Learn how to tie a fly and that famous casting technique, and experience the challenge and joy of this increasingly popular local pastime.
He’s been told he looks a lot like the Honey Badger lately, but Aussie Fly Fisher instructor and guide Angus Reynolds just grins when I mention the resemblance and says he’s not bothered by it.
For while his doppelganger and former Wallaby Nick Cummins continues to receive a social media caning after his disastrous appearance on The Bachelor Australia, Angus is living his dream guiding and fly fishing across the Highlands. Given his troubles, maybe the Honey Badger would be advised to take some time out with Angus and a fly rod down in our neck of the woods…
‘Everyone’s welcome,’ laughs Angus. ‘Fly fishing originates from the UK, where it used to be an elite sport as many people couldn’t afford the time to fish because they were always working. But today it’s different. The earlier you or your kids get hooked, the better I reckon for later in life.’
Angus is a local born and bred who has been fishing all his life. Growing up in Burradoo and Moss Vale, he got hooked on fly fishing at age 13. His dad, Roy, is also a keen fisherman.
‘Dad always had a fly rod about, so I’d pick it up and have a go, and me and my mates would take our hand lines and ride our pushbikes out to Penrose looking for secret tracks leading to streams and creeks to fish. It wasn’t until late high school, though, that I started to get a big interest in fly fishing, and at university I started tying flies.’
An industrial design course led to a stint with a yacht design company, which in turn saw Angus start work on a private 60 metre purpose built fly fishing boat in the Seychelles. After two years he came home from catching giant trevally and tuna, and began guiding locally for Josh Hutchins. Acclaimed in the world of fly fishing and founder of Aussie Fly Fisher, Josh started taking Angus out to help with up to four paying clients for a full day of fishing.
‘I had heard of Josh and knew he was really good, and that he had completely pioneered the way fishing guiding is done in Australia, so it was great to start working with him,’ recalls Angus. ‘When he came into work one day and said, “I’ve got another baby on the way, how would you feel about doing some guiding here?” I leapt at the chance.’
Fly fishing, explains Angus, is a sport of skill, patience and persistence, where ‘thinking like a fish definitely helps get the fish into your net’. The mechanisms used to help with the job are a fly rod, fly reel, fly line and hand tied fishing flies. As Angus expertly ties and puts a black nymph (perfect for trout and tied to imitate a newly hatching fly larvae) onto the end of his line, the tippet, he tells me the role of the hand tied flies is to ‘match the hatch’ (the fly to what the local insect larvae resting on the water, which in turn is what the local fish are eating).
‘The fly line is a pretty marvellously engineered bit of technology, even though it looks simply like a rubber cord,’ says Angus. ‘On the reel it starts thin and then tapers in various ways to a very fine and delicate tip where the flies and hook are positioned. That is so you can discreetly cast these little bits of feather tied to a hook that look like a bug onto the water without the fish seeing the person fishing, the line or the hook.’
Casting his line out in that famous back and forwards motion, Angus makes it all appear supremely easy. It’s not. That’s ok, he reassures me as my next cast goes askew. Becoming proficient at fly fishing takes years, he tells me, but the sport is growing exponentially in Australia thanks to the efforts of stalwarts such as Hutchins and fishing legend Rex ‘Yibbetty Yibbetter’ Hunt.
‘A lot of the lure of fly fishing is the short but very intense relationship you build with the fish as you try to catch it by trying to work out what it’s thinking and where it’s heading,’ says Angus.
In terms of other NSW fly fishing locations like the Snowy Mountains and the Blue Mountains, Angus believes the Southern Highlands is underrated. Here we have trout, bass and his favourite, carp (‘they are bigger than trout, smarter than trout and they fight harder than trout’).
‘Flying fishing here is unique because it offers a very different landscape to those other places in NSW and Australia. We have special microclimates like rainforests, unique creeks and rivers. And although the average is two to three pound fish, there are also big fish here, and all will give you a great day of sporting fishing. It’s all about knowing where they are at any one time, really.’
A day with Angus and Aussie Fly Fisher includes guiding and tuition, lunch, snacks and beverages, a fly rod, reel and line, waders and boots if required. And, of course, the flies.
All fish caught are released with the ‘catch and release’ mentality Rex Hunt made famous. And finally, says Angus, don’t expect him to tell you his secret fishing spots beforehand (although he does let slip the Wingecarribee River and Pejar Dam near Goulburn are favourites).
‘We get a lot of repeat clients so I think people really like the experience of having someone there to tie their flies who has done the research, and who knows where to go and where the fish are at that time of year.
‘You might go out on your own for a day’s fishing and think it’s a free day out. But you still have the costs of transport and the flies you lose, getting lost, the cost of lunch and not having the local knowledge of where to go. With me you are pretty much guaranteed to find a fish. I can’t promise you’ll definitely hook it, but that’s an altogether different story.’
Aussie Fly Fisher