Veteran guide Richard Schumann has spent the better part of his life guiding blue chip clients in the world’s best saltwater destinations. Here he lifts the skirt on one place that does not get as much attention as it should. Not that you are likely to go there anyway… If the cost and inaccessibility don’t get you, the crocs, sharks, jellyfish and currents will. Still, we can dream, right?
“When it comes to flats fishing, Australia boasts an impressive amount of real estate. The exploration of these flats is only beginning but already some real gems have come to light. Stumble upon one of these and, for obvious reasons, it’s not general practice to proclaim your find from the rooftops. But Long Reef is different. I’m happy to share this place with you as it is so remote, difficult to access and dangerous, that very few anglers will have the means, never mind the will to visit it and it will remain, for all intents and purposes, untamed.
Seasoned anglers and explorers, Ferdi Heymann and Paul Boyers were with me on the recent expeditions to Long Reef and we all agree it is, without doubt, one of the most pristine and wild venues we have been to. And that, as we all know, invariably leads to comparisons.
Lying about half way between Broome and Darwin, geographically, Long Reef is a mini version of Providence Bank in Seychelles and St Brandons on the Cargados Carajos Bank north of Mauritius. Not that Long Reef is that small. It’s about 30 km long but St Brandons dwarfs it at double that size. Providence isn’t much smaller than St Brandons and both of them have islands whereas Long Reef is completely awash at high tide. But, as with St Brandons and Providence Banks, nestling in the lee of Long Reef are sand banks and vast sand, marl and coral flats, drained by countless channels.
Along the hard edge, are the typical “blue holes” one finds on reefs like this. These holes are places where you take the unsuspecting at low tide, tie on a popper, tell them to cast in and sit back and watch the carnage. In an untouched place like Long Reef, at low water these holes are packed with big bluefin, GTs, snapper, sharks and huge grouper.
When it comes to comparing “wildness” and inhospitable ruggedness, there are a few flats destinations that come to mind but I would say Long Reef is almost comparable to wading the flats of Aldabra. You are going to see a marine system that’s undisturbed and as intact as it can possibly be today. As one metre is the fork length for a trophy GT, so around four metres becomes the standard for the sighting of a big predator on the flats of Long Reef. They primarily come in the form of tiger sharks, great hammerheads and saltwater crocodiles. And the lemon sharks are also among the biggest I have encountered anywhere.
We all want to fish pristine flats but not all pristine flats are truly wild, and I agree with the argument that a pristine flats destination that has been tamed, can offer better fishing than an untamed equivalent. But still, some of us can’t resist the combination of true wildness and dumb fish.”
Get the rest of the Long Reef story and more in issue 27 of The Mission below: