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Steve Starling:  

Steve Starling

Fly Fishing Opportunities at your Back Door

Fly fishing continues to thrive in this lucky country of ours – and not just for trout. Saltwater and non-salmonid freshwater fly fishing is booming. I’m no longer surprised to see people I don’t recognise waving fly rods around in estuaries or on rock ledges, and I know lots of game and sport fishing vessels heading offshore these days have at least one fly rod squirreled away somewhere on board.

This is not just a northern phenomenon, either. Sure, the tropics offer a plethora of fly rodding opportunities, but we are also beginning to wake up, in increasing numbers, to the very significant potential for targeting common, easily located southern species on fur ‘n’ feathers. Flathead, bream, mullet, tailor, Australian salmon, trevally, barracouta, pike, bass... Each one is a walk-up start on the fly.

Slightly trickier, but still eminently catch-able for those willing to do their homework, are the likes of snapper, whiting, luderick, yellowbelly, murray cod and estuary perch. And there’s not a fish on either of those lists that can’t be taken form the shore or bank at times, on a No.6 or 7 weight ‘Trout’ rod, and while using easily-tied or readily available fly patterns built on a hook of, say, No.1 size or smaller.

For those with more adventurous tastes, heavier gear and access to a suitable boat, the horizons are considerably wider. Tuna, mahi-mahi, kingfish... Right on up to sharks and marlin; for folks with the time, inclination and spending money. And I haven’t yet mentioned a species that southerners will
need to cross the Tropic of Capricorn to pursue!

Saltwater fly fishing is dynamic, with changing fashions and fads. Techniques, types of tackle, venues and target species shift in and out of vogue with the passage of time – sometimes over surprisingly short periods. This is a natural trend and a positive one. It accounts for a big part of modern fly rodding’s vitality.

Ten years ago, those of us heaving shooting heads and Deceivers from the wave-pounded ocean rocks for salmon, tailor and bonito felt like we were at the cutting edge – even though guys like Max Garth had done it all before us, a good two decades earlier! Today, shooting heads are old hat in many circles, and delicate presentations with natural crab or shrimp flies on long, light leaders to oyster-munching bream or shallow water snapper are more likely to grab the headlines. And that’s good news, for while a branch of the sport continues to evolve, it will also continue to grow and strengthen.

If you’re one of those many people I talk to each year around the country who’s been thinking of giving this fly fishing thing a go for a while now – perhaps after watching Rex or Bushy or me do it on telly, or reading about it in various magazines – please don’t be put off by the hype and misinformation that still occasionally clouds the subject. Do yourself a big favour; for goodness sake have a go!

After all, it’s just another type of fishing, and while it is a tad harder to learn than most others, fly fishing is still well within the reach of a vast majority of people. Who knows, it mightn’t even be your cup of tea. It doesn’t grab everyone. But you won’t find out until you bite the bullet and give it a try.

There’s never been a better time to take the plunge, with fly fishing guides, instructors and tutors now appearing all over the country. Several of the best ones have close ties with The Alpine Angler, and the staff there would be only too happy to point you in the right direction. Check a couple of these professionals out, perhaps find a weekend introductory course that operates near you, and go along for a look. It just might be your first step into a whole new world of angling challenges and delights!


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