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ISSUE#10 // WINTER ‘19

The Chill dude INTERVIEW WITH JEFF CURRIER

FLATS BLOWOUT Mickey “Finn” Shanahan

Bitter Sweet Bahamas Christiaan Pretorius

gHOSTS OF BELIZE Katka Švagrová

THE Pilbara

Matthew “Cranky” Crnojlovic

A L S O I N C L UDE D / / TI E ‘ N FLY BOX // STU FF YOU N EED


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TEN CONTENTS

12. FLATS BLOWOUT MICKEY “FINN” SHANAHAN

70. SPECIES SPOTLIGHT SAND WHITING

28. BITTER SWEET BAHAMAS CHRISTIAAN PRETORIUS

77. STUFF YOU NEED FLY FISHING GOODIES

46. THE CHILL DUDE INTERVIEW WITH JEFF CURRIER

78. GHOSTS OF BELIZE KATKA ŠVAGROVÁ

60. THE TIE ‘N FLY BOX THE BEACH BUG

92. THE PILBARA MATTHEW “CRANKY” CRNOJLOVIC

Poling to perfection Photo: Christiaan Pretorius

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Time to hit the flats! Photo: Al Simson

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THE ED JUSTIN WEBBER THE ADS JUSTIN WEBBER THE EYE JUSTIN WEBBER THE WORDS JUSTIN WEBBER DAN CALLISON CONTRIBUTORS MICKEY “FINN” SHANAHAN CHRISTIAAN PRETORIUS JEFF CURRIER KATKA ŠVAGROVÁ MATTHEW “CRANKY” CRNOJLOVIC DEBORAH PLATZ GAVIN PLATZ DR. JULIAN PEPPERELL PHOTOGRAPHY AL SIMSON MICKEY “FINN” SHANAHAN WILL GRAHAM CHRISTIAAN PRETORIUS KATKA ŠVAGROVÁ MATTHEW “CRANKY” CRNOJLOVIC GRAEME COX PARTRICK DUKE SUBMISSIONS IN THE SALT WELCOMES ALL SUBMISSIONS, CONTENT OR PHOTOS. WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO PUBLISH THE ARTICLE OR CONTENT. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS MAGAZINE ARE NOT ALWAYS OF THE MAGAZINE OR ITS OWNERS. IT IS ILLEGAL TO COPY OR REPRODUCE THIS MAGAZINE. CONTACT US

info@inthesaltflymag.com.au www.inthesaltflymag.com.au

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ISSUE #10

IN THE SALT

FLY FISHING MAGAZINE WE HAVE REACHED DOUBLE FIGURES!! Issue TEN is here and what a milestone it is for us! Considering it’s issue ten we had to pack it full of fly stoke...so here goes! Mickey “Finn” Shanahan gives us the low down on what options you have in Gladstone when the flats get blown out. Christiaan Pretorius give us a look into his life and what it takes to manage the famous Abaco lodge in the Bahamas. We sit down with Jeff Currier and find out what makes him tick and what he’s up to these days. Katka Švagrová ventured to Belize in search of the famous flats Grand Slam this is what happened. Gavin Platz ties up Nick Curcione’s famous Beach Bug fly. Ever wanted to venture to the Pilbara? Matthew “Cranky” Crnojlovic gives us his experience of life in the Pilbara and what you can expect from the plethora of fly fishing options. Dr. Julian Pepperell talks Sand Whiting in our species spotlight.

our incredible contributors without which 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 continuing this journey together. Please sit back, relax and enjoy this issue of IN THE SALT a fly fishing magazine dedicated to saltwater fly fishing and travel. Our amazing cover shot by Will Graham contributed by Christiaan Pretorius gives a birds eye view of one of the many flats fished by the team at Abaco Lodge in the Bahamas. CALLING ALL WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS. We are always on the look out for fun, engaging stories to share with our readers so if you have something to write about please send it to info@inthesaltflymag.com.au. After all, besides hitting the water and practising, thats how we all learn.

As always, thank you for reading our publication we hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Thank you to all

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FLATS

BLOW-OUT

EVERY ANGLER DREAMS OF PERFECT DAYS ON THE FLATS. BLUE SKIES, CLEAN WATER AND TAILING FISH AS FAR AS YOU CAN SEE. IF YOU’RE ANYTHING LIKE ME YOU SPEND THE MAJORITY OF YOUR TIME THINKING ABOUT THE FLATS, BUILDING IT UP IN YOUR MIND, PUTTING TOGETHER EVERY DETAIL, AND SEEING YOURSELF THERE (ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S -10 AND SNOWING).

Words and photos by Mickey “Finn” Shanahan You may be stuck in traffic, behind a desk or feigning your way through an in-depth conversation with a loved one; in your mind though you’re far away on white sand, laying out the perfect cast to a monster Permit. Eventually you let these images take control of you, and your credit card, book a trip or rig up your boat and take off to an Aussie flat with massive expectations. You’ve swindled the time off, you’ve checked the forcast for your dates, put together all your gear and tied all your crabs and shrimp. You finally get where you’re going, after two or three planes or a long, long drive, you step off the plane/out of your car and… your standing in 30knot wind and driving rain; welcome to reality. Now instead of breaking down and crying for hours then going home (by all means go have a little cry first to get it out of your system), and here is what you do to make the most of a flats-fishing blow out.

PREPARATION PREVENTS PISS-POOR PERFORMANCE Now before your trip even starts,

you want to give yourself the best chance of flats success. Do everything you possibly can to give yourself as many good flats days as possible. Book the best tides and the best weather that you can for as many days as you can afford. You’re aiming for multiple shots. If you want one glory day catching fish, be prepared to book or plan at least three full days. Picking the best season changes from location to location, so stop what you’re doing at work, if your boss doesn’t understand then quit, and start researching. If you only have a limited amount of time, make it worthwhile. Pick the absolute peaks if you can afford them, there is a reason that some periods are so popular or expensive. Finally, and least importantly, start tying flies and prepping gear. Timing is everything. Yes, you want to have gear and flies ready, but probably better to spend that extra money on another guided day or more fuel than a spanking new rod if you’ve already got something that gets the job done. Not that gear isn’t important (more on gear later) it’s just ranked so far behind timing that it’s not even in the same field. Now you’ve done

all that prep and planning and the worst happens. There’s a freak event or perhaps you could only make the second or third best times work and you have just seen the usual bit of gnarly weather come in - don’t panic - just re-adjust. Depending on where you are, one of the best things about being an Australian saltwater fly fisherman is that there are usually back up options near by. This was cemented to me on a recent Gladstone trip that I took in early May. My aim was to hit the first of the consistent winter weather and the best tides, get out on the flats for as many days as possible, and try to tick off a Permit or a big Golden. Being a southern Trout and Murray Cod guide, I had to come in very early May before my peak end of season pick up. Although the weather looked good for at least three of the five days I was planning to fish, there was always a chance some scrappy stuff could show up, and it did. One aspect of being prepared for a flats trip is being prepared to never get to the flats at all, hope for the best but expect the worst. In reality early May is still a shoulder season for flats

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fishing in Gladstone, but again I have to get to places when I get time off from my guiding in the Snowy Mountains. This particular week suited me and my mate Justin Nye from Gladstone Fly and Sportfishing. I knew there would be a wide range of eventualities that could keep us off the flats, I had a similar trip in April last year. So although the flats were the aim, I was prepared to drive or run to different locations and it being only my second trip to the area, I was keen to see what else the Gladstone region had to offer. I not only brought spare rods, as you usually do, I also brought lighter rods, sinking lines and tied boxes of flies that weren’t just flats related. I did cheat and bring my Goodoo box for Barra, pretty much the same difference.

DAY 1 Barra were our first target as it turned out. The weather for the first day was always going to be a little rough so Barra were the best bet. If there is an obvious bad weather forcast and a run to the flats is pointless, then don’t pray for a miracle and waste a day in 20 knots and cloud. One of the best things about Gladstone is that Awoonga Dam is usually always

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an option. It’s super close and convenient. There’s a massive amount of different structure to fish in any wind direction and it has lots of sheltered points and bays. Also Awoonga has lots and lots of fish. It is still a fishery on the rebound, it hasn’t reached the point that it was fishing before it went over the dam, but it is on it’s way back. There are lots of fish from the previous few releases in the 60-80 cm mark, but there are still big fish as well. Because we had the whole day we went to various places that held fish multiple times in a day. With the moon, tide, weather and bait concentrations all being factors in Barra feeding, it’s worth it once you find solid concentrations of fish to come back to them under different conditions. We had one 45 minute bite window when we probably got a dozen eats and landed four fish. We were re-fishing structure that we’d found fish on previously in the day, and during a short period of glass out and sun they ate everything. I’m used to these bite windows because they are the same as Murray Cod, so I don’t mind nailing a specific structure point over and over, knowing that the fish will eventually turn on. With a whole day on Awoonga you can expect results as long as you actually go looking for fish. We

saw a few guys with good sounders fishing the windward side of the bay we were on even though there wasn’t a single fish on it. Don’t rely on previous folklore or general knowledge. A blown-out flats day can be used to hone in on something that you might not usually do. Treat it as an educational bonus day and don’t pressure yourself with results too much, just aim to find a solid patch of fish and get the eat, that’s a little victory.

