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Photo: FlyCastaway

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©Stephan Gian Dombaj

pass me some

sea saLT


AUS & NZ DiStribUtioN: Kickelly P/L Email: | tel.:+61 4020 51759

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New Caledonia has lots to offer Photo: James Laverty

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The sight we search for...BASTARD! Photo: Mark Davis

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Australian Saltwater Fly Fishing & Travel for everyone!

Issue 4 is here which marks one year of In The Salt! Hard to believe it just started out as compilation of a few stories from mates. ITS has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year thanks to the support of anglers across Australia and the globe. We have some truly great contributors which make all this possible. We pride ourselves in laid back but informative saltwater articles, superb photography and honest reviews. This issue is a real head turner and so it should be. From Guatemalan bill fishing to exploring remote Australian territory, albeit an offshore island in the middle of nowhere. Kiritimati to Hinchinbrook there’s something for everyone! Our cover is an amazing piece done by American fish artist David Danforth aka Reel Local. This is a one of a kind artwork created especially for this edition of ITS. If you would like to buy a copy of this print or to check out some others jump onto his website We will also be giving away a framed copy of this artwork in an upcoming edition of ITS so keep up to date with what’s happening by checking out our Facebook page and Instagram. We are also extremely stoked to welcome YETI Australia aboard. To celebrate we will be giving away a Tundra 45 so look out for the upcoming photographic competition we will be running in February. For more info on how to enter go to our website Welcome to IN THE SALT a fly fishing magazine dedicated to saltwater fly fishing and travel.

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Early morning Golden delight Photo: Chris Bygrave

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Sailfish AT P A C I F I C F I N S L O D G E , G U AT E M A L A Words & photos by Katka Švagrová

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hen I was a little kid I was always dreaming about Sailfish. Probably their spectacular dorsal fins awoke that feeling in my child’s eyes, or the fact that they are the fastest swimmers in the ocean. I don’t know, but this dream followed my mind year after year. Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to get some casts on Sailfish in Exmouth WA, but unfortunately, I never touched a Sailfish skin. Later in my travels when I got a chance to visit Pacific Fins Lodge on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala with my friends Vebjorn and Anders (who travelled with us as a filmmaker) and experience the unmatched billfish fishing of Central America I took it as a fly fishing trip of a life time – deservedly! After several months of preparations, we finally landed in Guatemala City and were met by the Pacific Fins Lodge’s driver who welcomed us with a smile, incredible stories about this magnificent country, and a cooler full of local beverages. When we arrived after two hours of driving to Iztapa town, where the lodge is located, the typical and colourful Latin American local street scenes surprised us to no end!

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Guatemala is a country full of contrasts: here you can see famous volcanoes and stunning beaches, unique flora and fauna, experience pouring rain and warm sunshine simultaneously, and see overwhelming wealth and extreme poverty close together. Mayan people live fully within their cultural and religious traditions, and their ancient architecture is intermingled with modern design elements everywhere. Beyond that Guatemala is one of the best destinations for billfish fishing. As the door to Pacific Fins Lodge opened we found ourselves in paradise. Indescribable peace on every corner, colourful peacock birds were promenading in the corridors, a refreshing swimming pool styled with a motif of a Sailfish sat in the background with palm trees all around. We were warmly welcomed by the lodge staff and handed a delicious fruit sorbet cocktail. What a welcoming! After finishing up our basic preparations for the next few days fishing we took a walk around the the resort. It was bathed in sunset rays and our chef was busy preparing dinner - his delightful art. Yes, it was exactly that - delightful art. After dinner we had a few drinks at the fancy wooden bar, we were quite sure that

even if we failed to create any kind of fishing success, we were bound to be content with all the amazing food, kind staff, and resort surroundings! Guatemalan black roasted coffee, fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs with bacon, and freshly squeezed orange juice helped us to store the right amount of energy for a long day on the water. After breakfast we met our boat team (the captain and guides) in the marina just a few minutes from the lodge and the fly fishing journey had begun!

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My friends Anders and Vebjorn agreed that as a girl I would get the first cast on billfish, what a privilege - thanks guys! After a few minutes of motoring the guides prepared all the teasers with dead bait and we set up our fly rods. We hadn’t had much time to see what was going on and how all the rigging worked, when after 15-20 miles we experienced the first rush. When the captain spotted the first Sailfish coming up behind the left outrigger, he started shouting instructions to the guides on how to exactly work the teasers. The guides worked like a well organized team and knew exactly what to do, but I was in a panic, as were my two friends! “What the hell is going on ?” Everything happened so fast, it didn’t take more than 15 seconds, when the captain started shouting to me “Get your fly in the water!” Within another second I was standing at the ready position with a fly rod and through my head flashed all of the advice I’d received from Australian guide Jono Shales some years ago.

Adrenaline was playing with all of us, as we watched the Sailfish trying to hit the teaser bait. The captain manoeuvred the boat and my body was shaking like hell. A guide and his mate got the last two teasers out of the water and I managed to cast into the clear zone on the right where there were no water bubbles. The Sailfish turned twice around my pink fly and he got lost, but our guide immediately responded and cast a teaser behind the boat. He managed to bring the fish back again and 2 0 In TheSaltwater

this time the Sailfish smashed my fly right away. I pulled mightily on the rod a few times to set the hook correctly and then enjoyed an amazing Sailfish first run or better to say, his first Formula 1 drive! It was then time for a full-fledged fishing sonata; as everyone watched the Sailfish execute it’s amazing acrobatic jumps. The reel was singing as the backing disappeared somewhere into the ocean, and we were all screaming with excitement and joy. I didn’t let him run that far because our captain was skilfully manoeuvring the boat and as I pulled hard and tried to constantly lift the fish I felt her beginning to yield. I was surprised because it didn’t take more than 15 minutes before the guide grabbed the leader and a few seconds later the Sailfish’s bill as well! Yes, it happened that day on my first cast. I fulfilled my biggest fly fishing dream! Even though it’s always safer to release them in the water, it was my first Sailfish so we took a quick picture on the boat and then I jumped right away into the ocean to make a short swim with the fish! That feeling, when you are swimming in the deep ocean and carrying a fish which is two times bigger than you is indescribable. Honestly, I did not feel any fear and it’s such a great experience that you don’t think about anything else other than the welfare of the fish itself. For a few seconds I was just swimming by holding the dorsal fin above the surface and watching that beauty. Then I finally pushed the tail and the first Sailfish in my life majestically swam away on its own power into the depths of the Pacific Ocean. After the first cast, my mission for the day was complete, then it was time for my friend Vebjorn to cast. That day we

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raised many billfish, but most of the time they were really big Blue Marlin. Unfortunately, they were too big for a fly rod. Finally, when Vebjorn got a cast at a Sailfish it didn’t take the fly properly and his hook wouldn’t set. Anyway, we had another amazing day out on the water off Central America. One of our strongest experiences was watching a theatre troupe of hundreds of Bottlenose Dolphins following our boat and racing all around our hull. The rest of the day we spent with other fishermen relaxing poolside, drinking cocktails, enjoying amazing food, and sharing our fly fishing stories (both believable and unbelievable)! Our second day started as every day, with an amazing breakfast under the palm trees while watching the sunrise on the horizon. That day we were motoring further out to sea - around 40 miles. The captain had advised our team that the early morning hours are the best time of day for billfish action, so we didn’t wait that long and Vebjorn got another chance. This time when the fish was close to the boat the leader broke. It was so frustrating for all of us but especially for Veb. But he didn’t give up and immediately prepared his Arcticsilver Zense #10WT rod with the right fly. Another Sailfish on the teaser didn’t make us wait too long. This time everything went well and after a few minutes the blank of his Zense #10WT finally experienced the power of a 100 pound fish applying all its muscle. Some people would think it’s impossible or too risky to fight such a big fish on a #10WT rod, but this blank is really powerful. He didn’t have a single problem fighting the fish during the session. It was definitely more sporty and quite 2 2 In TheSaltwater

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the show to watch, but still it only took a maximum of 15 minutes till our guide grabbed the bill. Finally, Veb could also experience the joy of a quick swim with this incredible species of sport fish. It was amazing to watch how the Sailfish skin was flashing iridescent colours in the water before its release. It was a successful day when we released three Sailfish, two Marlin and in total raised about 12 Sailfish and five Marlin. While on the way back we stopped next to a floating patch of sea grass just to look around. What a surprise when we found a school of nice sized Mahi Mahi. I love these fish, because I’d had experience with smaller ones many times in Croatia as a kid. I was so excited to cast to them and find out how the bigger ones fought compared to the juveniles from my childhood. Well, it was a crazy fight, these fish are really powerful no doubt about it! We were lucky that eve2 6 In TheSaltwater

ning as the school stayed around our boat for a long time and everyone managed to land one these fine fish! The next two days were even more successful! Each day we released and raised more fish than during the first two days all together. In total 15 Sailfish and two Marlin had been released by our boat during our stay in Pacific Fins Lodge. Huge thanks to our captain and the boat crew, all the wonderful Lodge staff, and the managers for their excellent work and care! Special thanks to RIO Products for their support as well! We all hope to be back again next season.

