For live and premium content, sign up for our email newsletter and we'll send reports directly to your inbox
Where to fish next? For those of us afflicted with gypsy souls and fly rod calluses, it’s a question that we often find ourselves asking time and time again. In a group as well traveled as this one, the world often seems to be getting smaller and the options getting a bit redundant. All the while, one dark, haunting question plagues us from the deepest recesses of our mind: Is there anything new left to discover?
When discussing “the next fly fishing frontier” opinions are varied. Our own founding editor, Don Causey has nodded at the expansive landmass of Africa as a potential new frontier for flyrodders, and of course South America’s jungles have provided anglers with new, exciting experiences and surely have not been fully plundered. But, where else should we be looking for the future?
It’s time we look to Australia. Not the answer you were expecting? Yes, we have all heard about the trout fisheries of Tasmania and the pelagic fishing off the Great Barrier Reef, but what anglers should start paying attention to are the expanding possibilities of flats fishing in remote corners of the country’s vast marine network that were mostly out of reach in the past. Not to mention an array of endemic and interesting species for anglers to add to their bucketlist. But first, you have to get there. That’s where Eastcoast Angling and its owner, Nick Milford come in to play. I met Nick at a recent Fly Fishing Show, and we began to discuss his operations and the distinct, and mostly overlooked saltwater fisheries available in Australia. Here is what he had to say:
You have guided operations across Australia. People have long known about the great pelagic fishing on the Aussie coast, but why have we not heard much about Australia’s flats fishing until now?
Until late, the fishing scene has been predominantly owned by the general catch and keep fisherman, who generally bottom fish for a variety of different reef fish for the table. This is where most of the local market is orientated. Australia was put on the sportfishing map globally by the incredible Black Marlin fishery we have off the Ribbon Reefs on the Northern Great Barrier Reef which many international game fishermen have been familiar with for over 50 years. That being said the focus has been on game fishing and no one really paid attention to the diversity of what was on offer only 20 to 30 miles away form the world’s best Black Marlin fishery – massive expanses of untouched sandflats which are home to, two species of Indo Permit, GT’s, our newly identified species the Blue Bastard, Golden Trevally, Queenfish and the list goes on. With sportfishing and the catch and release program amongst fisherman becoming a growing trend local anglers are turning to flyfishing locally and as a result the world has been drip fed what we have to offer.
You run a lot of your trips from motherships. Are there also lodge options for flyrodders and what areas or regions do you specifically target with fly tackle?
We do have a lodge-based option which is run from an exclusively run private eco lodge. The lodge is run by a family who have owned the island for 50 years and is a fantastic personal experience while visiting the island. We have two main areas we focus on and they are about 100miles apart from each other and are off Queensland’s remote Eastern Cape York Peninsular. We also have some fly fishing available out of our home port of Port Douglas which is done out of the boat instead of the northern trips which are predominantly wading.
What species can anglers target on these trips? Which is your favorite?
The beauty of the reef is that there are around 1600 different species of fish on the Great Barrier Reef, although not all of these fish are catchable on fly it gives you a pretty good idea of how many of them are and what the possibilities are. Our predominant species we will see on the flats are – GT’s, Two Species of Indo Permit (Anak & Blochi), Blue Bastard, Golden Trevally, Queenfish, Chinaman, Hump head Parrot fish, Bluefin trevally, Red Bass – The list does go on but we will stop there. I have a couple favourites, its extremely hard to go past a cruising GT and not throw your #12 at it so that would be a highlight and then obviously for me looking for Blue Bastards are extremely exciting and they hold a special place in my book because they are endemic to Australia and they are so temperamental which makes me want to catch them even more.
What kind of accommodations can anglers expect when fishing with East Coast Angling?
We have an 85ft mothership called Savannah which has two ensuite’s state rooms with two king singles, the second cabin has a queen bed and two bunks and then we have another cabin with another bunk setup in it. The mothership is beautifully laid out from a social aspect, we have a great salon area which can comfortably accommodate whole groups and guides in a really relaxed environment to setup gear and talk all things fishing for the week in the comfort of the aircon or we can go upstairs to the outside balcony which has a table and chairs for 12 and in my opinion is the best place on the whole boat. Watching the sun go down from up here while sipping on a cold beverage after a great day on the water is hard to beat, I can assure you.
Regarding your seasons, are there peak times for certain species?
The only season we try get our international pax to steer away from is our cyclone/hurricane season which runs from December to March. The fishing is still great through this period however we tend to stick closer to our home Port and run our local trips, so we don’t have to cancel based on an extreme weather events. All the species we find on the reef live here and don’t migrate. The only migrating fish we get are our pelagics such as Marlin, Spanish Mackerel, Wahoo, Dolphin Fish ect. Otherwise we do have an all-round year fishery which is something special.
Could Australia be the next big destination for saltwater fly fishing?
Without a doubt, Australia has 37,000 miles of coastline to explore and from everything to cold temperate conditions down south to the tropical destinations up north, of which 50% of this is uninhabited, separated by long distances and simply just hard to get to, with logistics being our most difficult hurdle. To try and put things into perspective, we are the only country in the world that is its own continent, with only 25 million people that live in Australia, compared to some 450 million in the USA. Our geographical landmass is equal to the size of the USA so in this regard we have a massive place to explore but with 1/20th of the fishing pressure and population. We have only just scratched the surface of this unbelievable fishery and perhaps have isolation to blame for this, but as the world gets smaller we are able to showcase what is available down under.