Australia is fast developing a reputation as a leading saltwater fly-fishing destination and, as elsewhere, the popularity of saltwater fly is growing rapidly. With 36,000 km of coastline, the Australian continent and its islands offer an extraordinary array of saltwater fly-fishing opportunities.

For southern fly fishers, Australian salmon, known in New Zealand as kahawai, are the most important species. These are found from southern WA right around the southern coastline to central NSW. They are a great fighting fish that grow to 8 kilos and take a wide range of small flies. Other important southern species are bream and flathead – both estuary dwellers that can be caught throughout the year, but summer offers the best fishing.

The summer months along the east coast can produce many different species of fish, but small pelagics are abundant in the estuaries, harbours, and inshore waters. Bonito, yellowtail kings, tailor, salmon and several tuna species come right in close.

If you’re looking to catch a marlin on fly, blues, blacks and stripes can all be encountered in a day, and Port Stephens is one of the hottest billfish destinations in the world with experienced crews familiar with fly fishing. The prime months are from January through to March.

Tropical Australia is dominated by one species – the barramundi. The barramundi year begins at the end of the wet season (usually mid April). The period through May and into early July is a great time to visit the tropics. By late July and through August when water temperatures drop the barra become lethargic but September and October sees them reactivate and by November they’re moving into the estuary mouths to spawn. Be aware of the bag limit and legal size laws that differ from state to state.

The best time to fish the tropical flats is through the winter months and when the water begins to heat in September through to November. Be aware of the threat of crocodiles, sharks, stingrays and marine stingers (jellyfish) when you’re wading. Prime fly-rod species include golden trevally, barramundi, threadfin salmon, giant trevally, queenfish, giant herring, milkfish, permit and even bonefish (in WA). Cape York offers the best flats fishing in the country but other noteworthy locations include Hervey Bay and Hinchinbrook in QLD and Exmouth in WA.

Recommended Reading:

As an introductory text Peter Morse’s book Saltwater Fly Fishing Fundamentals (1999) is highly recommended. Likewise, Rob Sloane’s latest book Fifty Places To Fish Before You Die features many saltwater fly-fishing destinations across Australia and New Zealand. Both books are available from the FlyLife website shop.