Fly into action
  |  First Published: December 2002

Fly into action

With the fishing a little tough in fresh water and salt, we have to work harder for the fish we catch.

Broken bay has had plenty of salmon, tailor and a few kingfish but they have been feeding on tiny ‘eyes’ and other small baitfish. Salmon and kings have been difficult to catch on even the smallest metal slugs. The most successful method has been fly-fishing.

Saltwater flyfishing will outperform most other methods when these predators are on small baitfish. You can cast a fly that is the same size, shape and colour as the bait the fish are feeding on, even if the bait is tiny. You can also work a fly a lot slower than most lures – or you can let the fly just sit in the middle of a feeding school of fish.

The best way to work a school of feeding fish is to position your boat in front of the fish and let them come to you. Most schools work into the wind. Always cast your fly ahead of them. This can be difficult if they are moving fast, so cast farther ahead of the fish if they’re moving fast.

It is also important to be able to cast your line maximum distance with minium false casts. This is the most important part of saltwater flyfishing – getting the fly to the feeding fish as fast you can.

So get out on the lawn and practise your pickup, haul and shoot in one motion. If you are new to flycasting or can’t double-haul, spend a few dollars and get some lessons – it will give you the advantage you need when working the feeding schools

If the fish go down, don’t rush off: Often as the fish will pop up after a short while and sometimes they will work a pattern. You may follow a school all the way from Lion Island to Box Head and they will go down and come up back near Lion Island again.

I usually start my retrieve with a double-hand strip, with the rod in one armpit. This works well when the fish are active. If this does not work, try a long, slow strip or fast, short strips with pauses. Every now and then you will find the fish will hit you on the pause.

Most 7wt and 8wt fly outfits will do the job on tailor, salmon, bonito and small kings. You might need to carry a 9wt or 10wt if some big kings turn up, or if you are using shooting heads to get down deep.


I use a clear fast intermediate fly line, usually one line size up on the rod size that I use. I have just put a new 9wt Airflo Bonefish Taper on my Strudwick DBT 8wt and have found this line the best I have used.

I keep leaders simple, usually 1.5m to 2m of 10kg line but you may need to go lighter if the fish are shy. Make sure that you have plenty of backing on the reel as you never know when a big mackerel tuna or northern bluefin might grab your fly and head for New Zealand. Remember to back off the drag with the more line the fish has out –there is a lot of water drag on a fly line.

Try to match the bait with the size and shape of your flies and have look in the water at baitfish for a comparison. And examine the baitfish spat out by the salmon or tailor when you land it. Get out there and give it a go – it’s a most exciting way to fish



Sydney flyfishing instructor Paul Hendriks hooks up on a Broken Bay salmon.


The author caught this king on his Strudwick 8wt and Shimano Ultegra reel loaded with Airflo 9wt line


Big Marty made short work of this salmon.

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