New Zealand Salt Fly on the map

So it’s pretty much official. New Zealand is fast gaining a serious reputation for not only an amazing freshwater fishery but also for the vast salt fly flats on offer. What a great thing to offer international and national guests, hopefully more people heading our way are packing more than a 6wt, dry flies and waders in their arsenal. 

Our kingfish are known as some of the smartest, fiercest and dirtiest fighters around, with two of the worlds biggest at 52kg coming from NZ waters. It’s nice to chest beat about getting them on light gear but a long protracted fight can be avoided with heavier (8/10wt+) set ups. This ensures a healthy release and gives enough leverage to put the hurt back onto the fish – and you never know when the meter plus models turn up until you have a mere second to throw the cast. 

Also, the resident Bronzies (bronze whaler sharks) are very clever and love a feed of fish, they habitually feed in common “filleting areas” where fisherman clean their days catch. It won’t be long until they have more presence on the flats with the dinner gong of a fighting Kingi ringing into the nearby channels. 

While there’s no regulations about hooks (yet…), going barbless is definitely the way forward. Easier hooksets, effortless unhooking and if one day the inevitable human contact happens then you’ll be much better off for it. Plus fish harm is minimal, the nature of kings is to inhale their prey with its massive bucket mouth and reaching inside to remove a hook is not that uncommon. 

As for the flats themselves, they can handle the increasing pressure for now. New Zealand has an overwhelming amount of coastline and harbours. Sure, there’s a few hotspots and I’m lucky enough to be 5 minutes from a 220sqkm harbour that is home to NZs 5th largest city. Tauranga harbours sheer size alone can see you fish 6-8, make that 10+ good flats within the day and even then you have only just scratched the surface. 

Thankfully the attention Collingwood has received put good Ol’ NZ on the map in a good way, but the fishery has already had some noise about handling the pressure. I’m sure time will tell, and without sounding righteous it’s not really the fly fishers that will be a problem. The overriding issue is that people respect the fish, environment and people around it. If you haven’t seen the amazing video yet here’s the link.

At 750mm to the fork the legal size is pretty reasonable. A bag limit of 3 per day is downright greedy however. As a big percentage of fly caught flats Kingis are undersized then C&R is the only option. 

When releasing ensure time out of the water is minimal, contact is with wet hands and support the fish by cradling it. I happily encourage releasing the bigger ones also, but if you need to feed the family then do it smartly, and look after your catch properly. All basic stuff and you’ve most likely heard it before but it still amazes myself and others to witness a few bad practices. 

The #tagakingonfly tagging program we have in operation covers Manukau and Tauranga harbours, Waiheke Island and soon to be Collingwood. It will be interesting to see the data as it emerges and give weight to the conversation of New Zealands recreational fisheries worth. As Lee Wulff said, “A game fish is too valuable to be caught only once”. 

Paul Mills is the man behind it all and is selling t-shirts to help fund what is currently a self funded project by ourselves. Your help and donations are greatly appreciated to aid us in our next steps. For sales and more info contact Millsy here

As for winter, when those crisp clear bluebird days happen I’ll be out chasing Kahawai and trevally work ups. The whitebait are thickening in mass out the front and this can create paddocks of fish gorging themselves silly. 

Spring seems like a long time away but it will be on us in just over 2 months and with today being the shortest day the daylight will soon increase. With that warmth comes the migration of baitfish, and inturn the predators follow. Speaking of predators I have a date with some Makos coming up hopefully, that should be fun.

In the meantime, tie some flies, rig more leaders and give your gear a good going over. Oh and service the boat, the lifejackets, the list goes on… 

And don’t forget, if you want to be part of this experience drop me a line and we can arrange a day on the water for the upcoming season.

Super moon, super fishing

This warm weather we’ve been having hasn’t disappointed and the lead up to the weekends super moon saw some amazing fishing. Still big numbers of kings patrolling in shallow, some of which are over the magic meter. Getting onto them is another story, boat side refusals and bust offs being a regular feature. 
The stingrays are happily patrolling the skinny water and don’t seem to mind the sun as much compared to the heat of Summer. Piper are in plague proportions and often the spray of fleeing fish is a good sign trouble is lurking. 

Snapper are still in force and are schooling in some really shallow water at times. The unmistakable blue glitter being a giveaway. Intermediate lines and a bit of an old school wet liners approach doing the trick with rabbit flies being preferred. 

All going well and provided a massive cold snap doesn’t ruin the party we’ll be seeing a good few weeks left yet. Bring it on. 

Summer heat

As it slowly fades into the background this Summer must have to go down as one of the best yet. The action was hot at times and none too bad for others. With more and more people getting a taste of salt fly the reports going around the country were constant and encouraging.

I have been lucky enough to get people onto fish and at times multiple shots during the course of the day. They all have made comment on what a cool fishery we have here and they’re certainly not wrong. From frantic workups out the front containing thousands of fat Kahawai to the flats style fishing we crave it has been hot, hot, hot.