DAY 2 Although the bad weather had subsided there was still a pretty big swell kicking around, so Justin and I made a quick run out wide to see whether it would be worth getting over to the flat. It was pretty obviously dangerous even in Justin’s Galeforce, and he made the call to run up the Boyne instead and get a few species on the board. The Boyne is a fun little system that has plenty of Jacks, baby GT’s and little Queenies, as well as all the usual suspects. For me though, Tarpon are the real stand out in this system. Having a #7WT and not just my #9 and #10WT flats rods made the day. Having packs of fish feeding on jelly prawns on the surface led


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to some really exciting fishing and having never caught Tarpon before it was a really awesome flats consolation prize. The bust offs and jump offs alone on my light #7WT were enough to keep any large child, like myself, entertained for hours. Funnily enough, my American mates immediately started messaging me, most of them not realising that we had Tarpon here. Even after I explained that they don’t get as big as their’s I still have a few mates who’d be just as keen to come over and spend a day targeting them if their flat gets blownout. This makes sense as there are whole guiding seasons built around juvenile Tarpon in places like Cuba or Mexico. Perhaps the international appeal of these fish is undervalued in Australia. I’d like to hear any opinion from saltwater guides who have had experience with international clients on these fish. The Tarpon are reliable and varied, you can chase the bigger ones further down the system feeding in massive schools on a #7WT,

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or you can go right up to the top of the feeding system with a #5WT and catch a silver bullet that pulls string and jumps like a big boy. Really you can’t get a much more willing eater when the flats are a no-go. After the tide change we made another quick run to Awoonga where we were going “hero or zero” for a big Barra, a school of which we’d marked up the day before. We spent the rest of the afternoon harassing one school of big fish. I got one bite that didn’t stick, even though it sucked down the entire bite leader. If I had stuck a big Barra that would have been a remarkable day right there, and I probably wouldn’t have missed the flats, too badly…

DAY 3 By this point the weather was still looking marginal for the flats but we decided to risk it for the biscuit, as it didn’t look like improving the following day. On the run to the flat we

ended up finding some early morning Queenies in the channel. We couldn’t get an eat and didn’t want to waste flats time but as a plus we located where they’d be feeding the next few days. This was one aspect of flats fishing that I thought was useful, using runs to the flat to explore. Rather than just flat sticking it from A to B, we cut a little wider and in turn set ourselves up with a backup. We could have even explored a creek or two on the way or followed up a patch of birds that weren’t that far of course; might as well kill two birds with one stone. Although the tide and water clarity were pretty good, the wind and sun were definitely not ideal. We did manage to spot one fish in the heavy glare close to the boat. It was tough to tell if it was a Permit or a Golden, but after getting some pretty good presentations and no eat, we called it for a Permit, so we chalked up one possible Permit shot. Then on the next flat we picked out a big Golden feeding, identified by the


I N T H E S A LT water it was moving and a quick tail wave. The harsh glare and light chop made it tough to track though. We’d spot an occasional tail moving fast and try to position the boat ahead of it but we never got a decent shot. If only we’d been lucky and received a clear patch of sun we could have had an entirely different result. Still it was worth the run and a doughnut for a shot at a Permit and a big Golden.

DAY 4 It’s always disheartening when the weather forcast changes mid-trip. The last three days were meant to be perfect, but conditions steadily swung the other way as a big low settled over the region. We were looking at driving rain and an almost total white out for our second to last day, not ideal flats weather. On the upside, although the rain and cloud picked up, the wind dropped off and we ended up with a pretty good glass out. Justin made the call to swing

down to the flats, just in case, and then go wide in a big circle back to the harbour looking for Tuna. There are a ton of Longtail and Mack tuna moving around Gladstone in May and luckily in these grey and wet conditions, when the flats are at their worst, the Tuna can be at their best. We ran to the flats, called it instantly with the visibility, then went wide looking for the best birds and bait balls that we could find. By doing the usual approach of getting upwind and drifting into the hefty packs of feeding Tuna we had some awesome visual fishing. You can spend a whole day chasing schools around, waiting for the smaller schools to merge into feeding frenzies and catch insane numbers. Or you can attempt to single out the big Longtails from the smaller Longies and Macks and go for a trophy. Either way you’ll get multiple shots at big keg Tuna on tiny baitfish patterns and floating lines. We weren’t just looking for birds either, by watching waves closely for

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flashes you could actually cast at free swimming fish that weren’t on bait yet. One of my best eats came from a big Mack that attacked the fly repeatedly on top before crunching it and screaming off without a bird in sight. Although it wasn’t a flat, that eat is still what I came for. Sure, we might have been in 40 meters of water, not two feet, but sight fishing to a big fish, seeing an eat and listening to a blistering run were all aspects of the flats fishing experience I was chasing that I got to enjoy that day in the deep.

THE FINAL DAY All our prayers and blood/beer sacrifices came together on the last day and it looked like we’d have perfect weather for the flats. Before the sun rose though we went to chase some Queenies using the information we’d picked up on our previous run to make sure we were on the money. After a super-short run, we came up on Queenies busting up like crazy in

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REFLECTIONS/LESSONS The main thing to keep in mind when planning a flats trip are your expectations and the reality of the fishery. Do your research, get to know the area and it’s key times and you won’t be disappointed as a travelling angler. A good fly guide that will give it to you straight and give you back-up options as part of a trip is a massive bonus. Planning not just around when the best flats options will be, but when there will be other options, is a good move if you have limited time. Because of my guiding season, my trip was timed during a shoulder season for the flats. There are definitely great days to be had and we had shots that could have made the trip a flats success, but realistically the consistent winter weather was not there yet on this trip. You sometimes have to take what you can get. Luckily the Barra are there year-round, as are the Tarpon and other estuary species. The Tuna happen to turn up in these shoulder seasons too and they were the real bonus aspect of the trip. Ideally, I’ll be back to Gladstone in mid-winter, with glass outs and clear skies. Although the final option of drinking beer is always fun, you don’t want it to be the only one. Afterall, you’re there to catch fish. So if you need to make the most of an off-peak or freak event that blows out your flats trip, look for an area that has variety and be prepared. Do it enough and eventually you’ll get the flats day of your dreams, and in the meantime, as long as you are prepared, open minded and realistic, there’s tons of great fishing to be had. You might just discover a new fishery you’d never even dreamed about.

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The Essentia

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al protection you must have.

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With camo like that its easy to see why they are called the ghosts of the flats! Photo: Al Simson

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Say “cheeeeeeeeese” Photo: Katka Švagrová

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Bitter Sweet

Bahamas W H AT I T TA K E S T O M A N A G E A F LY FISHING LODGE IN THE BAHAMAS

Words & photos by Christiaan Pretorius Photos by Will Graham

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After a couple of seasons under my belt guiding in the Seychelles, it became evident to me that one of the biggest perks of doing what I do are the people I get to meet along the way. I have made some lifelong friends while guiding, friends of all different age groups, friends from different nationalities, and friends who share the same passion for fishing and conservation.

One of those friends was no other than Oliver White, a true role model for most of us in the industry. He is the perfect example of someone trying to make a difference in the world through fly fishing. Starting out as a guide himself, Oliver spent his winters in Argentina and his summers out west, more specifically Wyoming, guiding for trout. He too made the most of his connections and was given the opportunity to work on Wall Street during one of his seasons guiding in Tierra Del Fuego. After a couple of years in the urban jungle he realized that it was not his calling, and he went back to pursuing his dream in the fly fishing industry. In a short time Oliver had, with some help from others, found a little slice of heaven on the beautiful Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Together with the partner company Nervous Waters, Oliver created what is known today as Abaco Lodge something truly unique and special in the fly fishing and lodging community. It was during my fourth season guiding on St Brandon’s Atoll in the Indian Ocean when I met Oliver, who was hosting another group there at the same time. All the guides were very excited to finally meet the man of legendary propor-

tions. Well, let’s just say the fishing wasn’t the best by St Brandon’s standards that week, but it really didn’t matter, as the friendships established were more valuable than anything. We managed to stay in touch over the next couple of years while I was guiding on Astove Atoll in the Seychelles. In 2014, my wife Lindi started to work and travel the world with me, which to this day is the highlight of my career. Being able to share these remote destinations with your special person is just such a privilege. Fast forward to late 2015 when I reached out to Oliver to check in and catch up. He told me about Abaco Lodge and mentioned how they might be looking for a new managing couple to take over in 2016. He planted a seed, and that seed kept growing throughout my guiding season. Lindi and I went through the pros and cons and went back and forth with our decision. Since she was also well qualified to manage the logistical side of the lodge, we finally decided that it was a good time for a change of scenery and started the interview process. We started the application for the work visas and we finally managed to get everything in order to allow

us to “move” to the Bahamas. Not a bad place to call home! I finished my guiding stint in the Russian Far East (Kamchatka) where Oliver hosted yet another group of clients. This presented us with the perfect opportunity for he and I to talk about the management position and what it entailed. A couple of shots of vodka around a campfire was the perfect setting for going through everything, and the excitement started to creep in. Directly after my guiding stint in Russia, Lindi joined me in Miami and we headed over to the Bahamas. Upon arrival at the airport, Velma and Travis - two rock star employees of Abaco Lodge - welcomed us. Velma is an enthusiastic Bahamian who helped Oliver from day one, ten years ago. She is very well connected on the island and her excellent work ethic and friendly attitude do not go unnoticed by the guests. Travis on the other hand, pretty much grew up guiding under guidance from his father Harley, who is still a guide to this day over at our sister lodge, Bairs’s Lodge, on Andros Island. Travis’s infectious laugh and passion for fly fishing and guiding makes him a well-known name in the guiding industry.