GEAR RUNDOWN As I mentioned before, we tried Arcticsilver Zense #10WT rods on at least 80 pound fish. Our test was more than successful, the power of the blank is incredible and the rod had no problem easily handling these monster fish. The #10WT has a distinct advantage versus a #12WT or #16WT, since you can reduce the rod weight and cast all day long if needed. Our Einarsson and Alfa reels were loaded with 500 yards of two-tone gel spun backing and Leviathan floating and intermediate fly line from RIO Products. Pink tube fly was tied on 80lb RIO Flouroflex Saltwater tippet.

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An amazing bull Mahi Mahi Photo: Katka Švagrová

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Old freckle face - a reward for venturing to one of the north west’s most remote island and flats systems. Photo: Mark Davis

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Kiritimati A Bucket List Destination

Wo r d s & p h o t o s b y Fr a s e r Pe r r y

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iritimati, Christmas Island or CXI has been on my bucket list of places to fly fish for over a decade. I first saw a photo of a Bonefish caught on the flats of CXI hanging behind the counter of the Compleat Angler store in Sydney. It was during one of many visits to the store as a kid to buy materials for Trout flies, but nonetheless I was captivated to one day fish in the salt and catch a Bonefish in a place as spectacular as that photo. This year, I finally made my first trip to Christmas Island. Christmas Island is a remote coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean with thirty-nine named flats in the central lagoon of the atoll. Although Christmas Island has a reputation for its Bonefish, the island has a myriad of other species to be caught on fly. In addition to Bonefish, the flats on the lagoon hold Bluefin and Giant Trevally as well as four species of Trigger fish including; Moustache, Yellow Margin, Peach Face and Picasso species. Outside the lagoon in blue water, large Milkfish can be targeted and Yellow Fin Tuna can be caught trolling. These fish have been targeted by fly fisherman since 1979 when the first guide, Moana Kofe, opened up the fishery to travelling anglers.

THE FISHING My first experience of wading coral flats was incredible - it really was “another day in paradise”. Surrounded by blue skies and a gentle breeze, we waded what appeared to be endless flats and cast to fish after fish after fish. Some flats had channels that were like highways for Bones, with the fish all in a hurry to swim towards us. This was

great for honing our spotting skills and having lots of shots, which made the time disappear. Despite having lots of shots every day, reading the body language of each fish and adapting the presentation was key to hooking up. It was the followings, rejections and spooked fish that made the game most interesting. Most days on the flats were spent sight fishing to cruising and tailing Bones. However, we were teased on just about every flat by tailing Triggers breaking the surface. These fish catch your eye from a distance with their bold feeding habits and are hard to resist casting to. Despite many shots, the conversion rate on these fish was incredibly low as they are incredibly spooky and difficult to hook given the shape of their mouth. The few I did catch took off like freight trains racing towards their coral holes or off the edge of the flat into the blue abyss. Although Triggers can be caught on standard shrimp patterns for Bonefish like the CXI Special, Trigger specific patterns like Squish’s Shrimp and Beech’s Itchy Trigger show more movement with their rubber legs and are tied on stronger hooks, improving your chances of enticing a Trigger to eat and consequently landing it. During our trip, we had the opportunity to fish to schools of large spawning Bones on the Paris Flat. This is a monthly phenomenon that occurs only on Paris Flat and only on the full moon. The fish were in schools hundreds deep, if not thousands. Casting to the schools while waist deep during huge tides was a challenge, but well worth it as most fish were personal bests and they took you for a blistering first run. In TheSaltwater 35

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THE FLIES When you’re travelling half-way across the world you don’t want to be caught short of flies, or have a box full of the wrong ones. Not knowing what conditions to expect, I tied dozens of the Christmas Island Special patterns, which has developed a reputation as the go-to Bonefish pattern. I filled my boxes with lots of variations of colours and weights, from subtle pinks and tans with bead chain eyes to red ‘Ring Burners’ with monstrous dumbbell eyes and rubber legs. Rather pleased with my efforts, I showed my box to our guide Pete who responded “nice flies, but we will only use the small light ones” which was only a fraction of what I had tied! True to his word, we caught most Bonefish on the smallest patterns in my box with medium to large bead chain eyes, with the natural colours yielding the most success. Pete was pleased I had tied my flies quite sparsely, using Finn Racoon as the wing material helped significantly with this. Although the guides on Christmas Island don’t carry flies or much else, many tie flies commercially at the angler’s request. Five dozen Bonefish flies are good starting point for a week-long trip. CHRISTMAS ISLAND SPECIAL Hook: Gamakatsu SL11-3H, Size 6 -10. Over wing: Finn Raccoon in Tan. Eyes: Gold Bead chain eyes from Medium to Large, Gold Dumbbell Eyes from Small to Large. 3 8 In TheSaltwater

Body and Tail: Krystal Flash in Pink, Shrimp Pink and Bonefish Tan.

THE GEAR As a long time Trout fisherman, I bought along the heaviest fly rod I owned which was a Sage One #6WT and matched it with a Rio Bonefish line. Although the outfit was under gunned for the windy days on the flat, it turned over lightly weighted flies well and made for a fun fight on the larger Bones and the occasional Trigger. Next trip, I would prefer to fish with a # 7 or #8WT and a more aggressively tapered fly line to help with the wind, like a Scientific Anglers GPX or a Rio Gold. My angling partner Peter brought along a #12WT with 300 metres of backing which was on standby with our guide for any GTs ambushing the flats. This rod worked equally well for catching Yellow Fin Tuna up to 20 lbs in the blue water. The standard tippet size for targeting Bones on the flats in the lagoon is 16 lb, dropping down to 12 lb for spooky fish on the lowest tides. On the ocean flats, including the Korean wreck, 20 lb is needed for the larger fish and for surviving runs through jagged coral into the waves. When casting at Triggers, 20 lb is the standard to begin with.

THE CASTING Although I practised my casting before my trip, there is a big difference between casting in the park with yarn on a calm day and casting on a flat with howling wind, a weighted fly and the pressure of a Bonefish swimming towards you. I was naïve to have considered myself


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prepared! The casts for Bones on Christmas Island aren’t far, often 30-50 feet, but more than likely you will have a stiff breeze blowing onto your shoulder or worse still, blowing into your face. Getting a fly to land in the sweet spot about a rod length away from the fish in these conditions is demanding, especially doing it without a ‘plonk’ which spooked many fish. When I return to the flats, I’ll be doing a lot more preparation by fine tuning my casting skills. Next time, instead of practising my casting in the park with yarn, I will make sure to practice on water with a weight on my leader and cast at targets, getting out on the windy days. Casting accurately and confidently off shoulder with hauls and casting backhanded are paramount, as these casts were used frequently. Stripping also played a big role in converting many fish. Our guide Pete was pedantic about getting this right, using a short two speed strip to represent the rising and falling of shrimp and starting

the strip just prior to the fish intersecting it. Focusing on this had the biggest effect on my success. In addition to spotting fish, keeping an eye on them as they moved and knowing where my fly was relative to the fish were critical.

THE LOGISTICS We stayed at Ikari Guest House on Christmas Island, although there are other lodgings including The Villages and Captain Cook Hotel. These lodgings all provide comprehensive packages including accommodation, meals, transfers, guides and boats. Fiji Air fly once a week from Fiji and Hawaii, although occasionally the flights get delayed as they did during our return trip. Fortunately for us it meant an extra week fishing! Keep these delays in mind when planning a trip. My boss at work had a hard time believing my story of being stranded on an island fly fishing for another week instead of returning to work! In TheSaltwater 43

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Ben with a Giant Trevally Photo: Fraser Perry

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Waiting for the ride. Photo: Fraser Perry

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Permit tucker from the Pilbara flats. It is no surprise that crab flies with yellow highlights work well. Photo: Mark Davis

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Trigger snacks! Photo: FlyCastaway

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A UNIQUE ADVENTURE-FLY-FISHING-TRAVEL CONCEPT We were lucky enough to sit down with one of the best in the business for a Q&A to find out what makes FlyCastaway the most successful fly fishing travel operation in the Indian Ocean. Words by Ryan Hammond & Gerhard Laubscher Images Gerhard Laubscher & FlyCastaway

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WHO IS FLYCASTAWAY? We are an outfitter specialising in running fully guided saltwater flats fishing camps/expeditions in the remote outer atolls of the Indian Ocean. Our current portfolio includes Providence Atoll & Farquhar Atoll in the Seychelles and St Brandon’s Atoll off Mauritius. HOW MANY PEOPLE MAKE UP FLYCASTAWAY? Currently there are 20 individuals working for the business. This includes our management team (Gerhard Laubscher, myself and Tim Babich), our chairman (Dirk Ackerman), our office administrator (Helen Vermaak), three guide teams namely the Providence Atoll team, the Farquhar Atoll team and the St Brandon’s Atoll team, as well as two full time fly tiers (‘Alf’ and ‘Biz’). HOW LONG HAS FCA BEEN OPERATING FOR? The business was started back in 2002. HOW DID YOU GUYS GET STARTED? Gerhard Laubscher our CEO has been working in the fly fishing industry in South Africa since he completed his

