Making the most of things
  |  First Published: May 2003

THESE days, most switched-on fly anglers have a very flexible approach to their sport. Around 30 years ago I started to the wave the long wand in pursuit of trout and at that time that’s about all we ever chased with fly. Even the US magazine Fly Fisherman only occasionally mentioned articles relating to other fish besides trout. The gear was trout oriented, the mind sets the same. I see this as no fault – it's just the way things were.

These days it’s open slather. If it swims and eats other fish or things that we can imitate with fur and feather or synthetics and epoxy, the fly is the go. Modern fly anglers have never had it better.

The beauty of opportunistic flyfishing is there are so many places we can explore along our shorelines. Likely spots that come to mind are the walls along canal estates or creek mouths, and estuary or river locations where features such as weed beds, snags, or a decent drop-off to deeper water are handy.

Other likely hotspots include under bridges or jetties, because the oyster-encrusted pylons attract the things that fish eat like iron filings to a magnet. The thinking fly angler will look carefully at these sorts of places, assess what might be on offer and ply the fly accordingly. We can drive to, walk to, or wade to many such places.

The first requirement will relate to tackle. In truth, I can’t see this sort of fishing requiring 8-10wt rods. A 6wt rod with a weight-forward intermediate sinking line is ideal, the idea being to get a fly out there but not to have it sink too fast while working it back. A 2m fluorocarbon leader with a tippet breaking strain of 3kg is fine for this sort of work.

I like to keep flies on the small side for bream. Small – size 2-4 – rabbit fur flies, Clouser deep minnows, and Crazy Charlies have taken a lot of fish. Colour is not vital; the main thing is the fly should stand out and be seen in the prevailing conditions. If the water is a bit murky, the fly needs to offer good contrast. A darker fly can be very useful here and the black rabbit fur fly is a sure bet.

This fly is made by tying a strip of tanned rabbit fur to the hook shank, with a pair of eyes just behind the hook eye. I sometimes tie in a few whisks of rabbit fur below the eye, as well. A tiny bit of red material behind the under section of the hook eye is another option, too. Remember, this is a great bass fly as well!

Crazy Charlie pattern flies are also great for this sort of fishing, where a cast along a rock wall at high tide can bring a strike from anything from tailor, to bream, to trevally. These flies take seconds to make and fish just love them.

Flathead are another standby for opportunistic anglers. The reliable rabbit fur fly will do the job on flathead without any trouble. A white fur fly with some sparkle material tied in just at the hook eye is a good contender.

What is important, when chasing flatties, is to remember these blokes can easily chew through a fine leader. I opt for a 40cm section of 7kg tippet.

Opportunistic fly fishing can also include those sweet-eating gar that are always present along the shoreline of estuaries at high tide. These curious little fish are easily drawn to an area with bread, and then fly fished for by attaching a small polystyrene bead (from a bean bag) to a size 14 hook. You can Araldite it on if you like. For gar, go down in tippet size to 2kg or less.

Yes, modern fly anglers have hardly had it better! The fish are there, tackle is freely available at bargain basement prices, and it’s just a matter of finding the right spot and giving it a go.

1. A selection of flies for opportunistic fly anglers – a couple of small Glass Minnow type flies, some Crazy Charlies, and samples of the very reliable rabbit fur fly.

2. This rock wall is an ideal spot for fly anglers. It will probably fish best at high tide, especially at daylight or dusk.

3. Here’s a great looking spot. Small baitfish, prawns, shrimps and the like will be attracted to the bridge pylons, and so too will the fish.

4. Something different, and a likely place to attract a fish, is the man-made concrete adjoining a section of mangrove bank.

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