Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page


For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

Saltwater fly fishing.

As usual my winter fishing has turned to the local rivers so for those of you who like a bit of salt in the water I shall try to find something from places where the weather is a bit better. My pal Alan Bulmer in New Zealand can be relied upon to provide a few interesting fishing trips so here's his latest account.

Hi Mike,

Compliments of the season to you and Lilian. Hopefully 2011 will be a healthy and prosperous year for the Ladle clan. Judging by the website, the snow has abated and you are having success in the local rivers on pike and grayling. Some nice fish amongst the photographs, especially Ben’s pike and Nigel’s grayling.

Whangamata between Christmas and New Year was the proverbial curate’s egg. The windy weather did not allow us to venture offshore in the boat so I was forced to focus on the estuary. Caught lots of fish but nothing was bigger than 27 cm. In summary:-


Hamish and I ventured out onto the mudflats at 5.10 pm as low tide was at 7.00 pm. The weather was closing in and a misty shroud descended on us as we trudged across the eel grass and sea lettuce to the main channel. There were plenty of freshly dug holes in the shell banks which is characteristic of snapper fossicking for crabs and cockles so I tied on a ¼ oz jighead and threaded on a PowerBait minnow. Hamish tied on a silver Binsky blade so that he could cover the deeper channels. Upon reaching the estuary there were pods of large yellow eyed mullet cruising in the shallows and larger balls of smaller baitfish aggregated along the entire length of the shore. Nothing happened for 10 minutes or so. Hamish then nailed a “recently weaned” kahawai (< 10”) and followed this up in short order with a small snapper. When he dropped another fish soon after I decided to change to a Binsky. This was a good move as I hooked a small kahawai almost immediately. The weather then took a turn for the worse as passing squall buffeted the estuary. The wind blew strongly for 30 minutes and then died almost completely. At this point I switched to a ¼ oz jighead and threaded on a Gulp! 3” natural shrimp. Within two casts I was fast into a small kahawai and followed it up with another mirror image on the next cast. By now it was dead low tide and time to head home for dinner.

The weather the next day was very poor with heavy rain showers and high wind.


The veritable calm day after the storm. Conditions were bright and sunny when I headed out onto the estuary about 30 minutes before dead low (late start). Despite being stirred up by the foul weather the fish remained torpid. In 1¼ hours I only landed two kahawai, one on a 3” Atomic prong soft plastic and the other on the Binsky blade. “Hard day in the office”.

As low tide was at 8.50 pm in the evening, I was able to get out again after dinner. The weather was still bright, still and humid. I opted to use a fly rod and see what I could tempt with a size 8 Clouser minnow variant. The fly had a sandy brown metallic body, bronze wire rib and white fish hair wing flossed up with a small pinch of Krystal flash. A pair of plug chain eyes provided the necessary weight to sink the fly. Fished on a floating fly line the fly bounced enticingly along the bottom for most of its arc into the margins. Surprisingly the fly got nailed 6 times in 1¾ hours. Three kahawai and 3 snapper all inhaled the fly, mainly as it was dragged up the channel edge before being re-cast. In the half light, without any intrusion from the ever present power boats and jet skis, the fish moved into the channels closer to the shore which made them susceptible to a well placed fly. On my last cast a larger fish spanked the fly as it rocketed into the shallows and clinically removed the fly from the trace in a neatly executed “scissor” movement. Probably a decent snapper.

Again the weather changed overnight which made fishing the following day a marginal proposition.


By now low tide was around mid morning which meant that there was more boat traffic and activity on the estuary. More human activity generally equals less piscatorial activity so I was not too confident of success as I ambled out onto the mudflats for my daily constitutional. Armed with both a spinning and fly rod, I did however have all options covered! Nothing moved for the first 30 minutes and I only managed to fool one small kahawai into taking the Binsky blade. There was no wind so I switched spinning rod for fly and started to prospect the channel where I’d been successful a couple of days ago. First cast and the Orange Clouser got monstered by a small kahawai as I started to strip the fly line in to re-cast. As I was releasing the fish a light went on in my head. Could it be that an increase in strip speed was the key to enticing kahawai to strike? I tried this on the next cast and nothing happened. Out of habit I cranked the fly reel to take up some slack before re-casting and came up hard on a kahawai. Magic! Nothing big but the jigsaw was starting to take shape. I experimented over the next hour with a variety of retrieves and managed to land 4 kahawai, 3 of which were taken on a fly that was being reeled in. Disappointingly all of the fish were small and struggled to stretch the measuring tape to 12”.


