Recent report on the season to date in Tauranga Harbour. Ray riders, free swimmers and top water marker kingfish on fly.
It’s hard to believe we’re already into the New Year. Early season has been one of the best yet, with great sightings of ray riders and many Kingfish tagged already for the season. Proliferations of baitfish have meant you only need to stick around them for a while until the thugs turn up.
Ray riders have been their usual self, either overly enthusiastic to inhale a well placed fly or shutting up shop after a a few careful presentations. With all the holiday pressure the kingfish see it’s a good bet to try some patterns that they don’t always get thrown at them.
What has been a real stand out is the numbers of fish on some markers, not to mention the size. I just wish the smaller kingfish weren’t so eager to eat flies before the bigger ones hanging deeper.
As usual clients were treated to some stunning scenery with full red blooms of Pohutukawa. A recent king tide provided some exciting casting challenges tucking flies under their branches for cruisers chasing baitfish.
I had a week of relaxation over Christmas with the family and some memorable fishing included. There’s a long road ahead yet but the look on his face says it all and is something to cherish for years to come. Definitely a proud Dad moment watching a good mate help your son catch his first fish.
Coming home to a big storm and huge dump of rain meant trip rescheduling and a bit of relearning some spots as the sand bars have shifted in places. The holiday boat traffic, pesky winds and some dumb luck has kept kingfish captures down but the shots have been there. It pays to be proficient with a good accurate cast on a breezy day. That is reinforced even more so on the hard days when one quick money shot might be the difference between glory and heart break.
A small bay flat I’ve recently been hunting at times has upwards of 20+ stingrays on it, mostly absent of ray riders but all it takes is for an unruly mob of kingfish to take up residence and it will be all on. Couple that with rumors of a 40kg fish caught in the entrance last week and things are looking good for the next few months of salt fly fishing in Tauranga Harbour. There’s loads of kingfish around, go out and enjoy them but remember to look after them. And don’t forget, if you want to be a part of the action this summer drop me a line via this link, you might just want to secure the last few days left of this month…
New Zealand salt water fly fishing is well underway for the new season. Kingfish are hunting the shallow North Island flats again.
New Zealand salt water fly fishing season
October 1st sees most New Zealand fly fishermen hauling ass into the newly opened back country for a taste of untouched wilderness trout fishing. While this was going on I was busy sneaking a few salt fly trips into Tauranga harbour between family commitments. As expected the fish were around and the spring weather was its temperamental self.
A good sign for the upcoming salt water fly flats season is a healthy start to our inshore snapper fishing, an easy target for local fisherman and ideal dinner companion. The fish come into the shallows and forage, at times just behind the breaking waves. I always enjoy a good snapper session but was pleasantly surprised when a bruiser Kingfish decided to take my 4kg outfit and give me a hell of a battle on the trout jigging gear. A perfect warm up for the start of the season.
Tauranga harbour flats Kingfish
Constant westerlies keep the Bay of Plenty sea temperature around the 16 degree mark during spring. So I was pretty excited to see an easterly flow just prior to commencing my salt water fly guide season. With it comes warmer water as well as the rain. We’ve had a good dose of rain this year, with our average rainfall allowance reached by August.
Although most of the stingrays have been unoccupied the kingfish are never far away from them, either crashing bait nearby or hanging off marker poles teasing any salt fly angler. When it all comes together things can go from zero to one hundred real quick. The sight of packs of Kingfish tailing around a stingray in shallow water was welcome after a good dump of rain recently and as expected they reacted to a well placed fly. After a few weeks of near misses, close but no cigar and dropped fish moments things are looking very promising for the salt fly season ahead.
Guided salt water fly trips
The beginning of this season couldn’t have been written any better. After being plagued by rain (surprise surprise) earlier in the year Rob returned from Aussie to settle his score. While the stingrays were heavily outnumbered by eagle rays we pushed on. Casting poppers through some money water and a known Kingfish highway we had a savage hit and run take right by the boat. Sadly the only sight we got was a heavy set fish turning down and digging its powerful yellow tail in for a blistering run. After managing to stop the fish mid backing it dropped the hook. This fueled Robs fire further and we searched high and low for more action, sadly the other rays we saw were lonely.
