Contributed by Scott Mitchell
The fabulous fly fishing found in Hervey Bay has a lot to do with its geographic location & the unique mix of warm & cool water species to be found side by side. You also have vast flats which run from the top of World Heritage listed Fraser Island all the way down to the bottom of the Great sandy Straights at In Skip point. If there was ever going to be viable land based tuna location it would have to be around Moon Point & In skip , where both mackerel & long tail tuna herd bait up along the beaches with-in casting distance from the shore on a reasonably consistent basis throughout each season.
Sid Boshammer pioneered the Hervey Bay flats fishery back in the early 90’s. When exploring the shallows with renowned Saltwater fly angler Dean Butler they came across large fish tailing on the flats inside Moon Point – these turned out to be Golden Trevally. In order to explore & promote this unique fishery it was decided to hold a fly fishing tournament in 1995. Some of Australia’s most experience fly anglers attended these tournaments over the next few years including, Dean Butler, Peter Morse, Rod Harrison, Allan Philliskirk, Kaj Busch, Leeann Payne and others.
This sort of experience really opened up the potential for Hervey Bay as an important fly fishing destination. It was during the second tournament that a few switched on anglers headed to the top of the Island after working out the boat traffic had put the Golden’s off the flats back in the bay after day one. While exploring the flats up around Roony’s point they came across Longtail Tuna cruising the flats in only a few metres of water. I believe it was Peter Morse & Allan “fish” Philliskirk who first found these fish & used their tally to blitz that comp. Paul Dolan (Hervey Bays longest working guide ) has also spent a lot of time on these northern flats & has added large Queen fish , Cobia , Giant Trevally & Permit to the list of species encountered on these vast flats. There are even large Threadfin salmon to be found down through the Great Sandy Straight & in the main rivers which feed this amazing section of water.
Warren Steptoe was the most likely angler to first alert the fishing fraternity to the bill fishery at the top of Fraser Island & Platypus bay. Warren caught many small black marlin on trolled baits & lures along the edges of the flats back in the 80’s and wrote about it regularly in Modern Fishing magazine. Warren & his mates where mostly lure fisherman but also carried fly fishing tackle & caught plenty of spotty mackerel & tuna in the Platypus Bay area during the same time.
It was the year of 2006 when two young anglers from Hervey Bay ,Justin Nye & James Otto landed what is believed to be the first black marlin sight cast on the flats with fly fishing tackle – without any teasers. That same year local fly fishing guide Nat Bromhead also added two of his clients, Jono Shales & Frank Concilias to the Flats Marlin hall of fame. I also teased up five fish in one day for good mate Jack De Pasquale who landed his first Marlin on the beach after hooking it in only a few metres of water. It does need to be understood that this unique marlin fishery is not a consistent or predictable fishery – it’s not even an annual event.
A good indicator that we will see numbers of these small black marlin in the bay is when numbers of these fish are encountered further north off Townsville & Cairns from around August each year. These fish aggregate around known bait fish grounds inside the Great Barrier Reef. Once they show up in these locations in numbers it is generally understood there will be a good migration of these fish down the East coast as they follow the warm water south.