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schooling. After completing university he continued working in the industry with the dream of starting a guiding business. In the late 90’s Alphonse Island in the Seychelles opened up as a saltwater fly fishing destination. Gerhard started focusing his research on the Seychelles and learned that there were numerous other, and much more remote, coral atolls in the western part of the Indian Ocean. One of the atolls which he came across that initially interested him was St Brandon’s. In 2001 he went to St Brandon’s for the first time and immediately realized that he had found a saltwater flats fishing destination good enough to attract international guests (later on we learned that it is arguably the best Bonefish destination on the planet). Sadly though, political red tape and bureaucracy meant that we could not take clients there at the time so he had to keep looking for one where we could take clients (FYI we did our first trip with clients to St Brandon’s in 2009….8 years later!). In 2002 he started FlyCastway, up until that point he had been exploring southern African fisheries intensively, both freshwater and saltwater. The hope was

always to find a suitable saltwater flats destinations in east Africa. He did numerous trips to east Africa but came to the realization that the flats fisheries on the east coast of Africa have all been severely overfished and whilst there were still some marginal fishing on selected offshore reefs, the flats were pretty dead and certainly not healthy enough to bring guests out to. At that time most of our work was focused on South Africa’s Smallmouth and Largemouth Yellowfish. Guiding however wasn’t yet an institution in South Africa and the first years were hard. South Africans just couldn’t understand why they would have to pay someone to take them fishing! On the same note, Yellowfish are not one of the glory species of the fly fishing world (well not yet) and the international market was not interested in travelling to South Africa to fish for them so we were reliant on local clientele. It was an uphill struggle as we had to create the guiding culture and establish a new industry in South Africa. Over time however we built up a small following of loyal guests. With St Brandon’s not being a viable option, Gerhard eventually made it to the outer atolls of the Seychelles in 2003/2004 where he sailed on an

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extended trip from Mahe in the Seychelles to Nosy Be in Madagascar. He stopped along the way, fishing every one of the coral atolls in the Seychelles as well as the Mitsio Islands in Madagascar. On this trip he discovered Providence, Farquhar, Cosmoledo and Astove Atolls, these were the ones that stood out as world class fisheries. The rest is history, he came back and his material from the trip and the destinations started filtering back into the market. Overnight everyone wanted to go! We had finally found what we had been looking for and the business literally exploded. Tim Babich and I joined the company as guides in late 2006 and early 2007 respectively. Over the next few years 5 8 In TheSaltwater

Gerhard bought out his original partners and subsequently Tim and I became shareholders. It’s been an incredible journey to be part of, one which we feel hugely privileged to have played a part in! WHAT MADE YOU THINK, “OK LET’S START A GUIDING COMPANY IN THE INDIAN OCEAN?” Initially, Gerhard was not looking specifically for a destination in the Indian Ocean, he was looking for any destination he deemed good enough to take clients to and make a living while doing so. Keep In mind that South Africa is a dry arid country with scarce water resources, so he naturally gravitated towards saltwater fisheries.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE ON THE DESTINATIONS THAT YOU NOW OPERATE IN? The core of the business has always been guiding guests on world class water. Farquhar, Providence and St Brandon’s are certainly fisheries which offer this. Whilst we have certainly not fished all of the current saltwater fisheries on the planet, we have seen more than our fair share and are comfortable our venues are as good, if not better than, nearly all of the ones we have been to. From a personal fishing point of view you can take any of our guides to any piece of water anywhere in the world and they will have a great time. However, when we deal with guests it’s not that simple. We apply our knowledge in the best way we can, we plan seasons

24 months ahead and make fishing and tide predictions even that far out. Most of our guests spend more than 24 hours in the air trying to get to one of our destinations. It’s a massive commitment, both in terms of time and money. We respect that, without them we would not be able to do what we do, so we do everything in our power to make sure they have the experience they have been fantasising about. That means we need reliable, consistent fisheries and sadly there are only a handful of those left on the planet today. Fisheries like Providence, Farquhar and St Brandon’s offer us the consistency and reliability we are looking for. There are many other fisheries we know of which can fish exceptionally well and if we show the world what it looks like

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on a good day everyone will rush there. However, out of a hundred day season there might be only seven really good days. That means all the guests would be disappointed and we would have ruined the trust relationship with our guests. We don’t guide on these waters and we don’t turn these into commercial products. We do however still get thrown curve balls on a weekly basis even on our chosen destinations and we are still learning all the time, it’s not easy. We spend countless hours discussing tides, weather, strategies, current and a vast array of other factors in order to give our guests the best possible experience. Our three flagship Indian Ocean destinations are good enough that we know we can give our guests the best possible chances of experiencing the trip of a lifetime by catching the fish they have always dreamt of.

In short, we decided on the current destinations in our portfolio because they offer world class fishing for world class species on a extremely consistent basis! HOW DID YOU BECOME ONE OF THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER TRAVEL GUIDING COMPANIES IN THE WORLD? (WHAT WAS YOUR RECIPE TO SUCCESS?) There are a range of factors including good client communication, reliable administration, honesty and integrity, strong marketing efforts etc., but the two cornerstones are without doubt the destinations themselves and our guide teams. These fisheries are highly sought after in the travel angling market. The remoteness and beauty of the atolls (and the highly sought after species they have in abundance) have made them iconic fisheries. We combine these factors together with guides who work as

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a team and who really understand the fisheries, tides and species. In addition, all of our guides are strong communicators and highly client oriented. One thing you have to know about this company is that it is purely driven by passion and our love and respect for fly fishing. It’s at the heart of the culture of the company, we like nothing more than being on the water ourselves and fishing to the most challenging fish on the planet. The fly fishing experience in both our management and guide teams is extremely high, we have fished on five continents and have been exposed to an enormous array of fly fishing scenarios and styles. We pride ourselves in having (and continuing to have) contributed to the global fly fishing knowledge base, whether that is by figuring out how to; catch new species, develop new techniques, invent new flies, develop product or open up new fisheries. Working at FlyCastaway is not just another guiding job - it’s about being part of something bigger, always pushing the boundaries and moving ahead while at the same time respecting the ethos and history of the sport. When the guides are not guiding they are out fishing! We believe that this passion has driven us to the point of where we are and as you know, there is no shortcut in gaining experience. We have 23 year old guides in the company who have more fishing experience in both salt and freshwater than 98% of our guests who have spent their entire lives fishing. This experience shows in how we plan expeditions, deal with guests, prepare our operations, and ultimately in the fish numbers that we land. We have a strong ethos of sharing knowledge amongst the team and this is encouraged at all times. I think these 6 2 In TheSaltwater

high levels of experience are driven by a true passion and deep respect for the history and traditions of our sport, and are ultimately what sets us apart from other guiding operations. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT IS THE BEST SALTWATER DESTINATION IN THE WORLD? This is a tough one, but Providence Atoll has to be right up there. The atoll’s huge volume of targetable fish (including GT’s, Bumphead Parrotfish, Triggers, Bones, Milkfish, Sailfish, Wahoo etc.) and all the other marine life (sharks, rays, turtles, birds etc.), it’s wildness, the lack of angling pressure it has seen, and just its immense size and range of fishing scenarios put that notch above everything else we are aware of or have fished. St Brandon’s has to be right up there too, especially if you like wading for big Bones and Permit in skinny water. Currently it does not receive the recognition it deserves, or get the same amount of interest as the Seychelles operations, but that’s mainly because there is no fly-in option and guests need to travel 24 hours by boat to get there. Should we ever get a plane in to do the transfers, I can assure you it would probably become the most sought after flats destination on the planet overnight! WHAT ARE YOUR CRITERIA FOR SELECTING GUIDES? There are a bunch of legal things which need to be in place i.e. skippers licences, first aid certificates, health examinations, police clearances and a bunch of other stuff. We only get to this point if we are comfortable that the new prospects have what it takes to become a FlyCastaway guide. In a nutshell these are

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their fishing experience, their hunger for fishing and learning, and who they are as an individual. From a fishing point of view we prefer to look for young passionate anglers who have a broad range of fly fishing experience. We also really like guys with a strong freshwater background. It’s the base of the sport where guys have grown up understanding the culture of fly fishing. Plus, in our opinion, in most instances there are more elements and intricacies of freshwater fishing which need to be understood when compared to a lot of saltwater fisheries. Range and experience in as many scenarios as possible is also hugely important. Young guides also need a strong hunting instinct. We can teach them tides, navigation, species behaviour etc., but they have to have the instinct. Experience has also taught us who is going to be hungry enough out on location to keep pushing hard even on the

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last day of a three month season. From a personality point of view we look for guys who are grounded, humble and have a strong work ethic. They need to be mentally tough, have good communication skills and of course be good team players. We are not interested in guys who think they are young rock star anglers. Those guys generally are fly-bynight. We are looking for guys who are going to commit to a three to six year journey with us, so they can absorb the culture of our business, learn their trade, and then be confident enough to bond with clients from all walks of life who are paying between USD $8,000 - USD $12,300 for a week of fishing. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SPECIES TO GET YOUR CLIENTS FISHING FOR? It’s a difficult question and different guides lean towards different species.

