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.
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.
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.