The next day dawned much the same, our original plan to fish different flats was put on hold to fish closer to home and spend more time on the water. We staked out a spot and set ourselves up for ambush, much the way Kingfish behave. Soon enough 3 rats cruised right past us, they knew the game however and after two further passes they were never to be seen again.
More water was searched meticulously and by mid afternoon our eyes were playing all sorts of tricks on us. All of a sudden that 0-100 moment happened and in a sunny patch I spied a darker shape moving at a more constant pace than the eagle rays nearby. I started thinking there was no welcoming committee with this one either until a different angle revealed 3 kingfish. Our world came crashing down when a ball of cloud closed our visibility down immediately, losing sight of the traveling ray rider party.
Intuition paid off and we rejoined them 100m away still working along the contour. Flies were sent to their targets, this time met with super aggressive fish providing an acrobatic take. What followed was a stressful fight as Robs fly reel backing picked up wads of dreaded sea lettuce, leaving me scrambling to free the line and Rob trying to shorten the leash. Long story short the “Battle of Kimchi” was ours and Rob had his first New Zealand flats Kingfish in the bag. A highly prized fish and very well deserved.
We returned to our station and resumed the drift, elation and smiles all round. You can imagine the surprise when a suspect shape was covered with a cast and a scything attack from another Kingfish. This time wanting the fly so bad it nearly ran into the boat after the initial eat. What made this fish special was seeing a tag embedded in its side. This was a Kingfish caught on board King Tide earlier on in the year. You can read more about this recapture here.
This wrapped up a great two days, certainly helped by someone who can put the casts in and persevere with “hunting” kingfish for hours on end. A quick wash up and change then Rob was hurtling down SH1 to be transferred to Marc Clinch for three days in some amazing Central North Island water. I haven’t had the debrief from the trip so can’t go into too much detail but the pictures certainly speak for themselves. This should certainly be on any fly anglers to do list when visiting New Zealand.
The following week and after some juggling around an ominous looking low pressure system we were back on the water. John is used to water warmer than our average air temp for this time of the year and rugged up accordingly. It was good to see a ray rider after staring into the water for a long period of time, when the kingfish lit up off the stingrays back it was an even greater sight. A second cast was all it took and we had John hooked up. What followed next was a fight that the kingfish never had an inch in. This fish was destined to come to the boat whether it liked it or not, a true master class in breaking the fishes spirit and making it work every meter.
Things are certainly looking like a boomer season on the New Zealand flats and the salt fly action is set to heat up. Click this link to make contact and arrange a day out chasing the ultimate sports fish on fly.
The Tauranga harbour Kingfish season has been bubbling away for a few eager salt water fly fishermen. It was a special moment when Aussie angler Rob hooked a ray rider Kingfish on the flats earlier this week.
What made it even more poignant was that this fish had a tag embedded in its side from earlier in the year . Back in March I was joined by Jim Hanley for a morning prior to a storm front rolling in. We had a glass calm flat with bow waves and tails showing themselves wherever we looked. Needless to say he caught a few yellowtail kingfish on fly that day.
What this fish has done over winter will remain a mystery but it’s appearance this week was very welcome.
Kingfish tag details
Time at liberty: 238 days
Grew an eyebrow
We are finding more interesting info as these data returns come back to us. The importance of looking after these smaller sports fish and maintaining their population for generations to come should not be overlooked.
At this stage it seems each region has a slightly different story to tell, most likely in accordance with environmental factors such as water temperature and quality determining fish movement. New Zealand’s key salt water fly fishing destinations of Waiheke Island, Collingwood, Tauranga and Manukau harbours are covered by the tag a king on fly program and we expect to see more recaptures this season adding to the data bank.
If you are lucky enough to land a previously tagged kingfish please treat it carefully, ideally get tag details – a close up picture is easiest and fastest. Measure it along your rod and return it to the water promptly. If it’s legal maybe even think twice about keeping it, the story about the goose that lays a golden egg is a perfect analogy.
