Western Australia, Dampier Archipelago

Just returned from a weeks fishing in Western Australia.

8 Months ago, we started planning a week long fishing trip for myself and 5 others; John, WIlliam and Jono from Sydney, Wendell from NZ, and Jono's Father from South Africa, all living on a house boat for a week.

The idea was to time the trip around good tides to get some pelagic action, but the weather and cold water temps had other ideas. June and July are dominated by constant Easterlies and for the first 4 days, we were fishing in 15-20 knot winds. The water temp was also really cold in some parts at 16.5 degrees !!

We did however find some warmer water and the action was great.

Here's a couple of pics:

The boat was basic yet very comfortable and had everything including BBQ on the back deck, coffee machine, bread making machine, 2 fridges, TV with DVD (never got turned on once), 2 500 lt fresh water, and 8 beds.

The boat came with 2 tenders and I arranged a third so we could be 2 per boat. These are Plaka Boats and they were really stable and comfy to drive in the chop.

With no crew on board, it meant we had to provide all food and drink ourselves. We arranged a shopping list before the trip, and after an hour's shopping at the local supermarket, we had our food and drink all sorted.

John is an absolute legend!!! Not only is he an experienced fisherman (and creator of the infamous LKC fly that catches milkfish), but he is also a passionate cook, and boy can he cook!!!

Thanks to John, we enjoyed Thai fishcakes for starters some nights, both red and green curry with fresh ingredients, freshly caught coral trout with special Thai sauce and Seafood Marinara pasta.

John hard at work ... take a look at the fishcakes in the pan !!!

William cooking some fresh Spaniard steaks on the BBQ ..

The scenery was amazing! The islands are all granite rock that's been baked and cracked from a million years under the scorching sun.

The rock provided for some spectacular looking waters. Most of the fishing was done from the tender boats, and it was a matter of casting flies into the washes or around rock bommies, not quite sure what you might get ...

Some very fishy waters ..

Typical beach scene with rocks, brilliant white sand and clear blue water ..

Now for some fish. This beautiful dart was caught along this beach, casting into the back of the wash. These fish are incredibly strong and fast for their size. Some people call them a 'poor mans permit'

John with a juvenile Diamond Trevally. Check out the extended dorsal fin

William, connected to one of many little GTs that patrol the rock ledges

The result ..

On the second day Jono saw some bait being smashed not to far away. From the size of the bust ups, they looked like tuna to me so he raced over and positioned the boat for his father to take a cast.

He had a 3 inch surf candy, 20lb tippet and was using his 9wt. He took one cast and as the fly landed, the water exploded and in no time, virgin backing was screaming off his reel ..

Prior to this trip, Jono's father's Saltwater experience has been pretty much limited to a morning's salmon fishing in the Harbour and a bit of light estuary work back home.

Half an hour later and he was still connected and it was apparent that this was a really good fish. Check out the bend in the 9wt!!

How's this for a fish of a lifetime !!

GT estimated at 40lbs +, caught on a 9wt. Congratulations Robin.

Robin's face says it all ...

Although the wind blew and it was pretty cold, there wasn't a cloud in the sky for the entire time we were there and this allowed for some amazing sunrise and sunsets. The colours in the sky were a wash of blues, purples and oranges and made for a perfect contrast agains the red earth.

Purple skies every evening ..

Monday night was the full moon. We were sitting on the back of the boat enjoying sundowners, when behind us, up came the moon. The place took on a truly magical feel.

And because of the moon and it's influence on the tides, this meant for some great pelagic action. There wasn't as much as we'd hoped for, but a few good fish were still hooked and even fewer landed.

The day after this pic was taken, in exactly the same spot, Wendell and John had a sailfish swim right past their boat. They threw files at it but it just wasn't interested.

Spaniard caught from a burley trail... delicious on the BBQ (thanks William)

There were unfortunately very few tuna around. Each day at a certain point in the tide, a handful of longtail tuna would come in from deeper water and smash bait for about 15 mins, then head out again.

On the first day Jono saw them in the water and there were some very large fish amongst them, at least 12kg plus.

On the third day, Jono was in the right place at the right time and had the chance to cast at them. Using a 10wt rod, 20lb tippet and 3 inch surf candy, I connected to a very large, very fast, very stong tuna.

He chased the fish 1.5km offshore for 45 minutes and eventually got it to the boat. This day Jono joined his father in catching his largest fish ever on fly.

Estimated 35lbs, Longtail Tuna, WA style ...

Late one afternoon William and I we doing a last lap of a bommie to the south - it had been a tough windy day and William hadn't landed a single fish - although he'd had dozens of short takes and refusals in the cold water.

Scanning the surface with the sun behind me William spotted a big glowing bronze shape and said to me: "Hey check out the shark!" I said: "No, look there - it's a pack of Dolphins!" Then the lead beast turned in towards us and as it approached I realised that it was an enormous GT. "Bloody hell Stuart they're GTs" William screamed and we were surrounded by a gang of about 20 of the monsters out hunting for a school of baitfish to demolish.

We started firing off casts - the really big lead fish (I estimate a 70lb fish) didn't flinch as William's first presentation plopped in front of him. A second shot - two big fish close behind the lead thug deviated course slightly to inspect his fly but turned away a couple of feet short of taking it. A third cast hit the water in the middle of the pack - the larger fish ignored it but a small fish from the back of the pack dashed in and grabbed the fly no questions asked. We hooked up at the same moment - but I got busted instantaneously :(
Luckily everything held together for William and we got into clear water away from the bommie. 25 minutes of sometimes quite painful slugfest ended on this happy note:

So all in all, we had a fantastic time.

Delicious food, great wine, breathtaking scenery, 6 mates on a boat (fish are just a bonus) - how much better can life get.

Best regards