Salty Saturday - Alternative Saltwater Fly Species
So, you’ve ticked the ray riding kingfish off the list, now what? They’re pretty damn fun so maybe go chase a few more to hone your flats skills, after all it’s a craft that will take a lifetime to master. And while this ray riding phenomenon may be regarded as the jewel in New Zealand’s salt fly crown there are a host of other species that are readily available to put a fly in front of. A lot of them are pretty tasty also and make a nice change from eating dirty mudfish.
Perhaps NZs most widely regarded table fish and abundant throughout most of the country. They can be found in shallow mangrove systems, sandy bays and deeper reef structure. Tempt them with flies tied in natural materials as they like a slow draw to entice them into an eat. Or go balls out and strip some baitfish patterns through the wash zones, finger burning hits are guaranteed.
Not the epic G Bangers that have made salt fly look super cool but if given a tussle with one of our trevally on a 6-8 weight setup you’ll be back for more. They fight hard and have soft mouths, perfect to test your battle skills and just how smooth the drag is on your reel. Flies mentioned for snapper will do the trick here also. Try it as sashimi, it’s good, just ask my kids.
The methods for targeting these fish don’t exactly do wonders for the sight fishing enthusiast but they make up for this in taste and looks - the pectoral fins mimicking an iridescent blue mussel shell. Gurnard are bottom dwellers, often feeding over mud patches on crabs, they like a bit of sparkle so incorporate this into your flies to ensure you get their attention.
The humble kahawai (Aussie salmon for you West Islanders), once caught in massive quantities commercially to then be on sold for low dollar value the kahawai is a good barometer for the state of NZ fish stocks. Super easy to find around most harbours, estuaries and shorelines the kahawai really is the people’s fish. They school up over reefs and bays, patrol the flats and make a great target for the beginner to advanced fisho. Flies to use? Any clouser - just match the hatch and you’re away laughing.
Often viewed as snapper bait or marlin livies to some fisherman the skipjack tuna found over summer months inshore make an exciting change from kingfish and kahawai. Their big eyes scope out anything wrong with your fly or presentation and the pace you need to work to put yourself in for a good shot makes for an exhilarating session. Plus they hit hard and pull fast. 1/0 purple/pink over light grey flies with holographic eyes set in epoxy are my go to with black/purple, pink and a plain old sparse white also on rotation. Don’t rule out albacore and the runs of bluefin either.
Sharks/Marlin etc –
We are fortunate enough to be visited by some big pelagics over summer. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea trolling for days on end to then try and tease a marlin onto your fly, but it’s there for the taking. There’s numerous shark species also - Mako, blues, and bronze whalers. One of my most memorable trips was with some mates chasing anything on fly, not many of us ticked our boxes that trip but seeing my mate hooked up to a big bronzie on fly will be with me for a long time. One mate cranking down the drag as far as it would go as poor Al held on with two hands desperately wondering about his life decisions while asking me if I could hang onto his collar. Shortly after the bronzie won its freedom a nearby boat got on the radio to ask if we saw a great white lurking nearby, that day the Mount main beach was closed due to sharks!
The other, other species -
There’s a lot more on offer for any angler tossing flies around New Zealand coastlines. I’m still surprised by people asking if a certain fish will eat a fly. Let’s put it this way, does it eat? If the answer is more than likely a resounding yes, then the rest is up to your imagination and interpretation. From barracouta, flounder and mullet all the way to parore, john dory and stargazer there is something to try your hand at. Some of these will require super technical nous while others demand a more brutal approach.