Kings on the flats and other strange behaviour

As I review the Photos from Jay’s trip it strikes me once again what an amazing situation we have here in NZ. The fact that we struck a week where the kingfish were “off the bite ” as good friend and great angler Craig Worthington has just commented “sometimes they just do that”.

It would not be so engaging and satisfying if it was any easier.

In my previous round up of a weeks fishing with guests from California where we split the day into two sessions the variety of fly fishing opportunities meant each trip was so different from the last. We have three dominant species , Kahawai , Kingfish and Snapper and what we face as fly fishers in the shallows is that each of those species can be experienced feeding and behaving in a wide range of ways. Here are a few of the things we experienced in just one week.

1-Kahawai in the thousands crashing anchovies around us but not hitting any flies we threw. Proven flies that had worked many times before were going past actively feeding fish. As each session progressed anglers began to speed up or slow down the retrieve and try different flies.There was no magic answer as some days it was the smallest flies in the box fished fast and close to the surface other days it was timing a pause that produced a hit.Sometimes it was just being different and a larger fly of unusual colour worked. I began to notice that on days that the bait was tiny an individual fly that matched the hatch was often un-seen among the mass of bait and predators, however a surface fly such as a crease fly or popper that was fished in erratic stops and starts imitated the small commotion of a group of tiny baitfish and would often get pack attacked during a pause.fullsizeoutput_a40

2- Snapper in the mix – I love our snapper in fact I really want it known these are Red Bream. Bream are known globally as worthy predators on fly ,Snapper can refer to any number of other species that are considered by catch for fly fishers. These guys deserve respect as they are versatile predators and great fly rod targets. I saw three snapper tails sticking up in the air among the busting bait balls in shallow and Edwin and I were gob smacked when a very large snapper came up on a fast swimming crease fly over a weed bed, this fish was big enough to count its teeth from 25 meters away. While on the flats I have become accustomed to seeing snapper hit small flounder on the surface and a pink back with blue spots breaking the calm waters of a quiet bay is a very cool thing to see. Get a fly into the circular ring of ripples produces a solid hook up on a flats snapper in most cases, but you need to cast fast and on target. As we moved around each day on our quest for kingfish I stopped for a few moments to throw the 6 and 7 weight floating lines and a size 2 clouser shrimp fly into water that was waist deep to show the guys my “do nothing” technique. Snapper don’t want to waste energy doing a high speed chase so nip away at the tails and legs of fish and crabs in the shallows. Its all in the pause, that is if they don’t just smash the fly like a steam roller.IMG_2092

3-Those Kingfish!

putting flies into the up current side of any structure in the harbour is usually a sure fire way of hooking up, often a pack attack of kings of different sizes will charge the fly.The first cast counts and if you have to keep casting they can get harder to hook. Edwin and Bill got to see this on on piece of structure and Edwin had two solid hits that somehow did not connect, sometimes the impact pushes the fly ahead and the kings miss the fly. Returning at the same stage of the tide the following day with Jay and Garth the structure appeared void of life , even sinking lines did not produce. The Kings were elsewhere. The same  was true for another spot that produced fish that would appear interested but would never quite commit. It took be by surprise the channel marker kings had got tricky! Heavy recent rain, moon phase , to many anchovies ……We need two weeks next time as things always change.

Another scenario we faced was masses of anchovy with large kahawai and big kingfish.The kings would not respond to our biggest flies that the kahawai did not want, anything smaller would get monstered by the large kahawai. Its a good problem to have but we really wanted a king!

I tried throwing a hookless crease fly as a teaser and then went back to catching kahawai to try to bring a following king to the boat for the guys to target with a big fly. Among the masses of action my tiny clouser fly designed for kahawai got serious follows from big kings but not hooking a kahawai was a real challenge. These kings were being super selective with so much feed on offer!

Jay and Bill got the best shot at a flats kingfish , Edwin had tracked a bow wave in a shallow bay and then had a serious follow but we ran out of room as the king was boat side and had a chance to eyeball us and the fly. My afternoon session with Jay and Bill started slow in 3 feet of water scanning for bow waves across a large flat.Eventually we found 4 individual kings working a fast paced zig zag action in the same area. Fish were seen accelerating and the tipping with tails out sometimes within 10 feet of the boat. Getting a a good presentation on fast moving erratic fish was hard work and we finished the session exhausted and frustrated. large feeding fish in  shallow water was why Jay had come, but I could not put him on a fish.fullsizeoutput_935

This particular behaviour was not what I had experienced with other anglers on other flats even Jay’s super reliable wig hair fly was not getting a look. We decided it was either a shrimp/crab or flounder. I returned a few days after with a flounder fly and an intermediate line and managed to get an eat. Good friend Paul Mills has initiated a tagging programme read about it here The programme is all about showing the value of these fish when returned and appreciated as earners of tourist dollars. However I keep one each season and we really wanted to know what they are eating, 27 small flounder confirmed our suspicions and goes along way to nutting out these particular fish.DSC_2164

Sorry Jay, your guide has more clues about catching them now please come back !

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