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I guess most people know him by his Instagram handle “flats phantom.” Others know him as “Hollywood” or “Smiley.” Whatever it may be, he is a true asset to the lodge and forms part of our great guide team. After the warm welcome and a short ten minute drive from the airport, we entered the gates of Abaco Lodge. The red building was a familiar sight, having seen pictures of it before our arrival. A quick walk around the property and we quickly realized we had a lot of work ahead of us to get the lodge ready for opening week which was five days away. The next couple of days were all guns blazing with help from all the staff to get the lodge clean and get everything set up. We had the dock to put in, the boats to prepare, food and drinks to be stocked up - the list was long. With the help of everyone we managed to get the lodge in shape and ready for the arrival of our first guests. The day before the scheduled arrival we received a call from Oliver, who was deep in the Bolivian jungle hosting another trip, notifying us of a big tropical depression moving our way and that we should keep an eye on it. Well, in a nutshell, we had to cut the first week short by three days. We had to take the dock back out, move

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all the furniture indoors and shutter up the entire building. Hurricane Matthew was on it’s way … Thankfully, the storm passed and did hardly any damage to the property - the total loss was one broken palm tree. We went through the same process as the week before and unpacked everything again. During this process I forgot that we had taken out the dock lights and placed them in the rod rack, which resulted in me burning down half the dock. Let’s just say it’s not the way you want to start a new fishing season. The next phone call to Oliver was something along these lines: Me: “Uhm, I burnt down the rod rack and a section of the dock.” Oliver: “I didn’t like that rod rack anyway!” Me: “Dude, all these issues, is it ever going to end?” Oliver : “Hell no, it’s just going to become normal to you brother.” Those honest words truly stuck with us over the following years. We have now come to realize that most of the issues are really small and fixable, and for the most part there are qualified people here on the island to help out.


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It’s one thing managing a lodge in your home country, surrounded by your own people and in your own well-known language. Managing a lodge in a foreign country and working together with different nationalities and customs is completely different on so many levels. I think we were fortunate to have had a lot of experience working in foreign countries before coming over to the Bahamas and ultimately that experience helped prepare us for the task. Maybe you have realized that I have not once spoken about the fishing opportunities out here? Well, welcome to the life of a lodge manager! All jokes aside, the size of this fishery and how unpressured it is, really blew me away. With all the research we did before coming over here we were prepared for a Bone fishery. My friends, Abaco has so much more to offer! Over the past three years we have seen more and more Permit fish on the flats, or should I say we have been looking for them a little more? I soon realized the potential of Abaco as a trophy Permit fishery. It’s a bold statement to make, I know, but the amount of shots do not do the numbers of fish landed justice. Three years

into managing the lodge I will not let a boat head out without being ready for Permit, that’s the least we could do right? When we started out here in 2016, we averaged about 3-4 Permit per season which is over a stretch of nine months. During 2017/18 we managed to land 5 Permit for the season and for this last season we are currently on 24 Permit. With these statistics we are super excited about what the future holds for this fishery. Then again we haven’t even talked about the true hero of this fishery, Bonefish. It’s hard to imagine that a fishery only an hour’s flight away from Miami could be as untouched and unpressured as these flats we fish on the west side of Abaco. Our playground consists of 245 square miles of water averaging out to two feet deep - Bonefish nirvana perhaps? We pride ourselves on making everyone feel at home here. Even if you’ve never tried fly fishing before, we welcome you. If you are 91 years old and want to try saltwater fly fishing for the first time, we welcome you. We honestly cater for anyone, and for the most part we have met great

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people and made new friends out here. Like most things in life, it is not always sunshine and roses, but that is very much true in managing a lodge anywhere in the world. My first love remains fly fishing and unfortunately as a manager my days on the water are few and far between, but still more than enough to keep me sane. Let me guess, you thought I had the luxury of fishing every day? Haha! Instead, I have become a very capable handy man able to do electrical wiring, plumbing work, boat mechanics, gardening, carpentry and my cooking skills have improved vastly. It is for this exact reason that we signed up for this job. We have grown immensely over the past three years and will leave here WAY MORE skilled than when we arrived. On the other hand, when things go wrong - and trust me, they will – the managers can quickly turn into punching bags if they don’t learn how to defuse frustrations and conflict. Running a lodge of this caliber takes a team of hard working individuals that all contribute in their own special way to make this lodge a bucket list destination.

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The team includes: Marie who comes in at 4 AM to start baking bread; Cialin who keeps the property in shape; David who uses his culinery skills to keep the guests well fed; Clement our electrician and of course all the guides who push skiffs around for nine months straight. Everyone plays a major role in the success of this lodge. It’s a team effort.

And now our time has come to move on to the next adventure. We have been living this nomad lifestyle for eight years now and we feel the pull from Africa more than ever before. Namibia will be home for us from August 2019 onwards and we look forward to start a life closer to family and friends. My fly fishing adventures will continue and I will probably travel more than ever before, but I look forward to a more balanced lifestyle with a secure home base.

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Managing Abaco Lodge has been one of the coolest, as well as one of the most challenging, experiences that we have ever had. But we will leave as better and stronger individuals, looking forward to the next exciting chapter of our lives!

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Where beach meets bush we fish! Photo: Will Graham

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PHOTO COMPETITION

CONGRATS Louis Jones YOU have won the 1st Trophy Shots Photo Comp with your submission - “GT ON FLY” Click the button below to submit your entry. Its so easy! All you have to do is upload a photo and you go into the draw to win a custom photo print to hang on your wall for years of bragging rights!

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WORDS & PHOTOS BY JEFF CURRIER

The Chill dude

WE WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO GET JEFF BETWEEN HIS E P I C T R I P S A N D F I N D W H AT M A K E S H I M T I C K . THIS IS HIS STORY

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Jeff Currier is somewhat of an enimga in the fly fishing world. No doubt everyone reading this has at one time or another read one of Jeff’s tales into the unknown. He’s a self professed junky for new species to target on fly and no stranger to the seminar circut where he gives insight into fly fishing, travel, casting, art and more. We handed Jeff a bunch of questions and this rest is his story.

WHO IS JEFF CURRIER? I’m a pretty chill dude that calls Victor, Idaho home. I’ve been fly fishing a hell of a long time starting with growing up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire chasing warm water fish species. In 1987 I moved to Idaho for the amazing trout fishing. These days I find myself traveling far from Idaho to fly fish more than I ever imagined. I’ve presently fished in 62 countries and caught over 400 species of fish on the fly. When I was young I never thought there would be fishing travel in my life. My dad and I dreamt of a trip to New Zealand together but such travel was something folks with money did. But in my 20’s I worked up the courage to load up a backpack with a few rods and ride the busses through Central America. That trip worked out like a dream and I gradually learned the ropes of budget travel. By the time I was 30 I’d fished in more than 20 countries and was damn good at DIY fishing around the world. No doubt my passion is mixing fly fishing with travel. Nowadays I get invited to fish incredible places and I don’t ride the local busses as much. I miss that part to an extent. What hasn’t changed however is my love of catching new species of fish on the fly. Indeed, I like the top game fish of the world, but any cool new fish I run across gets me excited. To make a few bucks I’m a guest speaker at numerous national fly fishing shows in the US during winter months. I entertain and teach seminars at fly fishing clubs throughout the US and Canada. I love sharing what I’ve learned in fly fishing and my experiences around the planet. I also paint fish and write an article on occasion. I’m the author of two books. Best of all I’m an ambassador for some of the best companies in fly fishing – Yellow Dog Flyfishing, Simms, R.L. Winston, Scientific Anglers, Costa Sunglasses, Bauer Fly Reels and Yeti. Back to your original question – Jeff Currier is the luckiest fly fisherman on earth and in 1996 I took my dad to New Zealand – backpacker style!