Our company philosophy is to try and match the angler’s skill level to the available species and conditions on the day. If it’s someone who has never fished before and can’t cast 20 feet it might mean taking them to catch small reef species or schooling Bonefish. If it’s a super experienced angler, it might be Permit or big single tailing Bonefish. There really isn’t one species that is a favourite, our objective is to give the guest on the day his or her most enjoyable experience. If you have never fished before, a five pound schooling Bonefish might get you into seventh heaven, whereas if you are an experienced angler you might want a really difficult target or higher numbers. At the end of the day, who is to say the guy who caught more fish had a more enjoyable day than the guy who caught one? Basically if the guest is excited, it’s tough not to get excited with him! However, that being said, I would imagine GT’s, Permit and large single Bonefish would be high on most of our

lists. I also think the locations you find these species in, and some of the Indian Ocean’s other popular destinations, are as important or attractive as the fish themselves. Stalking any species on foot in really shallow water is going to be exciting. GT’s generally charge in and create a bow wave when they eat the fly in knee deep water, which generally gets the client’s heart racing. In contrast, stalking an eight to ten pound single Bonefish in shin depth water just epitomises flats fishing. Permit…well they always get you fired up. HARDEST TARGET SPECIES FOR YOUR CLIENTS? The one they want the most. The biggest challenge we face is trying to explain to inexperienced flats anglers what we are trying to achieve by casting from a specific spot, casting the fly in a certain place, stripping in a specific manner, or setting the hook in a specific way etc., etc. The flats are a very visual

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environment and anglers see everything happen. We are constantly changing our approach and techniques not just from species to species but also while fishing to an individual fish, and this can be confusing to a guest if they do not understand the objective of what we are trying to achieve. Once they have that understanding, it’s a lot easier to guide them onto whatever species are in front of them. Generally from a purely technical and angler skill level point of view, I think Permit are the toughest for the most part. Guests have to have good eye sight, have to be able to cast accurately quickly, have to read a fish’s body language and of course have to be able to stay calm enough to make the shots when they present themselves. Even then, there is no guarantee they will eat the fly so it can play tricks in their heads. Permit are just tough on guests, mentally and skill level wise. For some guys though Triggerfish are just as tough. They can be incredibly fickle and skittish, and are most often found in extremely shallow water where your stalking and presentation skills are put to the test. 6 8 In TheSaltwater

HOW MANY MONTHS IN ADVANCE DO YOU BOOK TRIPS OUT? This varies but generally between 18 months to one year in advance. Sure there are guys who book trips at relatively short notice, but most guys need to get the trip in their diaries so that the dates don’t clash with work, family commitments or other trips. Booking in advance also allows them to try and get first option on the dates which suit them and the tides we think will suit their fishing goals. Also there are lots of logistical complications in arranging these expeditions and we need a big lead time to make sure we get everything that is needed in place. WHAT ARE LOGISTICS LIKE OPERATING FROM SOUTH AFRICA AT YOUR SALTWATER CAMPS? It’s not too bad really considering the travel most of our guests go through to join us. The majority of our guides have a five hour flight from Johannesburg into Mahe (main island of the Seychelles which is the starting point for Farquhar and Providence), and a five hour flight into Mauritius (starting point for St Brandon’s). Sure there is a huge amount of

gear which needs to go in with the guide teams each season, but we have been doing it for so long and have solid processes in place which for the most part make it pretty smooth. The tough part comes when you need to get gear, boat spares, fridges etc. out onto the atolls during a season, especially at short notice. Transport options, space, availability, cost …these can be tricky but we seem to get it right for the most part despite an ever increasing amount of grey hair! IF THE NEXT GENERATION OF YOUNG FLY FISHING BUSINESSMEN WANTED TO START A GUIDING COMPANY DO YOU HAVE ANY PEARLS OF WISDOM? First find a venue which offers consistently good fishing, is commercially viable and which can handle the fishing pressure. We see lots of guys trying to start similar businesses on fisheries which do not tick these critical boxes. If you get these right, market them truthfully, and work your arse off to make sure the camp is running smoothly and is full of paying guests, you’re going to create a successful business.

WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR THE FCA CREW? We are always on the lookout for new destinations but our main priority is ensuring our current operations on Farquhar, Providence and St Brandon’s are running smoothly operationally and we continue to improve our clients experience wherever possible. We are also close to launching a new freshwater fishery in South Africa to the international market. It will be a very affordable trip for overseas guests and will give them some great freshwater sight fishing in an African environment using world class guides and infrastructure. It’s going to be very cool! We are also heavily involved in a new fly fishing reel brand called Wade (www. This a series of fly reels designed by ourselves which are capable of handling the toughest wade fishing environments and their associated species found on the planet. Basically they are our representation of what we want attached to our rods when we are fishing!

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Critical fly selection Photo: FlyCastaway

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Best Freshwater Fly: Andy Bolch (Dahlberg) Ian Houston (Frankencod) Ben Le Vagueresse (Murray River Cray) Best Saltwater Fly: Aaron Donaldson (Kingfish Squid) Chad Plooy (Bleeding Slimey) Luke Scicluna (Baby Calamari) Best Creative Fly (best use of materials): David Karpul (Phoenix Mayfly) Ivan Turnbull (Champagne Cork Cicada) Best Junior Entries: Ryan Bolch (Creature Frog) Roxie Dawson (Sydney Drag Fly)

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Tackle Safari The 2017

Fly Tying Comp

It goes without saying that this year was a our biggest year to date with the fly tying contest which takes place on the Tackle Safari Facebook page and is a great community event with awesome prizes on offer for the contestants.

I get many questions each year about this online Facebook comp which are usually the same – Why? Is it really worth the time and effort to pull this together, it’s so niche etc etc. All fair questions I guess...

only positive comments on the Tackle Safari Facebook page to contestants of admiration, highfives and support.

A special thanks to our judges this year, James Fox (saltwater judge) and Ross ‘Virty’ Virt from So here’s my why. Fly tying is Kaos Cod Flys who had the This year the sponsors included a great way to destress. It’s a extremely tough job of selecting YETI Coolers, Spotters Sunfree form creative process that I the winners. glasses, Scientific Flies, Tackle feel could be used in real world Safari and Xplorer Fly Fishing mental therapy for all of us to We’re really looking forward to with categories for Best Fresh- unwind, catch up with good the next one and invite any and water fly, Best Saltwater fly and mates, talk and enjoy the pro- all fly tyers of all levels to particBest Junior Entries. cess of creating and learning ipate in the comp. To the left is something new. If it can do all the list of the 2017 winners who In addition, we added another of those very things, it’s worth took home some fantastic prizinteresting category for “Best promoting more! It’s also some- es. Well done to all contestants Creative Fly” or best use of thing that is widely admired by who participated and we hope materials. The winner, David any and all interested in fishing, to see you in the next comp! Karpul, made his entire fly, not just fly fishers. Even those including hook, from upcycling who would rather throw a lure Keep Tying, every day materials to produce or bait admire the creativity and an outstanding fly ready to fool thought process that goes into any lurking and hungry fish on the creation of a fly to actually Tackle Safari the day. fool and catch a fish. We’ve had


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The Flat Wing. I go through different stages in my fly tying just like everyone else sometimes Synthetics, sometimes Naturals but right now I’m into naturals. I feel there’s always a lot more action in natural fibres, whereas with Synthetics it’s all about size, visibility and looking similar to the prey. Of course both have their benefits. I’m not sure where The Flat Wing style of tying originated, I’d assume in the Salmon / Steelhead rivers of the world, maybe the Practitioner Fly. This style of tying lends itself to an old Swing Style presentation, because the fly will hover like a paper plane in an updraft and swim its tail from side to side as it travels through the water column. It’s absolutely beautiful to watch. Because the feather is flat on top of the fly, it now acts as the wing on a glider and actually gets a fair bit of lift from traveling through the water column. The first feathered fly I learnt to tie was a Lefty’s Deceiver, a fantastic fly and I’ve caught a lot of fish on it. The Deceiver style of tying has the feathers tied on the side of the fly and really the action of the feathers is up and down….. like a Dolphin. It still has a lot of action of course but the Flat Wing style of tying the feathers flat on top will have the feather’s move side to side like the tail action of a fish. Since the feathers are flat on top of the fly, they act just like the wing on a glider and will hover, dip and dive through the turbulence of the water column just like a glider does through the air column. Due to the width of the feather on top, the fly has a 7 8 In TheSaltwater

3-dimensional shape from head on and with this style of tying you can also create a very large fly that has no bulk, heaps of action, is very easy to cast, and if tied correctly will never foul - all great properties to have in a fly. My first introduction to a Flat Wing was the cover shot on an issue of the Saltwater Flyfishing Magazine many, many years ago. At first glance I thought the fly looked like crap. Probably because I didn’t really understand fly tying / fishing dynamics and even though I’d been fly fishing a very long time I was still in the mentality of lure fishing… cast out and retrieve… and hope it gets eaten. After reading the article about Ken Abrames’ Flat Wing and then actually tying and fishing one I completely changed my mind about the fly. Definitely not ugly but a really beautiful fly with an amazing action and now today it’s one of my “Go To” flys in most situations. I’ve never been able to get hackles anywhere near the quality of what Abrames uses so my Flat Wings are a little different due to the hackles I have available but the technique is the same. My Flat Wings are shorter and probably have less action in the tail than Abrames’ do, but I feel mine tend to hover more in the water column due to the hackles being a little shorter, wider and stiffer, creating the perfect wing on which to glide on and still have the Flatwing action in the tail. This style of fly will work just as well as any other fly pattern with the Cast’n’Strip Techniques, which are the norm in our fly fishing today but by learning and practising the much older art of Controlled Drifting, Wet Fly Swinging and Greased Line Methods

ed in Salmon fishing over 100 years ago you can make this Flat Wing dance. These techniques were first published by E.H.E Wood who was reputed to be the first angler to Master the Mend & in 1931, in his book “Greased Line Fishing for Salmon”. In the words of Dave Micus - done correctly it raises the level of saltwater fly fishing to a near “artistry” level where it becomes absolutely lethal in the hands of a Master. The fly line now becomes not only the means of taking the fly to the target, but it is also used to swim and manipulate the fly so that it looks real. The aim is to have the fly swim through the current as naturally as a baitfish would through mending, dead drifting and line manipulation. This Flat Wing pattern is one I use for Longtails. So, let’s get to it and tie one!