Low tide was 11.20 am but the saving grace was that it was New Years Day. The estuary was quiet as the nation was busy trying to assuage its collective hangover. It was brilliantly sunny but this was tempered by a strong wind gusting 15 knots funnelled in from the West. No chance of fly fishing today! I started casting with soft baits on 1/8 and ¼ oz jig heads. In 30 minutes nothing tasted or even breathed heavily on the lure. In frustration I changed to my favourite Yo-Zuri 3D vibe bibless minnow and headed up harbour to focus on the area with the greatest concentration of moored boats. Second cast and the butt and mid section of my spinning rod parted company. The rod tip arched gracefully in slow motion before plummeting to hit the sand tip first with a sickening thud. In the space of 5 seconds I’d become the proud owner of a 4 piece 6’10” rod which no longer had a tip ring attached. Bollocks. No fish and a broken rod. I thought briefly about slinking home with my tail between my legs for a good howl but then just as quickly decided to carry on fishing with the tip less rod. I had a few ginger casts to see that everything still worked and then began fishing again in earnest. Perhaps due to anger and a squirt of extra adrenaline I began retrieving more quickly than I had been all holiday and was instantly rewarded with a decent hit as the lure reached the safety of the shallow water. This was the start of an exhilarating 45 minutes. 12 fish hooked but I only landed 6 and all were around 12” long. Obviously increasing the retrieve speed was the key to stirring up fish from their torpor.

The following day was excellent but I had to take Tim across to Thames to catch a pre-arranged bus. Unfortunately this coincided with low tide so there was no chance to fish.


The weather dawned “ picture postcard” perfect so we opted to take the boat up the estuary and drift along the channels in the hope of snaring a decent snapper or kahawai in the deep water. Hamish and Vince accompanied me in the boat. We had five drifts with the drogue out but we were moving way too fast to make the soft baits and hard bodied lures bounce along the bottom as they should. I did land a small kahawai by casting into the shallow margins and retrieving back at a healthy clip but this was a loner. In desperation I opted to beach the boat and get Vince and Hamish to pepper the deep water near the moored boats with their Binsky blades. This was a master stroke and Vince was into a feisty kahawai within two casts and had numerous hits and another fish over the next 30 minutes. Hamish struggled to hook up and was getting ever more frustrated as swarms of large yellow eyed mullet were gliding past constantly giving him the fingers. I entered the water below him and managed to hook and land 8 small kahawai in 30 minutes which had him flaying the water to a foam. I gave him my rod to land one early on but I’m fishing with the reel handle on the left now and he lost the fish when he failed to wind the handle the correct way. By low tide the action had slowed appreciably so we opted to move and spin our way through a couple of deep holes. The first was a damp squib despite being the point of convergence of three current seams. The second was very interesting. There were schools of yellow eyed mullet patrolling the margins and they were being harassed by an XOS kahawai (~ 6lb). I tried to cast over the fish but it headed upstream to hold in front of Vince. He hooked it second cast and it hit the “turbo” boost function immediately. He was unprepared for the raw surge of power. Before he had time to react the kahawai had run him around a mooring buoy and freed itself from the treble.

All in all an interesting week or so in paradise. I discovered that fly fishing is a very good option, especially on change of light and that fast lure retrieves work well with kahawai. I’m sure that I would have caught some decent fish if the low tide had coincided with change of light rather than mid – late morning.

The snapper have moved into the inner Hauraki Gulf and are on the chomp. Peter was catching a constant stream of fish sized between 40 – 50 cm on Monday and another mate was slaying ‘em yesterday (similar size). We’ll need to get out and make the most of the conditions but the weather forecast for the weekend is a bit ugly. I’ll keep you posted.

Best regards to all,

Tight Lines,

Alan Bulmer.

Nice eh! I could really fancy a spot of flyfishing from the flats with kahawai and snapper to be caught. Clearly the fish take flies well and there is always the chance of something big. I can't wait for the next report from down under.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -


It must be a bit like catching supercharged mackerel on the fly - fantastic stuff!


No doubt a different type of battle but equally exciting and loads of scope for innovation.