Fly Fishing for Sydney Harbour Kingfish

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Martin With a Nice Kingie

Kingfish would have to be one of the most highly sort fish in Australia. Pound for pound, they're one among the hardest fighting fish in the sea, and their willingness to take a bait, lure or fly makes them popular with all anglers. The great news is that Kingys aren't found on Cape York or some similarly inaccessible place - there's plenty to be found in Sydney Harbour.

For the Desperate and Boatless

Chasing kings requires a boat (or a 500 m cast). Don't get demoralised if you don't own a boat though: there are a number of places on the harbour from where you can hire a 4m tinny. That's plenty of boat for 2 people to fly fish out of comfortably, and it'll get you around plenty of the kingy hotspots. Hire is pretty cheap (60 bucks for 4 hours), and you don't need a boat licence.

Arming Yourself: Gearing Up

Kings can get pretty big. 20 kilo plus fish are regularly caught in places like Lord Howe Island, New Zealand and South Australia. Harbour specimens aren't nearly that big - 2 kilo fish (approx. 60 cm) are the norm, though the average size is on the increase since the banning of kingfish traps in the mid-90s. Don't be fooled though - a 2 kilo harbour kingy will clean you up more often than not. God knows what a 20 kilo specimen goes like!

LLC-13 Leader

The Harbour Hoodlums' choice of habitat is the main reason why they blow you away so often. While they occasionally school up in open water, the bulk of their time is spent hanging around structures like channel markers and marker buoys. And these barnacle-encrusted structures have seen the loss of many a fly (and the occasional flyline) when the kingy wins the battle and makes it home. The thing is if you're not in close to these structures, you won't hook the fish, so such casualties are inevitable with sort of fishing. You also need to be deep. Occasionally the kings can be taken on the surface or just below with poppers or sub-surface flies, but you'll enjoy far more success if you get the fly in deep.

Now you can get fast-sinking fly lines, but at $100+ a line chasing kings would be an expensive pastime. A better bet is to use a leadcore shooting head (such as the Cortland LC13) with braided mono as a running line. They sink really quickly, and you'll get 4 or 5 of these for the price of a decent flyline. Admittedly the down side is they're somewhat cumbersome to cast, but with a 6/0 clouser on the end of the leader, casting won't be pretty anyhow. And kingys don't care too much about delicate presentations.

Terminal tackle is simple: 4 to 6 feet of 20-pound mono. Make it relatively stretchy mono though, so you've got some shock resistance. Fly choice is equally simple: big clousers. You can't beat their sink rate. Green/Yellow & green/white are probably as good a colour scheme as any.

In terms of rod weight, probably a gutsy 8 weight is the minimum. Between casting the leadcore and the big heavy fly, and then extracting the fish, you'd be badly outgunned with anything lighter. Ideally you'd go with a 9 or 10 though. In what is probably one of the few similarities to trout fishing, the reel is only a line storage tool: fighting hoodlums is a hand-to-hand affair.


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