A typical early autumn morning – cooler temperature, mixed cloud and sunshine and on and off again breezes. The fish were in tune with the season with their response: one came in for release and all the other hits failed to connect.
Meola Reef fly fishing club meeting. Lesson One: First Catch your fish! (more…)
Out on the last of the ebb at Pt Chev, with a handful of berley, and the Vapen vanquished a 40cm snapper – my best in the harbour for maybe 3 or 4 years.
So three days after the “Shallow Water Kingfish” episode I met up with my fishing buddy Alan Bulmer on the Manukau Harbour to hit the last of the outgoing tide. I was already keen as I had encountered some probable kingfish action four days previously in the same spot. And the extra icing on the cake today was my first outing with my brand new Redington Vapen 10 wt rod teamed with a Sage 4210 reel that packed a drag system that could look a kingfish in the eye and say “game on”.
I arrived a few minutes early and was setting up on the beach when a the water erupted a 100 mteres to my right as a decent kahawai was doing a ram raid in the shallows on a school of sprats. I now know that it is possible to run that distance in neoprene chest waders – but alas not fast enough as the hit and run perpetrator was gone before my frantic casts pepered the area. And that was the scene set. Every 30-45 minutes we would witness some sort of predator bust up or movement – but they were all randomly located one-offs. Despite several schools of bait fish present for the whole duration of our fishing we never saw any attacks by multiple predators.
Meanwhile the weather was not following the predicted pattern and the south-easterly was ruffling the surface which both stirred up the silt in the shallows as well as ruffling the surface making spotting cruising fish virtually impossible.
Just on low water, the wind abated for a while and the silty water began to clear. Alan and I fished off a rocky ledge in water barely a meter deep. I was fishing a floating line with a tan and white clouser as a vague imitation of a small flounder such as we know kingfish enjoying hunting in this type of mudflat environment.
I was retrieving in a slow smooth stripping action when the rod tip jolted down, the line went tight and the water boiled about 10 meters in front of me – a decent fish to christen my new outfit! The first run took all the fly line and went another 20-30 meters into the super braid backing. Alan already had his iPhone out and shooting like a seasoned photo-journalist.
It was quickly obvious this wasn’t a 10 kilo kingy, but the head-thrashing tactic of the unseen fish had me thinking ‘snapper’ but it turned out to be good sized kahawai. I cranked the drag up and it definitely put the hurt on as the runs became shorter and shorter, and within 5 mins the fish was exhautsed and was beached without any last moment histrionics.
One of my best land based kahawai on the fly at 2.5 kilos. A handsome fish and worthy of of respect for it pugnacious fighting abilities.
A blustery Saturday morning with cloudy gray skies threatening rain. The big choice: the sandbanks or the reef? Do I want to be potentially stranded in wind and rain for a couple of hours on an isolated square meter of shells or have the luxury of an overland retreat available at anytime I want to wimp out. Yup – I took the latter!
I have been considering writing something about using two flies for salt water fly fishing as this seems to be quite overlooked facet of Kiwi swoffing. The only other person I’ve seen with a two fly rig was the notable kingfish guru known as Bass-ist on the Saltwater Flyflingers forum at fishing.net.nz. So I am in good company. Unlike bait fishing, it may come as a surprise to many fly fishers that the point of having two flies is not really trying to catch your limit in half the amount of time – though this could happen. A major advantage is that you can offer two differing patterns (colour, size, shape) and let the fish vote with their lips as to which is preferred. You could also rig with one weighted and one unweighted fly to fish at two different depths, which can also be achieved by having a popper and a sunken fly trailing in its wake. Other combinations are possible such as two weighted clousers to dive through heavy currents where one can’t make it down to the bottom alone. You could even fish two poppers.
And since we are talking saltwater fishing, you don’t have any licences regulations to stop you at two, striped bass fly fishers in the US have advocated three fly rigs in the surf. I don’t personally think four or more would be very practical unless your casting is immaculate! And when you think that striped bass can easily run as big as twenty or thirty pounds, this is not some dinky set up for tiny fish.
So I decided to rig up with two unweighted flies as the incoming tide doesn’t flow very strongly at the top of Meola Reef and the water at high tide averages about 2 meters depth. My top fly was largely yellow and the point fly was dark green/brown.
My decision to bring some pilchards for berly was validated by the murky water which didn’t seem to be the product of wave action on the mud bottom. So what was the first intersting event of the day – getting snagged on a rock at the end of a retrieve in water just too deep to wade out to. I leaned heavily on the line as it had a 10kilo level leader and the line snapped. Remember that two fly rigs mean you can lose twice as many flies in half the time …
But a fisherman’s miracle: the trace floated up and I managed to snag it with the rod tip and got my two flies back!
As in the photo the curve on the point fly on the left has been bent open and must have pulled free just as the line broke. Notice the leader snapper at the loop knot join to the fly line. That was a first in my fishing career.
The conditions were not the most favourable with a blustery sou’ wester and cool temperature. But after a while I started to get some hits and finally a good hook up. Perfect result – a double header! Even better – a kahawai and a snapper!
So now you can ponder – was this a sprinter snapper muscling in on a kahawai fast retrieve or a lazy kahawai that inhaled a snapper slow strip? I think it was a medium . And the next phot shows these two stars of New Zealand saltwater fishing doing what they do best.
The snapper is diving for cover and the kahawai is trying be a polaris missile. As I have found on previous double hook ups, the confusion caused by the two combatants fighting in close proximity virtually cancels out each other. The kahawai went home first but the snapper stayed around for a few photos.
It was pretty slow going. I lost the two fly rig properly an hour later after a feisty fish hooked up and ran into the mangroves and snagged me. As there was no repeat miracle I replaced my rig with a single fly as time was running out. The choice was a small clouser smelt fly as I decided to target the kahawai as the berley had run out. But it was not to be as another snapper decided to scoff the fly within seconds of it hitting the water. And, of course, had to pose for the camera before being released …
Ain’t snapper just so darn pretty?
So no keepers to take home, but a lesson or two learned and ideas for the future.
And in case you’re wondering: no, it didn’t rain.
As so many others have said: where would Kiwi swoffing be without these ubiquitous, feisty fish?
This fellow was charging around the side of a tidal flow and provided a nice sight fishing hookup.
That’s the great thing about suburban swoffing. Get home, change clothes and grab the fishing tackle and head to the local beach. High tide was ebbing so the channels will be flowing and the fish will be sitting in the outflow expecting easy pickings to float their way. The day was pure summer – calm water, faint westerly and warm water – perfect ingredients to chase predators in shallow water. My 5 weight outfit was an appropriate to the scale of the likely kahawai or snapper to be encountered. A size 6 Interceptor fly adorned a 2 meter length of 10kg leader. Later changed to a smaller fly as the water shallowed and the current faded. To sweeten my chances of success some frozen pilchards came along as appetizers.
And over the next 3 hours I hooked about 30 fish, shared pretty evenly between kahawai up to 35cm and my first keeper snapper of 30cm. Since my camera had a memory card error no action pictures accompany this article, but my iPod got its chance to do the home-coming pictures.