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Fly Fishing Adventures

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The Ningaloo Reef - Sight Fishing at it´s Best


The map of Australia shows a peninsula extending northward from its northwest corner. This approximately 75 mile long peninsula is known as the North West Cape and is home to the town of Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef.


The spectacularly clear waters of the Indian Ocean lap upon the shoreline of this isolated and remote outback desert coastline.





The rich marine life here has recently made this area a popular tourism destination. Indeed, the marine life of the Ningaloo Reef is becoming world famous and, in our experience, is only rivaled by the Seychelles pristine atolls of Alphonse and St. Francois.


Coincidently, an equally outstanding shallow water fishery has been discovered headlined by Indo-Pacific Permit, Bonefish, Giant Trevally, and Golden Trevally.


This fishery has two distinctly different aspects.


On the western coast of the cape, are the crystal clear, tourquiose waters of the Indian Ocean and the Ningaloo Reef. On the eastern side, is the Exmouth Gulf, a totally different marine environment. The waters on both sides of the cape provide an outstanding number of shallow water, sight casting opportunities. I split my six days fishing equally between both sides of the cape. 


Ningaloo Reef - The Location

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Physical layout of the Northwest Cape, a large peninsula in the northwest area of Australia – there are two distinctly different marine environments:


  • the ocean side with the Ningaloo Reef. Spectacular marine environment beginning with shallow flats near the shoreline. As you move out toward the reef, water gets 7 to 10 feet deep with majestic coral heads, teeming with tropical fish.

The gulf side.


  • Town of Exmouth – small (pop 2500 which expands during the high tourist seasons when the Whale Sharks and Humpback Whales migrate through the area) community which was originally built by the US Navy to monitor submarine movement in World War II. Still has a strong military presence.

Exmouth fishing options.....the many ways to approach fishing here:


  • pure sight casting.......looking for fish you could cast to – obviously, the reason I was there.
  • Chumming fish to the boat, then casting. Works well for those interested in more numbers of fish
  • Can spin or fly fish
  • Great offshore fishery for billfish – sails and blue, black, and striped marlin. This is was attracts the most fishing attention. Seems as if almost everyone in Exmouth has a boat rigged for offshore fishing.
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Exmouth marine attractions other than fishing:


  • Scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Sea Turtles – nesting, laying, and hatching
  • Whale Sharks
  • Humback Whales and their pups 


A Fly Fishing Diary

From Don Muelrath


Day 1 – flew to Exmouth from Perth.....our third trip and very comfortable with the logistics now. Very relaxed and rested as we fly north.


Day 2 – fished reef side.....light clouds and light winds. Tide incoming – fished flats near shore and twice moved near reef to look for GT’s.

A “warm up” day getting familiar with the rhythm and timing of the fishery and the casts needed. Had a bunch of “almosts.”


  • had a permit tail on my fly, but didn’t eat. Had two other good permit shots.
  • A large bone (12+ pounds) followed my fly to the boat. 
  • A big Golden Trevally charged my fly and had a hook a small blue trivially that beat the golden to the fly. 
  • And the highlights.....had several good GT shots including a follow by one that was 70+. Saw at least 20 GT’s, most in two’s and three’s that went 40-60#. Made some bad casts that came up short and got follows but were spooked when they got close to the boat. Hooked a 50# fish and had him for 5 minutes before two large sharks showed and began chasing him....he panicked and cut me off on coral. Exciting stuff, but no GT photo.
  • Saw over 15 sea turtles......most days would see 20-30 sea turtles in the course of a fishing day....seemed like the larger sea turtles were on the reef side.


Day 3 – reef side, winds light, but cloud cover and bad glare on water. Flats had bad glare from bright clouds and three dolphin showed and worked there way down the entire flat. Saw 2 permit but no shots – conditions didn’t allow us to see fish soon enough so we moved out near the reef to look for trevally among the coral heads. Found a school of a 16# ---so tough around the coral heads....had to hold his head up over the coral. Amazing strength and bull dog approach. After 20-25 minutes, to net. School still around – two of these over the coral enough so decided to focus on GT’s. Actually easy to get Goldens to eat when they are in a school, but so tough to land around the coral. Rest of day, seeking GT’s. Saw 12 fish, got 5 shots, had 3 fish charge the fly including one about 60# open his mouth and appeared to eat, but pulled off at last second. Feb 18 –Took a Giant Herring on flats (think large ladyfish....great jumper) Amazing number of GT sightings......on the flats, had 8. Had 3 good shots and two fish charged the fly – one ate but no hookup. Saw a few permit, but no good shots. Have had two rods stripped out and was using both.....quick switches. Afternoon, moved out near reef Saw more than a dozen GT’s. Had 5 good shots, 3 fish charged fly, one ate, but no hook up (trout strike). One charge – we saw the fish about 100 feet away over coral heads....then he disappeared (dropped down).....cast to where we thought he was headed and about 30 feet from the boat, this 60# fish comes charging up from between coral heads, but pulls off fly at last second as he sees the boat.


