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First outing for spring and five kahawai obliged in the chilly but sunny conditions on the Sunday afternoon on the upper Waitemata Harbour. Unusually for these speed-orientated predators, the only retrieve that worked was a slow, deep presentation that is effective for snapper.
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.
A bit after dawn I turned up at Pt Chevalier and found another swoffer in the water ahead of me – obviously Auckland is becoming crowded!
The angler in this case was Chris, a new acquaintance, who was giving the spot a try on the recommendation of fly fishing guide Matto Von Sturmer.
We chatted a bit about our fly fishing experiences and eventually moved along to the one of the channels where the current flow was more focused.I finished off some left over pilchards into a berley trail and we both hooked a number of small kahawai and some snapper that didn’t quite make it to legal size.
My first snapper, aglow in the early morning sun.
All in all good fun for Chris as well:
Got out this morning in the NE and no rain. The stalking area was tea coloured. Almost turned around and left, but then decided to walk 15 mins along to the point at the end to see if there was any shelter around the corner. Fortunately there was and I started tossing a smaller 1/0 clouser pattern on the new Nemesis with the brand new Sage 2280 fly reel I spooled up last night.
No hits or fishy signs for first 60-70 minutes, but as the tide turned and current picked up I hit about four small kahawai that all fell off.
I was just about to leave and while wading back along the sand bar when a stingray came up alongside me. It was a couple of meters beyond my rod tip. I didn’t see any escorts but then spied a slight boil of water behind it. So I dropped my fly in the area, a couple of strips and wham!
Long short short (my first video alone of the fight is 22 minutes long) the nasty beggar used the current to his advantage and had me following him about 200m then I walked him 200m back then I followed him 100m out again and had to walk him back. Keeping fit while fishing!
When I finally landed him he only measured only 68cm !!!!
I’d hate to think what would have happened if he was any bigger …
And a video of the release (sorry for freeware logos!)
On the way back – maybe we’ll meet again …
This was also the first outing for my complete new outfit, a Nemesis 7wt with a Sage 2280 fly reel. It is a sweet combo. And the fly was one I tied the night before to be visible in the slightly turbid water of the estuary.
The reel had a grueling first test run, getting soaked in saltwater and I had it cranked up during most of the fight. The drag is smooth and the setting knob is large and graduated clearly.
And the next outing for the combo will be for trout in the Rangitikei River, for which I’m sure it will be more than adequate!
I have met my Nemesis – and so far I’m enjoying the experience!
An Airflo Nemisis fly rod, that is, a 9ft 7 weight 4piece rod to replace the light saltwater duties that have been ably carried out by my twenty year old Composite Developments IM7Plus rod. The Nemesis is a range designed and made for Manic Tackle Project for the New Zealand market.
I have a gallery of detail shots below to show it in all its shiny newness, even the cork plastic is still in place. The green blank has a lustrous depth of colour. A quick flick with my Cortland 444 line confirmed the fast precise action was there that I wanted for my estuary work.
For an under $300 rod it is well presented, and even comes with an extra tip section. The only slight quibble is that I would have preferred a double locking reel seat, but my CD rod had a single locking ring and I never had a reel fall off. First world problems … now time to get a fish on it. Who knows, over Christmas holidays I’ll take it south and see if I can extract a trout from the Rangitikei River with it!
So I finally got a 10wt line for my 10 wt Redington Vapen Red. A sensible thing to do. The line is a Rio Outbound Short WF10F/I (in the coldwater formulation) that has a 12ft clear intermediate tip in front of the white floating head and light minty green running line. Factory welded loops at both ends. After my my over-lining fiasco (with a 12wt Airflo wind crusher) it was with a sense of keen anticipation that I wound the new line onto the Sage 4210 reel. I quickly threaded the line through the rod rings and headed over to the local school field to learn how good the line was.
I wont beat about the bush: it took a few minutes getting used to the short head, and the other characteristic which is common to fly lines with dual densities, the front taper has a bit of a kick. Once the introductions were over it was time to see how far this canon could shoot. After a few warm ups I gave it my best shot: it not the prettiest cast, with a slight breeze from my left, but it flew and pulled the line out until the backing knot was at the first stripping guide. That was 96 of 100 feet of line out of the rod tip. A personal best. I am a happy swoffer: my dream combo is finally all together and can send a fly further than I’ve been able to do before.
The line itself is very nice: my concern was that the cold water formulation would result in wiry handling but instead it is seductively supple and smooth even in the cold of a July evening. The real test will be in the water on a cold winter dawn.
There’s nothing like new tackle to pump that urge to go fishing! Time to point this outfit at some water, preferably with fish in it, and get it into fish fighting mode.
At the end of the Part I I (Far North Kingfish – Part I) I had hooked and lost a good sized kingfish across a shallow reef. Craig and I continued up the estuary but after a couple of hours without any further sightings our time had come to leave. We hopped into the van and headed north to Parengrenga Harbour: a name of mythical grandeur in the fishing realm in New Zealand. This would be my first visit and my thoughts were swirling with tales of big snapper, trevally and kingfish to be caught by fly on shallow flats.
