Summer on Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour is an amazing fishery that seems to get better every year. The warm summer water coincides with an explosion of inshore baitfish numbers and peak pelagic surface action, with kingfish, salmon, bonito and tailor busting up on the surface.

Hooked up to a kingfish. The bigger ones are virtually unstoppable on fly gear.

Our typical summer morning starts with a daylight launch at the ramp and a slow motor out through the moored boats, looking for any signs of fishy activity like nervous bait rippling, or boils that can be as subtle as a trout sipping off the surface. A stop at the bait grounds for a chat to the local guides, is a great chance to swap information – and provides the opportunity to drop a Clouser Deep Minnow into the bait in the hope of a predator.


Out into the main harbour, we are again looking for any surface action as we cruise from Middle Head to Taronga Zoo and on to the Opera House. We focus our attention on the headlands, current lines and anywhere that congregates the bait. We expect to see bonito tearing through the helpless whitebait, with tell-tale tuna slashes and fish jumping clear of the water; and when we do, it’s battle stations. Switch off the motor, cast ahead of the school, tuck your rod under your arm and strip two-handed as fast as you can. Strikes are explosive and can happen right next to the boat.

This kingfish was in a cooperative mood, although that can’t be guaranteed.

Kingfish and salmon are sometimes mixed in with the bonito and tailor, but quite often they school separately and, depending on the bait, can prefer a different fly presentation and retrieve. On a good day, the kingfish and salmon nail anything that is put in front of them; however at other times, both can be frustratingly selective and look, follow, swirl and refuse your fly enough times to be called fish of a thousand casts.

These days, 2kg salmon are typical in the Harbour and some reach double that size.

Sydney Harbour is a busy place and we expect ferries, cruise ships and all sorts of watercraft driving through the fish, so it pays to be rigged and ready for a quick cast before the opportunity is lost. We generally have a 6 weight, 9 weight and 11 weight rigged with a variety of Clousers and Surf Candies; and appropriate leaders depending on the water clarity and the wind. A successful day will result in landing all four target fish and there is always the chance of a serious trophy. There are kingfish nudging a metre in the harbour at the moment and on the 11 weight, we have been comprehensively destroyed, with no chance of stopping these hoodlums. But that’s fishing!