A Slam or Grand Slam in flyfishing refers to an angler catching three or four prestigious species on the same day, typically this would be a Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon and Snook . This is recognised by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Informally a Slam could be any three aspirational species. Locally I would say this is Snapper, Kingfish and Kahawai with a grand Slam being the addition of Skipjack tuna. I don’t want to suggest we get overly serious or hung up about it, but it may be fun to design a certificate and present my clients with a silver pin if luck and skills allow such an achievement to happen.
We fly fishers love a challenge and its about doing it with just the fluff and feathers we call a “fly” and pitching our skills against the highly developed instincts of a fish in a natural enviroment. Using Burley, Chum or other attractants just does not figure, the achievement is personal and has to be difficult enough to warrant the sort of obsessive attention and dedication to the skills and techniques of our chosen path. This is the path of the long wand, the journey of a flyfisher!
Saltwater flyfishing is relatively new in New Zealand and we have to invent and adapt many of the techniques to fool our local targets. Much of the principals and ideas can be adapted from the well worn paths others have taken for the glamour species in well known places such as Florida , the Bahamas, Costa Rico, Cuba and beyond. My client on Monday this week has his own odyssey to fish in every state in America and is down to the last few, he will target any species but it must be on fly. Ross has also spent time fishing for some of those prestigious species and was an accomplished caster and angler.
Our first day started with a very high tide and a medium breeze ,I knew the conditions were going to improve so I headed to the sheltered waters of Motutapu Island for some casting into the kelp line and sandy patches for snapper, I explained that the species is actually a Red Bream and is an excellent fly species in every aspect other than being so timid and good at hiding that we rarely get to sight them before the cast. Ross understood the game perfectly and was able to put the fly close, beyond and on top of any of the features that looked like places a snapper might be. It did surprise him that contrary to all his previous fly fishing I suggested he leave the line slack and encourage just small movements of the fly with long pauses. Fishing like this with floating lines lets the fly descend slowly allowing the snapper to make either a cautious approach and nip at the tail or a full speed attack on the fly.
It took some time for the first fish and then another much stronger fish was hooked.
Solid head shakes and attempts to run to nearby rocks and cover made for a satisfying fight, with wet hands Ross held his prize briefly above the water before slipping it back home to resume its day.
We travelled and fished some stunning locations missing some shots on sighted fish that appeared close to the boat but spooked in the bright and clear conditions. On the way to our lunch destination Ross threw some larger baitfish flies at a pack of almost tempted kingfish,several of which were 20 lbs or more. Fired up but resigned to the fact those fish were were not going to eat we found another pack that showed al little more intent. My instruction was to smooth his retrieve as I could see the kingfish flinch when the fly darted aggressively , slowing his retrieve produced a great visual eat. Using the boat to move away from the structure meant we soon had a 72cm kingfish tagged and released. Ross got to really feel the fighting power of our Yellowtail king and the fact these brutes always have one more run.
We found another bunch of kings nearby and with the smooth approach he hooked up on a second kingfish. The fight took us some distance across the channel and just as we thought the fish was about to succumb a very big Bronze whaler shark exploded into figure of eights chasing the kingfish across the surface.
We retired to a nearby flat to let our nerves calm and with nothing showing in the shallows returned and soon hooked a third kingfish, eventually Ross experienced some extra pressure on his line before the remains of his limp trace confirmed a second meal for the shark.
With a Kingfish and Snapper landed we decided to chase the third species Kahawai. It took some travelling between my known haunts before a shallow bay with a shingle bank provided a likely looking spot on the moving tide. Small skitters of baitfish confirmed the presence of predators and eventually the small surface fly disappeared in a shower of spray. The kahawai completed his Slam !
Day one had been great , and with an even better forecast for the following day we both had high hopes of even more action. I decided to travel down the island and look for some sighted kingfish on the flats , we saw a single bust up and a passing kingfish. In hindsight it may still be a few degrees cool for regular flats action.
The day drew to a close and was concluded over a beer and some local Oysters in Oneroa at the Inn. Thankfully the cliche “you should have been here yesterday ” was thrown around as a joke as he had been and managed his kiwi “Slam”.