The abundance of rat Kingis was very welcome over Summer, the sight of packs of fish jostling for your fly will never get old. Fast strip retrieves would fire them into action and if the first cast didn’t connect the second would be met in a vicious manner. In some cases the rays holding fish would stick around and allow us to pick off multiple fish and chance double hook ups.

With the onset of Autumn we get a few larger models in the mix, sightings of good sized fish around the markers being common. One muscled up king toyed with a respectable yet unfortunate Kahawai beside the boat last week. Later that night reports come in that Alex from Trippin on trout has bagged a 40lb specimen. This is one of the reasons Autumn is quite possibly the best time to go throw some flies. I have a few spots left so if you feel the need to come get into the action just drop me a line here.

A recent event that has further put NZ salt fly on the map was the Salt Fly Hook Up. This was held in Tauranga over a weekend at the end of February and saw some of the finest fly flickers gathered from all corners. It helped that the weather turned it on and the fish showed face, making this event one that is already being talked about for next year. Huge thanks to Dan Burt at Strip Strike and Grant at Loop Tackle NZ for putting it together.

The guys at Moreporks took an interest in this and made a day of it on the water. They had a great time out and documented it here as part of there ongoing quest to deliver some fine outdoors apparel to the world. 

Something that has interested me for a while now is the behavior of flats kingfish. Each outing seems to unlock more about them. Paul Mills from revoflyfishing had started to undertake a tagging program a while back – we talked and one thing led to another. Since this chat we have a few more people taking interest, myself and Matt Von Sturmer from Saltflyfish adding our names to the tagging program. If anyone catches one of these tagged fish please carefully take details and preferably return it to the water. The more info we have on the worth of these fish to the recreational angler the better. More information on this program can be found here.

Another interesting tagging program is being undertaken in Tauranga harbour. This studies the migrational movements of our stingray pals. They are colour coded with a disc tag so if you see one please report it to Helen, she would love to hear from you.


Often I’m asked what flies work in the harbour. While there’s no wrong flies as such there are some that stand out from the pack. If a fish is fired up and you have a good looking fly working in the water then chances are it will eat. If that doesn’t work I’m taking orders. So if you feel your flybox is lacking or needs some winter attention let me know.


Lastly I’m starting to fill Summer 16/17 season spaces so if you want options for better days/tides get in now to secure a spot early.

Happy fishing, enjoy the cooler autumn and even hotter fishing.


Happy New Year

Firstly a Happy New Year to everybody. I made it to 0005 hours, just! This time it wasn’t the liquor that claimed me, just a hectic few weeks on top of a busy year.

Pre Christmas fishing was a lot tougher than the year previous. The limited chances on offer were normally met with tight lipped, stubborn or spooky fish. A lot of persistent 25+ knot westerly winds made spotting difficult and conditions far from ideal. Some days were ok though and a few fish made it onto the hook, some to the net.

Then the switch flicked and from boxing day I was getting good reports daily from people. The next available day for us to get out coincided with a full moon and we were back to the struggle. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

It wasn’t until I had a week off with the family and some friends that we struck gold. Tom is an old fishing hack and good fishing mate. He doesn’t get out often so when he does he makes it count. He was converted to the ways of salt fly after a hot session on a work up that lasted in excess of 3 hours. We had packs of huge kahawai going nuts on bait and mobs of hoodlum kingfish smashing everything. Poppers and 2/0 baitfish were order of the afternoon.

Amongst the decent sized rats there were some big kings around the 20kg mark. They would show up and make themselves known straight away. Tom hooked one right at the tip of an 8wt and proceeded to get royally spanked. There was a lot of line on deck and that wrapped around an obstruction, ending in our undoing. We talked about it all the way home and won’t forget that moment in a long time.

Super clear water at Whangamata had us sighting packs of yellowtails 15m under the boat. We had to resort to dropping a small jig through them to raise them to a sunken fly. It was crude and effective fishing as they were not too interested in eating, just smashing things in anger. If you can’t catch them, piss them off.

The black rays that were strangely absent are now a very regular feature on most flats in Tauranga harbour. Sunday just gone being the best day yet. We must have sighted 15, some of them big and dominant. The ray riding kingfish were present on some and we happily picked a few off one by one until they had enough of our games.

Markers are holding at certain times and make for fun boat maneuvering if they don’t play ball once hooked. Walk the dog and hope it’s the time that they run from the area of trouble, not back at it.

Over this full moon phase I’d expect the bite times to shorten a little but there is action to be had as the harbour is crawling with fish. We had a mullet launch itself broadside at the boat as a kingfish chased it. Last we saw indicated it wasn’t going to a happy place – easy mouthful for that fish. Might have to start throwing flies at the boat hull in future and call it the stunned mullet technique.

That’s pretty much the current state of things. It’s looking like a very good season ahead, one that will drag out longer than normal after a less than ideal start.