How to

Flats Bastard

MOST fishos love a challenge and these challenges take different forms. Our methods and techniques adapt over time as we progress as anglers. Our skills improve and we catch more fish, bigger fish, or we refine our approach to keep things interesting.

If you want to keep things interesting, you best find an interesting fish.

The sand flats of Western Australia’s remote Kimberley coastline is home to one of the most interesting, yet difficult species to catch – the blue bastard.

Blue bastards – yes, that’s their real name – are a tropical species found all across the top end of Australia.

Targeting blue bastards has grown in popularity over the past few years, although most anglers still find them a mystery and there’s so much to learn. There’s a lot to learn about their habits, movements and willingness to take flies. They’re called bastards for a reason!

Made for the fly

No one likes a challenge more than a fly angler. Sure, sometimes flies are the most productive method to catch fish, but more often than not, choosing to target fish on fly puts you at a disadvantage. But it’s fun, and fooling fish on fly is always rewarding. It’s no different to choosing lure over bait, or land based over boat. The challenge is the reward.

There are a number of iconic saltwater fly targets and all of them are found in shallow water. There’s giant tarpon in the US, Central America and Africa; there are bonefish found in most tropical waters around the world, and last but not least, permit. Until recent times permit were a complete mystery. Their habits, diet and techniques for consistently catching them took time and a lot of shared knowledge.

All of these fish are similar in a way. All are found in shallow water, have similar diets of shrimp, crabs and small fish and each of them are sight fished. It’s more about the hunt; it’s about the chase.

Blue bastards tick the same boxes. They’re found in shallow water, they have a diet of shrimps and crabs or small fish and you catch by sight. And just like the permit, and the tarpon and bonefish in years past, they remain a mystery.

Did I mention they’re also incredibly fun to catch?

The Kuri Bay connection

Kuri Bay is a remote pearl farm north of Broome along the pristine Kimberley Coast. It’s a fishing destination with endless appeal. The species are vast and the scenery is breathtaking. The isolation adds to its appeal. Besides a few pearl farmers and the odd sailing boat, you have the entire coast to yourself.

Peter Tucker (Tux) from Kuri Bay Sport Fishing Tours operates guided fishing adventures in the area. Peter is no stranger to the Kimberley. He ran the well-known Freshwater Cove for over 20 years and has spent much of his life exploring and fishing the coast north of Broome.

I fished with Peter last year. That trip was the perfect introduction to Kuri Bay. At the time, I tagged along with a group of Western Australian gentleman who enjoyed lure and bait fishing for the broad range of species. On a spring tide cycle, we caught mostly mangrove jacks, tuna, trevally, coral trout, mackerel, barra and more. The bait ball longtail tuna fishing was mind blowing!

Pater shared stories of the blue bastards along several of the bays we fished. Although, at the time, the spring tides were not ideal. Neap tides offer the best chance, with less water movement, better clarity, and a more suitable depth.

After a disrupted year of Covid lockdowns, Peter invited me back to target blue bastards. The tides were more favourable and the crew were there for bastards.

New Zealand fishing film maker and international travel host, Nick Reygaert, was along for the trip with two of his guests, Warren and Derek.

Nick had caught blue bastards and is an experienced fly fisho with a long list of species under his belt from all corners of the globe. He wasn’t a stranger to the Kimberley and was keen to further explore the flats for bastards.

Cracking the code

Peter regularly uses buck and feather tail jigs at Kuri Bay for conventional tackle fishos. I used these last year and it didn’t take long to discover how effective these simple, yet primitive lures were on all sorts of species. They’re easy to cast, troll, jig, plus they’re simple to rig and remove from fish, or people!

It’s not uncommon to catch blue bastard on these jigs. For a fish that’s so tricky to fool on fly, why are they so fond of these jigs? Is it the weight of the jig head and the little “puffs” of sand it kicks up along the bottom? Not all of the flats we fished were shallow and getting down quickly was essential.

Whatever it was, the weighted jigs had something our flies were missing.

The beauty of fly fishing is our flies can be altered. It’s easy to alter a fly or simply tie a new version. You can add weight, removed weight, lengthen, shorten, fatten, etc. We had access to materials and that’s exactly what happened. The flies we tied at Kuri Bay were ugly, but were designed to sink fast and catch in the sand. We sure hoped they would work…


Blue bastards cruise the shallows looking for food. Like many shallow water species, they sit along the deeper edge of a sand flat during lower tides and make their way onto the flat as the water allows.

The area round Kuri Bay is a mix of shallow and deep water. There are rocky shorelines, creeks, beaches and many islands. The biggest island in the area is Augustus. It alone has its own creeks, bays, and beaches. The sandflats were typically inside calm bays and often at a small creek mouth.

