Exmouth, Western Australia Trip Report

Exmouth, Western Australia Trip Report

Exmouth, Western Australia:  The final stop on the adventure that my good friend Dan Vogel and I shared this winter.

The two incredible weeks fishing with Jono Shales of Exmouth Fly Fishing, not only taught us a lot about saltwater fly fishing, but also left Dan and I wanting more. We were super excited to make it to Western Australia because of the stories that Matt shared with us about his time there. I told Jono early in our trip that Dan and I both had limited saltwater experience and that my own personal goal for the trip was to become a more complete angler. Like any type of fishing there are subtleties that one can only learn by spending lots of time on the water. It also helps to fish with people like Jono who have dedicated thousands of hours to learning these little difference makers.  

The fishery surrounding Exmouth is so diverse that it is nearly indescribable.  One day we would fish the flats and target permit, golden trevally, GTs, and bonefish.   The next day we would be offshore on the Indian Ocean chasing marlin and sailfish.  Occasionally, on our way to a flat or the blue water we would see birds busting bait fish and we would race over and cast into slashing schools of tuna, mackerel, and trevally. The diversity in Exmouth is very unique and allows us anglers to play so many different and interesting games!  Even after two weeks, Dan and I felt like we were barely scratching the surface of the fishery.

Like any top-notch guide, Jono is a great teacher and a very passionate angler. His life is built around fishing and sharing his experiences with others, and he is an absolutely gracious host and a true ambassador for Australian fly fishing. Dan and I learned more about saltwater fly fishing than we ever expected thanks to Jono.  My own expectations were exceeded as I left with a better understanding of tides and how they influence fish behavior, different types of retrieves, strong saltwater knots, how to make quick, long, accurate casts, and most importantly, how to keep calm during the chaos. I highly recommend Jono as a guide and Exmouth as a fishery. I can’t wait to make it back!

Tasmania Trip Report

Tasmania Trip Report

Dan and I just finished a week of fishing Tasmania. What a beautiful place! While staying in the little town of Miena, middle Tasmania, I felt like we were on top of the world. 

Loads of lakes and smaller rivers cover the Tasmanian landscape, making for many many fishing opportunities. Our guide, Craig Coltman, has spent a good part of his life exploring island waters. He had us fish a variety of lakes and rivers, and his intimate knowledge of the area really helped us find success through some rather adverse weather. Craig spent years fishing with the Australian Fly Fishing team and happily shared his knowledge about lake fishing with a drogue (wind anchor) and Euro Nymphing. We learned a lot about those two techniques and are excited to try drogue fishing in Montana. It can be a very effective way to fish, and something new to bring back to our home waters. 

Many of Tasmania’s lakes are shallow and offer consistent mayfly hatches making for interesting sight fishing. They use the term “sharking” to describe hunting for risers, and we spent plenty of time doing just that. 

The birds and wildlife were really great, too. We saw wedge tail eagles, little kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and little ant eaters that looked like porcupines. The old growth forests were beautiful, making Tassy a hikers paradise. 

Now we are in Sydney for a couple of days, resting up a bit before heading to Exmouth, Western Australia to fish the saltwater. 

All the best, Justin 

South Island New Zealand Trip Report

South Island New Zealand Trip Report

I have wanted to fish New Zealand for a long time. It was one of those places on my list, if you know what I mean. I have heard stories about the beautiful brown and rainbow trout, the crystal clear rivers, big mountains, and friendly people. This last week on the South Island exceeded all of my expectations.

South Island New Zealand was the first stop in an incredible adventure that my good friend Dan Vogel and I are still in the middle of. We arrived via air to Queenstown, and took the bus up to Cromwell where we met up with our guide, Ronan Creane of Ronan’s Fishing Missions, for a week long road trip. Ronan grew up in Ireland fishing for sea trout, Atlantic salmon, and trout in rivers and lakes. In 2002 he started exploring New Zealand trout rivers and today he is a full time fishing guide on the South Island. I have always felt that the guide makes the difference between a good and a great trip and Ronan was phenomenal, getting us on the fish, arranging a number of critical local details, and also making us feel right at home. He certainly made the trip very special for Dan and me.

In a week of fishing, we only scratched the surface of fishing in New Zealand, but we did get to sample a wide variety of waters. We fished lakes, backwaters, spring creeks, and rivers. We did a lot of sight fishing, which NZ is known for, but did some blind casting too. We took fish on dries, nymphs, and streamers. All of these techniques proved to work in certain situations.

I have always loved walking and looking for targets (fish) and NZ offers a ton of this type of water. We fished both backcountry waters and more road accessible places as well. It turns out that not every fishery is a 10 mile hike, and Ronan shared with us a few “secrets” that were hidden in plain sight, allowing us to spend a lot of time fishing on days where walking into spots wasn’t the order of business. We also were treated to a couple of helicopter rides deep into the wilderness, which was a new experience for Dan and I.

Something that really stood out was that big fish were willing to hold in very visible places, completely exposed. Matt, who fished NZ a few years ago, had “warned” me of this, but it still came as a bit of a surprise. The first time I saw a 5-pound brown trout sitting in a foot of crystal clear water over sand, on a sunny day, swinging gently to pick off drifting nymphs, I had to readjust my entire way of thinking about trout. The lack of predators in New Zealand means very large trout will be very comfortable holding out in the open. This is important for anglers to know because it helps you understand where to look as you scan the water for a target. In Montana and Argentina birds of prey like osprey, king fishers, eagles make large fish take much different lies.

