Back in the 1980s I was the cameraman/producer of a television show featuring Lefty Krey’s travels and adventures across the top end of tropical Australia.
He enjoyed world-class fly fishing for many species he hadn’t encountered before, and he cast on a variety of fish-rich and remote locations. It was a privilege to be with him as he saw for himself what Australia has to offer fly anglers. Before the end of the trip Lefty called Australia “the new frontier.”
During his trip, one species stood out: the barramundi. Lefty compared it to a snook, but remarked on it being more powerful, much larger on average, and that it responded to similar fishing techniques.
His old haunts had become, in his own words, “overcrowded and terribly expensive.” He and many other anglers, he said, were looking elsewhere.
After the trip Lefty wrote in his book Fly Fishing in Saltwater, “As I see it, the next great frontier where developments will rival those made in the 50s and 60s . . . will be in Australia. Here they have thousands of miles of coast, with all sorts of tackle breaking fish species that may become as well known as bonefish and tarpon”
Sadly Lefty is no longer with us, but his prediction was spot on.
Australia has over 21,000 miles of coastline, far more coast per capita than any other continent. With more than a thousand estuaries, there is a diverse range of sport fishing, including great opportunities for permit and bonefish, and many species not so well known outside of Australia. Much of it is still a very remote, and a well kept secret, often only accessible by boat.
The tropical northern half of Australia remains the least populated, and in many parts the least accessible. It is also in this top half that our premier sportfish, the barramundi (Lates Calcarifer) is found.
Barra, as Aussies call them, are similar to snook in appearance and habits, but they have a bulkier profile, can grow to over 100 pounds, and have an average length between two and four feet. They eat almost anything, including other barramundi, and can consume prey up to 60 percent their length.
With loads of attitude and a depth-charge like bite that inhales any hapless baitfish or fly that comes within striking range, plus acrobatic jumps and a vast range of different areas within Australia to fish for them, it’s no wonder they are an ideal fly target.
The natural range of barra extends from the desert country in the Kimberly area of Western Australia, through all the Top End of the Northern Territory, around Cape York in Queensland, and down as far as Hervey Bay in southeastern Queensland. Along this vast coastline, the locations where we can fish for barra are many and varied.