The massive white silica dunes were impossible to miss from the road.
And then the vast expanse of flats hits you when you get down at water level … the scene looked like a semi abstract modern landscape painting.
A sandy beach that transitioned into a wide flat rock shelf that bordered a relatively shallow channel where the tide was funnelled along at fairly good rate. Again a perfect predator haunt. So it was stepping out with a handful of rods to get to the water.
We were using Rio Outbound lines with sinking tips and weighted flies to get down the water column in the moving water.
Easy to land from the flat ledge.
Meanwhile frequent schools of smallish kahawai roamed through and provided plenty of entertainment for me. There were lots of mini- bust ups and piper skipping in panic, but even with our bigger kingfish flies all we could hook were small kahawai.
Meanwhile the wind was slow picking up and any chances for sight fishing were effectively gone. The tide was rising and coming over the ledge and the current quickening in pace.
I was having a kahawai fest and learned that with a roly-poly retrieve you reef the line in quick smart, hook a fish,and without bothering to remove the rod from your armpit, just haul the madly cavorting fish all the way to your feet. No danger of a trout strike!
Somewhere after the twentieth fish or so I was working like a well oiled machine on another school of kahawai. Shoot the line out, pause to sink, rod tucked in and strip, strip, strip: wham!
Only this wasn’t no juvenile kahawai, and it only took another couple of seconds to realise this weren’t no kahawai either: a runaway green-backed hoodlum that felt every bit as weighty as the first one from the morning. Within seconds I was well into the backing and Craig came wading over and grabbed my camera to take some photos as the Sage 10 weight arched over as I cranked up the drag. This fish had well over a hundred meters out when it slowed and stopped. In that position it was over the other side of the channel and I didn’t know if there were rocks over there or not. But this time the hook held- and so did the fish – it was simply holding position facing up into the current. This was rather unexpected behavior, but Craig was all for taking advantage of this docility: “Reel it all back in – but don’t upset it!”
So I did. Slowly, steadily it came in over the next few minutes. Meanwhile the line was collecting every bit of seaweed going along the current and it was hanging like a disheveled clothesline.
I backed up from the edge of the rock ledge and Craig moved over and started plucking weed off at the rod tip. I got it back into the channel and when it was about 10 meters out it sensed trouble and buzzed off again, at a slower rate, and sulked again. This pattern repeated a couple more times, so that after about 15 minutes we had out first sighting of a nice big yellow tail. I was handling it with a bit more authority now, confident that it was definitely tired and that the tackle was equal to stepping up the pressure. It thrashed a bit as it neared the rock ledge but thanks to the rising tide the water was over knee deep and enough to swim it in to beach it. But I keep wading back and got it safely about 3-4 meters past the edge. Craig was wading quietly behind it to help shepherd it up into the shallows. I was already mentally planning the grip and grin shots.
Then it happened -again: the hooked pulled out and the fly catapulted into the air. Time froze. I stood there gob smacked, speechless. Craig didn’t see what had happened but looked up at me and noticed the rod was now straight up with a loose line waving in the breeze. He clicked and made a grab for the fish’s tail as it too had not reacted to its hook-less freedom. But within a split second as Craig reached down his hand closed on empty water as the fish scythed its way past him, swirling back into the sanctuary of the channel depths. It was a decent fish, easily bigger than my 7 kilo best. Craig put it at 9 or 10 kilos.
We saw out the evening as the tide continued to swell, the sky warm and red as sunset coloured the western horizon. As for me, sometimes you know that your aren’t going to get another one that day.
We headed off and spent the night at a camp ground, tired enough that even sleeping in a van was no obstacle to falling alseep in pretty quick time.
The next morning up before dawn and back to the same spot.
Parengarenga was beautiful at sunrise …
A dozen or so small kahawai obliged to my fly and I even managed to foul hook four piper. But no hoodlums crashed the party. Even a berley trail Craig engineered attracted only dozens of small kahawai and a few juvenile trevally. The kingfish mojo of yesterday was gone – you could feel it.
We headed south and stopped at a wharf in Mangonui where Craig tried for kingfish with a deep, slow presentation.
However no response. Around this point the van started misbehaving – it was losing water from the radiator and threatening to meltdown every ten or fifteen minutes. We lost count of the number of times we stopped on that drive back – filling up every bottle we had at every possible water source. Craig even dashed down the road and across a paddock to fill up bottles in a cattle trough. The problem was I had a bus to catch back to Auckland from Kerikeri and Craig was absolutely determined that come hell or lack of water was not going to stop us making that rendezvous.
And miraculously we did – with ten minutes to spare.
Thus ended the trip. Two fish hooked and lost, but my fishing future was totally changed. Kingfish were no longer something that was like waiting to win lotto. The switch had flicked on in my mind. It was now real: I could plan to pursue them and even hook them – and hopefully, with some angler’s luck, even land one or two. It was a quiet but deep revelation: Kingfish on the fly and land based is a low percentage game even compared to saltwater fly in general, but when you succeed, or even lose, the glow of achievement is with you every time you think back on those special encounters.