The flats were varying depths with small channels running along one side from creeks and gutters draining the exposed flats. You can find barra along some of these flats, although the area’s lack of rig rivers means they aren’t as common.

Tides & techniques

While the Kimberley has many crystal-clear sand flats and beaches, the challenge is working with the tides. Thankfully, this is where experienced guides such as Peter and his offsider, Olly, are worth their weight in gold. They’re switched on to the movements of tides and are constantly watching to ensure our boats weren’t stranded on a sand flat and that we were in the right place at the right time.

It’s the type of place where you never stay anywhere for long. You’re always chasing the next tide.

We spotted a lot of blue bastards and Warren even caught one on a jig. Most of the fish spotted were in deeper water. As the week progressed we spotted more and more and it soon become obvious just how common these bastards were! Every beach, every shallow bay would hold several fish.

The boats would slowly manoeuvre onto a flat or towards the shallow water and wait. The blue bastards would typically materialise and swim past our boats. They didn’t appear shy, although they obviously knew of our presence.

Thee fish were often too deep, mostly in water around two metres. We were using floating lines and heavily weighted flies to get down. Sinking fly lines don’t really offer an advantage in this type of scenario, but a weighted fly seemed important.

Each boat had two fishos and only one fished at a time. Whoever took the bow had first shot at the fish. The guide and other fisho helped with spotting.

The fish would approach and the cast was made. Sometimes the fish would turn and follow the fly. Then nothing. The fish would swim off on its beat. It would often return to the same spot, and again, another cast was made. Again, nothing.

It’s frustrating to say the least. The fish were seeing our flies but something was wrong.


Success finally came in ultra shallow water. It was day four or five and we moved into a shallow section of a bay we had previously fished. It looked very different. Instead of the turquoise water, the foot deep shallow water exposed the rubbly bottom. A deeper channel ran along some rocks and we had previously spotted cruising blue bastards over several days.

Then, from nowhere, we spotted a feeding blue bastard in the shallow water. Unlike the others, this one was actively feeding and much slower moving. It was tailing, literally vertically with its tail high and dry, burying its nose in the rubble and sand looking for crabs, shrimps or worms. It reminded me a lot of chasing bonefish and permit.

I was on the bow and Nick kindly offered me his 8-weight outfit and directed me to cast. Nick had tied a tandem rig to his outfit – one crab fly and one shrimp fly. I cast and cast again and landed the fly about a metre from the feeding bastard. It instantly noticed the fly. I twitched it and stopped. Then, twitched again. The line went tight and I was hooked up! A short and nervous tussle, a few screaming runs later, and the blue bastard was brought inside the boat. Everyone was ecstatic. I was shaking!

We quickly jumped out a for a quick photo and release in the shallow water while Peter kept watch for crocodiles and the rapidly draining flats.

Finally, after so many opportunities and spotted fish, we had success and it was text book flats fishing.

So why did this fish take my fly with gusto after so much rejection? My thoughts are the ultra shallow flats put the fish in similar position to us. It had a limited time to feed along a productive stretch of shallow water and was ravenous in its approach. There was no time to be fussy! In a matter of minutes, those flats would be dry and the fish would be forced to deeper water with less food. And so would we.

The number of blue bastards on these flats is surprising. They’re literally one of the most dominant species in the area. The conundrum comes down to tides and pinpointing them on the flats at the right time.

For consistent results, I believe you must be fishing these ultra shallow flats and targeting actively feeding fish. Fishing deeper water just wasn’t paying off.

Of course, the tides are a challenge and you really have a short window to target feeding fish. That’s why local knowledge of tides and productive spots is essential.

While tides can be a challenge, the weather around Kuri Bay really worked in our favour. Every day was perfect! Sunny, little wind and around 30 degrees. There’s no point even checking the forecast! For flats fishing, the consistency of these conditions is a dream come true!

Other species

The great thing about this area is the variety of species in close proximity. While blue bastards were our target, we didn’t expect big numbers of fish. That’s not to say you won’t catch big numbers of other fish in between bouts with the bastards.

The same flats have golden trevally, another great target in the fly. They also have decent GTs and other smaller varieties of trevally. The rocky shorelines are full of mangrove jacks, coral trout, blue bone, fingermark, cod and other exotic species.

Nearby you’ll catch tuna, mackerel, queenfish, bigger trevally and more.

I even cast to a bonefish along a shallow stretch of beach. Unfortunately my 20lb tippet didn’t help and the fish swam off. It goes to show what potential this area has for fly angers looking for exotic species in a pristine setting.

The variety of fish in this area is a big drawcard. The blue bastards are just icing on the cake.

So, is Kuri Bay a worthwhile destination to chase blue bastards? Absolutely! The sheer number of fish present tells me it has a bright future. With some more work around tides and techniques, Kuri Bay has so much going for it as a world-class fly fishing destination. 

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