HOW WERE YOU INTRODUCED INTO FLY FISHING? My dad was a big fly fisherman. In fact one of my grandfathers was too (ironically not my dad’s father). Starting at about age three dad set me up with a worm and bobber. Like any kid I loved watching that bobber bounce and had a lot of success with the local Sunfish and the occasional Bass. However, I couldn’t help but notice dad’s interesting method of fishing. It looked more fun than mine. When I was five dad and I hit opening day of Trout season on the Ipswich River in Topsfield, Massachusetts. I was drifting worms in the current and he was stripping various wet flies. Let’s just say dad smoked me that day. Seriously, I remember it well. I caught one Rainbow Trout and he caught about 20. Sure, like any good dad he let me reel them in, but I was ticked and he knew it. That Christmas I got a telescoping fly rod with reel and line. I struggled that next summer like any six year old would, learning to cast while losing flies. It was so frustrating at times that I even went as far as to fish worms on my fly rod. Luckily our neighborhood was loaded with Pumpkinseed Sunfish. Those little fellas are so forgiving that I managed to catch them. They kept my interest and by the time I was seven I was fly fishing whenever I could.

WHAT ARE YOUR THREE FAVORITE LOCATIONS? This is one of the toughest questions I answer. I have about ten favorites and the order of them changes, often based on how much I’m craving a certain fish or landscape. Right now I’d have to say number one is chasing the Sunfish family around my childhood stomping grounds of New Hampshire. I spent every summer as a kid in Wolfeboro, NH on Lake Winnipesaukee. Its where fishing all began for me. I fished Bass, Bluegill, Bullhead and Landlocked Salmon. It was paradise and though the fishing has gone downhill some, its still great. Hands down what I like the most is that its easy, relaxing, safe, close to home – something I can’t say about my other two favorites.

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My second favorite is Africa. I won’t pinpoint a fish (although I love Tigerfish and Nile Perch) or a specific country (recently I was in Cameroon and it was unreal!) but rather the whole Africa fly fishing experience. Much of Africa is still wild and untouched. There’s always adventure to be had with many uncertainties from unexpected wildlife encounters to travel hindrances. It’s one of the few places left where when fishing you are truly living on the edge. My third favorite is the Indian Ocean. I’ve been lucky to fish the Seychelles a couple times as well as the Red Sea and St. Brandon’s Atoll a few times. Though I catch tons of interesting species in the Amazon, the Indian Ocean always provides a new Grouper or Snapper to admire. And then there’s the big time game fish from GT’s to Bumphead Parrots. These fish are challenging from fooling them to eat a fly all the way to landing them. Furthermore the Indian Ocean is a beautiful place. I need to toss out a fourth favorite because how can I not love the Amazon? The Amazon has so many different species of fish that I go crazy. Whether it’s the different types of Peacock Bass or Piranhas you never know what you’ll catch. The rainforest is also pristine and beautiful. There are some sketchy critters there but the forest is so dense you need to be lucky to see them. I addition to fishing I’m a bit of a bird nerd and the Amazon provides 24 hours a day.

FAVORITE SPECIES? I get this question almost daily and everyone expects me to toss out Tigerfish or Peacock Bass or Permit or some other big time species. I love all these amazing fish but my favorite fish comes from my favorite place to fish. It’s a fish that isn’t too hard, but not too easy to catch. They get good size. The topwater fishing for them is incredible. And they were the first serious species of fish I ever caught and learned to get good at catching. I love the Smallmouth Bass.

MOST MEMORABLE FISH CAUGHT? Hands down my most memorable fish caught was a 27lb Golden Mahseer on

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the Ramganga River in India in 2008. It was my second adventure in India. The first trip in 2002 was three months long and I did not catch one. Honestly, when I went home from that first trip I wrote the Mahseer off – it wasn’t going to happen because that trip to India beat me up so bad – local busses and trains along with some lovely stomach issues. I was done there. But I ended up back as a guest of my friend, Misty Dhillon. The Giant Mahseer came about six days into the 2008 trip. Misty was guiding my friend and I was with one of Misty’s camphands and guide. I spotted this fish and it looked so big we thought it might be a rock. Long story short I hooked him swinging a size 8 sculpin pattern. The fight was insane and it’s a miracle I landed him. We got a few pics. I knew it was a monster so I got the length and put him on the Boga (A tool I no longer use to weigh fish). He was 48” and 27lbs and later became the IGFA catch and release record. So catching this fish was magnificent but that afternoon I came within one step of being eaten by a Bengal tiger. It’s a long but incredible story. I can only tell the story around the campfire with a few beers. Honestly just telling the story terrifies me every time.

WHAT DOES A CALENDAR YEAR LOOK LIKE AND WHAT’S COMING UP THIS YEAR? No doubt from afar it looks as if all I do is fish, but I give more than 40 presentations a year. Most of these take place in January, February and early March. In the spring my fishing travels start. I might hit the salt a couple times, sometimes far away. I also Trout fish at home and Smallmouth Bass fish somewhere. My fall season is about the same, usually it involves a jungle trip of some sort. Left on this year’s books is a trip to Canada for Pike in two weeks. In September I’m headed to Brazil with my friends that own Untamed Angling. And in December I’m hosting a Yellow Dog Adventures trip to Providence in the Seychelles. This trip is a custom so I’ll be there for eleven days. Then a stop in Dubai to fish Queenies with my friend Nick Bowles on the way home.


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RISE AND FALL OF DESTINATIONS? I’ll start by being positive with a rise. Let’s take the Snake River in Jackson, Wyoming. When I arrived on the scene in 1987 big Cutthroats were hard to come by and numbers of Trout in general were low due to overharvest and dams not releasing enough flow in the winter for the fish to survive. There weren’t enough anglers to care about the mediocre fishing. But then fly fishing became more popular. Huge in fact by 1995 in our area. More anglers bring more money and the next thing you know Trout Unlimited and the folks in the area pushed through catch and release, and water flows were regulated not to be too low in the winter months. It took less than five years for Cutthroat populations to bounce back and these days big Cutthroats are not uncommon. The drawback for me is that these days the Snake and other blue-ribbon trout streams all over the Rocky

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Mountain West are ridiculously crowded. Worse, many of the fish you catch have already been caught before – not once but more than ten times! And they wear it in the condition of the lips and some fish hardly fight anymore. You create excellent fishing and the people come in hoards. Remarkably the fishing holds up, but in the prime season, there are too many people for me to go anymore. Most of the best waters of the world are similar to the Rocky Mountains. Belize is an amazing fishery and should remain fantastic because Belizeans do a great job of protecting their resources. But when I fished there in the late 80’s and early 90’s this Central American country was a wild place. If you had a motor failure back then you could be stranded and taken away by the mosquitos on a small island. These days there are lodges on every island and you will see other anglers most of the time.


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So I’ve seen changes. I love the awareness of the fish, the animals and the environment that we get by bringing more people to the sport, but I do believe we over-love the easy to get to places and have taken the “wild” out of these places as well, by bringing so many humans here.

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WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR FOR THE FUTURE?

place and I can’t stand it. My second concern is that there aren’t enough young people getting in the sport. I don’t have kids but do go out of my way to encourage kids to fly fish. Especially when a kid shows up at a seminar of mine or contacts me through email with questions. I also have three nieces. They can all fly fish and for the most part they enjoy it. But man, they have a ton of distractions starting with that stupid phone!

I have two fears:

HOW DID YOUR ARTISTIC SIDE START?

First is a continuation of where I ended your last question. For me I fish because it brings me to nature. It allows me to be part of the environment and enjoy the “wild”. When I hike ten miles into the backcountry in Yellowstone National Park to go fishing and I don’t see any other humans – that’s a wild place. But when I hike there and run into a dozen other anglers – I don’t care how far back I am. I lose that feeling of being in a wild

I received numerous detentions in school as a kid for drawing on the desk. At the same time, I got all A’s in the art classes. But when I took off to college the artsy side of me went by the wayside. I studied to be a naturalist then soon found myself making a living by working at a fly shop, teaching fly fishing and guiding in the Yellowstone area. I didn’t do any art of any sort for at least ten years.