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The Flat Wing As tied by Capt. Gavin Platz

Step 1 - Jam thread on the shank of the Step 2 - Spin a small amount of Dubbing on the thread & wind 3 wraps on the hook. hook. This is the cushion to help tie the feathers flat on top.

Step 3 - Select 2 long better) separate the b & wrap 3 snug wrap the hackles to hold int the hackles carefully wraps & some barbel der the thread & sup the position you want

Step 6 - Tear the marabou from the Quill Step 7 - Tear a smaller amount of mar- Step 8 - Tie in flat, sa & tie in below the hook. abou of the quill & attach to the top of hackles, on top of the the hook so the whole hook is covered. Hackle tip just longer length itself.

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MATERIALS Hook Gamakatsu SL12 S #2/0 Thread Flat waxed nylon Wing 2 x Whiting American Rooster Hackles (White) Body Pearl Diamond Braid Under BodySilver /Grey Marabou (torn off Quill) Overbody 1 Silver/Grey Marabou (torn off Quill) OverBody 2 1 x Whiting American Rooster Hackles (Grizzly)

g hackles (longer the Step 4 - When happy with the position on barbells on the quill top, wrap forward & tie in place. ps of thread around to position. Now pull y forward under the lls will be caught unpport the feathers in t.

ame as the tail e hook, a Grizzly r than the hook

Step 9 - Tie off and Glue.

Step 5 - Attach Pearl Diamond Braid & wind forward to a point about the hook eye distance back from the eye & tie off.

Remember this is a great fly, but to get the most out of a Flat Wing , as an angler you need to look at your craft and work out the relationship between the fly line & how the drag of the water can manipulate the fly to create the action that will bring the fly to life. Then practise & fine tune your craft. Have fun Cheers


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Whitsundays chrome. Photo: Chris Bygrave

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Swimming crabs push out from the fringes of Roebuck Bay when the tide is pumping. Permit, and goldens, are usually waiting and key in on floating flies. Photo: Mark Davis

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Words by Gavin Davis Photo’s by Gavin Davis & Antti Vappula

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“Good morning Eetu, you look very happy today.” “Good morning Gavin, I am always very happy when I wake up in the morning and have not shit my pants......” When traveling abroad on an exploratory trip you soon learn to appreciate the simple things in life, especially making it to the toilet in time! The previous afternoon I had been lucky enough to encounter a beautiful titan trigger tailing on the flats. I had played with triggers before on trips to Christmas Island, so I had half an idea on what to do and some how I managed to put it all together.That evening it was the hot topic, as we sipped cold Bintang, admired pictures, and talked shop on flies and tactics. Today was a new day, Eetu’s day and he was ready to catch a Trigger! Eetu kindly asked for some advice on a fly so I rummaged through my box and found an ugly old Clouser topped with Mara-

bou. “This is the one Eetu, let’s go!” A hot dead calm morning, the sun beaming down like an oven. The perfect combination of sunscreen and sweat stung our eyes and the hangover was shifting up a gear! We had decided to explore a new flat and we were not disappointed...... beautiful white sand, knee deep, emerald blue, crystal clear water, dotted with stunning coral out crops...... we had struck saltwater fly fishing Nirvana!!! As soon as we jumped off the boat, there it was..... A beautiful pink tail waving hello, as Mr Trigger rummaged around the coral searching for breakfast. “Don’t bonk him on the head Eetu, but put it close enough that he hears it land” Perfect! The fly landed about 3 feet away and the trigger instantly circled on it. “Little strips, little strips” you could

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clearly see the trigger’s curiousity turn into aggression as the fly inched away from him. “Ok stop! Let him eat it.....” Up went the tail breaking the surface as the Trigger tilted forward. “Hit him!” The line pulled insanely tight, FISH ON! Suddenly the Trigger turned from a peaceful tropical fish to a freight train, B lining every coral bommie on the flat! Now, a scramble of uncontrollable chaos as Eetu jumped around screaming like a little kid. Pulling left.....pulling right.... the Trigger trying anything and everything in its book to own Eetu, then finally after a minute its spirit was broken. I quickly grabbed the leader and tailed the fish before it ramped up for another run. I thought it was all over, then to my surprise I was nearly crash tackled as Eetu ran over with a huge hug of overwhelming emotion and excitement!!!! We admired the Trigger’s beauty for a moment as Eetu proudly showed the fish for a quick photo. Then back into the water it went, slowly disappearing across the flat. My knees were shaking, so were Eetu’s hands. We both looked at each other and burst into laughter, then tears of joy as we stood there in total awe of what just happened! Yes, this is what trigger fishing in paradise is all about!!!

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Ready for battle! Photo: Katka Švagrová

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Through the guides eyes Photo: Fraser Perry

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A true Underwater giant! Photo: Katka Švagrová

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Backlit Bastard from a wind swept North West reef flat. Photo: Mark Davis

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BLUE BASTARD The Fair Dinkum

How a keen-eyed fly fisher discovered a new Sweetlips species BY DR JULIAN PEPPERELL, PhD. Dr. Julian Pepperell, PhD, is one of the best-known marine biologists in the world and a leading authority on Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna and Sharks.

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BLUE BASTARD The Fair Dinkum

This remarkable story of citizen science in action began several years ago when I received a query from Ben Bright, a well-known fishing guide (and marine science graduate) based in Weipa in the Gulf of Carpentaria. He noted that in his area, fly fishers often targeted a fish on the flats affectionately known as the “Blue Bastard”, or as it was more correctly named, the Painted Sweetlips, (Diagramma pictum labiosa). However, Ben had noticed that at least some of his Blue Bastards looked a little different from others. The more common variety (Species 1) appeared to have faint spots on the soft dorsal fin and on the tail and between the eye and mouth, whereas the less common variety (Species 2) had none. And with his training in fish taxonomy, he also noted that the more common of the two species had 12 or 13 dorsal spines (compared to 10) and a different body shape that was hard to describe, but obvious to his trained eye. Ben began to wonder if these might in fact be two species and asked for my help. After hunting through all my own sources of fish identification, I found myself as confused as Ben, so as usual in such circumstances, I sought professional help. First port of call was a friend and colleague in the Fish Department of the Australian Museum, Mark McGrouther who in turn suggested I get in touch with Jeff Johnson of the Queensland Museum who was in fact an expert on this particular group of fishes – the family Haemulidae, or Sweetlips. Jeff’s initial thoughts from his inspection of the photos were that the two might be known subspecies of the Painted Sweetlips, but the number of spines in the dorsal fin had pricked his interest further. Jeff really needed to see some actual specimens of the fish in question, so Ben agreed to catch and freeze several of them and send them down to Jeff in Brisbane – a task that he was happy to carry out.

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Jeff had promised to let me know when the detailed work had been done on this problem, so I was delighted more than a year later to receive an email from him with a scientific paper attached which solved the puzzle. Together with geneticist Jessica Worthington Wilmer, Jeff had proven beyond doubt that Ben’s fish was indeed a new species of Sweetlips – a large fish that had flown under the scientific radar for many years. But now for the best part. Jeff had named this new species Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus. And why is that tongue-twister so neat? Well, because the species name, caeruleonothus is broken down to mean ‘caeruleo’ = blue, and ‘nothus’ = bastard. Yep, the affectionately known ‘Blue Bastard’ of northern Australian fishermen is now officially known as the ‘Blue Bastard’! Jeff was a bit nervous about using this name but was relieved when the reviewers of the paper agreed it was quintessentially Australian and should indeed be used for this fish. I couldn’t agree more. He also noted that it was unusual for such a large fish (Blue Bastards grow to a metre or more in length) to be identified as a new species, especially since it was so well known to anglers and had even featured on TV fishing shows. In scientifically describing the ‘Blue Bastard’, Jeff and Jessica also sorted out the classification of closely related Sweetlips, using preserved specimens that had been housed in the collections of museums in Darwin, Perth and Hobart. As well, via genetics they were able to sort out the identity of juveniles of these species (including the Blue Bastard) which are very different from adults, being marked with various patterns of multiple brown and white horizontal stripes. As if discovering a new species wasn’t enough, Ben had also sent video of an unusual behavioural trait of the Blue Bastard to Jeff. It showed a fish in the shallows spotting another one at some distance, and aggressively darting towards it, locking jaws with its rival and thrashing about in a prolonged and violent territorial battle. This had never been observed before in any species of Sweetlips, so the behaviour was also carefully described in the scientific paper. Another first for Ben.

