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A saltwater fly fisher's fantasy

Fly Fishers rejoice, here's your guide to the ultimate saltwater fly fishing experiences in Australia!

Fly fishing in saltwater is one of the fastest growing sectors of the angling world, and Australia is blessed with some of the best and most exotic saltwater fly fishing opportunities to be found anywhere on the planet. Here's your guide to the various types of fish species swimming in our waters, and where you can find them!

Permit, bonefish and tarpon

Permit, Exmouth, Western Australia

It comes as a great surprise to many visiting fly fishers to discover that Australia’s northern coastal waters are actually home to the “big three” of the tropical flats: permit, bonefish and tarpon. However, each has a uniquely Antipodean twist. Our Indo-Pacific permit (we actually boast two species!) is at least as tricky to hook as its Caribbean counterpart, but occurs in far greater numbers. Our bonefish are big and cunning, but often hang out in slightly deeper water than their cousins from other corners of the globe, making them much harder to spot.

Our tarpon are miniature scale models of their much larger Atlantic brethren, rarely exceeding four kilograms (eight pounds) in weight, but punching well above their modest size.

Take your next fly fishing experience to Queensland with Far North Sports Fishing who operate private bespoke charters for up to six people, or check out Nomad Sportfishing Adventures who can accommodate single anglers or groups through to 26 persons throughout the Coral Sea.

Have a go at catching Permit in Weipa with Fish’s Fly & Sportfishing, while along the west coast of Australia around Exmouth, check out Fly Fishing Frontiers and True Blue Bonefish.

The blue bastard, baramundi and giant herring

Blue Bastard, Exmouth, Western Australia

Throw in golden, diamond and giant trevally, barramundi, queenfish, giant herring (ladyfish), threadfin salmon and barracuda and you’re starting to get a picture of the caliber of shallow water, inshore fly fishing on offer around the lightly-populated north of the country. Check out Fly Fishing Frontiers and True Blue Bonefish, operators who embark on epic fly fishing tours off the Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf.

We’re still only scratching the surface. There are other species swimming here that will blow a fly fisher’s mind, like the irreverently named “blue bastard” (seriously — that’s what it’s called). These powder blue ghosts of the tropical coastal flats look a little like an American drum, but they’re much harder to fool into eating a fly. Should you be lucky or skillful enough to deceive one, the fun has only just begun. These things pull like freight trains, as do the even more vividly-coloured wrasse or “blue bones” they share these warm shallows with.

Tuna, yellowtail kingfish and salmon

Western Australia

The north of Australia sure doesn't have a monopoly on saltwater fly fishing thrills. Our cooler southern waters also teem with fish that will test your mettle and strip backing from your fly reel.

Some are familiar, like half a dozen or more types of tuna, our sharp-toothed tailor (called bluefish, elf and shad in other parts of the world) and the incredibly powerful southern yellowtail kingfish (an identical cousin of both the Californian and Japanese yellowtails). But there are other less familiar and more exotic contenders on offer, too.

The so-called Australian salmon is a classic case in point. Known as kahawai in New Zealand, these wonderful fish are not a true salmon at all, but more like a cross between an American striper and a European sea bass. Found in prolific numbers around the southern half of Australia, they regularly top three kilograms (six pounds) and occasionally reach twice that weight. Avid fly-takers and spectacular aerialists when hooked, Australian salmon are dogged opponents on lighter tippets. They represent a worthy prize for any fly fisher as do the pink snapper (squirefish), mulloway (croakers) and Samson fish that share these temperate southern seas with our Aussie salmon. Checkout Sydney Fly Fishing for the top insider information on fly fishing.

Blue, black & striped marlin

Sailfish on Fly, Ningaloo Coral Coast, Western Australia

Most of the species described so far can be tackled with #8 and #9 weight fly outfits, but if your aspirations run to even greater heights, there are few better places than Australia to chase a billfish on fly. Indo-Pacific sailfish, black, blue and striped marlin, spearfish, even broadbill swordfish. They’re all here. So why not pack your favourite fly rods and come play? 

Head to Queensland's Far North Sports Fishing, Nomad Sportfishing Adventures and Hervey Bay Fly and Sportfishing or to Groote Eylandt Sportfishing off the coast of the Northern Territory to book your next fly fishing tour and catch that marlin on fly! 

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