Public Transport Flyfishing

Harrison leaves the car behind for some Melbourne-based fishing.

If you’re looking to make flyfishing more challenging, maybe you could take away the expert local guide, plane ticket to an exotic location or even a car that can deliver you to your desired destination. Replace all of this with a fully-loaded Myki, get a map of Melbourne’s public transport system, and see how you fare.

As many Melbournian public transport trips begin or end at the iconic Flinders Street Station, I’ll use it as a reference point for travel to all locations.

Advantages of Public Transport

It’s fair enough to assume that there’s no way a bus, train or tram could replace the convenience of a car. However, fishing PT-accessible locations has a few distinct advantages:

  • After work fishing trips. Catching the train home? Why not make a detour to a local lake, beach, or saltwater pier?
  • Relax on the journey to and from the destination. Research the chosen location on the way and share photos of your success on the way home.
  • If you’ve travelled in from interstate or overseas and are without a car? Visit a local fly shop, buy some flies, and ask about a few local spots.
  • Craving a few cold beverages post fish? No need to count drinks for the drive home!

Public Transport Gear

Unsurprisingly, lightweight and functional is the name of the game when it comes to traveling with flyfishing equipment on trains, buses, and trams.

A single bag where a four piece rod tube can be attached or stored, makes carrying and manoeuvring between busy train stations easy. The bag only needs to be big enough to carry a fly box or two, some tippet and a water bottle. No need to carry a fly shop with you! The key advice is to avoid equipment that could collect other passengers and passers-by. It is no fun apologising to someone after a wayward rod tube has whacked them in the face!

Albert Park Lake No 1 Tram Beaconsfield Pde / Victoria Ave or No 64 Tram Melbourne University to East Brighton.

Surprisingly, there’s freshwater fishing just a stone’s throw from the CBD at Albert Park Lake. This lake, encircled by one of Melbourne’s most popular walking loops, is home to trophy yellowbelly, estuary perch, trout (mainly during the cooler months) and carp. Access is easy with most of the fishing happening alongside the walking path, and from a few jetties. Be prepared to draw a crowd with any fish hooked and have answers on hand for interested onlookers. Think of it as a chance to spread the passion for flyfishing! Just keep an eye out for the many dogs and joggers that can suddenly appear, interrupting a well-formed back cast.

Quite pretty and peaceful in an urban sort of way.

Fishing Albert Park Lake is a pleasure in warm weather, although being quite exposed it can get blustery. As with many fishing locations, it is ideal in the early hours of the morning and late afternoon. However, my latest visit this May, was at midday under a clear blue sky. The first thing you’ll notice with Albert Park Lake is how shallow it is along the edges, with thick weed beds throughout. Plenty of structure for both bait and predators.

Due to the sheer diversity of species on offer, on this latest trip I went for a bit of an each-way bet, tying on a medium-sized variant of an olive Woolly Bugger – hopefully small enough for a trout or EP, but large enough to interest a yellowbelly. Making long casts along the edges of shallow weed beds or over the top of the deeper weed beds, ensured the fly was spending as much time as possible in the zone. Nothing was happening so a change of location was made, passing through a ‘No Fishing’ zone. Immediately, a school of small baitfish were sighted, followed by the tail of a yellowbelly with its head buried deep in the weeds.

Fishing a few more likely-looking locations resulted in no takes. Even so, the quite appealing water and surprisingly peaceful surroundings will have me back again, maybe a little closer to summer when warmer water should activate the yellowbelly. First or last light would be a smarter time of day too.

Healesville Trout Lilydale Line then the 685 Bus to Healesville

Although a decent PT journey out of Melbourne, it made sense to have a crack at chasing trout in the streams. Having not spent much time exploring the streams closer to Melbourne, the first point of call was Google Maps, searching for PT-accessible thin blue lines which could lead to trout. Healesville is around 90 minutes from Flinders Street Station via metro public transport, and many anglers drive through it on their way to the Goulburn catchment. It’s a bustling town on the weekends, with more cafes and restaurants than you can count, and it even has a brewery! The chosen destination was a section of the Watts River only 300m out of town. It seemed strange passing houses and people out walking their dogs while making my way to a trout river.