Species 1: Painted Sweetlips. The less common form caught around Weipa Photo: Ben Bright

Species 2: Ben Bright’s mystery fish, now officially and scientifically named the ‘Blue Bastard’ Photo: Ben Bright

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Kissing Bastards: Aggressive Bastards. Previously unrecorded territorial behaviour of the Blue Bastard Photo: Ben Bright

This is a great story in many ways, not least of which is the way that recreational anglers can make important contributions to the world of science. Ben Bright is one of those fishermen who is also an astute observer of nature. With his marine science degree in his back pocket, he spotted something different about a fish that anglers had been catching for many years, and he was persistent enough to follow through with his curiosity, to the extent of sending frozen specimens to the scientists who could solve the puzzle. Ben may never have used his marine science degree professionally, but I know he is rather chuffed to see his hunch proven correct, and to see that his name is now associated with the ‘holotype’ of the Blue Bastard, that is, the specimen preserved in the Queensland Museum against which all other Blue Bastards can be compared. On that note, it is therefore appropriate to end by citing the actual description of that specimen, noting in particular Ben’s name, and the method used for its capture: “Holotype. QM I.39243, 536 mm, Boyd Bay, SW of Weipa, Queensland, Australia, 12°54.9’S 141°38.6’E, 0.5–3 m, rod and line with artificial fly, B. Bright, 24 Jun 2014”. ABOVE: Small Blue Bastards Growth stages of the Blue Bastard showing characteristic marked striping of juveniles (C – 25mm total length), fading as the fish grows (B – 30mm) and disappearing by sub-adulthood (A – 245mm) (from Johnson and Wilmer, Zootaxa 3985 (4): 491–522, 2015).

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Simon Penn enjoys the fruits of a calm and clear day in the Pilbara. Photo: Mark Davis

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An average Pilbara bastard, found tailing in a mangrove lined bay as the tide fell. Photo: Mark Davis

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A few tasty flats offerings Photo: FlyCastaway

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THE HOPPER Holy crap, I wasn’t expecting this! A soft cooler that can actually keep ice frozen, drinks cold and not only that it looks frickin awesome. The new Hopper from YETI has redefined how soft coolers keep stuff cold, using the latest in technology (NASA space tech...not sure they do but it sounds cool) to make this tough and practical cooler that does exactly what you demand of it! For this and more epic products jump onto


I hate this fly line..... In fact I’m beginning to hate Vision too! Once again they have made an ASS out of me for making the assumption that a cold European country COULDN’T POSSIBLY develop and produce a legitimate hard core tropical saltwater line. Well just like there range of Merisuola rods, it seems Vision have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with there fly lines too! - - - - -

A nice long head featuring a well designed taper balances a powerful loop turn over with a subtle presentation. Slick stiff coating means this line shoots great, floats high and is well suited for tropical heat. Super strong welded loops and printed line model as expected with any top quality line. The additional low stretch core really helps with a solid hook set on tough saltwater fish. Last but not least a sky blue head for stealthy presentation and bright orange run ning line for easy visibility.

Basically without the bs, the range of Merisuola fly lines tick ALL the boxes a proper tropical saltwater floater should. So please don’t assume Vision can’t possibly make a good saltwater fly line like I did, because you will only make an ASS out of U and ME! ~ Reviewed by Gavin Davis

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NEW RANGE OF XPLORER REELS RELEASED Xplorer Fly Fishing has recently added three new CNC Machined fly reels to their Range.

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XPLORER KYPE These new large arbor fly reels are CNC machined from aircraft grade bar stock aluminum. The cage has been ported with a subtle X pattern as well as the centre of the spool to reflect the Xplorer brand. They have a matt silver, hard anodized protective finish with a rear adjusting, one way bearing, disc drag system. There are four sizes in the range 2/3,4/5 ,5/7 and 9/10wt’s with overall weight from 108 to 170 grams. Each reel comes with a Neoprene reel pouch. The suggested retails starts from $215.00 for the 2/3 wt.

XPLORER XTR The Xplorer XTR fly reels have been ported with an attractive five spoke design in both the cage and centre of the spool. They are CNC machined from bar Stock aluminum with a matt black, hard anodized finish to reduce flash on the water. They have a sealed protective cover over the drag system that micro adjusts from the back of the reel. The V-shaped spool handle incorporates a line retainer system.The XTR’s come in a 4/5, 5/7 and 9/10WT and have an overall weight of 120 to 193 grams. Each reel comes with a protective neoprene reel pouch. The suggested retails starts from $288.00 for the 4/5wt.

It micro adjusts from the rear drag knob for a low inertia start up ideal for light tippets. The EVO D-300 is designed for 5/6wt rods.


Both models are CNC machined from aircraft grade aluminum and have mixed matt silver and matt black hard anodized finishes. Their weights are 89, 90 and 144 grams respectively and come with a protective neoprene reel pouch. The suggested retail starts from $249.00 for the C-series.

The Xplorer EVO fly reels were designed with the Contact Jonty at Tackle Safari idea of reducing the overall weight of the reels to perfectly balance you modern light weight premium fly P. 0410 645 090 rod. They come in two different drag systems. E. The C- series reels are the lightest reels in their class starting at 89 grams for C-100. The C-Series uses a clicker drag system with a rear adjustment to increase the drag pressure when needed. The C-100 is ideal for 0-3WT rods and the C-200 for 3-4WT rods.


The EVO D-series has a stacked carbon, disc system that produces a smooth and powerful brake system.

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WORLD-CLASS BONEFISH FLATS AND A WHOLE LOT MORE WITHOUT LEAVING THE COUNTRY. Is this destination the best kept secret in Australian saltwater fly fishing? Explore the world-class Cocos Islands with Simon Penn. Words & Photos by Simon Penn

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Cocos Islands You’ve gotta love a place where the hire car comes with a warning sign that says: “Please leave key in ignition – never lock car”. But that’s the kind of place the Cocos Keeling Islands are. Picture an idyllic tropical paradise and you’ve pretty much got it - a ring of 27 islands dense with coconut palms, wild chickens and land crabs, with a sheltered lagoon roughly ten kilometres across inside. Outside the lagoon lies a fringing shelf of reef with booming ocean swells peeling onto it. With a maximum elevation of just five metres, there are flats and plenty of them. Sitting in the Indian Ocean just over 2000 kilometres north-west of WA, Cocos is an Australian territory but closer to Indonesia than our mainland. Just two of the islands are populated - West Island with about 150 residents and Home Island with 450. West Island is where you’ll land in the plane that flies there a couple of times a week from Perth, and is also likely where you’ll stay with a choice of comfortable accommodation options and the other essentials – hire cars, a small supermarket, and a pub. The islands have a chequered history, from European discovery in 1609 by Capt. William Keeling, the Clunies-Ross family dynasty, Malay migration, a visit from Charles Darwin, roles in WWI and WWII, and finally to a transfer from UK rule to Australia. But if you’re interested in that, can I suggest Google? - because we came here to talk about the fishing.

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I’ve long had a fascination with Cocos after my father spent several years of his childhood there while my grandfather looked after the island’s airstrip. And while they weren’t fanatical fishermen, I pored over their scratchy black and white pics that told tales of life in an island paradise wading sandy lagoons, exploring beaches and shinnying up coconut palms. And when I gleaned that there were Bonefish to be found the deal was sealed and I had to get there one day. But while there were definitely Bonefish present, the little available information I could find gave mixed reports with some 11 6 In TheSaltwater

indicating they were scarce, and becoming more scarce thanks to rampant netting. But those fears proved unfounded. While it’s true that locals do use nets, the WA Dept of Fisheries is proposing regulations for Cocos that will still allow netting with restrictions, along with the introduction of bag limits. I headed there for ten days in April with my fishing buddy Mark Ross - a little late for the summer doldrums that are the pick for fishing with lighter winds and cleaner water, but still avoiding the windy winter season with its influx of kite surfers.

were able to provide some insight into where Bonefish could be found. Armed with these starting points, it was trial and error from there. My only previous experience of Bonefish was a trip to Kiritimati ten years prior, so I armed myself with similar flies, mostly Christmas Island Specials and Crazy Charlie variations in sizes from 4S down to 8S. Rookie mistake. My most productive fly ended up being a size 2 Merkin crab. Otherwise it was standard Bonefish fare – an #8WT with floating fly line and plenty of backing.

