Want to explore new waters and drop a line for some serious fishing action? Australia and New Zealand offer some of the best fishing spots in the world. Here are our tips on where to go and the best operators to hook up with.
Alliance Airlines - June/July 2018
Words by: Ken Gargett
A friend insists there are only two reasons to get up early: fishing and flights. For the dedicated angler keen to explore the world’s hotspots, combining the two has opened up new worlds. Chasing bonefish at Las Salinas in Cuba, tarpon in Costa Rica’s Rio Colorado, black bass in Papua New Guinea or arapaima in the wilds of the Amazon… everything is possible.
Of course, you don’t need to travel far to indulge your habit. The choice of places available in Australia and New Zealand, by car or a short flight, is wonderfully diverse and seriously good. Few Australians are far from a creek or beach where they can toss a line, and many of the more serious ‘fishos’ among us will have favourite spots and make annual pilgrimages to them. These are the blokes whose boats take up residence on the driveway because their garages are bulging with all the latest gear. They’re the type who understand that one rod is not enough when you can have 10, and the husbands who live in fear of their wives finding out how much their obsession actually costs.
A lot of fishermen head off with mates, but a great many also enjoy time with family on these trips. It helps if the rest of the clan are keen to cast a line but, if not, most places have options for them, even if it’s only a little beach sunbathing. For those keen to expand their fishing horizons, here are a few top-notch options.
More specifically, head out to the Great Barrier Reef for the trip of a lifetime. Swain Reefs, out from Gladstone and Rockhampton, is still very popular, although old-timers claim it’s not what it was — but then, what is? There are many charters available here and right up the coast. Hundreds of kilometres provide endless options, but first you need to work out which kind of fishing you’re into. Game fishing, saltwater fly, handlines on deep reefs to pick up some brilliant eating species? A mix? After a little research to pinpoint your preferred location, then it’s merely a case of selecting a charter that suits.
beaches of South Australia
Friends in that state have long extolled the virtues of their fish and their fishing. If there is a South Australian alive who doesn’t insist that King George whiting are the world’s finest eating fish, I’m yet to meet them. There are plenty of options here, not least the Murray River and game fishing off Port Augusta, while beach fishing for jewfish is becoming increasingly popular. Hire a 4WD, head west past Ceduna and indulge yourself. Catches over a metre are not uncommon.
For decades this has been Mecca for beach fishermen. June to September is prime time but there are fish all year. Tailor, flathead, whiting, jewfish (also called mulloway), bream and others rule, but there are some rocky outcrops — Indian Head and Waddy Point — where you can chase bigger species. We’re even seeing some enterprising anglers using drones to drop bait and lure out further than ever before. While others chase juvenile marlin on the northwest flats. There is no point coming here unprepared: the only way onto the Island is by ferry and once there you’ll need a four-wheel drive (most groups go with more than one since accidents are not uncommon — I sank my father’s Range Rover in the waves many years ago). You’ll also need to take all your equipment, food, bait — the lot. Most camp but check out the dedicated, self-catering fishing lodges such as Waddy Lodge waddylodge.com.au
Barramundi top the bucket list for many fishermen, and there is nowhere better to catch them than North Queensland and the Northern Territory. Unless you are fully equipped and experienced, a stay at a specialised lodge is your best bet. As well as a straw poll, my friends stand by about one recommendation above all else: Dhipirri Lodge in Arnhem Land dhipirribarra.com.au In addition to the mighty barra, they offer reef fishing and even some mudcrabbing.
Dabble for a day
Anyone keen to discover the thrills of saltwater fly fishing but not so keen on the Marco Polo-style expedition can fly into Brisbane, hire a car, drive an hour north to Mooloolaba, join guide Gavin Platz and delve into some of the most scintillating tuna fishing imaginable tienfly.com Now, there aren’t too many places on Earth where you can fly into a capital city and be among great fish in less than 90 minutes, so zip back to the airport and fly out that day, if you wish. Gav specialises in fly fishing for tuna, usually within sight of the coast — it’s great fun.
Cross the ditch
From saltwater species to some serious salmon, New Zealand has a plethora of fishing options, but trout is the main drawcard here. For me, sight fishing for brown trout in the north of the South Island is close to as good as it gets — thrilling stuff in some of the most beautiful locations on Earth. Unless you are seriously good at spotting trout, and very few of us are, arrange a guide or stay somewhere like Owen River Lodge owenriverlodge.co.nz a favourite for many friends, or the smaller River Haven Lodge riverhaven.co.nz with well-known guide Scott Murray. My personal favourite, Lake Rotoroa Lodge lakerotoroalodge.com now caters only to conferences and groups. There’s also the option of contacting a few independent guides who’ll assist with your visit. I’ve fished with two of the best on a number of occasions and I can’t recommend them more highly: Greg Gardiner flyfish4browntrout.co.nz and Boris Cech flyfishboris.com These are the guys who’ll make your fishing dreams come true and give you the best chance of landing that trophy 10-pounder.
If you’re looking for something a little more exotic, consider a trip up towards northern Western Australia to Exmouth, where saltwater fly fishing is becoming world-famous. Those who’ve tried casting a fly to a sedate trout have no idea how exciting this form of fishing can be (not that the sedate trout can’t put on a championship battle). Unless you’re kitted out with a suitable boat and gear — and especially knowledge — and have time to tow your boat a long way, use a guide. Friends who have fished here all swear by Jono Shales exmouthflyfishing.com.au This fly fishing isn’t for the faint-hearted, but there’s a great range of hard-fighting saltwater species to target here.
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