Port Stephens, less than three hours north of Sydney, is a rewarding spot for fly fishermen happy to wade the flats and fish breakwalls during the cooler months.
Catching my first luderick on fly was a priority for this trip. They’re a favourite of mine and I’ve spent 30 happy years pursuing them from the ocean rocks with an Alvey reel and fibreglass rod, suspending cabbage weed beneath a float and waiting for the ‘down’. Most of the wrinkles on my face are from countless hours spent squinting through the sun’s reflection on the ocean’s surface, trying to track the float.
My approach with the fly was going to be similar, although I’d be fishing from a breakwall with a weed fly and indicator. Berley as well, I must confess. If a bucket of chopped weed mixed with sand was going to improve my chances, I’d take it.
In winter, the luderick swim in from the ocean en masse to spawn in the bays around Port Stephens, so the odds were seemingly stacked in my favour. But I’ve been finishing long enough to be skeptical of favourable odds, so we took a range of flies to cover our options. If the luderick weren’t in the mood to play, we could wade around the bays and chase bream and flathead with shrimp imitations.
Thankfully, the luderick were feeling charitable and I managed to catch a few. The fish took the fly right up against the breakwall, so there wasn’t any need to replicate a cast from A River Runs Through It. Probably a good thing too, because I would have hooked a few hapless tourists walking on the breakwall behind me if I’d tried.
Short casts worked with a little run in the tide for a drift. Changing the depth of my fly beneath the indicator was also important. Half a metre made a big difference.
Aside from the blackfish, the area had a number of bays with rocky shorelines and weed beds. Prime bream territory, and my fishing buddy Greg broke in his new 6-weight with a lovely bream on fly.
Port Stephens didn’t disappoint and I’ll visit again in summer to chase bream and whiting on surface flies.