BONEFISH This is DIY Bonefishing. It’s not an industry on Cocos and there are no lodges, no skiffs, no charter boats and no eagle-eyed guides to tie on your fly, tell you where to cast, how to strip and when to set the hook. To get an idea of where to start looking for Bonefish, prior to leaving I picked a few brains, searched the internet and read the few stories I could find. We also had the benefit of some local knowledge. Mark’s aunt and uncle-in-law, Sue and Ray Marshall, own Cocos Seaview Apartments where we stayed, and although not fly fishers themselves, they

There are many kilometres of flats to cover just on West Island, and many, many more to explore on the other uninhabited islands that will have to wait for another trip. The flats where we found most of our fish were midway up the island where the bottom was darker with more weed, and where I suspect the smaller, sparser flies were getting lost. There are plenty of clean, white sand flats at the southern end of the island where others have found good numbers of fish, and I suspect smaller, sparser flies would work well there, but we just didn’t find fish in the south in numbers during our trip. As mentioned, the time of year meant we didn’t get ideal sight fishing conditions, with wind, cloud cover, and some rain each day making visibility tough. The fishing was challenging, and while we found plenty of fish in some locations, we didn’t catch cricket scores, with tallies in the mid-teens each for Bonefish landed after ten days of fishing, and as many again hooked and lost. The fish were there, but all too often not spotted until they were at our feet. In TheSaltwater 11 7

Tailing fish were easier to locate, and on some days, we fished until after sunset when tailing fish were silhouetted and easier to find after the wind dropped out. But when we did hook fish they were mostly big, and in water closer to your ankles than your knees. We caught fish to more than 70cm, saw bigger fish, and heard stories from locals of bonefish to a metre. Hooking these bigger fish in such skinny water is a revelation, from the initial explosion when the hook bites, to the crazy wake and rapid-fire rooster-tails of spray from their turbocharged tail beats as they tear across the flat and into your backing. This is where the reverence for Bonefish comes from. Now, bear with me for the next bit before you scream “sacrilege” and hurl the magazine, because there are lessons to learn. Mark is a spin fisherman, and fished predominantly soft plastic lures, and almost exclusively two and a half inch versions of those curly-tailed varieties. Now that’s pretty big compared to the flies generally used for Bonefish, but after observing the way the fish reacted to them I’ll certainly be tying some bigger and more mobile flies next time. While the Bonefish would casually follow a slowly stripped or twitched fly before (fingers crossed) plucking it gently, their reaction to a twitched soft plastic was often far more aggressive - charging the lure, boiling on it and snatching it up. This might be peculiar to the fish on Cocos, perhaps it’s the lack of fishing pressure compared to the well-known Bonefish destinations, and I’m sure the weedy bottom played a part.

resulted in a flyline knitted through half a dozen coral heads. Lesson learnt. The other two islands accessible by daily ferry are Home and Direction. Home Island has more beaches and less flats, but we hear it holds big Bones. Direction again has more beaches than flats, with some decent drops offs that make it a good destination for GTs. And now for the disclaimer - the biggest downside is the sharks. The sharks that will follow you around the flats are not big, but there’s a lot of them. On flats we fished regularly, we had an entourage of ten and more sharks at times, and we even came to recognise individuals by their markings and behaviour. There’s no easy answer to them. Carrying a landing net helps get fish out of the water more quickly. Don’t prolong the fight unnecessarily by fishing too light. Chase the fish on foot, and fish with a buddy so when one of you hooks up the other can chase them away.

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BUMPIES While the Bones are the big-ticket item, a fish I’d heard was on Cocos and was excited to target was the Bumphead Parrot fish. These sizeable beasts graze over the shallow reef on the ocean side of the islands like cow herds, with their bluegreen paddle tails flapping lazily in the air as they feed and mooch across the coral. And these fish are huge. My first sighting of them was from a moving vehicle as we drove along the elevated main road overlooking the fringing reef on West Island, where from 200 metres away I could see tails waving in the air. I wanted to stop the car right there and start wading. Knowing next to nothing about these intriguing fish, my assumption was that when they tailed they were feeding on creatures in the coral, like crabs and shrimp. However, after some rudimentary research I discovered they’re actually eating the coral, and with mouths more like a bird’s beak than fish lips they’re well suited.

Getting a bite from a fish that eats coral poses a puzzle, so my approach was to just keep presenting crab and shrimp flies to them as naturally as possible, and wait for one to decide it wanted some protein in its diet. And so I spent a lot of of time wading waist-deep, putting casts with the #10WT into the schools of fish with weighted flies. When the eat finally came it was on a Merkin out of a school of fish that moved off the reef onto a patch of open sand. It was a smaller specimen compared to the beasts that make up most of the schools, but the fight was still heartin-mouth as it bullocked back to the reef and played doggo before I gradually worked it onto the beach. Fortuitously, the fly had lodged in the jaw hinge, as its formidable beak would have made short work of any tippet. Fishing solo, I hailed a couple of beachcombers on the otherwise deserted beach to get a few snaps before the blessed release.

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OTHER FLATS QUARRY The first fish you’ll see tailing on the lagoon flats as the tide rises is the little Silverbiddy. With their deep Bream-like bodies, big eyes and crazy extendible mouths, they feed in super-skinny water and take flies readily as they tail. They will also chase down flies stripped quickly in deeper water. They’re bycatch when chasing Bonefish, but fight hard and grow to around 50cm in Cocos waters. We caught them to over 40cm, and if you love to get your twig out, they would make ideal quarry on light rods. Triggerfish are all the rage elsewhere, and having caught them on Kiritimati I understand why. There are Triggers on Cocos but I only came across small specimens and nothing worth targeting, but a bit more exploring might uncover bigger fish. There are plenty of Trevally species, with GTs to XXXL size, Bluefin, Blue and Island Trevally among them. Milkfish are abundant on the flats and it took some time to start picking them from the Bones. Plenty of times I cast to a visible tail, only for the water to erupt and an entire school of fish exit the vicinity at warp speed. They were super spooky and I was too busy trying to catch Bonefish to put any time into figuring them out, but they’re around in numbers for those up for the challenge. And speaking of tricky, I’ve seen pics online of Permit from Cocos, likely Trachinotus Blochii, but we didn’t find any, though we did catch a few Common Dart.

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LAGOON AND BLUEWATER While we kept to the flats and beaches, out wider it’s a who’s-who of tropical sport fishing in the deeper bombie-studded waters of the lagoon and offshore Bluewater - Marlin, Sailfish, Swordfish, Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna, Dogtooth Tuna, GTs, Coral Trout, Maori Wrasse and more. Without any charter boats it’s really a case of having to get friendly with a local if you want to get out wide. We managed to elicit one offer of a trip offshore, but declined after the skipper explained his preference for heavy-duty handlines over other tackle. So that’ll have to wait for another trip. And I’m adamant there’ll be one of those, with so many more islands and opportunities to explore. Perhaps the world-class Bonefishing on our doorstep will prove to be just scratching the surface.

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Company on the outrigger Photo: Fraser Perry

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Picture perfect Permit Photo: Shaun Quinlan

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The Hinchinbrook Flyfishing Challenge of 2017 was to be number 20, which must have it the longest running saltwater fly event in Australia and a good indication of the strength of the northern Queensland fly fishing community, the Challenge was originally an idea of the Ingham Rod and Reel Club and more to the point Peter Mammino. The boys then handed the reins over to the Cairns Fly Club which folded a few years back and Jon (Snelly) Snell handed it over to the Townsville based club NQ Flyfishers. The Challenge has progressed over the years in rule changes and format to become a very well run and scored species based event. There is a list of species that can give the angler bonus points by capturing and photographing a specimen of 30cm or more. The idea creates as close to a level playing field as any, you can score only five of each species but the anglers scoring bonus points for multiple species are the ones to beat. Each different species of fish, over the first two, score you a huge bonus equal to catching approximately five decent fish. The species include Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Trevally, Queenfish, Flathead, Golden

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Trevally, Estuary Cod, Fingermark and of course Permit, any other fish can count in the score they just don’t hold bonus points. The Challenge in the last two years has become a national event attracting more than twenty teams of two anglers from Melbourne, Ballarat, South Australia and Brisbane. We are certain this event will attaract overseas anglers in the future. Troy Burbidge, one of the Townsville club members, fished the Del Brown Permit Tournament and brought back some good ideas to restructure the comp sponsorship program that changed the whole feel of the event for our competitors. Sponsors from all walks of life and from all over the country, came to the party when approached. Local guide company Australian Flyfishing Outfitters and tackle company Manic Tackle Project put their heads together along with many others from Airflo Fishing, Simms, Scott flyrods, Aquasoul Apparel,TFO, Headsox, C&F and more to supply an amazing amount to gear fill a grab bag which is handed to every angler competing in the event.

The format is two days of fishing, 7am to 5am, within the boundaries of the Hinchinbrook area and surrounds. This gives the 20 odd teams lots of options and opportunities to target multiple species. The rest is up to the weather and the fish. Hinchinbrook has a wide range of habitat to target multiple species. You can easily run into Mangrove Jack, Trevally, Queenfish, Flathead and Estuary Cod just by targeting Barramundi when the tide is up, and then search for pressure points, deep or shallow water and edges as the tide recedes. Back in the day it used to be Jon Snell’s name all over the trophy but these day’s the local born kid Dan Collins is the man chasing the Champion Angler glory. This year earning him a Scott Meridian Rod and a Harfin custom fly reel, quite the pick up for a little saltwater fly comp in far north Queensland. The weekend always runs super smooth thanks to the NQ Flyfishers crew, namely Richard Stanhope, Dan Collins, Rod Collings, Dave Little, Troy Burbidge and all the members and partners. The Challenge is a very social event with like minded folks getting out on the water, sharing a couple of drinks, telling a few tall tales about the one that got away and creating a saltwater fly fishing community along the way. The NQ Flyfishers Club website or Facebook page has all the information you need to check out the Challenge details for this year or to compete in 2018.