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Then I wrote my first book, “Currier’s Quick and Easy Guide to Saltwater Fly Fishing”, and did all my illustrations myself in pen and ink. My publisher, friend and incredible mentor, Gary Lafontaine, loved the book but insisted we do the book in full color. This meant either I hire someone or redo everything myself. Hiring wasn’t an option. Luckily, I’m a man of the all-nighter and in six months I taught myself how to use watercolor paints. I page through the book from time to time and see the art isn’t anything as good as what I produce these days, but what incredible memories. The neat thing about that tidbit is Gary Lafontaine knew all along I was an artist and he wanted me to bust out. Since that first book I’ve illustrated another for myself and several for other fly fishing writers. I’ve painted about 70 species of fish for commission work and the images are used in books, logos, by several companies on shirts, fly boxes, etc. And, I have my own store with my famous fish coffee mugs, beer steins and sun shirts.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD BRAND AMBASSADOR? First of all, being a brand ambassador is an honor. The term “brand ambassador” has become a bit loose. There are some brands out there willing to list every guide or pro available to enhance their company. And there are brand ambassadors that will join any company just to get on their list. I get hit often by new companies to join them before they even know if I use their product. This isn’t what being an ambassador is all about. I’m only a brand ambassador for companies serious about delivering a high quality product. I’m fortunate to be with Simms, Winston, Yellow Dog Flyfishing, Scientific Anglers, Costa Sunglasses, Bauer Reels and Yeti. Before Simms releases a new wader or Winston lists a new fly rod model they let me use the test samples. Often times before Yellow Dog Flyfishing sells a new destination, I’m the lucky guy that checks it out before they offer it. To me it’s exciting and a big achievement to know that I’m respected by the industry enough to be a brand ambassador. They trust me to tell the truth about a product and I’m proud of this.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS? Fish hard. Don’t try to impress, but rather let others discover your talents on their own through your good angling and hard work. Be a conservationist when and wherever you can. Always be open and share what you know. And remember why you fly fish and don’t ever change from that. www.jeffcurrier.com

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Above left: Jeff signing some autographs Above right: Getting to know the guide, Tanzania, Yellow Dog, Photo Jim Klug Below left: Hitching accross Africa 2005. Below centre: Smallmouth Bass, New Hampshire, 2012 Below right: Big Tigerfish, Tanzania, Yellow Dog, Photo Jim Harris.

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A beautiful Pilbara Golden Trevally Photo: Matthew Crnojlovic

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Anaa, French Polynesia

ARGENTINA CUBA SEYCHELLES KIRIBATI FR ENC H P O LY NE SI A BELIZE CHILE UK NEW CALEDONIA CAPE YORK PAPUA NEW GUINE A ICELAND BAHAMAS RUSSIA MAURITIUS NEW ZEALAND MALDIVES CORAL SEA MEXICO ALASKA MONGOLIA BOLIVIA OMAN GAL APAGOS CANADA

Visit flyodyssey.com.au or call +61 499 900 816

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Fly fishing travel experts


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THE

FLY BOX FLIES BY

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T he B eac h B u g As tied by Capt. Gavin Platz I was lucky to meet Nick Curcione in 1996 at the Denver Fly Dealer Show when he was working on the Thomas & Thomas fly rod booth. He was a contributing editor for “Fly Fishing in Saltwaters” and had also authored several books. My two favourites are Baja on Fly and Tug-O-War. Both are great books and definite must haves in your library.

Through Nick’s writing we are learning more and more about the place double handed rods have in fly fishing the surf beach, and now quiet a number of us in south east Queensland really look forward to the winter and the miles of empty beaches, giving us a reason to pull out our DH rods and play, all because of Nick’s pioneering work.

He was a university professor for about 35 years and over time he also became an internationally recognised writer, instructor, lecturer and tackle consultant who worked with some of the biggest companies in fly fishing. Nick Curcione learned his craft while fly fishing with many of the great fly fishers of his time, and his collective experiences with these early experts helped to form the basics of his ideas for the future. In the 80’s and 90’s he developed and wrote about the flies and tactical methods that changed how we all fished inshore and offshore with a fly rod - real pioneering stuff.

So, this brings me to what fly to present in this issue. Probably his most famous fly is the Curcione’s Yellow Catamaran Popper constructed to Nick’s exact recipe and sold by Rainy’s Flies in the USA. A great fly with an awesome action and perfect in both salt and fresh water. But this issue I thought it only proper to do a Curcione pattern which I have used for over 10 years on the Sunshine Coast in both the surf and in the estuary, to great success with our bread and butter species.

You can imagine how privileged I felt in 1996 at the show when he asked if I’d like a little tuning up with my casting. I was a rather agricultural caster at best and to have a “one-on-one” with Nick Curcione was a dream come true. His instruction was very simple, and the benefits to my casting were immediate and I have carried them through till today. That night I was invited to join he and Trey Coombs for a meal of Gator Tails and Cajun Rum, what an honour. At dinner Nick reinforced what others had suggested to me and spurred me on to practise and study to achieve my CCI with the Federation of Fly Fishers, which I was very stoked to eventually achieve. Nowadays Nick is part of the Temple Fork Outfitters advisory staff and involved in the design of the TFO rods and related products. He is also considered to be the leading authority on shooting heads and heavy sinking lines and is always sharing his knowledge with the whole saltwater community through his writing and presentations at shows. It’s because of the pioneering work he has done with respect to fly fishing the surf beach, and in fine-tuning the gear necessary for successfully fly fishing the surf beach, that we have all started to reap the rewards and enjoy this very challenging part of the craft a lot more. The more you enjoy something the more you’ll want to do it, and fly fishing the surf beach we can do anywhere, and Australia has some of the best beaches in the world.

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The fly is called a Beach Bug. Nick designed this fly to be a caricature of a sand crab with an egg sack underneath it’s body – the primary food source for Perch and Corbina, which Nick regularly chased in the surf. I found this fly very interesting and started tying the Beach Bug in colours that gave the impression of a saltwater Yabby or Pink Nipper. We all grew up as kids pumping Yabbies with dad and catching all manner of fish on them live, so it was only natural to modify the colours to give the impression of a major food source for our species. Well I do hope you like this little fly and you tie a few of them. I’m sure you’ll have success and love this fly just as I do. I’d also encourage you to use your own observations of the crabs and prawns in your neck of the woods and to modify the colours to suit your bait source. As a fly tier this is what makes our craft a lot of fun. I’d like to leave you with one last comment about Nick Curcione, made by Lefty: “He’s ethical and a real pro – loved by all who know him.” Remember the Beach Bug won’t catch anything while it sits on your tying table. Let’s get in and tie one... Have fun

Gavin


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MATERIALS Hook - TMC 800S #8, #6 or #4 (I prefer #6) -this is one of my favourite hooks, super strong with very sharp stainless steel. They have outperformed any other brand of hooks to be found in sizes 4-8. Thread - Flat waxed Nylon (Salmon Pink)

Egg Sac – Bright Orange Chenille Body – Pearl mylar wrapped over thread Wing – Bucktail flanked by 2 saddle tips

Eyes - Black Nickle Eyes to suit depth Step 1 - Lay a bed of thread the length of the shank of the hook and then tie in the eyes about the width of 1.5 hook eyes back from the eye of the hook.

Step 2 - Tie in the chenille to form the egg sac at the bend of the hook.

Step 4 - Tie in a sparse clump of Step 5 - Tie in a saddle tip that is bucktail in front of the eyes and the length of the bucktail. extending no further back than the length of the hook behind the hook bend.

Step 3 - Tie in the pearl mylar and wrap forward and tie off in front to the eyes.

Step 6 - Finished fly

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Mickey man handeling this Tuna to the boat! Photo: Mickey “Finn� Shanahan

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Boarding the skiff in the morning holds so much anticipation for the day ahead Photo: Al Simson

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Time at the vice often spent dreaming about the next trip out Photo: Patrick Duke

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A F LY F I S H I N G M A G A Z I N E ©Stephan Gian Dombaj

pass me some

sea saLT

.COM

AUS & NZ DiStribUtioN: Kickelly P/L Email: antti.vappula@visiongroup.fi | tel.:+61 4020 51759

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Species

SPOTLIGHT

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SAND

Whiting SILLAGO CILIATA The Sand Whiting has sometimes been called the poor man’s Bonefish - after the legendary ‘white fox’ of tropical sand flats around the world keenly sought by saltwater fly fishers.

BY DR JULIAN PEPPERELL, PhD. Dr. Julian Pepperell, PhD, is one of the bestknown marine biologists in the world and a leading authority on Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna and Sharks.

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Like the Bonefish, the Sand Whiting moves across shallow, sandy expanses in groups, browsing for worms and crustaceans in the sand. Both have a slightly underslung mouth, which is used to burrow and suck up sand in the search for tasty morsels like sand worms, pipis, nippers and crabs. And like the Bonefish, the Sand Whiting puts up an impressive fight when hooked, often belying its size. If Whiting reached the size that Bonefish do, they might well be compared even more favourably with that legendary species. The name ‘Sand Whiting’ may not be all that familiar to the average anglers in some areas, since the species also goes under the wellknown local names of Summer Whiting and Bluenose Whiting. Many anglers think that these are different species, but they are all, in fact, one and the same. By the way, as is often the case with common names for Australian fish, our Whitings are not related in any way to the northern hemisphere Whiting, which is a member of the true Cod family, nor to the Blue Grenadier of New Zealand, sometimes marketed in supermarkets here under the name ‘Whiting’ but again, belonging to an unrelated family, Merluccidae, or Hakes. The Whiting family, Sillaginidae, is largely confined to southeast Asia and Australia, and as such, can be justifiably considered a ‘local’ group of fishes. About 13 species of Whiting occur around the Australian coast, some of which are commercially or even more so, recreationally important. The main species of interest to anglers are the Sand Whiting, Sillago ciliata, Trumpeter Whiting (Sillago maculata), Yellowfin Whiting, Sillago schomburgkii in Western Australia and King George Whiting, Sillaginodes punctata, in the southern states. Another group of Whitings, all loosely called Redspot or Trawl Whiting, do not grow very large, but are an important bycatch species of prawn trawling in the north. All of the Whitings share fairly similar habitats, primarily over sandy bottoms, where they forage for small invertebrates.

