To fly or not to fly
  |  First Published: October 2016

Saltwater flyfishing is the next step after mastering spin and baitcaster tackle. Many anglers who have fished conventional tackle are looking for the next challenge – fly is where it’s at. Fly anglers often say it’s an easy way to make catching fish harder, which can be true. Without going into great detail, here’s a brief outline on the good, bad and ugly.

Probably the biggest hurdle when learning to flyfish is making a good cast in windy or difficult conditions. Book a casting instructor for a few lessons. It’ll cost a few hundred bucks, but it’s money in the bank when you hit the water. There are several instructors who will travel around and do a few lessons, like Peter Morse who filmed the famous Wildfish series aired on SBS. He does an annual trip every year to QLD, and it’s worth the wait.

Why flyfish? For me it’s about the challenge. When flyfishing, the harder the fish is to tempt, the better. It really makes you use your brain, try different patterns and presentations. Sight fishing is cool – sinking deep flies out of sight doesn’t really do it for me. Seeing a big fish on the shallow flats, watching it track in behind your fly and feeling that line come tight is a real buzz.

Classic fish like golden trevally, once famous on the Hervey Bay flats but now commercially wiped out, dart, GTs, queenfish, blackspot tuskfish, threadfin salmon and barra, are all worthy shallow water sight fish targets. Even bream, whiting and flathead, not to mention bass, yellowbelly and Saratoga are great in the fresh.

Here’s what to look for in an outfit. Fly rods are rated to a weight, generally starting from 2 ranging through to 16. For average inshore estuary work a 7 to 9 will suffice, unless you want to throw big heavy flies in the wind – then a 10 will be needed. If it’s tuna in the bays you’re after, a 9-11 weight will be needed often to deal with wind and distances, and power if you hook a big longtail.

Freshwater natives will need a lighter rod like a 6 or 7, unless impoundment barra or cod are your target. Lines also come in a variety of styles and can be a bit confusing. Everything from a full floating line to a full sink line that will bomb down at over 30cm per second, these are more a specialty line that the general newcomer to flyfishing won’t immediately need, unless you wish to fish deep reefs for snapper.

There are some great fly rods available on the market today, some cheap and some expensive. Some have reels, but my advice is to buy quality. I use Sage, which have been around for years and have the best warranty in the market. Other brands like Daiwa, Scott, Loomis, Loop and Hardy also have good reels.

On the end of the flyline, there’s usually a loop that you can place on a monofilament leader. It starts with a heavier section about a metre long. With a step down to a lighter line class, this can be done several times, but I generally start at 40lb, then step down to 20lb for day-to-day use. A heavier 30cm bite tippet can be added for barra and toothy critters.

Fly selection for different species can be a headache. You’ll need flies for tuna, barra, flathead and whatever else you wish to chase. This can mean plenty of fly boxes in the tackle heap, but it’s okay. I enjoy collecting them and using them as well. Shrimp and crab fly patterns are my favourite. I love chasing the species that eat crusteaceans like permit, blackspot tuskfish, ‘blue bastards’ (painted sweetlip) and trevally.

That’s flyfishing in a nutshell. It can be tough, but also the most rewarding form of fishing on the planet. It can take you places. I went to Belize in 2010 to get my giant tarpon, Aitutaki in 2011 for my bonefish and Cape York in 2012 for permit. It’s an amazing trip, so give it a go.


Peter Reading with a big giant herring, sight fished on a beach.


Martin Donohue with a big blackspot tusky on a crab fly.


Sinking deep flies often result in these cracker fish.


Big queenfish and trevally are always a tough opponent.

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