Day 4 - weather looked iffy on reef side so decided to try for barramundi on gulf side; however when we got to boat launch site on beach, winds had changed.....Brett afraid of it evolving into heavy north wind – make it tough to get the boat out. Went back to Exmouth - reef side looking better so gave it a try. Tried a few flats....saw one permit, but flats were dead. Rest of day searching out GT’s. Saw 9, got 5 shots, 3 responded to fly, two charged, and hooked up with a 55 pounder. It raced toward the mainland, but made a u- turn trailing lots of line. Snagged on coral head. Brett dived in a cleared the still on, but hung in another coral head.....broke off. Damn! Getting closer! Took a Giant Herring on flats (think large ladyfish....great jumper)

First four days summary: Focus was on sight fishing for GT’s. Saw over 50 fish, mostly singles, but a few pairs and two three-somes. Maybe three fish under 40# and four fish over 60 (one maybe at 80). Got 23 shots. Speed of retrieve critical.....sissors strip helped with speed. 13 fish responded to fly, 12 charged......a large GT rushing at your fly is one of the great thrills. Some were on flats less than 3 feet deep, but most were on deeper flats 8-10 feet deep. Four fish ate and two were hooked up and eventually broke off on coral. Learned it was more effective to focus on the strip and not watch fish.....the charge is a major distraction......very dramatic.


Day 5 – Brett heard that a large number of Queenfish (a fish I wanted to check off) were around a small set of islands about 9 mi offshore (Murions). The Queens were there – great fish/leapers....after about 6 or 7, I got bored and we decided to go looking for GT’s on the back side of the islands where the reefs were. Found a stretch of beach with an incredible numbers of GT’ were not as large as those by the Ningaloo Reef – between 20 and 50#. Saw over 25...a few schools of 4 or 5 fish, some triples and some doubles – the largest were singles. Got 8 clean shots.....2 eats were charging so hard directly at me that I couldn’t get the hook set. Got the third.....31#. Not the big one I wanted, but good enough to scratch an itch!


Day 6 – went deep in gulf after skies, no clouds. Perfect....except up til lunch, the tide was low, water clear, and like spooked at 100 feet....felt like Belize! Except for the GT’s we saw on the flats, all my GT casting was from a rolling boat impacted by wave action over the reef. Today, felt good to be casting from a solid platform that didn’t have a lot of movement. Saw lots of fish......for the day, over 30. One school of 5, the rest threesomes, twosomes, and mostly singles. In the afternoon, had four good shots, two bad casts, and two hookup and tough fish about 8# kept me intensely involved for 20 minutes before the net.


Day 7 – Same weather....great. Into gulf for permit and maybe try one spot that held both permit and GT’s. Saw far less fish than the previous day (about 9-10), had 5 good shots, and got two fish, one about the same as yesterday and one about 2# larger. The smaller one had some of the orange and gold coloring that we don’t see are our permit....not only was he beautiful, but took me over 25 minutes.....just a spectacular pound for pound fight! Sharks....when they showed, Brett has his “rock pile” and scares them off. It was a great day, but could have been ultra-spectacular! We had a clean shot at a 60+# GT 40 feet from the boat and coming straight at us. Cast, he charged, he ate....but coming right at us and couldn’t get a set. This has happened a few times. We decided when fish is coming direct at us, we have to cast to the side and try to get him to turn before he eats so we can get the hook set.


Day 8 – weather clear again, winds light. Gulf side again for permit. First permit we saw, one cast, and fish on. As soon as Brett got a good look at its size, he told me I was in for at least a 40 minute struggle. First run.....200 yards into my backing in a flash. About 15 minutes in, a 7 foot Lemon Shark shows, attracted by the struggle. Brett fires 3 rocks and the Lemon slowly turns around and wanders off. Another 10 minutes and it’s a 12 foot Tiger Shark looking for a meal.....throw the rocks, fish stops and backs away for just a short minute, then back on the scent of my fish. Shark and permit only about 50 feet away....Brett yells for me to loosen the drag on my reel so the fish can run freely, fires up the big motor and races straight for the shark. It turns and slowly moves off to the edge of the flat. Then, back again.....this time, Brett guns the motor and puts the boat between the two fish and, in neutral, guns the motor over and over. Finally, the Tiger slowly swims off to look for something easier. After 45 minutes, the permit is in the scale, but a solid 16-17 pounds. Saw another 8 or 9 fish, got 3 more good shots, had an eat, but no more fish. A dramatic conclusion to a terrific week of sight fishing the North West Cape in Australia and a week with one of the best saltwater guides we´ve fished with worldwide!



Overall, itinerary planning for AUSTRALIA is a personalized process because of the options, budgetary considerations, and different approaches. It depends where you coming from. If you come from Europe or USA or from AUSTRALIA itself, and if you like to make a trip combination of a couple holiday with a stop over at the Fiji Islands or fishing only. A trip to AUSTRALIA Ningaloo Reef is also a great combo tie-in with NZ. Both in same part of the world so you maximize your travel time and budget. If you have the time, you can combine the world class trophy trout stalking in NZ crystalline streams and rivers with some of the best saltwater fishing on the planet. We always spend time in NZ in combination on our personal trips. A couple’s itinerary is for the Ningaloo Reef also attractive because of the maritime non-fishing activities. Accommodations range varies. We recommend the Exmouth Beach Resort (picture above), and we work with an very experienced Guide for the Ningaloo Reef. 


The planning process starts with reviewing tentative itineraries that may meet the traveler’s objectives. Those tentative itineraries create discussion points and we begin a “messaging process” until the perfect itinerary is defined. After that we present a personal trip plan to you within the budget you intent to spend. 


As FFTC Member with a valid membership you get savings to the regular rate you will normally pay. 



2,5% discount



Please note:

As with many of the world’s top fly fishing destinations, the top guides and lodges are early fully booked. 


Planning far in advance allows for us to get the top options available for the time frame we need for your itinerary.

Please contact us to make your dreams come true. 



FFTC Member Contact


Fly Fishing Adventures

Don Muelrath

Phone: 888-347-4896

 001-707-254-8684 (outside USA)

Fax:  001-707-255-3812


For Mail:

PO Box 2027

Napa, Ca 94558

For packages and courier deliveries:

2364 Chad Court

Napa, CA  94558