Learning to Fly Fish around the world
Back in 1997, I chanced upon a River Somewhere, a TV doco hosted by Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch of Working Dog fame. It was about travelling the world searching for that perfect fly fishing river and may be catch a trout or two. Several things really captured my imagination. It was the beautifully filmed scenery of stunning rivers and landscapes. It was the way the dripping line glistened in the sunlight as it arched through sky. Along with that, the gentle plop of the fly as it lobbed near a trout in crystal clear water. Along with Rob and Tom’s gentle understated commentary, I was captivated.
It got me thinking that I might give fly fishing a shot, but I know it’s no easy skill to learn. Then other priorities came and went, and before I knew it 2009 came around and I got to go fly fishing for real. We were on one of those big cruise ships that do the Alaska Inside Passage thing. Everyday we stop for a day of organised shore leave activities.
I picked the salmon fly fishing trip that requires a short and spectacular sea plane flight to a river somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness. We were given a quick fire lesson by our guide, a young bloke with a big gun. No bears around today, however.
Salmon were everywhere, heading up stream to spawn. With heavy ungainly waders on, I gingerly waded into knee deep freezing water. Having never cast a fly until 5 minutes ago, I barely flicked the fly more than a few metres. It didn’t matter, moving salmon all around me. I caught six salmon and unlike bears, I released them so they can fulfil their reproductive duties.
Like the Salmon, I was hooked.
A few weeks after Alaska we found ourselves on the grassy banks of the Little River, Stowe, Vermont. Picnic, friends, wine, fly fishing and a perfect trout river if ever I saw one. It doesn’t get much better, except no fish, but that’s OK.
My next fly fishing episode came in the form of a birthday present from Jane. Obviously if I was going to continue this caper I would need some fly fishing coaching. Clearly my instructor thought I needed a lot or work. Like watching the Yoda of fly fishing is action, I was mesmerised. He made that fly skip and dance over the water as if guided by the Force. I was the exact opposite, and little frustrating for me, he insisted I cast without a fly. Even if there were ravenous trout around in this lake near Pemberton, I had zero chance of catching anything. But I guess that is the point. Mastery of casting the fly is the skill, catching trout is delayed gratification. Fly fishing is all about mindfulness and patience.
After that lesson, I bought a fly fishing kit online and it laid in storage gathering dust. Pre COVID we were constantly housesitting both locally and interstate. That is exactly what we were doing in the little town of Eldorado in Victoria. Knowing that nearly every waterway in the state teems with trout, I came armed with my fly fishing rod. One day I decided to wet line. I got in the car and took a scenic drive to Harrietville, set on the banks of the Ovens River. Rod and fishing licence in hand, I took a walk upstream and found a likely spot near some small rapids. Cast after ineffectual cast, and only a tiddler had a sniff of interest. It was such a beautiful setting and I realised that catching fish is just the icing on the cake. The real point of fly fishing is about savouring the moment and nature.
Now my fly fishing journey has unexpectedly come to my own backyard, the Swan River at Claremont in Perth. A week a go I inefficiently lobbed my fly out onto the shallow lapping river flats. Being summer, the water was crystal clear and warm around my legs. Instead of cold water trout, my quarry was flathead and flounder.
Again, no luck. Clearly I need more practice. They say that it’s about the journey and not the destination. That is certainly the case with my efforts at fly fishing. At least now, we live in a location where I can practice anytime I want. And in the words of Rob Sitch, there’s always a river somewhere.
Five places to go fly fishing in WA
Considered the epicentre of trout fishing in WA. Plenty of beautiful locations amongst the karri forest. It is very hard to go past the Warren River
- Shark Bay
For saltwater fly fishing from a boat or shore, Shark Bay is great for catching bream, trevally and whiting from the shore.
Shallow water inside the reef offers excellent fishing. Watch out for sanctuary zones where fishing is banned
- Harvey Dam
This popular lake is well stocked with trout and other species
- Swan River
The Swan River shoreline is a haven for flathead, flounder and black bream which all will munch on a fly. Better still, it’s right on Perth’s doorstep