Techy Thursday - A Flat Lot of Good!

And so Wellingtons rubbish weather continues!... I swear I have been trying to get into the hills since October 1st… Never mind, the central North Island is only a long drive away… A weekend just gone with a few friends reminded me of how much I love this place, and it’s often settled weather.

Stalking the flats for trout has long been a favoured method of mine, it’s extremely challenging and often rewarding, but you generally need to bring your A-game with you and a SERIOUS amount of persistence! And don’t expect it to be a numbers game! A few pics of Jack Kos and myself with some recent victims of the flats… Oddly, mostly rainbows this time around, the browns strangely inactive for this time of the year.

The fish often large and very wary of the slightest movements in the shallow water. But when you do entice a hook-up, oh boy, the fights are simply sensational, but don’t expect to land many! I estimate at least 60-70% of fish hooked on the flats will be lost when they charge for the nearest weed bed.

It is very similar to fishing for bonefish and kings on the flats and much of the same protocols apply. I’ve put together a short list of tips for targeting specifically tailing fish on the flats:

  1. LOOK, STUDY and OBSERVE!! The most important factor, look for the tips of a tail, a fin, a subtle swirl, a tiny bow-wave or dimple… these are what you need to cast at, it’s a waiting game, much like waiting for an evening rise. Fish in shallow water feeding, will give themselves away eventually.
  2. Fish light! These fish are weary, you need a long leader at least 14ft – 20ft and go light on the tippet, 6-7lb is plenty, (around.20mm to .22mm) anymore and you risk not inducing that take, any lighter and they will pop you off on the initial run. Fluorocarbon tippets work particularly well in this style of fishing with their sinking properties. Dull coloured floating lines are the norm, I particularly love the Airflo Camo Bandit Super-dri with it’s variegated colouration.
  3. Anticipate a fishes direction, much easier when you see the sail-like dorsal fin and tail, you can then pinpoint the direction of travel to place a well-executed cast. When they are changing direction and zipping all over the place the dry-dropper method below works well.
  4. Nymphs like the manic Swimming Damsels work particularly well in the warmer weather, if that fails, a great method on selective cruisers in shallow water (or overcast conditions) is to fish a medium size Parachute dry with a small, lightly weighted #16 nymph under it, patterns like the Manic Possum Claret and Midge patterns work very well too. Make the dropper SHORT! Around 10cm. Do not twitch the fly, it’s un-natural to the fish, strike as soon as that dry disappears. You can however use a nymph on it’s own, let it sit on the bottom and twitch when the fish approaches, watch for the white flash of the fishes mouth!
  5. Mornings are the best time to target tailing fish, after 10am things become outright tough!
  6. Wear good polaroid’s, and a peaked cap, spotting fish is paramount to success…. A drone also helps a lot!
  7. Fish your feet first! Early morning, browns in particular will feed right on the water’s edge.
  8. Most flats fish will not venture too far from the food supply, this usually in the form of weed beds, look for muddy flats (not slimy, silty or weedy). This is often where Bloodworms are in abundance, fish like to patrol the flats where the weed meets the mud, this is where the Damsels will make a mad dash out in the open and become easy prey! Water boatmen (Corixa) are often found on this margin as well, another favoured snack of Mr. Brownie.
  9. Hook-up and hold on, apply a lot of early pressure on the initial run, you need to show the fish you’re boss, and whatever you do, DON’T let them make it to the weed beds! Browns will dive right in and then it’s usually… all over. When the water is merely inches deep, the acrobatics are often amazing as they simply have nowhere to go!
  10. If you’re fishing with friends and a fish tails between the two of you? GET IN FIRST! It’s a dog-eat-dog world, the quicker the draw, the better chance that you’ll hook-up! It feels great and you can spend the rest of the day rubbing it in to your mate about how he was “too slow”…

BONUS!! Check out the video here:

Andrew Harding