Early season flats Kingfish tips

catch and release, kingfish, flats, salt water fly fishing

Early season salt water fly fishing on New Zealand’s flats can be equally as frustrating as it is rewarding. Numbers of kingfish are moving back into the harbour, rejoining the resident winter fish and hounding the increasing local baitfish populations.

Challenges come in many forms at this time of the year. From terrible light to fussy fish there’s a hundred excuses for having a hard day. I’ve compiled a list of annoyances and ways to combat them while chasing our kingfish and other salt water species on fly. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat so don’t write previous failures off as a lost cause, just claim them as fine tuning your approach.

Tauranga, bay of plenty, kingfish flats, salt water, guide

Spring winds: A real pain in the fly anglers arse.

  • Seek out sheltered areas for early morning shallow water bow waves.
  • Fish don’t mind the wind, plus it hides a boat nicely. Scan the backs/fronts of waves and use these as windows into the water.
  • Practice casting over winter. Short, long and quick direction changes are all called for at some stage – often under pressure.
  • Watch wind vs tide when navigating channels. Especially so on spring  tides, it can get real ugly real quick.
  • Check the weather forecasts. Plan for the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Practice casting some more. Even better in a strong breeze.
tauranga harbour, bay of plenty, new zealand, flats, salt water fly fishing guide
Big slab of cloud with low sunlight shuts the viewing window down.

Lighting: There one minute, gone the next.  

  • Find shelter (trees, cliffs, sand banks) either as a backdrop or to provide calm water to give kingfish disturbances away.
  • Low light polarized sunglasses are a huge plus for tough light conditions. Check out Smiths Low Light Ignitors they are a deal breaker.
  • When that one little patch of light is coming you better be ready to scan 360 degrees and read as much water as possible before the light shuts down again.
  • Try to keep whatever light you have at your back.
  • Don’t be afraid to cast at a lot of  “is that, um, maybe, nah, yeah” shapes. When they light up with fish you’re in for a lot of fun.
kingfish, yellowtail, north island, new zealand, collingwood, salt fly
Kingfish spotted in the glare less than 5 meters from the boat require quick short accurate casts

Kingfish and flies: Put them together and you’re halfway there.

  • Kingfish have arrived in the harbour with the influx of baitfish. As a rule of thumb flats Kingfish in really shallow love small generic crustacean/baitfish patterns. Kingfish in water deeper than 6ft typically get offered bigger baitfish and “noisy” flies.
  • Stake out  structure and areas of baitfish congregation. Soon enough you’ll be rewarded, although it could take some time!
  • If light is good then cover some ground hunting for black stingrays. Sometimes they’re at the other end of the flat from the day before.

Fighting kingfish on fly: Your first kingfish for the season might just get the better of you.

  • Be ready for action at all times. With each strip you should be willing an eat from any nearby fish.
  • When they hit, you hit them. Do it quick and make it count. Do NOT trout strike!
  • Keep your rod high and line short. Sea lettuce accumulation is a nightmare, even more so when riding solo. It should lessen in the coming months but can be a major pain over spring.

New Zealand salt water fly fishing intel: It’s all at your fingers tips, but best acquired with a rod in your palm.

  • Looking at a computer only gives you a certain degree of knowledge. There is nothing more rewarding than getting out there and doing the hard yards yourself, plus you can’t spot a fish staring at your phone screen.
  • Time on the water is crucial and should never be undervalued no matter the result.
  • Why are you still reading this, go forth and conquer, or maybe go work on that casting.

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