Kingfish are the heavyweights of the harbour, and will leave you standing on the boat broken line in hand, fly gone thinking “What was that?” These fish are not a light tackle exercise and will need at least an 8wt with a 10wt being a much safer bet. Twenty pound leader will be standard and expect to be towelled up frequently, though the excitement of landing one of these beast is worth every lost fly.
Fish structure like rock ledges and drop offs such as North and South Head, or one of the many navigational markers in the harbour which hold good numbers of kings. It is also worth keeping an eye out for bust ups and bird movement along the lower harbour edges. These bait balls will have kingfish following them and make for a very exciting and visual fly fishing experience.
The go to flies for kingfish are squid patterns and large clousers for fishing structure, with weight being important to get the fly down to the fish quickly. If they are up on the surface and chasing bait school eye flies and surf candies are the go to fly in sizes 4 through to 2/0 depending on the bait thts in the water.
The favoured winter sport fish of the harbour and for good reason. They are fun, put a decent bend in an 8wt and aren’t hard to find. Not always easy to fool the Australian salmon call for leaders around the 12lb mark and nothing works better than eye flies, surf candies and small surface poppers. During the winter months hop in the boat and do a lap of the lower harbour and you will find birds diving and massive bait balls being smashed by hungry salmon. Pay close attention to North Head area and the Clark Island.
During the winter months large schools of salmon move up the coast, venturing into the harbors and bays around Sydney. They will feed for long periods on the surface attracting flocks of mutton birds and are not hard to locate. They are a hard fighting fish on fly gear and if you get taken to the bottom and reefed you won’t be the first to think you just hooked a king fish. Eight-weight gear is enough on most days and leaders don’t need to be super strong as they are generally in open water, but at times you need to be small with your flies.
Nothing works better than eye flies, surf candies and small surface poppers and the best cast is to the edge of the feeding school where the fish are picking up the scraps from the chaos happening in the center. Your fly is better presented here, a slow sinking and erratic stripped fly, like a wounded baitfish is just what the salmon on the edge are looking for.
Pack a permanent marker because when they are on ‘eyes’, tiny bait or jelly prawns, take it out and cover your fly in black dots and your single fly now looks like a little bait ball of “eyes” and it will get eaten.
Flathead have been a classic go to fish to chase for novice and expert alike. They are accessible, fooled by basic techniques and a lot of fun. A morning or afternoon chasing crocs on the flats between the sand and weed beds will leave you very happy.
Area to chase flathead are varied, a good start is the sand flats and drop offs of the rivers feeding Sydney Harbour such as Lane Cove River, Middle Harbour Creek and the bays of Parramatta River around Rhodes, Putney, Abbotsford and Tennyson Point. The Port Hacking and Sans Souci areas to the south and Narrabeen Lake and its feeder creeks are also good places to look.
Methods that work well for flathead are targeting the edges of weed beds on wadeable flats or shallow drop offs bringing the fly parallel to the bank and working it back in short sharp strips keeping in contact with the bottom during the retrieve. Keep in mind the tide movement, a dropping tide will find flathead waiting to ambush prey at the edges of drop offs. A high tide will find them close to weed beds and mangroves waiting for a prawn or baitfish to venture out.
Bream are an iconic saltwater target for fly fishers. It can take a bit of time and effort to catch these fish, even today after catching plenty of bream, it is hard for me to say I can go out and land one with certainty, but it is a species so wide spread within the salt water environment you can target them anywhere. They are a great challenge on fly, super spooky in the shallows and aggressive surface feeders, a hard fighting fish that will go for cover should it be close by.
Try short strips and long pauses with a fly that has plenty of natural movement, rabbit fur is my favourite, or a small bait fish pattern stripped thru some current around a bit of structure, or try the slow surface popper for the explosive strikes they get.
A selection of bream flies that I have had success using.
The poor man’s bonefish, but better eating. Find some sand flats and go spotting.
The secret with whiting is stripping, keep the fly moving… they will look like they are flat out chasing the fly and you want to stop stripping and let them take it. Try it …and watch them swim away, or keep striping and they will accelerate and hit the fly. Flies need to be small and a little Crazy Charlie of rabbit or craft fur are good. A good fly for those clear sandy flats is a lightly dressed fly of translucent Hi Vis, light white or tan flash with just a hint of orange; I use just a few orange hackle fibers.
Find them on a rock platform or in our estuaries, a great target over the winter period and a sucker for the weed fly. Hang your weed fly under a strike indicator and fish the tidal flow as you would nymph in a stream.
The dirty water of the last of the run out tide can be the best time to fish, in the very clear winter water, they will ignore your fly as artificial.
Burley up for better results with traditional sand weed mix.
The saltwater bass. A great sportfish that is a challenge on fly gear. They can be found all thru our estuaries into the brackish water and love some structure and current. They will school up and find a school and you can get a few, but come back tomorrow and they will have moved on. They love a prawn and can be taken off the surface or sinking your fly into a snag. I’ve caught them on dry fly when termites are about. They have a closed season and can’t be taken during their spawn run.
Wow, catch a big one and you will wonder why we are not out every day chasing these fish. Grab your rod and the old bread and head to the bay. Toss out some bread as burley, small constant amounts are better than sporadic chunks, and soon you will have attracted some fish.
I use the hurl at the base of a white saddle feather dubbed onto a 12 or 14 hook or a bit of off white wool to make an easy bread fly. Go light, take your trout gear and see how tight your casting needs to be. Some days your little bread imitation will be ignored, its drifting unnaturally, so practice drag freeing your drift.
Bream of any size will turn up and expect surprises, I’ve got Luderick and a Trevally or two over the years.
A real come back species around Sydney and one of the few saltwater targets that can get to significant sizes. Your fly needs to be a meal to these fish, big silicon head flies or flashy profiles. Lots of casting around structures like bridge pylons and plies might get you a hit and night is the popular time for them