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The main species with which the Sand Whiting might be confused with is the Trumpeter Whiting, which grows to a respectable 30 cm in length. However, Trumpeter Whiting tend to have dark, diffuse reddish blotches on their flanks while Sand Whiting are a uniform silver colour. The distribution of the Sand Whiting is very broad, ranging all the way from Cape York in Queensland to Lakes Entrance in Victoria. It is also found around Flinders Island and the north eastern Tasmanian coast, around south eastern Papua New Guinea and perhaps surprisingly, Lord Howe Island and New Caledonia. Not a great deal is known about movements of Sand Whiting throughout this extensive range. Some tagging has indicated relatively limited movements north and south along the east coast, but as yet, no movements of adults has been proven between the Australian mainland, and the islands mentioned above. It is quite likely that dispersal to those areas is achieved by larvae. Because of its distribution right along the eastern seaboard, the Sand Whiting is particularly important to anglers. Its shallow water habitat makes it a primary target species around populated areas such as Brisbane and Sydney, and also in most of the east coast estuaries and large embayments. Harvey Bay is a prime example of the latter. Sand Whiting spawn in a variety of habitats, ranging from the mouths of estuaries, large embayments and the surf zone along ocean beaches. However, contrary to popular belief, they do not spawn inside estuaries, but rather, very small post larvae and juveniles enter estuaries where they are often observed amongst seagrass beds or over shallow sandy areas. Spawning is apparently triggered at peak high tide, close to the full moon. The spawning season varies with latitude, spanning spring and summer in Queensland and summer and Autumn in New South Wales. The ovaries of mature Sand Whiting contain two distinct

batches of eggs, leading to the likelihood of spawning twice during a given season. The numbers of eggs which have been counted in Sand Whiting range between 30,000 and 380,000. Some work has been carried out on Sand Whiting investigating the possibility of the species for aquaculture – either as a prospect for harvest for the table, or as a species which might be able to be stocked into estuaries to replace depleted stocks. As with many other coastal fishes, the growth rate of Sand Whiting has been found to be quite variable (this often depends on water temperature, but also on availability of food and frequency of feeding). In Queensland, one-year old Sand Whiting are estimated to be between 11 and 19 cm in length, while six-year olds would measure about 32 cm. Age at maturity is estimated to be two years old for males, and three years old for females. Like quite a few other species of fish, males dominate the population at small sizes, but larger fish tend to be female. It is not yet known if this is due to sex reversal or differential growth and mortality rates between the two sexes. The maximum length of Sand Whiting recorded is supposedly a whopping 51 cm, at which size, an age of up to 20 years is postulated. No weight was given for that fish, and just to complicate the story, the Australian angling record for the species stands at 1.4 kg, but no length is given for that fish. The Sand Whiting really does tick all the boxes. Not only is it an excellent sportfish on light tackle and fly gear, it is one of the tastiest species available to the keen inshore angler.


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The art of “channeling” is often a spiritual experience. Photo: Christiaan Pretorius

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STUFF WE THINK YOU NEED

A COLLECTION OF FLY RELATED PARAPHERNALIA

DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO RRP FROM AU$2,099.00

SIDEKICK DRY RRP FROM AU$69.94

IN THE SALT TRUCKER CAP RRP AU$29.95

GAME CHANGERS - AMMO FLIES RRP FROM AU$30

Available in Navy/White and Grey/White these won’t last long, get yours now! To Buy head to www.inthesaltflymag.com.au

PODCASTS WE’RE LISTENING TO

THE INTERMEDIATE LINE Andy Bolch, Chris Adams and Geoff “Voltzy” Volter

FISH ON THE BRAIN Tim Evans

TAILER TRASH FLY FISHING

Bringing you more, drama free, good times from the Tailer Park.

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GHOSTS OF

BELIZE K AT K A TA K E S U S O N A N E X C I T I N G J O U R N E Y INTO THE HEART OF BELIZE IN SEARCH OF G R A N D S L A M G LO R Y

Words & photos by Katka Švagrová

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Belize has some of the most variable wildlife in Central America. The species variety of plants, birds, reptiles, and marine flora and fauna will constantly amaze you. Actually, more than one third of Belize is set aside as a protected nature reserve. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a hardcore fishing experience or a family vacation with some fly fishing added on, Belize will offer you something special. I would even recommend Belize as a first-time saltwater trip because of the variety of different fishing conditions and fish species. Belizean coastline offers you white-sand flats, skinny-water lagoons, Tarpon mangroves and some blue-water action if you are able to go out with a boat. The main target species is definitely

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Bonefish. If you are lucky and skilled enough you can achieve the fabled Grand Slam and catch a Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon on the same day. When you check IGFA statistics, Belize is one of the top Grand Slam destinations in the whole world! When I visited Belize early in 2018, I was lucky enough to come very close to completing the famous Grand Slam. I had never visited the Caribbean before and as soon as I stepped out of the plane I was totally amazed by the place. I stayed at Isla Marisol Resort located on Southwest Caye of Glover’s Reef Atoll which is just 35 miles southeast of Dangriga. This little island is sur-


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rounded by palm trees where you can enjoy your stay in cosy beachside cabanas, rest in tree-strung hammocks, and above all enjoy fishing the miles of flats around the island. We reached Isla Marisol Resort quite late that day, so I decided to take a quick look around island to get my bearings. I had never seen Bonefish before, so I was not familiar with where to look or how to spot them. As I was watching little Snapper swimming around our wooden dock, I suddenly registered a faint movement of a shadow‌ Bonefish! There was one nice Bone cruising the grassy bottom around the dock. How silly was I not to

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bring my fly rod with me? I didn’t wait a second more and went running like a crazy woman through the island to grab my rod and a bunch of flies. When I returned with weapons my first Bone was gone and night was slowly falling over the island. NEW DAY - NEW EXPERIENCE There is nothing better than walking along the palmfringed beaches of a Caribbean island treading lightly on powder-soft sand and spotting shadows of Belizean ghosts. On the first morning I had already discovered a local beach where the biggest Bonefish were constantly

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cruising, repeating what seemed to be a constant beat. I tried a few casts for these tricky singles all morning without any success. The visibility was poor with strong winds and cloud cover making it difficult to spot the fish early enough to have a good shot and my first Bonefish experience proved to be quite challenging. After lunch, the local guide Alex advised me to go further out on the coral flats searching for tailing Bonefish schools. He casually added the comment that if I was lucky enough, I might get a shot on a wandering Permit during low tide. When I reached the coral flat a few hundred meters out from shore I suddenly found myself in Bonefish paradise! For 360 degrees I was surrounded by tailing Bonefish, but after a few casts and various strip actions I was not that confident any more. On every cast my fly was rejected. After an hour of casting and one foul-hooked fish, I found out that my “tailing Bonefish” were actually Mullet trying to scrape turtle grass off the coral! I had to smile at the thought of this silly girl in the middle of Bonefish paradise wasting her time carefully casting her meticulously prepared shrimp patterns to Mullet. Well, at least I had a good session of casting practise! I kept walking along the coral flats and slowly

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started to understand how to spot the Bonefish and recognize them from tailing Mullet. Once I cracked the code I was in the Bonefish groove. Without a doubt my most successful fly pattern was the Cuban Shrimp. Even the wily single Bonefish could not resist it. After I landed a couple of nice smaller fish I spotted a much bigger tail. This bigger fish was feeding right on the drop off of a little sand bar. For sure it was a Permit! But the task of getting a Permit to eat your fly is a particularly tricky business. Those who have experienced Permit fishing know that you have to spot these fish far enough away not to spook them and then place your fly in the exact spot with a very long cast. On top of that you have to land the fly softly with a stealthy presentation to keep the target calm and once on the bottom, you then slowly and constantly strip the fly at the same speed to maximize your chances of success. If you’re lucky enough to get an eat another story is about to start! With the adrenalin of the hunt coursing through my blood, surprisingly, I managed the first part quite well. When the fly dropped on the surface, the Permit quickly came to look at my fly. He had a long, careful study and


