Exmouth trip report
March 2021
Mike Phillips and Matt Denton
Guide. Brett Wolf- 5 days

Sunday 9th -
Day 1 Our guide had a trailer issue so this became one of our two non-guided days.
We hired a small SUV from the Resort ($75) and headed around to the west (Ningaloo) side for a day of fishing off the beaches.
We kicked off the day at the Fence line, a beach adjacent to the entrance to the National Park and after a short walk across the dunes we arrived at a narrow beach with sand and shallow reef for about ½ km each way. We were equipped with 9 & 10wt rods, intermediate lines and a 1/0 shrimp patterns and within ½ hour Matt had opened the account with a Spangled Emperor and Giant Herring.
We then entered the Park ($15 day pass at auto pay station) and headed south to Pilgramunna for a long beach walk towards Sandy Bay looking for fish along the sandy beach dispersed with rocky outcrops. We cast to a few Tuskies and other Wrasse species with regular sightings of Trevors, Queenies and the ever-present Sharks and Rays. Matt managed to add to his tally with Brassies and a Queenfish. After about 6km Mike’s legs started to protest the soft sand so we turned around and fished our way back to the car.

Monday 10th
Late start with Brett due to trailer repairs being completed in the early morning. Drove south for a beach launch at Learmonth and a short 20min boat run east to the top of the Bay of Rest. Good conditions, clear skies and about 1m of water on the flats with a 15km SW wind. Cruising the flats with the electric, Matt up front and Mike at the rear we were full of optimism and intent on Permit so we didn’t even bother to cast at some large Queenfish cruising past.
After a couple of early Permit sightings Matt threw out a nice 50ft cast to a decent fish and was rewarded with an eat. After a couple of sustained runs well into the backing we had the obligatory photos of Matt with a nice Anak Permit. Later in the day Mike spotted another smaller Permit mooching around on a shallow flat. After a few shots Matt again tempted the fish to eat and had a second Anak in hand in quick time. A great first guided day.
Matt's first permitmat's second permit

Tuesday 11th
Brett picked us up at 8am for another beach launch at Learmonth under optimum conditions. After a 60 min run across the Gulf we arrived at an area of flats known as Tree. A frustrating day ensued, with many shots at Permit by both Mike and Matt but due to either poor casting or uncooperative fish we did not manage a single fish to hand. To add insult to injury Matt had two unsuccessful shots at GT’s. Early in the day a mob of 7 to 8 good size (15 to 25 kg) GT’s cruised within casting range and Matt had the 12wt in hand in time for a cast. A good cast but they just cruised past seemingly oblivious to the moving brush fly. Later in the day a single GT estimated at 25 kg was seen cruising nearby. Brett quickly had us in good position for a shot and Matt made a perfect cast, a few strips and the GT swung towards the fly and did everything but manage to eat it, running very close to the boat and swiping at the fly numerous times! Fish of a lifetime missed.

A very frustrating day for all and it was a quiet trip back to the resort, each of us lost in the missed opportunities replaying in our minds

Wednesday 12th
Back to Tree determined to redeem ourselves from yesterday’s fiasco. Clear skies again but was ominously calm at the boat launch. After a very smooth trip across we arrived to mirror calm flats. Plenty of small sharks around and very soon we started to see Permit but with the calm conditions was very difficult to get within 70ft of them and they spooked even to a long cast landing 2+metres away. A cruising Queenie was accidentally called for a Permit so Matt threw the crab under its nose and had a nice fish to hand. The wind did not materialize so we decided to head back west with a stop off at an area called the sandspit, for a fun 30 minutes with some smaller Brassies, Queenies and Goldens keeping us entertained and finally getting a bend into Mike’s rod. Another stop at Bay of Rest flats but with no wind we couldn’t get within casting range of the only Permit sighted.

Thursday 13th
Calm again! Headed to Bay of Rest and then to a southern part of the gulf but again we struggled to get close enough for a cast and recent rains and mullet schools added to the challenge with many turbid areas making sight fishing impossible. Headed back west with another pit stop at Whitmore Island for some light relief on numerous species including Trevors and Queenfish. Finished up at Bay of Rest but again the calm conditions meant no Permit

Friday 14th
Finally, some better conditions, a decent 15-20km S-SW wind but with some ominous clouds around. Headed to the Bay of Rest determined to finish on a high. Cruised high up into the Bay and made several long drifts. With areas of murky water thanks to large schools of mullet
and regular cloud blocking the sun we only sighted 3 or 4 Permit and had only one reasonable shot for the day. Mike had a couple of shots at Queenfish and whilst the black and purple bendback deceiver grabbed their attention, he didn’t manage to hook up. Around 2pm a call came in from another guide that there was a nasty northerly squall headed our way so very quickly it was rods in for a hair-raising sprint back to the launch site. A rather inauspicious end to the last guided day.

Saturday 15th
Arranged a hire car for our last full day for more self-guided fishing. Back to the Fence Line around 8am to fish the last 2 hours of the rising tide. Cloudless skies, no wind and around 90% humidity meant we were both wet with sweat in 30 mins. Covered the same areas as last time for Brassies, Darts, Goldens, Herring and a Queenie. We then drove 15 minutes north to Trisal, a rocky platform about 1m above the water where a light breeze provided welcome relief from the oppressive humidity. The trusty Chartreuse over white Clouser had Mike into a Spangled Emperor on the first cast. After a break to replenish our depleted water supplies, we headed to Mildura Wreck for Tuskies on the last 2 hours of the falling tide. We sighted 6-8 fish in a little over an hour b
ut they proved to be very spooky. An entertaining but fruitless final session.

Mike's spangled emperorMatt's second permit maybe

Lessons learnt
As per Weipa, a 9-10 wt rod is fairly standard for use in Exmouth, and suitable for most species. An 8 wt will work well from the beaches. A 12 wt rod will be best for Giant Trevally. Good solid rock boots and a stripping basket are helpful when fishing the beaches. Good casting skills are imperative. You need to be able to regularly hit a 0.5 m diameter area with a weighted fly from 10 to 20 metres on a rocking boat with a 10-20 kph wind coming from all directions.
Therefore, your casting practice needs to mimic this as much as poss
ible, including casting accurately with the wind from your non preferred side. For GTs, a long cast with large flies on the 12 wt is often required to reach the fish.
We caught up with some very experienced fly-fishing mates of Matt’s in Perth and in addition to an enjoyable dinner with some great laughs they provided some further insight that was congruent with our experiences.
On a good day 4 decent shots at a Permit is about average. You need a 10-20 kph breeze, favourable tides, smaller weighted crabs or spawning shrimp patterns and a good dose of luck. The Queenfish are surprisingly fussy and at Exmouth a smaller fly tends to improve hook-up rates. The Tuskies at Mildura are always spooky and even a 20-metre cast landing the fly 2 meters away will often still spook them.

Exmouth is a great fly-fishing destination and you can access some great fishing on foot and without a guide or boat. However, if you want to chase Permit or GT’s a quality guide is a must but still no guarantee of success.