The silly season is upon us and there’s no turning back. With that it’s fair time to remind people of a few basic things, most of all the practice of catch and release. So, here’s a few key things to take into consideration to ensure a strong healthy release if that’s what you intend to do.
Fighting the fish
Fight hard, the quicker you bring it in the better chance it will have to swim off strong.
Use gear that is up to the task, no point being a hero with that butter knife at a gun fight.
Go barbless, you won’t lose fish because of it, trust me.
Use a soft rubberised knotless net
Have everything ready to go for release – camera, tag kit etc
When lifting fish for pictures etc get a good grip around the tail and support under the pectoral fins with the other hand – avoid the gills.
Keep the fish in the water as much as possible, you try holding your breath after running a marathon. If it means you dunk it back in the water for a breather then do it.
Don’t drag them over the rocks or sand. Saying “they’re pretty tough” doesn’t cut it.
Wait until the fish is upright and able to swim off on its own.
Only spear them into deep water if there s a risk from sharks
If sharks are present either race away from them in the boat and release, or throw a bucket of water in one direction followed soon after by the fish in the other direction – the sharks should respond to the first commotion and hopefully miss the fish release.
If you’re getting sharked there’s no point catching more fish. You may as well keep undersized fish and not worry about limits, plus you’re just educating the sharks for future easy meals.
There’s also this thing called etiquette… If someone’s fishing a flat drop in behind them and give them heaps of room. Same goes for fishing the navigation markers – there’s a load of them, go to a different one if there’s someone already there. Assessing the action of people fishing before rushing in goes a long way, having a friendly chat also helps if its a busy area.
Lastly, learn the basic navigation rules for when on the water. There are day skipper courses that cost less than the price of a standard tank of fuel, this should avoid any of those potentially ugly situations arising.
Have a safe and enjoyable festive season on the water.
This season kicked off with good spikes in water temperature only to quickly shoot back down with the onset of the next cold front. The typical unsettled spring activity we experienced has now passed and we have good temps holding throughout the harbour. Loads of baitfish are prominent around key points with piper being the real standout – given these are regarded as kingfish candy it’s no surprise to see big sprays of bait getting chased around.
Stingrays are settling into their flats and the subsequent Ray riders are hanging on for the ride around the harbour. Whether they’re busting bait, snacking on flounder or sniffing about diggings they’ll take anything thrown at them currently, provided the presentation is on the money and the dreaded trout strike doesn’t creep in. Spending time staked out on the flats with the aid of the Minn Kota Talon has been great when you’re sitting in prime kingfish real estate, something I’m definately doing a lot when you feel it’s worth hanging about for some action to cruise past.
The entrance has seen some really good fishing also, with sessions of multiple fish coming to the boat, most of them making it into the net but some being just to smart or strong to make the full trip alongside. This bodes well for the next few months as fish transition into the harbour to cause havoc amongst the baitfish. There’s some big fish among them, so we’ve had the Scott Sector 10 and 12’s rigged for the chance of a bigger model.
Speaking of bigger fish there’s a few groups about the harbour that tend to follow the mullet schools around, it would seem they only eat once every day or three but when they do it’s pandemonium. It’s either a case of a big 6/0 semper styled fly on the 12 or a small snack on the 10 weight depending on the feeding vibe present. These fish are smart and really frustrating but the action they’ve provided over the years has been nothing short of heart stopping.
With all this life firing up it’s the perfect time to be chasing kingfish in the shallows, soon the Pohutukawa flowers will bloom and provide some of the most stunning backdrops the harbour has. We have dates available for December so if you want to come and tussle with some thugs drop us a line now. firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
If you want some info on what we use in Tauranga Harbour chasing Ray rider kingfish on salt water fly gear then peep the video below. Our season here is nearly done, don’t forget to secure your space for next year by flicking a message to the link here.
We recently teamed up with the good buggers at Manic Tackle Project for a weekend of fishing. In-between all that I sat down and went over some basic set ups and preferred knots. Take a quick look at one of the strongest salt water fly fishing loop knots and a few tips to tie it crispy clean every time.
For a few other loop knot options jump back to a test we ran a few years back here.
Wondering what flies to use on New Zealands flats Kingfish? The Rattle Piper takes its fair share of Kingfish every season.
Like it or not a bit of acoustic burley can really fire up most pelagic game fish, particularly our New Zealand Yellowtail Kingfish.
The Rattle Piper came about as a way of trial and error, much like most flies out there. Nowadays I prefer grey over off white and mostly tie them in the average sizes found in Tauranga Harbour (approximately 180-200mm). It represents piper, otherwise known as gar and also nick named kingfish candy by local livebaiters. Click this link for a previous post on piper. Something I picked up while livebaiting one night was their tendency to click, this noise is yet another trigger within the fly and should not be overlooked.
I tried adding rattles to my flies years ago with varying success. Glass ones kept smashing and I needed a way to tie them in stronger, quicker and stay inline. The plastic variety and some heat shrink now being preferred options for longevity and ease of use. Other triggers I’m a firm believer in are the slightly exaggerated eyes, two toned colour scheme, some red under the chin and the little orange UV spot at the end of their beak. This beak also adds some length to the fly and enables the fibers to be kept rearward, supported by the rattle they tend to tail wrap less in this manor.
The noise created can be amplified or dimmed depending on retrieve. Quick stop/start strips will see the bearings hit the back then roll forward as the epoxy head dives on the pause. Or for a more subtle action keep a steady pace and the balls will stay back yet still create enough noise to be picked up by nearby lateral lines. At times just the commotion of it hitting the water will induce an eat so be ready from the get-go. Especially if there’s some competition for the fly amongst kingfish.
Thankfully for you these are now available via Manic Tackle Project at most good fly fishing stores. Go pick a few up and try them out on our mossy backed, yellow tail thugs. You might just enjoy teasing them into a savage boat side eat that will be etched in your mind for years to come.Boat side eats are the best.
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.
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.
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 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.