Over the years New Zealand’s salt fly flats have gained huge popularity, and deservingly so. The world class fishery we have right on our doorstep is a great attraction for fly anglers traveling from near or far. With this popularity comes a few points to note in regard to ensuring the longevity of these flats last for generations to come.
The pressure these fish now face is a lot greater than a few years back, it’s not a case of simply rocking up and throwing any bedraggled creation at an easy target. Interestingly so the biggest behavioural trait I have noticed over the last few seasons is not from the kingfish but from the stingrays we often seek. These rays are incredibly clever and have been seen rebelling from the encounters we anglers present. Charging around after them only upsets them and makes them wary of our presence. While it’s hard some days not to harass them for an eat from their counterparts the smart money is on trying to keep them calm and approaching with care. Especially so when wading, those tails are equipped with some heavy artillery [don’t insert Irwin joke here, I’ve heard a lot of them over the years].
Boats are fast becoming mini game vessels and the amount of electronics onboard are mind blowing. I for one am lucky to be packing some great gear onboard, hence the 150kg of batteries I carry to operate it all. Once again the rays are in the sights here, their electroreceptors are capable of picking up electrical noise in the water and consequently disturbing their day. Upon noticing this we have been shutting off any units not required to successfully hunt the flats if the rays are showing signs of altercation. My Humminbirds are my eyes underwater, and when we’re off the flats they earn their keep then. The ability to distinguish what’s happening under the surface is key to presenting flies efficiently and I’d be stuffed without them.
Minn Kotas have opened up so many fishing possibilities for New Zealanders over the last few years, with fly fisherman being some of the early adopters. This time the rays are coping it from over zealous remote control boat drivers. Take it easy, line up the shot with the Minn Kota then try ease into the zone, better yet drift in. Maximum thrusting in close quarters is only going to upset the ray and riders, sending them scattering. If your shot is squandered try shadow the target and let them rest, position your boat in the best visible sight line for the ray and stay as far back as possible, another shot should line up shortly. If you loose them you’ll find they track in a pretty straight line if undisturbed, take a bearing or landmark they were last on and stick to that, you should find them again when the light allows, the whole time thinking of the best lay up for the boat and caster to take their shot when it comes.
With the addition of a Minn Kota Talon on our new build there has been a lot of time just staked out in prime fishy “real estate”, hanging about waiting for passing stingrays and fish. Picking up the composite shaft and sneaking over to intercept their path when the time arises. Another prime example of its many uses is pulling up to a stop without the need to reverse hard on our Minn Kota as the gap closes quickly. This also gives more novice anglers one less moving part to the equation and aids their perception of distance when presenting flies.
Good luck out there this season, just remember to respect the fishery and most important of all have fun.