at the Barra Lodge have been raised to an extraordinary level with the complete refurbishment of this iconic fishing Lodge by new owners: Outback Spirit Tours. Gone are the four cabins that were certainly showing their near 15 years of wear and tear. In their stead are 12 brand-new deluxe safari suites with plush bathrooms and split-system air-conditioning. Guests are being blown away by the lavish accommodation, especially given just how remote the Barra Lodge is.
“We wanted to create something truly special in this idyllic wilderness location atop an escarpment ridge overlooking the Tomkinson River Valley,” Outback Spirit’s Courtney Ellis said. “Just from the early comments we’ve received about the new Lodge accommodation, we believe we have achieved that.”
Pictured above is one of 12 brand new Deluxe Safari Suites that have now raised the bar for luxury accommodation in remote Arnhem Land. Designed to take advantage of the tropical climate, they are also air-conditioned and have en-suite bathrooms.
Twin-share safari suite interior outward view.
Safari suite interior inward view. Note split system air-conditioner above the bathroom door.
The 12 safari suites fringe the escarpment ridge.
The raised walkway access between the main Lodge and safari suite accommodation.


Arnhem Land Barramundi Nature Lodge’s fleet of Ocean Master boats was reconditioned prior to the start of the 2016 season, and was expanded with Outback Spirit’s purchase of two new Ocean Master 741 boats. The reconditioned boats were updated with Lowrance HDS-7 and HDS-9 Gen3 fishfinder/chartplotters, while the new 7.4-metre Ocean Master 741s make the most of available space with larger HDS-12 Gen3 displays.
The entire fleet is equipped with Lowrance StructureScan® HD Skimmer® transducers, which provide DownScan Imaging™ and SideScan sonar for a picture-like view of submerged structure and vegetation.
The Lodge’s great guides are thrilled with the new state-of-the-art equipment. Head Fishing Guide, Andy Taylor, said: “We’re finding fish in new places all the time thanks to these new Lowrance units.”


There's new blood at the helm of the Barra Lodge with the appointment of Shaun Taylor as Lodge Manager and Andy Taylor as Head Guide (Yes, they're brothers.) Andy has been guiding at the Lodge for five years and clients always rave about his fish-finding abilities and his people skills. His appointment as Head Guide has been a popular decision with his fellow guides and his organisational skills have been well proven since season start.

Past guests at the Lodge would remember Shaun from his guiding days up to five years ago. Shaun was (still is) a brilliant guide. He left the Lodge to work in the mines where he gained valuable training and rose through the ranks to become a team leader. He has vast experience in the fishing tackle industry where he is highly respected, and he contributes to NAFA magazine. His hospitality skills are impeccable.

Following is Shaun's report of the season start at the Lodge: "The revamped Lodge has blown away our first clients, with magnificent air-con cabins overlooking the Tomkinson floodplains, fine dining, a totally revamped fleet with some wicked new 7.4 metre Oceanmaster vessels as well as the proven and bulletproof 651 and 511 Oceanmasters, new Toyota dualcabs, Helicopters available by request... the list goes on and on. Clients have been whacking all manner of sportfish, with all the usual suspects in our many rivers and bluewater grounds. Big black jewfish have been terrorising the local rivers and competing with the barras to eat our lures, with four big metre-plus barras already captured early in the season. Bluewater popper sessions have kept clients busy with metre-plus queenies in massive numbers, as well as many other species. We are all excited to see how the season unfolds."

Congratulations to both Shaun and Andy. The Lodge is in good hands.
Below: Jay Surmacz (left) and new Lodge Manager, Shaun Taylor, with one of his favourite lures.
Below: New Head Guide, Andy Taylor (left), on a memorable occasion when he guided Channel Nine's Steve Shervill to his first metre-plus barra.


“To catch eight fish bigger than a metre in two days is amazing. Upgraded boats were good and the new bus was a big improvement. Accommodation is first class.”
Ian Jones March 2016

“Outstanding trip from beginning to end. Knowledgeable staff and guides, with a real focus on ensuring that everyone had the most memorable experience.”
Tony Purcell March 2016

“Andy and the team were fantastic. Very helpful and professional. A unique experience with the highest standard of hospitality. Congratulations on making our fishing trip so very special.”
John Carmody March 2016

"I had the job of team leader of our large corporate group of 18 on our trip last week. This was my 5th or 6th trip to the Barra Lodge and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the new luxury accommodation. Those safari suites are magnificent. The boats and guides were great and the fishing was what you expect at this place. Best barra was a 99cm caught by Joe Ray. Our clients were truly satisfied so it was mission accomplished. Good job!"
Stuart Macdonald March 2016
The Lodge's magnificent OceanMaster 651 Twister, one of several boats that have had a complete makeover.


All new guides get an induction period at the Barra lodge. Lucas Pel, a great angler but new to guiding, was given his induction with the Lodge's legendary barra guide, Lance Butler, amongst others. Tough job getting inducted when you catch a 109cm barra. Congratulations to Lucas, and to Lance Butler who has more knowledge of barra fishing across all of Northern Australia than any angler we know of. After 12 years guiding at the Barra Lodge, and still going strong, including designing his own amazing lures, Lance Butler just continues to enforce his reputation as a big barra legend. Well done to you both.


The Lodge has just reopened, but remember that it will only operate as a dedicated fishing Lodge during the Run-off (March/April) and the Build-up (Oct/Nov/early Dec). Of course, these are the two peak barra fishing seasons in the Top End, so make sure you secure a booking while there are still spots available. We still have one last spot available on 24-28 April that would suit a group of 2 or 3, so call us if you would like to book.


The Lodge will be available again solely for fishing for the period 26 September to 13 December which coincides with the fabulous Build-Up. At this time of year, water temperatures increase and the barra are at their most active after the cooler Dry Season months. The Barra Lodge’s top record barra catches have come from the Build-up, and some huge fish have been amongst them. Once again, seas are generally calm after the Dry Season easterlies have gone, facilitating comfortable access to different river and creek systems and great blue water fishing. We are taking bookings now for this fabulous time of year to fish the Barra Lodge.


Alex and Roger have both guided many times at the Barra Lodge, and both have the names of happy clients up on the Barra Lodge Metre Board. Additionally, both these expert anglers are multiple-tournament winners and are highly regarded amongst their peers in the Top End.
Alex and Roger will be able to impart their extensive knowledge about the incredible fishing on offer in the Maningrida region where the Lodge is located.

Call Alex or Roger on: 08 89831544
Email for details on fishing during the peak-season Run-off and Build-up


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