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I N T H E S A LT then just turned and swam away in the other direction. But wait a minute, he suddenly turned back around again and without any hesitation, after a few meters of following intently, he elegantly ate my fly. What happened next was utter confusion! Before I realized what was going on, the Permit was running at warp five speed across sharp coral flats and my backing was screaming off the reel spool at an alarming rate. Because I had been stalking Bonefish with my lightweight #7WT rod and did not expect fish bigger than 2-3 lbs I was under-gunned and suddenly felt like the game was already lost. My fears proved correct and sadly after running a few more meters my leader snapped on the sharp coral and my big beautiful Permit disappeared forever. Sad yes, but it was a really cool experience that I will always remember. During the delicious dinner accompanied with a few cold glasses of Belikin beer (the most famous Belizean beer), we were talking with local guides and other clients about the area. During that evening another highlight of Isla Marisol came up in our conversations – Tarpon! The third and last fish of the famous triplet Grand Slam. This island is well known for a resident school of large Tarpon that spend their days cruising around a coral patch approximately 400 feet off the main beach. The next morning I rented a small kayak and went on a Tarpon journey. Except a few Barracuda and a couple of Needlefish I didn’t see another fish the entire day. It seemed the Tarpon story from last night was just an island fairy tale as I had looked hard but came away with nothing. I was quite disappointed in my adventure and ordered a few cocktails at the beach bar in the afternoon while preparing my Bonefish rod for the next day. The local guide Alex met me on the way to my cabin with high expectations about stories from my morning Tarpon trip. I told him the whole story but honestly there wasn’t much to say. He advised me to make a few casts at the small beach around a deep channel where he said big Barracuda sometimes cruise. I didn’t wait long and grabbed my #10WT rod and moved back to the beach near the main channel. I love the moment of the “magic show” when the glorious sunset covers the entire sky. Just to make a few casts and watch how the sky burns in a thousand

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colours right in front you centres me like nothing else. I was casting my Mullet pattern fly on a 4/0 hook for maybe an hour when suddenly I felt one of the strongest strikes ever. In the first seconds I thought I’d hooked one of the big Barracuda Alex had told me about, but almost immediately after I set the hook the big Silver King gave me a spectacular jumping show. My reel was screaming (but not louder than I!), my #10WT finally got the right angle of bend on it and people from all around were hurrying to help. It took quite a long time before I managed to hold this bucket list fish – a mighty silver Tarpon - in my hand because I was fighting him way too carefully with the fear of possibly losing him. A big thanks goes to Alex who was readily there to help me to land my first Tarpon ever! What a beast! From that evening forward I was casting in that exact spot every evening and was lucky enough to connect with some other nice fish and managed to land one more beautiful Tarpon approximately the same size as the first one! On my third day of fishing that beautiful island, I met my friend Ola from Norway. We decided to fish around the island all day and try to persuade the local big Bonefish to give us some fun. Ola was constantly walking the sandy beaches trying to spot some ghost shadows. It did not take long before he managed to land his first fish of the morning, followed by another one in just a few minutes. Now the challenge was on my back. In general, these local Bonefish were really tricky to spot and hook. Before you managed to see them and cast your fly, they disappeared – just like a ghost. For that reason, I chose another tactical approach. I was standing dead still hiding behind a palm tree, waiting for the big ones to make their usual trek on the sand bank where the visibility was better. When I finally saw a couple of cruising fish and my fly hit the water surface the miracle happened! Without hesitation, after a few strips one of them pulled my fly line with a mighty tug and boom - STRIP-SET - and the grey ghost was running across the beach. Bonefish will always reward you with incredible power and acceleration during the fight, that is one of the main reasons Bonefish are so commonly targeted in the world of fly fishing.

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My first experience with the famous Grand Slam had been quite successful during the trip to Isla Marisol. Even though I lost my first and only Permit I had been rewarded with a couple of nice Bonefish and two Tarpon in excess of 20 lb’s. I’d met some cool people and experienced another awesome part of our wonderful, outdoor world. For my Boney set up the killer rig was a Rio QUICKSHOOTER BONEFISH fly line paired with a Rio BONEFISH 10FT 8lb leader. The best performing pattern was my Cuban Shrimp size 4 from Fulling Mill. For Tarpon gear I used a #10WT rod rigged with a Rio TARPON QUICKSHOOTER fly line paired with Rio 50LB FLUOROFLEX SALTWATER tippet and a 4/0 Mullet pattern fly. I´m sure these essentials will help you target these two species all around the globe, wherever you hunt.

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Tarpon time in the Bahamas Photo: Al Simson

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The

Pilbara A L A R G E , D R Y , T H I N L Y POPULATED REGION IN THE NORTH O F W E S T E R N A U S T R A L IA HOLDS SOME OF THE BEST FLY F I S H I N G O P TIONS ON THE CONTINENT. Words & photos by Matthew “Cranky” Crnojlovic

Matthew “Cranky” Crnojlovic lived and worked in the Pilbara for 12 years, he now resides in Point Samson 60km north of Karratha. The last few years he has fished fly exclusively as it offers up the most challenges and he finds it the most rewarding.

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The Landscape, Climate and Tides The Pilbara region covers an area of 507,896 km2 including offshore islands. The Pilbara contains some of the world’s oldest surface rocks, including the ancient fossilized remains known as stromatolites and rocks such as granites that are more than three billion years old. The tides pose a real challenge. As a general rule there is a week of neaps (with as little as 1m movement), then a week of spring tides (with 5.5m of movement) in the warmer months. The spring low tide tends to dramatically empty out the creeks, which results in less water between you and the fish. Neap tides in the winter brings the billfish in and clears the water on the flats. Although possible to fish on all tides, the medium sized tides seem to create enough water movement to really get things going on the flats. The beauty of the constant hot summer weather is that the majority of days there isn’t a cloud in the sky which makes spotting fish on the flats a lot easier. The temperature can be a real burden, especially in the summer months. This past March a town close by (Roebourne) surpassed a 44 year old temperature record set in Mexico with a sweltering 48.1 degrees. The heat is something you must endure to target Barramundi. Winter offers up more pleasant fishing conditions and the opportunity to chase billfish, but more on that later.

Creeks, Flats & Bluewater Creeks Barramundi. These are probably my favorite fish to chase on fly, as I’m sure those of you reading this would agree. The Pilbara Barra seem to get going around September each year, being triggered by the rise in water temps. They continue through to March although occasionally cyclones come through earlier than expected and drop lots of rain which can shut them down a bit. They seem to come out of the blocks hard in spring, eager to crunch flies, then slow down a bit coming into December. My only guess is they have all put on condition and water temps in the creek can reach 36 degrees which makes them slow down. They are still catchable, but you need to rethink your tactical approach (fishing the night time low tide for e.g.) Another species in the creeks is Mulloway (Black Jewfish). They are not in all creeks but you will need to target the creeks with deep holes, normally found towards the river mouth caused by the large tides draining out. Mangrove Jacks are normally found around the mangroves (no surprises there) and close to various rock bars. Blue Salmon are more of a winter event but can be found in big numbers. Threadfin Salmon seem to produce a decent run once the water warms and can be an exciting bycatch whilst chasing Barra. But normally a smaller fly will be required and it can be highly frustrating watching large meter long

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“Threadies” smashing jelly prawns and showing no interest in your fly. Flathead, Bream, Whiting, Javelin Fish, Estuary Cod, and Trevally can all save the day when blanking on some of the more prized captures. Bluewater Though I tend not to dredge deep, there are all the usual tropical species to be had such as Coral Trout, Red Emperor, various other Emperor species, Rankin Cod and the list continues. I hope to start spending more time trying to figure out this style of fishing. After seeing some spear fishing mates spear a massive10kg Red Emperor in 10-15m of water I think dredging up big fish could be a very real possibility. At present it’s just a case of too many fish and not enough time, not a bad problem to have I guess all in all. Spanish Mackerel are an all year round proposition. I’ve found the winter brings in greater numbers of fish, quite often being seen launching meters into the air like missiles smashing bait. During first and last light, they seem to be on the surface and more active. Winter also brings on large Cobia numbers with the arrival of squadrons of Manta Rays. On a flat and glassy day these Mantas work the current lines hoovering up all the “scum” found floating in the wash. You can easily maneuver the boat into position to get a good cast in as they tend not to deviate too far from these food highways.

of billfish can be world class, and the Black Marlin tend to be on the smaller side making them excellent fly rod targets. You can also find large numbers of Sailfish resulting in a lot of fun to be had for those willing to spend the time and effort. Dragging teasers and some skirts with belly flaps stitched into them seems to work the best, but there are times when you can see pods of free swimming Sails which if you’re lucky, can give you an opportunity to lay out a few casts on these impressive bluewater creatures. The Flats Finally the flats, I can hear you say. I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to the flats as all the other fishing opportunities have taken up a lot of my time. This has changed as now I actually prefer to fish the flats over everything else. I guess for me the three main species I like to target are Permit, Blue Bastards & Blue Bone. Many other species can and will turn up, including big and small GT’s, Queenfish, Goldens, Jacks etc. LET ME START WITH WHAT I HAVE HAD SUCCESS WITH:

Billfish: Sailfish & Black Marlin

Blue Bone These blue tractors tend to like the bays with a bit of reef and therefore they can cost you a few flies when you decide to target them. The cast needs to be highly accurate as the country you find them in can offer little chance of stripping to reposition the fly. They can be found out on sand patches and this makes your chance of landing one a lot better.

