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swoffing safari 2009

09/08/2009  A new flat is born - flat white
Right, let's get things back on track, apologies for the delay in reporting on the continuing progress of my trip, I've been running around the country a bit trying to organise my life off the water.

One of the greatest things about living in a big city like Sydney is that you get to develop a great base of friends who all share the same passion for fly fishing. With a population of more than 4 million people it's not hard to see why Sydney Harbour and Pittwater plays home to a massive playground for the recreational angler to explore. There' s a small army of fly fisherman in Sydney and we all know one another on a first name basis, some with boats, some without - we are like a little angling community, swapping hot fishing spots, exchange ideas and sharing deckie spots on each other's boats. Off the water frequent get together evenings are held for fly tying, chit chat and the odd cold beer.

Enter Peter White, a fellow Sydney swoffer and boat owner. A more humble, polite and genuine person you will struggle to find and it was an absolute pleasure to see Peter's big smile when he arrived at the airport. Peter and I headed to Christmas Island together in 07 and have spent many an hour chasing salmon and kings around the Harbour together and after flying across the continent to meet me, it was only a few hours after arriving that we were out on my boat cruising a flat talking rubbish and looking for fish. Months of anticipation are finally over and the first fish is such a sweet ice-breaker - the smile says it all.

After milling around town for a day or so, we decided to stock up on supplies and head out into the wilderness to explore some new ground in search of hungry fish. With a midday high, things were in our favour and this meant maximum time on the water while the sun was high in the sky. Optimal conditions for fly fishing and sight casting.

Mangrove Jacks have a fiery attitude and spend their time amongst reefs and rocky outcrops, sitting in the shadows of overhanging ledges or in little caves, waiting patiently to ambush any unsuspecting offering that happens to swim past. In the same way that barramundi are targeted by casting the fly amongst the snags, Jack fishing is virtually the same where once they grab it, they put every bit of effort to head back to the protection of their little hole or cave. They also taste extremely good!

Queenies are commonplace in Australia and can be found across the entire Northern half of Australia from SE Queensland on the East Coast, right across the top-end from Cape York, through the Northern territory to Darwin, The Kimberleys, Broome, Exmouth and as far South as Shark Bay on the West Coast. They're a fantastic sport fish and readily take both surface and sub-surface flies. Greg Bethune of Carpentaria Seafaris in Cape York rates them as one of his favourite sport fish to target on fly, so too does American fishing personality Dan Blanton. How could one ever get tired of sight casting to metre long predators that have no hesitation in taking a fly?

In the afternoon once the sun dips to a certain point on the horizon, it becomes more and more difficult to spot fish on the flats. This becomes a perfect time to change tactics and do something different like dredging flies over a reef or chasing tuna in open water as they feed on the surface.

Double hook-up on tuna.

Aah, life is good !

Peter and I decided to check out some new flats one day so while one day we were slowly motoring along, we spotted a large dark shape moving in a straight line across the flat about 50m away. The tide was full and every flat had water on it and the tide had pushed up right into the mangroves that line the shore. After following the shape for about a minute or two we eventually caught up with it just as it reached a clump of dead logs in the water, close to the mangroves. Peter flicked a fly at the shape that had now materialised into a very respectable GT and no sooner after the fly had landed, about 4 queenies appeared out of nowhere from amongst the logs and one immediately ate Peter's fly. The GT bolted away and as he did so, 2 permit came out from under the logs and also disappeared in an instant. Peter remained hooked up for about 30 seconds as the rather large queenfish pulled him amongst the logs and proceeded to wrap him around a submerged log. Fish lost - but what on earth had we stumbled upon here ??

Metre long queenfish had moved in with the tide and were now milling around right up inside the snags along with the odd spooky permit, both species at times seemed to be sitting motionless in the shadows of submerged logs. We tried for the permit but the moment the fly hit the water, the queenies would instantly react by darting around spooking the permit which makes it very hard to get a clean shot at them. We resorted to using surface poppers and cast at the large shaped that were hanging around the logs and this really switched things on. Peter was fishing with an 8wt Sage Xi2 and an Islander reel, I was using my trusty 9wt Orvis T3 with a Mako 9500 reel. We were both using Sci Angler Striped Bass Intermediate lines which are ideal for this type of fishing.

The next 2 days was some of the most spectacular close-range, all-visual, adrenalin-pumping, fly fishing we've both ever done so the flat is now affectionately named after Peter, we're calling it 'flat white'.

Fly fishing all day is tiring work and there's possibly nothing better than coming back to base camp at Wilderness Island and enjoying a feed of fresh mud crab with an ice cold beer.

Apart from the obvious highlight of enjoying some great fishing with a good mate in a fantastic part of the world, there were many other special moments to reflect upon.

My first giant herring that I actually managed to land. The six before this one had other ideas ..

Thanks Peter for the great company and conversations we had and for being a true friend, I look forward to catching up again soon.
Those epic days on 'flat white' will remain in our memories forever.

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