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Amazing Aussie bonefish & permit action!

IF you ask any serious saltwater fly fishers what their favourite flats species are, bonefish and permit are always going to be right up the top of the list. A home-grown permit fishery has developed gradually in the northern waters of Australia over the past 15 years, but until about seven years ago there was nowhere in Australia to reliably catch bonefish on the fly.

In the winter of 2005, Brett Wolf, a Tassie trout-fishing guide holidaying with his family in Exmouth, WA, discovered Australia’s first viable bonefish destination. Soon after Wolf started True Blue Bonefish, and sold up his fishing lodge in the cold highlands of Tasmania to move with his wife and kids to sunny Exmouth in pursuit of Aussie bones.

Thanks to Wolf, we now have a world-renowned fishery for trophy bonefish and permit (as well as many other great sportfish) inside Exmouth’s Ningaloo Reef. This discovery has now put Australia firmly on the fly-fishing circuit! There are not many places around the world where you can catch both trophy bonefish and permit.

Recently Wolf guided angler Brendan Jackson for two days. Brendan is a fly in/fly out miner who learnt to fly fish chasing trout on light gear in Victoria. He’d never caught permit or bones. On the first day fishing the pair fished the flats inside Exmouth Gulf where there are no bonefish but plenty of permit. According to Wolf, the bones prefer the pristine flats on Exmouth’s western coast inside Ningaloo Reef.

It wasn’t long before a big stingray was spotted on the flat, Wolf told Fisho. It had about six small permit travelling with it. Brendan made the perfect cast, let the crab fly sink, and came up tight to a little permit. He remarked how strong the fish was for its size, Wolf said.

“Soon after Brendan nailed another small permit off the back of another stingray. Again he commented on how strong it was,” Wolf told Fisho.

“The tide was now pushing up onto the flat and so were the fish. Several big permit were spotted moving across the flat in less than a half metre of water. We lined up a big permit, Brendan made a cast right in front of it and it jumped all over the crab fly. A nervous battle followed that lasted at least 45 minutes. Many permit swam past, and many of those fish swam with the hooked permit – I guess they were wondering why their mate was behaving so strangely!”

After many failed attempts, the big permit finally came to the landing net. Wolf estimated it to be about 25 pounds.

Three permit landed is more than most good fly anglers can expect in a lifetime, let alone on their first day targeting them!

Brendan was now desperate to catch his first Aussie bonefish, so he opted to fish the Ningaloo Reef flats on his second day out with Wolf.
“Drifting across the Ningaloo flats, a few pesky golden trevally and blue trevally were caught,” Wolf told us. “Then a permit was spotted, Brendan made a perfect cast, the permit tilted on the shrimp fly, and Brendan was onto his fourth permit in two days – he was disappointed as it was not a bonefish!”

After ignoring several more golden trevally and blue trevally, a big bonefish was spotted. Brendan made the cast, the bonefish charged over, ate the fly and he was on. After a few backing-burning runs, the bone was landed. Wolf estimated it to weigh more than 10 pounds, which is the goal of most bonefishers the world over!

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One very happy fly fisher – Brendan and a very solid bonefish.

According to Wolf, Brendan landed two more bonefish and another permit on the second day to make his tally with True Blue Bonefish to be five permit and three bonefish (plus assorted trevallies) for two days’ fishing. This is world class action by any fly-fishing standards!

Anglers travel from all over the world to pursue these shallow water speedsters on fly with True Blue Bones in Exmouth. If you get the chance to experience this amazing Aussie flats fishery, do it. Find out more at

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