Tauranga flats Kingfish summer season fires up

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.

kingfish, salt water fly, fishing, flats, tauranga
Aggressive visual take and a stubborn shallow water fight
manic tackle project, yellowtail kingfish, salt fly, flats, new zealand
Mr Manic himself Rene Vaz with a prime flats kingfish. Also offers free involuntary ear piercing
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P-Mac admiring a shallow water rat prior to release
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Anthony from Australia enjoying some father son time recently

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.

topwater, baitfish, kingfish, salt water fly fishing, bay of plenty
American angler Joseph doing the damage on some marker fish
Marker fishing, salt fly, popper, kingfish, tauranga harbour
Poronui Lodge guide Dave Wood with a nice fish off a marker
Salt water fly fishing, kingfish, casting, baitfish, king tide salt fly
Cam Forsman and Josh Gibson sneaking in a dawn raid on the marker poles.
popper, salt fly, bay of plenty, kingfish, fly fishing, new zealand
Topwater takes get the blood pumping every time

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.

Tauranga harbour, pohutukawa, christmas tree, new zealand
Pohutukawa in full bloom just prior to Christmas
Sporting life outfitters, trout fishing, fly, salt water fly fishing, flats
The Mayor of Turangi Mr Andrew Burden laying down the law on some Tauranga thugs

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.

First fish, father son, fishing rod, new zealand, salt water fly fishing
Quinn and his kahawai. A perfect first fish to fuel the fire
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Christmas day park ups – Aotea Harbour
stick bait, kingfish, yellowtail, fishing, harbour, new zealand
Having a sneaky stickbait prospecting for kingfish at Aotea Harbour
Aotea harbour, new zealand, rock pools, fish
Aotea Harbour rockpools, perfect for little ones to discover all sorts of marine life

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.

kingfish, new zealand, tauranga harbour, flats, fishing
Early morning free swimmers on a glassed out harbour
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Kana with a quick kingfish cuddle before release
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Pre Christmas refreshments during a hot bite
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The new Hatch Finatic Gen2 7+ has been doing the hard yards lately

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…

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.

Tauranga, bay of plenty, kingfish flats, salt water, guide

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.
tauranga harbour, bay of plenty, new zealand, flats, salt water fly fishing guide
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.
kingfish, yellowtail, north island, new zealand, collingwood, salt fly
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.

 

 

Flats kingfish recapture 

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.

Tauranga, flats, kingfish, fly rod, salt water, fishing, yellowtail
Rob Alfeldi and his prized Tauranga flats kingfish

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.

Kingfish, ray rider, tag, salt water fly, tauranga, bay of plenty, new zealand
Jim displays his tagged kingfish from March 2017

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
  • Growth: 6cm
  • Distance: 5NM
  • 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.

Tag, kingfish, fly rod, salt water, collingwood, manukau, waiheke island
Rob sends another tagged kingfish back to carry on hunting the Bay of Plenty waters.

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.

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. 

Dealing with rejection

Just a handful of reasons you may have suffered in the hands of the fishing gods.

At some point in your life you’ve had to deal with rejection. How you go about dealing with it is your business, but one thing is – if you don’t pick your own self up you ain’t never going to learn from it.

Therefore I’ve put together a few little snippets on making a rubbish situation a little more bearable and maybe even turn it into an eat. And also help me get through the flats drought over winter.

Kingfish are by and large a cunning predator. They are on top of their game and one day will be terrorizing bait relentlessly, the next day scrutinizing every single fibre on your fly. So as a rule of thumb for these days I’ll fish as natural as possible. Muted colors and minimal bling can still turn them on. Otherwise “if you can’t catch em, piss them off”! Bright, bulky and loud being the modus operandi here.

Big, loud and bright. Small, natural and subtle.
Those follows… Heart stopping, time seems to slow right down as they meander along behind your fly. One kick of that yellow tail will see them overtake it but they’re content on just following. You run out of line, now what? Get that fly out of the water, no point educating the fish more than it need to be. Wait for them to turn then flick the fly into their exit path – departing body language will dictate if they eat it or not, just remember to make the fly move straight away. You can also try changing your retrieve but bear in mind you can’t out strip a kingfish.

Eat it you f*%ker!

A few points about these precious few seconds boat side. Don’t look them in the eye, keep very still, no pointing at them and yelling eat the f*%ken fly. Keep the rod still and away from overhead. In fact just ignore the bastards and wait for your next shot, almost as they disappear from sight or at your casting range limits are best bets.

Gear failure sucks big time. Buy the best gear you can afford and keep it in great condition. Saltwater is a reel killer and a water/bomb proof drag is highly recommended. Retie suspect and overworked knots. Research the best connections for each stage of line join and practice them over and over again. And when you’ve mastered that find an even better way to do it…

Sometimes however it just doesn’t go to plan. My mate Andrew Marshall got backlashed on a big kingfish a few years back (keep the drag set, not undone after stripping line off). The monstrous surface take and sound of that fly line snapping as it came tight was epic and forever etched in our minds. All these little lessons serve a purpose to strengthen your resolve, if you’re not learning something from it then get an easier hobby.

Quick re rig and time to ponder the big kingfish that just destroyed a fly line.

Most people don’t eat meals all day long, same applies to fish. Perhaps a smaller portion will be snapped up more readily. This is a good time to mention bite times and solunar activity. Keep an eye on these you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the fish activity correlates to these times, even if it is just a brief window.

And finally the worst of all, blanking! You’ve worked hard all day, covered all your spots and tried all your tricks. Best to go home, clean your gear, curse the fish and have a beer (in no particular order, but if you’re really clever you can do them all at once). Strip things back to the basics and think how you can do better. Often keeping things simple will take the clutter out of your head and fishing. Leaving you free to chase fish, not faff around distracted.

IMG_4310
3 days of searching, blanks and refusals ended with this in the dying minutes.

Cheer up dude. At least the old man caught something.
 

Even the best of the best have had a shit day or two. Just bear that in mind next time you find yourself raging in a bad way. Tomorrow’s another day.