Recently I spent the day with Matt von Sturmer onboard his vessel Saltfly. He was hosting Josh Hutchins from Aussie Fly Fisher, showing him the amazing winter fishery he has right on his doorstep. The plan was to fish for snapper in really shallow water. “Wafting” flies for savage hit and runs or the complete opposite subtle take being a huge appeal to Matto.
What wasn’t planned was the weather! Saturday dawned with the expected 35kn winds that were set to lash the country. The ferry from Half Moon bay to Waiheke was bumpy enough without having to jump on a smaller boat to throw flies for the day.
This is where knowledge of a local guide who fishes their own waters almost daily in all conditions is invaluable. Add to that the safety protocols in place to operate in a professional manor and you’re onto a winner. Despite passing through some rough passages of water Matto had us fishing in areas that we could cope with easily between the frequent gusts.
While the day didn’t herald any of the bigger specimens that make for a great fight in the shallows we caught a dozen or so scrappy fish. The shit talking and catch ups are always welcome, even if Matto and I had to have a few serious moments to discuss safety drills and training as part of our Maritime requirements.
Short edit of some Autumn salt fly action in Tauranga Harbour, New Zealand
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Seems adding another child to the litter makes time slip away all to easily. We’re winding the season down now with water temps dropping almost half a degree daily at some stages. The fishing has been really good with most clients scoring multiple fish and having shots at plenty more.
I’ve knocked a clip together of some of the last 6 weeks highlights. From epic sunrises to masses of tailing kingfish and the hectic, stubborn fights that follow. Please excuse some of the shaky camera work – guiding, filming and operating a vessel at the same time all present their own challenges!
Lastly, if you want to be apart of this next season then drop me an email here. I look forward to hearing from you.
Finally we are starting to see regular fine spells and the fishing has lit up accordingly. The local salt fly hardcore are getting numbers of fish daily from all around the harbor. You’d be hard pressed to say one area is fishing better than another – although those in the know have a few nuggets up their sleeves.
A group of killer whales a few months back had pushed the rays out of the channels and for about 10 days afterward we had good sightings of stingrays, often accompanied by the green backed thugs. Currently we have the same situation with all the holiday boat traffic, a blessing and a curse!
No particular food source is being turned down currently. Big numbers of piper around the zostera, with mullet schools and mini flounder also a common sight. Don’t limit yourself to the ray rider phenomenon either. It is amazing to pin them off the back of a ray, but if that’s all you’re searching for you’ll miss out on a lot more options presented – often at close range.
From what we’ve already experienced Tauranga is in for a big season. Most fish landed are over the legal size of 750mm with much bigger models sighted, hooked and lost! I snuck out for a look yesterday and was rewarded with a healthy fish from a huge ray, the smallest fish of the lot.
It pays to get your casting up to scratch as the fish will be less inclined to hit a fly at close range, although they will follow a long way off the ray before smashing a fly boatside. Mix your retrieves up with different flies to get them swimming well, poppers being the prime candidate for this.
Lastly, and I know we bang on about it. Please handle these fish carefully, don’t hang them by their tails when landing, keep them wet and return to the water ASAP. Watching a fish swim away strongly is a good as getting the eat and the grip and grin.
Now is the time so go out and enjoy it, we have many more months ahead of us.
Finally managed to spy a gap from the rain and wind we have suffered over the last 5 weeks. When these roll around you pull a half day at work and get into it.
Working some sheltered flats with a lot of life the VHF came to life – turns out I was close to a kite surfer in trouble. It’s hard to leave these situations but you would hope someone came to your need ASAP.
After a pick up and drop off I got back to the fishing and back to a considerably more flooded flat. The next faithful early season flat seemed void until some movement caught my eye.
After pulling the hook first cast I eventually bagged my first “ray rider” for the season. It took a little patience shadowing the fish for a while but it paid off after it settled down again.
After a few winter months missing this action it sure was a sweet moment.