The fish, brown and rainbow trout, were gorgeous and very well conditioned – spectacular, really. I was very impressed by the average size. Trout from 3-6 pounds and 20-24 inches are what we saw during our trip. There are certainly larger (and smaller) fish about, as well. I will definitely visit New Zealand again as it is a beautifully unique place to fish for trout.

For those interested in doing a road trip that takes you to mountain rivers and lakes with a very fishy competent guide I highly recommend you contact Ronan, or give us a shoult and we’d be happy to get you in touch with him and help you sort out the details of a trip to the South Island!

Best,

Justin

PS – It turns out that fly fishing is indeed a small world. Over a decade ago I met some guys named Paul Arden, founder of Sexyloops.com, and Stu Tripney, of Stu’s flies. They were in West Yellowstone hanging out and fishing and they were the ones that first told me stories about New Zealand and its fish, and planted the seed in my brain to go there one day. Finding myself all these years later hanging out with Ronan, who it turns out is a close friend of theirs, was a real surprise, and goes to show you that some trips are just meant to be. As we talked, it became more and more clear that there was a great community connection that centered around Sexyloops.com that was bringing together some incredibly fishy and wonderful people. BSA’s own Matt Klara has been a contributor on Sexyloops over the last 12 years, alongside, you guessed it, Ronan.

BC Steelhead – Fall 2019 Opportunities

BC Steelhead – Fall 2019 Opportunities

Hi folks.  As you may know, I’ve been travelling to BC to steelhead fish and hosting trips for a number of years now.  Without questions, BC is one of my favorite destinations.  A unique place with wild rivers, big wild fish, and wonderful people and accommodations.  I just got word from a couple of lodges about open dates for fall 2019.  This past season was one for the record books, so most of the 2019 dates filled up immediately with return visitors.  That said, there are still some openings available on the Sustut and Bulkley Rivers, but we expect them to fill up fast.  If you have any interest in BC steelhead, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email, and I’d be happy to discuss these and other opportunities with you.

Justin

jspence@bigskyanglers.com

 

Steelhead Valhalla Lodge – Sustut River
  • October 14-21: Two boats, Six rods, 6 days guided fishing on Sustut. Price $7300 per rod.
Trout Creek Lodge  – Bulkey River
  • Aug 24-Sept 1: One boat, fishing two per boat, 7 guided days fishing, Price $8300 per rod.
  • Oct 20-27: One boat, Three rods, 6 guided days fishing. Price $7100 per rod.
  • Oct 27-Nov2: One boat, Three rods, 6 guided days fishing. Price $7100 per rod.
Tierra del Fuego Sea Trout – Estancia Despedida

Tierra del Fuego Sea Trout – Estancia Despedida

Big Sky Anglers is excited to be able to offer two open spots at Despedida Lodge during the prime time in 2019. 

This adventure includes 6 full days of fishing, from March 10-15.

If you’ve ever thought about sea trout, please feel free to get in touch, and we will be happy to tell you more about this and other opportunities.


I made my first trip to Tierra del Fuego in search of sea trout in 2008.  Looking back now, I’d have to  describe my understanding of anadromous fish at the time as somewhere between clueless and hopeful.  I had a set of expectations that were based on things I’d read and stories that I’d heard from friends who had chased sea trout and steelhead.  Now I often think back, comparing those initial thoughts and expectations that I had back then to what I’ve learned and experienced over the last 10 seasons.  And, if there is one statement I could make about sea trout and Tierra del Fuego, is that both defy expectations, and both have a beauty and complexity that are not truly apparent without experiencing them for yourself.

Not only that, but if there is one place and time to go to experience all the beauty and complexity of sea run brown trout in Tierra del Fuego, it is Despedida Lodge in early to mid- March.  Despedida is unique in that it offers access to so many different facets of sea trout water and sea trout angling.  The Lodge is located at the confluence of the Rio Grande, and a smaller tributary called the Rio Menendez.  It is this location that makes fishing here so unique, and interesting.  Because the Menendez is a critical spawning tributary for returning sea trout, the runs and pool on the Rio Grande downstream of the Menendez confluence are staging areas for huge numbers of sea trout.  My early March, these runs are stacked with fish, and new fish arrive each day, offering anglers the opportunity to fish over good numbers of fish, and also to experiment with presentations that will tempt both early returning and newly returning fish to grab.

Often it is the water conditions which dictate our initial presentation approach.  If rains have raised the river fish will often act aggressively toward larger patterns like leeches, swung on sink tips.  In low and clear conditions, presentations become more technical with smaller flies, lighter tips and floating lines taking center stage.  These are fairly “traditional” approaches to sea trout fishing, and they are proven over decades.  We fish both single and 2-handed rods on the Rio Grande, depending on conditions.

The Rio Menendez also fishes well.  While traditional approaches also work there, the intimacy of the water and unpressured nature of the fishing sets the stage for some angling that truly shatters expectations of sea trout angling.  I am talking about the ability to fish for double digit sea trout with the upstream dry fly, or dry/dropper methods like we use on the rivers of Montana!  For those willing to experiment, there is a complexity and uniqueness here that can’t be described with words.

What I really like about Despedida Lodge aside from the unique angling is the size of the lodge, and the quality of the guides.  The lodge setting is small and personal, catering to only six anglers each week.  The guides are knowledgeable, skillful, and speak both Spanish and English, and are some of the best I have ever worked with anywhere.  When it comes to sea trout, an experienced guide makes a huge difference in shortening an angler’s learning curve and deciphering the sometimes whimsical nature of the bite.  The wine and food aren’t bad either!!