The Rattle Piper

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.

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A handful of Kingfish candy. New Zealands kingfish find the Rattle Piper hard to resist.

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.

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Hustler bag of the highest grade kingfish crack.

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.

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Rattles rigged and ready for fibers to be tied in.

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.

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Rattle Piper curing after a head of Loon thin UV epoxy added.

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.Kingfish, boat, salt water fly, guide, new zealand flats, fly rod, salt water, fishingBoat side eats are the best.

Early season flats Kingfish tips

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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

Fish City Hamilton Salt water fly night

Don’t forget if you’re around Hamilton this coming Thursday 16th of November there will be a talk on all things salt water fly fishing in New Zealand.

Big thanks to Fish City Hamilton and Manic Tackle Project.

Snags and beers on the go. Kick off 1830, see you there.

 

 

Busting Loops 

That fly you’ve spent an age tying to get the most out of in the water is now ready to tie on. Let the loop knot debate begin…

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A rack of Rattle Piper kingfish flies ready for action.

If you’re after unrestricted movement then it’s really hard to go past loop knots. There’s  a few to choose from, each with their own merits. Leftys, perfection, homer rhodes, open uni et al. For me I utilize a knot for each stage of set up, each one being a potential weak area to be exposed.

It makes sense to choose a knot that’s not only strong but is easy to tie. A huge bust off, urgent fly change or rocking boat will always try to hinder your best efforts to re-tie a salt water leader. Find a knot that suits your set up requirements and test it, try other options if needed. Then learn to tie it opposite handed, behind your back, blindfolded and as fast as possible – this might just be the difference to connecting to a fish under pressure.

Salt fly knots
The beginnings of the graveyard of tested knots

Harking back to my school science fair days (1st place in Applied science Hawkes Bay Science Fair 1990 something) I use a simple tug of war test. A different knot is created in each end of commonly used material. These are then pulled up evenly until one fails. To keep things fair three tests are done under each configuration, one by one an eventual winner is found.

Salt water fly fishing knot test
Who’s going to win? Leftys or Perfection

Although I knew the eventual winner was always going to be Leftys loop, I mostly wanted to check which of my commonly used loop knots were a close second to retie quickly and rely on in pressure situations. This placing goes to the perfection knot, quick and easy plus it’s a good looking knot to boot. 

Interestingly was the Homer Rhodes and how it was tied. If you look at the records you’ll see 1/2, 2/1 and 2/2 listed. These were the amount of  overhand passes through each stage of the knot when tied. For example; 1/2 is a basic over hand knot to begin with and then finished with a two turn. This ended up the preferred way of tying this knot in 30lb Hatch flouro leader.

Some points to note:

  • Not all knots perform to the same extent through various weights and types of material. Nor do they behave well with other brands/types of leader material at times.
  • In order to function to their potential knots must be trialled for effectiveness prior to use. No point letting the fish show you your knot choice sucked.
  • This experiment was more for my peace of mind than to prove the exact tolerances of each knot. And also rank my top 3 loop knots in conditions I’m familiar with.
  • Sometimes knots fail, don’t cry about it – try and figure out why. Was it an old leader, had it sustained some damage, not enough turns to secure it, tag end cut too short? These are some realities of potential failure, eliminating them for next time is a valuable lesson.

Connections – Backing > Fly line

Winter is a great time to sneak out for the odd decent day of fishing but it’s also a time to service gear, prep rigs, tie flies and think about your plan of attack for the coming season. 

Something that came to light while changing fly lines recently was how many shitty backing to fly line connections I’ve seen. There’s no denying powerful fish need strong connections.  

Marc Clinch about to hear his backing knot sing.
Strong fast runs see the backing knot tested rigorously.

My flats Kingfish assemblies tend to step down from 60lb fine diameter backing to fly line (approx 35lb) and ending with around 20-30lb straight section of fluoro leader. This is to help avoid losing fly lines but also try to prohibit fish carrying excess line around if they bust free (barbless hooks should also get a mention for this reason). 

At a pinch you can double your backing and make a doubled Bimini loop. This has twin loops and is better than a single strand which can bite into a fly line.   

My favourite is to create a sleeve of braided 50lb mono and use this as the load distributor through your loop-loop connection. The steps below should get you underway and have more confidence in your connection as it sings out the guides. 

