Sydney Harbour Flyfishing Update – Mid autumn 2019

Flyboat fishing charters Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour – endless flyfishing options.

Without doubt Sydney Harbour offers some of the best big-city flyfishing action in Australia. Of course, this isn’t news to those in the know and the Sydney SWFF scene is well developed. On any day, you would expect to see multiple boats out and about with flyfishers chasing everything from kingfish to mack tuna, Australian salmon, bream, flathead and mulloway, to name just some available species. Cruise around Middle Harbour in summer and there’s a small band of stand-up paddle-boarders being towed around by kingies.

Sydney Harbour and surrounding waterways have become famous for kingfish; even smaller models like this are great fun on fly.

I was one of those until recently when I started taking flyfishing charters, joining a small band of dedicated small-boat flyfishing charter operators like Justin Duggan. Before this, I’d been working on larger fishing charter boats out of Sydney and was a committed part of the Sydney tinny fishing scene.

As we head further into the autumn months, the surface action has more or less vanished. The surface baitfish which bring the mid-size pelagics up from the depths to crash around in a feeding frenzy, are themselves deep in the water column and if you’re after a kingy, you have to chase them down. In four days on the water last week, I saw only one small kingfish bust up and a single school of frigate mackerel darting around. We spotted nervous bait-balls on the sounder, but all the action remained deep below. This left us with fast sinking lines as the only viable option; we had to throw grace and beauty out the window!

The kingfish are mostly deeper in the water column right now.

In some ways, casting these fast sinking lines isn’t as enjoyable as fishing surface gear; but when you can see the targets on the sounder, and you know you’re ripping a fly past their nose, the hit can be just as satisfying. So, when needs must, we haul these lines almost vertically through the water column. This technique caught all the kingfish (bar one) last week, and the good news was that average size was up (the Harbour can literally boil with rat kingies in summer, and finding the better fish can be tough at times). Larger bait patterns in darker colours, especially dark greens with large profiles, were hit on most drops.

But it’s not all about the kingies. In the shallows on a run-out tide, we used blue and white Clousers on intermediate lines to nail flathead, bream and even that one busting-up kingfish I mentioned earlier.

Bream are one of many Harbour species on offer at present.

Overall, the key last week was to find the fish on the sounder and get the fly in front of them. So check your spots. If your sounder shows arches or bait, then fish –  if not then move on to a new spot. And we know that renewed sight fishing action isn’t too far away: as winter approaches, we’re waiting for the salmon to arrive in big numbers.

Meanwhile, Middle Harbour is full of debris at the moment, with the water very dirty after recent heavy rain. Search for clean water and watch out for floating logs.

Top tips:

Best flies: larger Clouser Minnow patterns in darker colours.

Retrieve: Keep the fly moving. Sometimes the fish like a sinking fly and the strip is an animation to induce a take; however at the moment, they’re just nailing it on the move. 

To find the fish: Look for birds following bait, or look for structure on your sounder – and on the weekends, just look for the other boats!

Wilderness in the city… well, almost!

Enjoy your fishing and you know who to call if you need a mid-week break from the city grind!