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Fifty Fabulous Places To Fish Before You Die


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Rob Sloane has published a new book that lists the 50 best places in New Zealand and Australia to fly fish

before you die.

In today's article, he lists his top 5.


Cast of magnificent obsessions

By Rob Sloane

AT face value, defining the fifty best places to fly-fish in Australia and New Zealand might seem to be a straightforward task. Well, hardly a task: more of a pleasure. But fly-fishing is not a pastime that is defined by best places. The local stream, estuary or even a stocked farm dam can provide endless fascination.

I regularly fish a lake that for me is a stand-out favourite, and my local stream holds more good-sized trout than most other rivers I know, but neither appears in this selection. And before you say it, I am not simply protecting my territory, as anglers are inclined to do. Having discovered a special stretch of water, we learn from experience to be careful to tell only those we trust - others, with less care and skill, may have more time to fish and a mind set on killing all they catch. So, whereas some may be disappointed by the omission of a place they consider to be one of the best, others may be relieved that their favourite water has escaped attention. To my knowledge Fifty Places to Fish is the first attempt to identify the best fly-fishing waters right across Australia and New Zealand, to put fly-fishing in a regional context if you like, and to venture beyond trout to really define the unique nature of the fly-fishing on offer.

Some might say that when you leave the banks of a trout stream you are no longer fly-fishing, but how wrong they would be. Ten years ago I might have said the same, but I have since been taken on a wild ride around Australia, as far north as Cape York and right across the continent from Fraser Island in the east to Exmouth in the west. From coral reef to tropical billabong, the reality is that with a fly rod in your hand and a suitable fly at the ready, you can fish just about anywhere at anytime in Australia and New Zealand.

As well as offering sustainability and exceptional fishing, each destination also had to offer something 'special'. There had to be a compelling reason to visit, as sizes and numbers of fish alone are rarely primary motivators. This says a lot about fly-fishing compared to other more basic fishing methods. 'Didn't catch much but had a great time' is understandably a fly-fishing expression, and not one that is expected to be met with sympathy. It is no surprise that those attracted to the aesthetics and rhythm of fly-casting, and whose fishing experience is always attendant on insect hatches and water quality, greatly value their environmental surrounds. Scenic grandeur, wilderness and sense of adventure all came to the fore when evaluating destinations.

Tradition, culture, history and literature also stake a claim, especially when assessing trout fishing priorities. Great waters are often associated with specific hatches (of mayflies in particular) or events (such as spawning migrations). But there are practical considerations to be made as well. Destinations such as Ballarat and Oberon are valued for their convenience and proximity to home. Whilst such places might not provide much solitude, the capacity to maintain worthwhile fishing on the doorstep of a major town or city is certainly worth noting.

Other well-populated waters, such as New Zealand's Queenstown and Rotorua districts, are valued for the range of other tourism activities on offer. We can all appreciate that the exposed terrain, extreme weather and biting insects of many fly-fishing environments can leave the non-fishing partner totally bemused. Sometimes a successful fishing holiday is more about compromise.

The best destinations are invariably environments where fish can be seen, stalked, and cast to, in true hunting style. This adds immeasurably to fly-fishing skill and enjoyment, and it rates so many Australian and New Zealand destinations among the very best in the world.

Finally, whilst remoteness is undoubtedly a key attraction, there was little point in listing endless destinations with little or no prospect of the average reader ever getting there. Where such places have been included – the Pine Valley lakes and the Wessel Islands for example – they should be viewed not as do-or-die destinations, but examples of what adventures await off the beaten track.

So there you have it - from the very tip of New Zealand's North Island to the damp depths of Fiordland in the South Island; from the arid beaches of Cape York to Tasmania's highland lakes – the fifty places you must fly-fish before you die.


IT'S hard to pick 5 favourites: it was hard enough to pick just 50 from around Australia and New Zealand!

Of all the entries in the book I would nominate the following as personal favourites.

1. Pine Valley Lakes

The Pine Valley is just one of hundreds of natural lake systems scattered across Tasmania's remote Western Lakes region. You need to be a fit and experienced bushwalker to tackle this country, but it is well worth making the effort. It is a unique and truly wild fly-fishing environment where trout can be stalked in shallow water.

2. Murchison

This region in the north of the South Island boasts several fabulous fishing lodges and many of the best fly-fishing rivers in New Zealand. Sight fishing to large brown trout in crystal clear water is the big attraction, and there are dozens of world-class rivers within a short drive.

3. Lake Taupo & the Tongariro River

Not exactly a wilderness destination but for year-round trout fishing, Lake Taupo and its tributaries in the central north of New Zealand's North Island would be hard to beat.

The winter fishery based on the rainbow trout spawning run attracts many Australians and visitors from around the world. The Tongariro River is a world-class destination.

4. Weipa & Cape York

My introduction to the diverse world of saltwater fly-fishing was on a mothership trip to the remote western coast of Cape York, north of Weipa. These live-aboard trips provide a unique wilderness experience, and there are dozens of species, from barramundi to tuna, that can be caught on a fly rod. This is a 'must visit' area for anyone interested in saltwater fly-fishing.

5. North West Cape

Midway between Perth and Broome, this extreme tip of Western Australia is a new frontier for fly-fishing. It's a great place to target a wide range of saltwater species including trevally, giant herring, emperor and bonefish. Ningaloo Reef and its associated marine reserves and beaches provide a wonderful diversion from fly-fishing too.

This is an edited extract from Fifty Places to Fish Before You Die, edited by Rob Sloane and published by Penguin Viking (rrp $49.95)

Edited by MallacootaPete
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