All the tools you need for this connection

  • Cut a length of braided mono to make a loop big enough to pass your reel through – this makes changing lines easier if you need.
    Braided loop should be big enough to pass reel through.
     
  • Pass backing through braided mono and leave tag end of 50cm 
  • Thread whip one end of mono. Give it a light dab of super glue and roll in fingers to absorb. 
  • Smooth the mono tightly to the other end, ensuring no slack. Repeat whipping/gluing. 
  • Now double the backing up to form your mono sleeve loop. Make the two whipped ends slightly offset – this should help taper the transition of finished knot. 
  • Plait braid back down onto the mono whipped tag ends. Start far enough up from mono ends to create a 4-5cm plait. 
  • Once you reach mono start half hitching, using opposing hitches. These should start to trap the braided mono. 
  • Work hitches down until you’ve covered previous whipping and secure tag with a rizutto finish. 
  • Cover knot with Loon soft head or similar flexible glue. 
    Tied, glued and dried. Ready for a beating.
  • Allow to fully dry, nothing worse than winding fly line on and discovering you’ve glued it to your backing knot!
  • Attach fly line by passing backing loop fully through fly line loop then passing reel through large backing loop. Finished connection should resemble a reef knot. 
    Finished loop to loop connection.

Some useful knot links. 

Plait – https://youtu.be/2uUWS7dzOn0 NB: stop at 1:20 mark, don’t use finishing knot in video. Start hitching instead. 

Rizutto finish – https://youtu.be/H09wT8r8dC8

That’s a wrap

That’s a wrap. A term used to signify the closure of an event or season. But since Tauranga’s season doesn’t seem to be quite over I’ll apply the phrase to those pesky tail wraps some larger fly patterns tend to acquire. 

Over time my top fly patterns have been developed and adjusted to suit the many factors required in everyday fishing. To me durability, practicality, castibility and some other key assets are always top of the pile. 

Tail wraps are a (insert cuss word here). While they can’t always be avoided they can be mitigated during the tying process and best avoided with some slick casting. 

Something I’ve found key is to build an internal core that will support the more supple fibers without compromising movement. Faux Bucktail is now a firm favourite for this task. A few thread wraps tucked under the fibers near the bend or solely around the fibers themselves adds to the value. 

Faux Bucktail, the best thing since sliced bread
SF fibers perched upon Faux Bucktail ready for more layers

Building heads that hold their shape also allows the fly to keep itself in order. Anything more than a third of total length may prohibit action so be mindful of this and also not restricting the gape of the hook. 

I’ve been a huge fan of Loon Soft Head for this purpose for a long time, recently I’ve tried Plastidip also and found this to be just as good. Although it takes a while to prep and better suits finer material. A light head of Senyos Lazer Dub will be enough to cover the other synthetics nicely and bind the adhesive better. 

The water pushing head and initial air trapped inside the front cone will get the attention of any super predators nearby. Nothing says eat me like the noise of a bubble trail. 

Masked eye and hook ready for a spray

There’s other tricks out there also such as building mono tail guards and using shorter tails so it is really a case of finding what suits your fly. Another quirky trick I picked up while twiddling a fly cruising the flats is the dreadlock theory. As most of the flies I tie and use are synthetic they can be twisted at the tip to lock the fibers up a little and stop wayward hook wraps

Dreadlock the tips, great time killer while on the water
Finished product ready to swim

With all these things now going in your favor it leaves more time for fishing and less time untangling or even worse throwing twisted, matted flies away. 
The countdown is on for the new season now, although there’s still a few to be caught between low pressure systems. With 16c water and lots of bait it comes as no surprise there’s still a few stragglers about. 

Piper, Garfish, Hyporhamphus ihi, Halfbeaks or Ihe

Call it what you want it’s also known as kingfish candy to a lot of sea fisherman. At this time of year we have big numbers of piper seeking refuge around the eel grass (Zostera muelleri) in the shallow sand flats of most New Zealand harbors. 

Our cunning Yellowtail Kingfish are well aware of this and that is why my go to fly normally resembles a piper of some sort. Subtle colour variations are rarely needed but it does pay to carry a few options, not only in colour but also size. With an average size of 200mm but micro or larger sizes always present it pays to mix things up. 

1/0 Mini Pipe

4/0 Olive Piper

The infamous Rattle Pipe