Saltwater Flies For NZ

In part one of our guide to saltwater fly fishing in NZ we covered the basic requirements for setting up rods, reels and flies as well some good starting locations New Zealand for saltwater fly fishing opportunities.

In this article we’ll focus in on a basic selection of NZ saltwater flies that will cover most species, locations and methods. And it's pretty simple to be honest. You just need a small selection of colours and sizes of clousers, poppers, baitfish, and crustaceans and you're ready to go saltwater fly fishing pretty much anywhere in NZ.

Consider this a great starting point to populating your first saltwater fly box (there will be more) and if you tie your own saltwater flies then feel free to steal a few ideas and exercise your own creative licence at the vice!



Jeff Forsee & A Three Kings Snapper On Fly

The clouser fly is the hare & copper of saltwater fly fishing and is always one of the best flies to start out with when prospecting a new location. As a tie they are rather basic but it’s a saltwater fly that offers huge confidence every time you fish it, and after having your own success on it you will soon see why.

Developed for smallmouth bass by renowned guide and fly tyer Bob Clouser in 1987 the clouser has accounted for hundreds, if not thousands of species. It’s widely regarded as one of the most important and effective fly patterns ever created.


  • #2 - 4/0 in differing weights


Natural: Olive, Tan, Grey

Bright: Chartreuse, White, Pink, Orange


  • Weighted eyes will cause the fly to dip and lift with each strip, or settle the fly on the bottom ready for an ambush, some key fundamentals of appearing as an easy meal to any predatory fish.


Anything, just match the hatch as close as possible on the day.


  • Clousers should swim point up so tie any two-tone colourations accordingly
  • Use a loop knot to accentuate the fly movement, this action really fires up the fish.
  • A great searching fly, it can be fished as a baitfish one cast and a bottom dweller the next without having to change flies.


Nik Hannam with a Hauraki Gulf Kingfish caught on a popper fly

Visual topwater hits are heart stopping and will have you craving your next hit. If you seem to be in a fishless area or things need a stir up then poppers are a great fly to wake the dead and bring fish into range.


  • #2 – 6/0


Natural: Grey, Tan, Black

Bright: Chartreuse, White, Hot Pink


  • Loud, visual bubble trail, good silhouette when viewed from below. This has a big appeal, especially to predatory pelagic fish 


Kahawai, kingfish plus other pelagics


  • Fish on an intermediate line with fluorocarbon to keep fly anchored in the water.
  • Try a “Pop and Stop’ retrieve – don’t be afraid to let the popper sit static for a few seconds, this also allows the head to resurface and set up for the next GLUUUUUP!
  • If tying your own, don’t choke the gape with foam, you need to keep it nice and open for maximum hookset, especially with implosion feeders such as Kingfish.


Airflo's Gareth Jones with an auckland kingfish caught on a King Tide Rattle Piper Fly

More realistic patterns to imitate the local baitfish populations. From tiny whitebait to bigger kahawai or mullet patterns they can be as simple or intricate as you please.


  • #2 - 8/0


Natural: Tan/White, Olive, Grey

Bright: Chartreuse, Blue, Pink, Green


  • Blood and flared gills, this screams eat me and should be incorporated into your flies
  • Slightly oversized eyes, gives the fish something to hone in on.
  • Heavily weighted to get down in strong currents or deeper water. Tie a small sinker into the underside of the loop knot if you need to go super deep, it’s dirty but oh so effective.
  • Lightly weighted or suspending to stay in the zone, think about where the fish sit in the water column and try to keep the fly in prime real estate to get an eat.


Almost all predatory fish in NZ will eat baitfish as it is a common food source that sustains their appetite easily.


  • Fish with an erratic retrieve to entice an eat, don’t be afraid to mix up your retrieves to fire up the fish.
  • Stand out from the crowd if you think it’s not getting noticed in bigger schooling situations, either go for a loud colour or profile.
  • Another option is to throw the casts to the side of the group to act like a straggler that can be easily picked off.


Anchovy Baitfish Fly

King Tide Rattle Piper From The Manic Fly Collection

King Tide Rattle Piper Fly


Northland Snapper on Crab Fly

Shrimps, crabs and other crustaceans make up a big part of fish diets also and seem to be well received by many species around the world.

From throwing small crab flies at tailing kingfish in the shallows to flicking buggy shrimp patterns around the rock edges and mangroves for snapper you should cover a few bases with some patterns in your box for when the situation arises.

Fleeing Crab Fly

Fleeing Crab Fly

Spawning Shrimp | Manic Fly Collection

Spawning Shrimp Fly

So that's just a small glimpse into all you need to fill a fly box with the best coverage of saltwater fly patterns for NZ. Bookmark this page and check back in soon as we've got a whole range of new and updated saltwater fly patterns on their way that you'll definitely want to take a look at. 

Maybe just get that second or third saltwater fly box ready now?


Lucas Allen is Manic Tackle Project's Community Manager & Account Guy, but is probably better known as Tauranga's premier saltwater fly guide operating King Tide Salt Fly. Lucas has a depth of fishing knowledge starting from his days as a grommet eating glo bugs, through to today where he works, lives and breathes all things fishy.