WA Herring

Andrew and I did our fisheries degrees together in Plymouth (in the eighties) and both ended up as fisheries bureacrats in Australia. Me in NSW and Victoria; Andrew in the NT, NSW and WA. We both cut our teeth on small trout streams in the UK, and each year I fish with Andrew in the Snowies. This blog illustrates the desperation of the fly fisher with no trout:

Andy casting for herring

Augusta sunset

By Andrew and Lynne Bartleet:

In the West there are very few trout waters – so we have to consider other options to keep the gear from gathering dust in the cupboard before the next trout-trip to the Snowies or NZ.

For a number of years Lynne and I have been travelling to Augusta, the most south-westerly point of Australia chasing herring on fly.

These small schooling fish are lumped into the “bread and butter” class of fishery regulation in WA. They grow quickly to a homogenous 400-500 grams. They are usually caught on small lures made from bright tubing passed over the hook, trailed behind a burley “blob”. When hooked they are feisty, pull strongly and leap like a demented rainbow. An ideal target workout for light trout tackle.

This year, we decided Augusta would be the start point for our “around Australia” odyssey in the caravan. Where better? Start with the small fish and work our way up in size as we head north.

Herring and fly

Our Augusta caravan park is right on the banks of the Blackwood River – and my favourite spot is a 2 minute walk. The weather was perfect, and an outgoing tide was running over a rock bar, creating a downstream pool. I tried a Brown Prawn pattern that had worked well in the past but with no success changed to a “Lynne’s Green Hornet” fly (I tie’em, she names’em), a fluorescent green rubber tube over a long shank hook, two completely unnecessary beads for eyes, rabbit fur and some green and silver tinsel.

Fish on

A couple of casts initially drew no result, but then as I stripped the line back there was a hard take and a good sized herring was on. Some strong jumps and runs before it was landed, followed by the obligatory bread and butter dozen.


The next day we watched a local catch his limit from a gutter at the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse using a burley blob and lure so we nicked his spot. A few casts into the rolling swell and I had one good fish, but a few more out of control casts into the maelstrom and I gave it away for the day deciding to save the heroics for further north as we head for the tropics, bigger fish, and my old stomping grounds around Broome.

Which reminds me, what do you say when you hear the well worn cry “I… SAID…. DINNER”S READY!”

“What? There’s something wrong with my herring”.