On this day, the Watts was low and clear, and with a blue sky above, it was likely to make for spooky trout. In order to cover all bases on an unfamiliar stream, I tied on the classic dry/ dropper combination of a Royal Stimulator and Pheasant Tail Nymph, using 5X tippet. Any scepticism about my location choice was quickly put to bed when I spotted a nice trout sitting on the edge of a tail-out. Although the fish spooked the moment the cast landed, it provided some comfort that this adventure would not be a bust.

The Watts River – a metro-accessible trout stream.

In sections, the Watts is filled with vibrant green water weed, giving it a pristine feel. But then around a corner, reminders of the urban environment return with rubbish and other household items that have ended up in the river.

After an hour or so without further action, a small brown emerged from a current break to inspect the dry fly and quickly reject it. A change to a mayfly dun drew a brief reaction from the trout, but then it disappeared again. Several more casts and fly changes; no response. From experience, a shy trout which refuses to eat smaller presentations will often go for the T-bone of the fly world, a lightly-weighted San Juan Worm. I cast the Worm just above the approximate location of the trout, the light orange fly easily visible before it suddenly disappeared as the trout devoured it.

PT trout.

A brief fight and a pretty brown was brought to hand. That was to be the only fish landed, but finding a new trout creek for next season made the PT trip worthwhile.

Docklands Saltwater No 70 Tram Wattle Park to Waterfront City Docklands, or train to Southern Cross Station and make the short walk past the Stadium.

Saltwater flyfishing in Victoria is often overlooked and with this in mind, my focus shifted to saltwater options close to the city. Docklands is as close to the city as you can get and is home to snapper (pinkies), bream, mulloway, and even kingfish. Search for ‘Kingfish Docklands’ online and be prepared to be stunned at footage of 10kg models cruising around the docks. One can only imagine how they would react to an articulated EP squid brought past their noses. It pays to have a diverse selection of flies in the event one is lucky enough to see a kingfish.

Certainly endless structure.

But for the most part, fly anglers can expect to target bream and snapper. Jumping over to Google Earth gives a great idea of the number of different options and locations in the Docklands area.

Arriving at Docklands in the early hours of the morning is intimidating, wondering where to fish first. But plan around tide change and structure, and like any other saltwater destination, you’ll be most of the way there. The public access jetties are a good start as they provide structure for fish but also a spot where fly casters can worry less about hooking interested onlookers.

I began my early morning mission to Docklands fishing heavily-weighted Clousers near the bottom, in the hope of a snapper or bream. I allowed the fly to sink down before making short, sharp strips, then pausing for a few seconds before repeating the process. On the second cast, a good hit followed a set of strips, but the hook failed hold.

Tight water of the urban kind.

As the sun began lifting above the Melbourne skyline, it gave further insight into the clear water around the piers and jetties. Time to change tactics and investigate the many packed pylons around the Stadium end. The first glimpse under the base of the end pylon revealed two nice bream rolling and feeding as their underbellies reflected the early morning light. They spooked the moment the heavy fly intended for deeper water landed nearby. Searching the box for an unweighted fly, I pulled out a prawn pattern. Ideally, it would have been half the size but there weren’t many options in the box. Presenting the prawn to a few more bream resulted in some interest from the smaller models, although the larger ones swam right past. Bream are very slow growing, so no doubt the bigger fish have seen it all and appear very educated.

You can just make out a couple of nice bream towards the bottom right, just out from the lower pylon reflection.

Moving to a new set of pylons revealed a small school of bream. Landing the fly nearby and allowing it to sink slowly with a small jig strip, resulted in two bream shooting over to investigate. The realisation they were competing with each other was enough for the smaller fish to take the fly. A sharp set resulted in a momentarily hooked fish, before it came free. Running out of time before work began, a few more fish were hurriedly cast to with some interest but no further takes. Next time, a smaller, more subtle fly should result in more eats. Sight fishing on the doorstep of Melbourne’s CBD, who would have thought!

Overall, the experience of focusing on local, easily-accessed destinations can be eye- opening. The discovery of decent angling options close to a city that fit in with the weekly work schedule, gives the opportunity for more time on the water. After five years in Melbourne, I’m realising that it’s possible to work a 9 to 5 job, and also enjoy some fishing twenty minutes from the office on the same day. Ultimately, fishing local can provide the angler with more experiences overall, and it beats simply relying on (and waiting for) that weekend trip or annual expedition to a far-flung destination.