Salt water fly blog

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.

Pre Season Look-see

With all the prevailing Westerly wind we typically have over Spring I managed to find a gap between gusts and sneak out for a look at what lies ahead this season. Even this recce was windy but I managed to tuck myself away from both the wind and the world for an early morning high tide hunt. It was very enjoyable just to be back on the water with a purpose after a hard slog of swatting through Winter.

I managed to find loads of baitfish where they normally reside with the occasional big Kahawai cruising the flats. The newly added Minnkota making the job all that more easy and enjoyable. The stealth approach game has been lifted to all new levels, some of these fish were oblivious to my presence until well within a 20ft cast. I left these fish alone as the 10wt was stripped and ready, waiting for that Kingfish shot that comes and goes faster than it should.

Also of note was the big black ray that mooches around one spot was there again – which is very refreshing as he holds numbers of Kings on him at times and the first we took off him was Nov 05 last year. The Kingfish are being caught out the front and also appearing in harbour catches so in a few weeks time the water will be that little bit warmer and the flats should start to produce some great sight fishing. To say I’m getting excited is probably about right.

UPDATE ON PROGRESS… I have just sat my Skippers exam and gained a pass. Still loads more to complete and timing has been pushed out due to a few unforeseen hurdles (won’t go into detail!) Please get in touch here if you have any further queries or would like to book a trip for when things get the final sign off.

Follow the Leader

Since it’s Spring now I feel more eager for the coming Summer fishing than I’ll ever be. Playing around with leaders in the garage recently sparked a few tweaks to my regular set up. I’m all for reducing the amount of knots in a leader but sometimes constructing them is dictated by demands.

Most of my 10wt fishing utilizes 20-30lb flouro leaders around the 7-9ft mark. The problem I have with adding bite tippets is not in the tying of joining knots (slim beauties, blood, albright etc). It’s more the issue of wasting a good length of leader in retying sections, in particular any doubles. There’s an element of resourcefulness rather than stinginess, why waste perfectly good materials?

With this in mind I got busy and came up with a solution. I don’t have a fancy name for it, probably never will and someone has probably already tied one very similar. But this set up made a lot of sense to me for the high stress demands of Kingfish.

  1. Start out with leader material of choice and tie a mini bimini for fly line loop-loop attachment. Measure out length required, less the bite tippet (NB include >300mm for AG chain knot)   
  2. Tie a solid ring on using the AG chain knot. I have been using this knot on stick baits for a few years and it’s bulletproof. The fact it passes twice around the ring means more load distribution, similar to the catspaw. These Decoy rings are tiny and rated to 300lb! Even if they break at half that it’s still 6 times the leader rating. These rings are great – smoothed inner edges, no hard edge for knot to chaff againgst. Plus the shape of them allows AG chain to bed well and not slide around.   
  3. Add bite tippet using 4-5 turn Uni or preferred knot, moisten and tighten hard.
  4. Select fly, tie on and bugger off fishing.
  5. Once your tippet is too short just add another piece. Too easy.

Senyos Laser Dub Review

For a few years now I have been sourcing various fly tying materials from Matt at Taupo Rod & Tackle. The man sure knows his stuff and is more than happy to track down stock in a flash (no tinsel related pun intended).

So when a parcel arrives at your house full of goodies you naturally put thoughts to hooks and the fluff starts to fly. This time around I had some Senyos Laser dub to play with. This stuff is as versatile as it comes whether using as a dub or stacking it like deer hair. It can also be clipped to make tight shaped heads and bodies. In fact you are only really limited by your own imagination. 

What really sets it apart from other similar products is the look it has in the water, the fine sinuous fibers have amazing translucency even when packed hard to form a bulky water pushing head. You can tie it as sparse or dense as you like but I found smaller, more frequent applications when stacking to be favoured. especially when blending various colours. 

Although I have had zero time on the water of late (establishing a business ain’t easy) I was impressed with the water shedding capabilities when a few test run flies came out of the sink. Any remaining water will be displaced on the back cast easily enough, leaving a fly with its originally intended weight to throw. Perfect for long days on the water waving the wand. 

You can get hold of Matt via his website


Slim head bait fish. Swims with an enticing kick
Piper variation #63. Kingi candy on the flats
Fat head baitfish – lead eyes
Bunny + Chartreuse = Spring Snapper

As you can see the red is particularly good for blood. Just another trigger to consider when tying. Nothing says eat me like a flared gill plate. 

An eye for detail

Since  I have had minimum time on the water over the last month (work, baby, bad weather, work, work… repeat) I figured best to write something that is the next best thing to time on the water. Prepping for fishing trips is a very close second, especially when Winter is making itself present.

Call me slightly OCD but I have a thing for tying flies with a fair bit of attention to detail. Maybe not quite the levels of some hyper-realistic flies, who really has time to tie those Picasso pieces? It’s something I find gives me more confidence while fishing them, especially when the days are tough and the fish not as Kamikaze as you’d like. Eyes are definitely a major trigger for most of my salt water flies

Eyes are a deal breaker. Picture a fleeing baitfish, eyes wide as a predator closes the gap in pursuit, the predator keyed on dinner. They’re both watching each other, looking for clues as to each others movements. Many good fisherman also understand these subtle body gestures and use them as an indication themselves. Liken it to a first date, something I’m out of touch with but if my memory serves me right you can read a fair deal from eye movement and whether or not you’re getting lucky.

There’s such a vast array of options from homemade works of art to mass produced sheets of pupils. It’s really up to the fly makers imagination. Personally I prefer function and durability when using them, most of the time bound under a coating of resin. The flies and eyes below are just the tip of the ice berg and the options are limited only by creativity.

So next time you’re tying or even better on the water stop and give them a thought. It may be the difference between a donut day or a damn good day.

Fish Skull weight and eye combo
Fish Skull weight and eye combo
Crease fly with classic holographic pupil
Crease fly with classic holographic pupil
Tube Squid fly with light weight plastic moulded eyes.
Tube Squid fly with light weight plastic moulded eyes.
Piper eyes buried under resin
Piper eyes buried under resin
Tungsten dumbbell eyes
Tungsten dumbbell eyes
Floating booby with rattle doll eyes
Floating booby with rattle doll eyes
Lightly weighted shrimp
Lightly weighted shrimp