TOP: Dan Collins with a Permit CENTRE: Daniel Collins - Champion Angler 2017 centre, receiving his prizes BOTTOM: The fourth is the Champion Team - Al Simson left and Dave Bradley right, Richard Stanhope, Challenge Organiser, Centre

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A resident Hinchenbrook Mangrove Jack Photo: Shaun Quinlan

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The iconic Hinchinbrook Barramundi Photo: AFO Hinchinbrook Challenge

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TAILING LOOP Tyrannies A Saltwater Solution By Stephen Kimber

It can be said that fishing is essential to one’s wellbeing. (One of the regular fishing blogs I read has a fisher who claims fishing is not essential - it’s more important than that). One should strive to do it as often as one can: why? for the best of reasons. Fishing is good for the soul, it beats back depression, it puts you out into the world and it connects you with the natural. I know these are self-evident truths. So I have a confession to make. I’m not so good at going fishing when I should. Even perhaps when I need. Too many tyrannies intrude (don’t baulk at the word – work, family, other social obligations, books to be read - they tyrannise at times). Rather than fish, when I feel like I should get up and just go – I often don’t. In quiet moments, I might simply sit and remember any number of good times I’ve had fishing. But I don’t go anywhere near as often as I should. And thinking about fishing, while enjoyable, is never quite so good as the real thing… Since I’m confessing I may as well get to another matter, since I was a young man I have favoured fresh over salt. Maybe because I don’t eat much fish, maybe because it is kinder to one’s gear, maybe because I spend more than half my fishing time actually in the water. So… I’ve only recently come to fly fishing. Like most, out of ignorance, I associated fly fishing with fresh water and trout (or salmon, if you

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were lordly and able to afford a trip to Scotland or some such). Trout — never mind salmon — pose several problems to an angler based in Queensland, let me enumerate:

1. Tyranny of distance - even the New England area, arguably the most northerly of our fresh water fisheries featuring Salmo trutta, and thus closest to QLD, is a fair way off; more, certainly, than a lazy Sunday’s drive. The Snowy Mountains and Victoria are an even longer way off. Tassie seems as distant as Mars, and New Zealand, I suspect, exists in a parallel pisca-universe. I’ve heard rumours of trout in South America, but hey, that’s another continent, and the Northern hemisphere is, well, northern. 2. It’s apparently generally cold in trout-frequenting places and this seemingly involves the donning of large plasticky attire that must feel horribly unnatural to a person used to wading up a stream in shorts and a Tshirt. (Or, these days, wading tropical or sub-tropical salt water flats). 3. I own a certain unfamiliarity with trout and other salmonoids. I’ve caught a few on lures, it’s true, but... 4. While the allure of trout remains undeniable I am just a fly newbie, a learner. I need to target species I know. 5. Did I mention the tyranny of distance? Like most fishers I’ve got my favourite spots. Most of them are in North Queensland, even Far North Queensland… (Sounds a long way from trout, doesn’t it?) I caught my first fresh water fish on fly about four plus years ago on a stream about 18 degrees south of the equator. It was a Sooty Grunter (Hephaestus fuliginosus). It took a pink and white clouser on a number four hook

and came rushing out from beneath a log. Dark water, nothing there you can see but you just know it’s a fish lie, and then out it comes in a rush. Bang. Sooties are not often subtle. You remember your first. In case you’d forgotten, salt water crocodiles inhabit many northern waters. This is a species you want to avoid when wading a creek. Most waters accessible from the road in North Queensland and likely to hold a croc or two are so signposted. I take a signposted stream very seriously when I want to wade the water - and don’t. Most of the creeks I fish lie in rainforest country. There are no crocodile warning signs. They are tributaries of bigger creeks or rivers which may, and probably do these days, hold crocs. Crocodiles go where the food is, this means bigger waters. So I push up a kilometre or two above junctions with bigger waters. I know most of these little streams from years of fishing them and have friends in the national parks service who tell me they are not big enough to hold a salty. Still, like the animal itself, the thought that a croc may lie in some dark hole remains submerged in my consciousness. It does so whenever I fish north of about Gladstone (courtesy of global climate change I may need to move that cut-off line a little further south each year). Recent rumour has it that a croc over three and a half meters has moved into a hole on one of the creeks I fish every year. I intend to fish it when I go back up that way soon but there is no greater tyranny than being eaten. It makes me a little more reluctant to go north and fish that particular creek. And, though I always go back up that way (just to fish, remember it’s essentialness), it’s become too far to engage with this Homo sapien’s desire (is it a need?) to fish with at least some regularity. I now live in Southeast Queensland, so tyranny of distance rears its ugly head again. The fly fisher has, I realised not so long ago, a solution to most of the above problems. Salt water and flies, salt water and Flathead, salt water and Bream, and Barra, and Jacks, and Permit (am I permitted?- snub nose dart), and maybe even GT. Salt water abounds wherever you have a coast. Australia has a lot of coast –

over 25,000 kilometres, making it the 6th longest coastline in the world. Thus, apart from the poor folk living in the middle of this vast land (and that is not too large a percentage – sorry oh ye forgotten minority), pretty much all of us can dabble, hopefully with a fly rod (I’ve now decided) in salt water. And much of it is unpopulated by crocodilians. (Sharks, for some reason, do not bother my atavism anywhere near so much.) A little over two and a half years ago I bought a #8WT to add to the #6WT I had (and the #4WT I’d actually made), equipped it with an intermediate line, and figured I’d go fish the salt with a guide in hobies. I crafted some fuzzlie things, made more clousers in different colours, bought some saltwater flies from somewhere and got ready to go on a coolish weekday morning down to what is pretty much my nearest bit of coast. I live inland a little so it was a drive of just over 100kms to a place near the Broadwater, where I met the guide (let’s call him Dave)… I took the #6WT with a floating line and the #8WT. He had two hobies ready at the water’s edge. He fished with lures – Dave caught more than me. It was the first time I’d used a hobie. and now I own one, so that was obviously a plus. We pedalled and drifted with current and pulled up on sandbars and waded. I was loving it, even if the fishing was a bit slow… The tide did its “switching fish on thing” and I hooked and brought in a small Flathead. I was wading, roll casting (sort of), and working the drop off where current came in. The Flatty was hooked on a good old clouser, accounting for another first. I caught two more Flathead that day, and dropped two more (distracted, looking at birds one time, or just too slow). I had a look from a feisty (but obviously intelligent) Bream in clean water near a snag over by a little island somewhere. He even gave the fuzzlie thing a kind of tap – a ‘do better with your presentation next time’ admonition. Ah, memories… I loved it, and I’d solved a problem, have solved it since, though not so often as I’d like. Or need. That’s the problem with tyrants – they have a habit of coming back.

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A flats acrobat, the Queenfish Photo: AFO Hinchinbrook Challenge

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A superb St Brandons Bonefish Photo: FlyCastaway

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Final Offering

From the editor

Issue 4 has been a revelation. The support we have been given over in he past 12 months has been truly inspiring and what keeps me motivated to keep going. Saltwater fly fishing, although in my opinion very much still in its infancy to some degree in Australia, has grown incredibly in the last few years and this magazine is testament to that. When I first set out to start this journey I was greeted with an uncertain but mostly positive response to how a dedicated saltwater fly magazine would be received. Now, I think we are starting to gain some real momentum in the saltwater world and I can only attribute that to our fantastic contributions, written and photographic. Without which we would not be where we are today. Our readership grows exponentially with every new edition reaching some far off shores and distant waters. Hopefully our stories not only shed an insight to the various destinations our contributors visit but also help lift the veil of what fly fishing, to us, is all about. It is about having fun, good mates and the true enjoyment that comes out of catching fish on fly. Although it may not be for everyone we do challenge you to promote your craft and help those willing to learn. As I sit here in this “cosy” airplane seat on my way to tie the biggest knot of my life (get married) I can’t help think about the fishing that lies ahead. Yes I am going to get married to the love of my life but what kind of fly fisherman would I be if I hadn’t sussed out the local fishery of my final destination. Cape Town, South Africa has huge Yellowfin Tuna and Kingfish (yellowtail as the locals know them) which are at the top of my list and I hope to get the fish I have been dreaming about on fly for sometime now, a 40+kg Tuna on fly! As always thank you for reading our publication we hoped you enjoyed it as much as we did. Thank you to all our incredible contributors with out which like I said none of this would be possible. Thanks also to all our advertisers new and old we are super stoked to have you all on board and look forward to this continuing journey together. In closing please practise catch and release as often as possible helping sustain our incredible fisheries and those that we visit. Be sure to like us on Instagram and Facebook. Sign up to our newsletter to get this publication delivered direct to your inbox and also stay up to date with what we’re up to. Till next time, stay vertical amigos! Justin Webber Editor & Publisher

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Issue 4 Out Now - Issue 4 is here which marks one year of In The Salt! Hard to believe it just started out as compilation of a few stories f...


Issue 4 Out Now - Issue 4 is here which marks one year of In The Salt! Hard to believe it just started out as compilation of a few stories f...