Saltwater Flyfishing around Sydney

For me, a typical day’s fishing starts by driving west. I head over the Blue Mountains and as the sun begins to appear, I veer down a 4wd track and drive towards a central-west stream. But last Friday morning, after going through my routine and loading up my fishing gear, I jumped in the car and began to drive in the opposite direction. Today, I was heading east.

A few months back I had a call from fellow angler and proud Melbournian, Kristina Royter. Kristina and her hubby Adam were planning a whirlwind trip of Sydney and invited me for a day out on the Sydney Harbour to catch up with their good friend Justin Duggan. Justin is the leading flyfishing guide on Sydney Harbour, catching species such kingfish, Australian salmon and whatever else shows up on the day.

I am slightly embarrassed to admit it, but in all my years of flyfishing, I had never flyfished in Australian saltwater. I was looking forward to trying a new experience while spending the day with three like-minded anglers – and people who were just as passionate about flyfishing as I am. On the morning of our trip, Justin kindly let us have a sleep in, and due to some recent intel there was a switch of venue from Sydney Harbour to Pittwater the night before. We met at the boat ramp at 7.30 am and the sledging started early!

 Pumped for an awesome day ahead.

Pumped for an awesome day ahead.

For Kristina and I, this was our first day chasing kingfish on the fly and anticipation was high. Once we were on the boat, I immediately assumed the position of client, asking Justin what I needed to set up. “Start with your 8 weight, intermediate line,” he replied. “40 pound to 20 pound leader – I’ll get you a fly.” Sounds easy enough, I thought.

As we made our way further into Pittwater, the wind was a little stronger than we expected, but not enough to dampen our enthusiasm. At this stage, we couldn’t see much surface activity but Justin assured us that the action would pick up as the tide began to move. It didn’t take long to discover he was spot on.

Adam Royter releasing his first kingfish of the day.

Adam Royter releasing his first kingfish of the day.

We fished our way through some of the moored boats and I soon connected with a small tailor. As a seemingly insignificant catch, I started bringing it towards the boat. As it came in closer, I realised a whole school of kingfish was following it in. Adam, not wasting any opportunity, grabbed a rod and made a cast. A few seconds passed and his reel was soon screaming with the first kingfish of the day. Wow, they pull hard!

Kristina Royter with her first kingfish on fly.

Kristina Royter with her first kingfish on fly.

We made another lap of the same section and Kristina cast directly under the hull of another boat. One strip, two strips and boom! Once again we heard the sound of screaming drag. It was happy days with a score of two from two. And now it was my turn. Making our way around to complete the same drift I cast to the same boat hull that had already produced two fish. Sure enough, there was another one waiting for me. First cast and several fast retrieves and then it all came to a halt. I couldn’t even flinch. Then the silence was broken by the hard, jolting pull of a fighting kingfish.

Hang on tight, this one is going to the bottom!

Hang on tight, this one is going to the bottom!

In that moment, I realised everything people say about these fish is true. They fight extremely hard and never give up. Even when you think they are done, they make another run and pull the line. After a few tense moments and a large dose of line burn on my fingers, I landed my first kingy. It measured 69cm on the lie detector and I was extremely happy with that! High fives all round and being in a boat with three other photographers, there were more cameras than a swarm of paparazzi!

All smiles as I claim a new species.

All smiles as I claim a new species.

We fished out the afternoon with a couple more kingfish and some other species: mack tuna, bonito and tailor adding splashes of colour to the day. Even though this was my first time catching kingfish, the main highlight was enjoying the experience with three other fun-loving anglers. We spent the day taking in the sunshine, cruising the waters and laughing with the ever-entertaining Melbourne jokesters.

A huge thanks to Justin Duggan for an amazing day

A huge thanks to Justin Duggan for an amazing day.

I was extremely grateful to Justin for offering his time for the day and getting us connected with the fish. He has such an expansive knowledge of the Sydney waterways that even on this potentially tough day, we experienced some amazing fishing. Be sure to check out Justin’s website for guiding options if you would like to try this experience for yourself at www.sydneyflyfishing.com.au. As my first Aussie saltwater experience, I would definitely recommend it!