A day with Saltfly fish 

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. 

Capt. Matto, about as passionate to his fishery as they get.
Josh using the last lucky fly hoping the rubber legs are the right tone.

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. 

The cats got the cream the day prior. A nice bluebird winters day gave way to horrid conditions the following 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. 

Such a great inshore opponent. And delicious!

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. 

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 – NB: stop at 1:20 mark, don’t use finishing knot in video. Start hitching instead. 

Rizutto finish –

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. 

King Tide Salt Fly – Autumn 2017 Wrap up

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.





Sometimes Summer

To say we’ve had an uncharacteristic summer would be like banging on the same drum the wind has been banging on. Constant spring like winds have remained until early February and only recently have we seen some quality days that haven’t involved battling the elements. That said, clients have stepped up to the plate when required and slogged it out during the testing parts of the day – often with reward for their persistence. It helps when you have a harbour that fishes well in most winds and has areas to hide from it during the day if needed.

My last report made mention of the marker pole action that was starting to fire up. Since then we have seen loads of fish milling around them at certain stages of the tide. We will see good numbers congregating for the next couple of months and for now the bigger models are also present. One group of fish seen on 2 consecutive days had members punching 30kgs. It was fitting Josh Hutchins from Aussie Fly Fisher was onboard to check out the fishery we have here and was rewarded with one of the smaller fish from the mob.

This capped off a memorable 3 days fishing with him that went from good, to great, to phenomenal. The bite times lasted quite a while and it wasn’t too hard to find fish in between Josh getting around 2000+ images for his ever growing portfolio. 

Next up we had some of the boys from Manic Tackle Project, we popped two Ray Rider cherries that afternoon. We also popped a few manus (Kiwi slang for splashy bombs bro) off the boat in the heat. Unfortunately we didn’t manage Cams fish, he got pushed overboard to chase some while we battled another so fair credit to him “Hey Cam, you got a phone in your pocket?”

The fish currently on the flats are receiving a fair amount of pressure, in particular the town side fish that see both waders and boat traffic chasing them. They still have to eat (or get pissed off with your fly) so make sure the first cast counts. Often I have my anglers ensure their line isn’t hung up, we have a good angle on the fish and they take a breath to steady the nerves prior to casting. Easier said than done when your shot can come and go in a heartbeat. This all goes out the window of course when your best cast gets rejected and a snarled pile of line gets hammered. The humbling nature of these fish will keep you coming back for more.

There has been quite a few younger guys getting into salt fly here lately. It’s really satisfying seeing them develop more skills during the day and consequently nail a Kingfish. Father and son Rob and Norman Dines being the latest duo to accomplish this. Norm is currently building a fly rod and I’m told he’s now working overtime to complete it.

Water clarity has been superb (it got a bit dirty with our first decent rain event but cleared quickly) and the sea lettuce is dying off – albeit a few weeks later than normal. Cloud cover can’t be controlled but easily tolerated and worked with, some of these days have been glass outs so seeing wakers is a lot easier. You really have to take what you get on these occasions.

Baitfish are in epic numbers and the predators that follow are well aware of this. Packs of Kingfish working the shallow shoreline and cartwheeling bait into the trees above being a real standout. This time of the year sees the harbour at maximum capacity and will last for a few months like this until the water starts to cool dramatically. We have spaces left for March, April and May so if you’d like to get a taste of it let me know here

The Salt Fly Hook Up is just a few days away and already participants are hitting the Harbour. Great to see the growth in this sport being embraced by more and more people each week. At this stage there are around 60 confirmed attendees, almost double from last year. 

I’ve had a fortnight off the water welcoming the arrival of our daughter and am looking forward to getting back into it this week. Margot Piper Allen entered the world an hour after her due date and right on high tide. We’re all doing well and settling back into the swing of things. 

 During this time I did manage to finally catch up with Helen Cadwallader and see her research into Stingrays here in Tauranga. The article can be read here. 

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe to the website, you’ll be kept up to date that way. 

All the best for the coming months 



Tagging Stingrays – Helen Cadwallader

Recently I met up with Helen Cadwallader, a PhD student with Waikato University Coastal Research. She is studying the three species of Stingray commonly found in Tauranga Harbour, with particular interest in the Short Tail Blacks – Dasyatis brevicaudata. It is these Rays that the Yellowtail Kingfish cruise alongside and use to ambush prey. After a couple of years of emails and phone calls it was good to finally meet Helen and see how she goes about her research.

Having just welcomed a newborn into the world not much more than 24 hours prior it was a good excuse to get our 2.5 year old and his mate outside for an activity. As with anything involving animals there can be a fair bit of patience required, the group being buzzed by a few Rays before one finally committed and curiosity got the better of her.

Nearby shop front made a great vantage point for the little ones and researchers
Up close and personal with the boys
They were pretty interested in this sea creature

The trap was simple yet effective, a large piece of shade cloth with two aluminum poles each side sat in a foot of water. A fish frame placed in the middle acted as bait and the surrounding water was scented with scraps thrown about. The boat ramp utilized is home to some commercial fishing vessels and consequently the area is a hive of fish life. Once a Ray plucks up the courage to have a go at the bait it is slid up the ramp into very shallow water and the team get to work.

Ready and waiting at the trap
Bait and baitfish. Snapper frames were pick of the day.
Cruiser just out of reach

A heavy wet blanket is used to wrap the tail and then held securely by one person as the rest take photos, record data and insert tags. The tag used is a modified dart tag similar to our Kingfish tags in use – the one exception being two individual coloured ID bands at the top. Also used is a coloured plastic disc tag, essentially three different ID colours used for later visual identification.

Securing the tail prior to tagging
Tags going in
Quick measurements and photographic details of markings

The professional team have the whole ordeal completed within a small time frame ensuring minimal stress to the fish and zero harm – aside from  some small pieces of jewelry to swim away with and some visible mating scars from earlier. Once all data has been recorded all that is left to do is name the Ray. This one aptly named Margot, in honour of our newborn girl.

Helen and I continued talking about the rays, discussing feeding habits, behaviors, seasonal movement and concluded that in reality not much is really known about these critters. Whilst in the early stages of its progress Helen already has 18 (possibly a few more now) individually tagged Rays going about their business and showing up here and there. Our first sighting that afternoon was a previously tagged Short Tail happily cruising past, proof they have no impact on the population whilst conducting their research.

Released to carry on her day
Inquisitive and harmless, but still capable of delivering a nasty blow

I take my hat off to Helen, the unsung hero of Stingrays. She plans to also include the impact of environmental factors in various areas of the harbour and offshore regions, plus a few other topics. Her studies so far have also resulted in helping put an end to some outdated practices that involved killing them for points accrual in some hunting competitions. Shooting fish in a barrel essentially, then dumping the body after proof of kill.

Please go check out the website for this cool project, you can also report any sightings of any tagged Stingrays there.