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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.