The waters off Karratha get good numbers of billfish in the cooler months. This all varies with ocean currents bringing favorable water temps closer to land. The runs

Blue Bastards These fish will be found in bigger numbers in bays which have mangroves nearby and they really know

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I N T H E S A LT how to find their home once hooked. I’ve been saved on a few occasions when the tide has not been high enough for them to find the mangroves and they stop thankfully a few meters short of finding freedom. Permit Both Australian species of Permit are found here and so far, this has been the most frustrating yet rewarding journey for me (it’s funny to say that since I’ve yet to land one!). At first, I couldn’t even find them, but after a lot of time on the water I started seeing them more easily. But getting one to eat has been tricky, with a few showing interest but no successful hook ups on the pointy end. Some friends have managed to land a few and there are a few fly fishos in Karratha who get them quite regularly, and hats off to them as they are obviously doing something I’m not. What I have learnt from chasing them thus far is that it’s better to be on foot than in the boat. I use the boat to either get on the flat or, if I see them from a distance, I pull up and get out and use a light enough fly to get down quick enough but not spook them when it lands. Reading their body language to see if they are milling around or cruising along, and adjusting my cast and approach to suit what they are doing is part of the chase. The bigger fish tend to be solo or in groups of up to three with the schools tending to hold smaller fish. Also I try not to cast straight to them which can result in the fish following the fly right towards you in which case they see you and spook! And so the learning and the dedication to catching one continues for me…….

Tackle Tips For the creeks, tackle choice depends on how light you want to go. I tend to use anything from a #7WT to a #10WT, depending on the flies you want to cast and the location you’re fishing in. The majority of our creeks are quite shallow, so full floating, sink tip or slow sinking intermediate lines work best, with the exception of dredging the deep holes for Mulloway. For fly choice, all your usual Barra & estuary patterns work well, but due to the large tidal influences the water is often quite colored so bright flies, ones that push some water and some with rattles can be successful. Some poppers for amazing top water boofs from Barra are fun to fish, but the hook up rates with these are poor. For leader choice I tend to fish fairly heavy nylon ( 30/60LB ), as I don’t think it puts the fish off, and they don’t need to be too long. For Barra patterns of choice it’s hard to go past pink things, golden bombers, game changers and poppers. I like to use big flies which can rule out some bycatch, but you can also downsize your fly and still get Barra and all the usual local creek species. Out in the bluewater, #10WT to #12WT’s reign supreme. For billfish I use a #12WT with a short heavy leader because when you’re ‘switching’ these fish to the fly, the leader only needs to be long enough to turn the fly over.

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When dredging for Mackerel it’s wise to use some light wire tippet. You hook more without wire but lose a lot due to them biting through the leader. Baitfish profile patterns for most of the pelagic targets work well, as do the usual tube flies rigged with either single or tandem hooks . Since the billfish are mostly juveniles the fly does not have to be huge, normally 6 to 8 inches will do just fine. On the flats I tend to fish #10WT’s, though a #9WT is fine. I normally have two rods ready for choice, one with a full floater and longish leader (12ft approximately and sometimes a little longer) rigged up to a light crab or shrimp pattern, and a second rod with a sink tip and shorter leader (8 to 10ft) presenting a heavy crab fly. This tends to cover all water depths and current strengths fishing from either the boat or when wading. It does pay to have a #12WT fully rigged up in case the big GT’s come on to the flats which doesn’t happen very often, but often enough to warrant having something ready. I’ve been caught out not having anything ready before and missed some fine opportunities. Flies like VGDC, Alphlexco crabs, shrimp and all the other variants of these patterns will work fine. Shrimp variations are a pretty good bet each way, and as always your presentation and strip seems to be the real trick to bring flats fish into your hand.

Reading the fishes behavior This part of the chase has taken me some time to master. Once you have identified a target fish you wish to cast to, you need to see what it is doing. By this I mean is it actively feeding; moving to a new location; sitting still; or tailing? The first step is to identify which way the fish is facing so that you can get the fly in front of the fish. Sounds simple but at times it can be hard to tell. Positioning the boat with the electric, taking into account wind direction, current and water depth to allow enough time for your fly to sink are critical components for success. Next it comes down to the presentation of the cast. A fast presentation is paramount - quite often a roll cast or soft lob is all you will need. Other times with the fly dragging in the water behind the boat or from a starting position with fly in hand, flick forward and with one back cast deliver the fly. Multiple false casts will result in lost fish as the boat is moving, the fish is moving and the sink rate of the fly will have you over the fish and it will spook in no time. Think quick and accurate to increase your chances of success. More thoughts on presentation - it is better to go long than short with your cast. By this I mean if the fly lands short in line with the fish it will sink back towards the boat which in turn will cause the fish to turn and be looking at you, your mate and the boat. By going slightly longer with your cast, you can get the fish to turn toward the fly away from the boat and reduce your chances of spooked fish.

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I N T H E S A LT This technique is not always possible, but a good thing to keep in mind. Actively feeding fish are always a good sign as they can be distracted when looking for food. Some fish feed in random patterns making directional anticipation quite frustrating, but these fish tend to be higher percentage targets. Fish moving to a new location are lower percentage fish and are often mid water or hugging the bottom moving to the next feeding spot with purpose. Lead these fish by quite a bit and make your cast long or past the line of direction. As the fly is sinking you can strip some line in if required to get the fly into the fish’s view. For fish that are sitting still, I normally use a long leading cast as they can be spooky and mindful of surface tension. Sometimes they will offer up a couple of shots where I will work my way closer with each attempt if the fish hasn’t seen the first cast. Once each cast has settled I wait a bit and then twitch the fly on the bottom. With tailing fish you can get surprisingly close with your fly without spooking them. Close casts of a meter or so will get their attention. Too far and the feeding frenzy will cause your fly to go unnoticed. Now that you have the fish’s attention, pay close attention to what the fish does. If you are certain it has eaten your fly then strip strike, if you don’t connect wait and repeat. If you are uncertain of the eat, but you think it might of, I normally do a long slow draw and if you feel any resistance then strip strike. You need to stay in constant contact with your fly as I’ve seen too many missed opportunities from slack in the system. The fish eats and the hook can’t be set. Small one inch strips can help keep you in contact with the fly, and there is also a fine line between moving it and spooking the fish, but you need to always be in contact with your fly.

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Things to keep in mind when fishing the Pilbara Google Earth is every fisho’s best friend and a great way to do some research prior to getting here. It can help identify likely flats, sand bays to camp on, and deep holes in the creeks in which to purposely get stuck during the big low tides in the hope of Barra holding up in there as well. Not everywhere has phone reception so letting people know your plans and location is a must. Be sure and take enough water and supplies in the unlikely event you get stuck somewhere. The tides of the region can be your friends and your worst enemies. I have on more than one occasion been stuck up the back of a creek in sweltering heat waiting ten hours for the tide to come back in. Thankfully each time the next high tide was as big or bigger and we got out. But if the tide is on its way down to neaps, there is a slight chance you could be stuck miles from anywhere for a week or more which would be life threatening in the summer months. Summertime calls for covering up from the heat, drinking plenty of water, and eating some food which aids in maintaining hydration. If your boat doesn’t have shade, always bring some along to get some reprieve from the heat. It’s a good idea to plan your trip to the Pilbara in relation to the species you are keen to target using time of year and tides. If you are ever planning a trip or travelling through the area, please feel free to get in contact with me for some local info and possibly a chance to get out and fish together. There are so many places to go and plenty of fish to target in this special place, so come and check it out for yourself.

I do have a disclaimer since you know that every species, location, and bottom type are different and fish don’t always play by the rules. These are some of the pieces of the puzzle I’ve learnt on the flats and you may possibly approach your flats fishing quite differently. If you have some additional tips and advice then please let me know, as after all, we all want to maximize our chances and ultimately catch more fish.

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The stoke from a big Bone is real! Linda and Christiaan enjoying it together. Photo: Christiaan Pretorius

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Sonjha taking a knee to admire this beautiful Bahamian Bonefish Photo: Al Simson

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Final Offering

From the editor

A MILESTONE - ISSUE 10 Just like in Game Of Thrones, winter is here, well at least for us in the southern hemipshere it is. It’s been a windy past few months but we have been out and about fishing as much as we can. The water is clearing up and the fish are starting to bite. Its always an excting time for us as the bait starts its annual migration south along with all the other predators. While time off the water has moved painfully slow it’s given me time to really “Trick my Skiff” and do some hardcore maintenance on her, so Permit...BEWARE! It is our sincere hope that you all enjoy reading this as much as we enjoy putting it all together. As always thank you all for your support and we look forward to bringing you even more fly stoke with every new issue. 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, tighten those drags and give them nothing! Justin Webber Editor & Publisher

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www.eastcoastangling.com.au

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Profile for In The Salt Fly Mag

IN THE SALT FLY FISHING - ISSUE#10