Tackle and Tactics
My New Zealand mate Alan is a real all rounder and he's just as happy when he's spinning in the sea as fly fishing in the rivers. Anyway, here's his latest missive, as always it is really interesting and to my mind in parts hilarious -
Just got back from a fantastic weekend at Whangamata. Weather was superb and fishing incandescent, albeit emotionally draining. One of the main reasons for going down was the inaugural “Brits at the Beach” festival. Highlight would have to be the drive past of classic British cars although, as it turns out, the race up the harbour by Seagull outboard motor powered craft had the greatest influence on the fishing. I am still kicking myself for not changing the spool on my Daiwa Luvias after Saturday’s session from 8 to 12 or 15lb braid but there is a point where you just have to suck in a couple of deep ones and move on.
Saturday’s weather was top shelf. Fine and cloudless with the mercury hovering around 21 degrees C. A half hearted breeze intermittently puffed up the estuary to 10 knots from the SE but for most of the session it did not cause too many issues. Low tide was at 2.00 pm so I ambled out across the mud and eel grass at 12.00 pm to my favourite stretch of the harbour. The sun shimmered on the wet sand and it was fantastic to feel the hot sun on my back again. The cockle beds were bereft of snapper sign on the way out so I didn’t expect to hook any during the session. As soon as I got to the water my avian pal, Cedric the black backed gull, hove into view and landed about 30 metres away feigning his normal nonchalance and total disinterest in proceedings. I attached a 3” Perch Bento bait on 1/6 oz. Nitro jig head (red tail) and cast slightly upstream, threw in an up stream mend, wound in the slack and allow lure to arc towards shore on tight line. Everything was quiet and peaceful for the first couple of casts and then all hell broke loose. Down the harbour a hooter sounded and a flotilla of needle shaped craft powered by Seagull outboards roared synchronously as they took off in a race to sunken rock. As they sped (relative term) past me four abreast the noise was cacophonous and a calf high tsunami immediately sprang shoreward from their wakes. F**ing charming I muttered to myself, blood pressure mounting.
I cast inside the boats and to my amazement no sooner had the lure touched the bottom than it got absolutely monstered. The fish powered off to the far bank in a strong run which would have peeled 25 – 40 metres of braid from the spool. Yeehaa! The relentless pressure and tail thumping signalled trevally but I’d never caught one in the spring before so was totally bemused as to what had taken the lure. Next it headed upstream with turbos engaged and then turned tail and zoomed past with the tide. It was fair steaming. The braid scythed through the water as it passed me leaving a huge bubble trail it its wake. This to-ing and fro-ing went on for 10 minutes and as the battle was being waged in comparatively shallow water I opted to drop the rod tip and let the angry trevally pull line directly off the reel. This worked a treat and eventually I was able to beach a fine 3lb’er. I was fortunate to land the fish as the hook on the jig head was badly bent during the battle. The lure was munted so I straightened hook (as you should not do!) and changed the lure to the a Sassy shad Bento (blue green chartreuse) variant. To counteract the bent hook I decreased the drag a few clicks and went back to casting and retrieving.
About 10 casts later, as I was intently watching an anorexic craft speed past with its owner lying down to improve aerodynamics and get every ounce of power from the Seagull, my lure again got hammered by another string puller. The fight was the mirror image of the first. Strong initial run followed by sprints up and down the estuary. After about 10 minutes I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Cedric the cunning bugger was tearing a hole in the wet sheet that I’d wrapped the first trevally in so I had to try and shoo him off while being attached to a relatively green fish. Yet another Keystone Cops routine! Fortunately the fish followed and I was eventually able to beat it from a spot close to the first fish. Again I’d been forced to lower the rod tip every time it ran to prevent hook deforming again. At this point a passing angler carefully motored in and introduced himself and we chatted for a while about fishing in the estuary. He was blown away by the quality of the trevally and I’ve no doubt he’ll be back. Coincidentally he mentioned that he’d caught a 78 cm kingfish in the upper harbour in February on a small kahawai live bait. Something to try over the summer!
We fished together for about 15 minutes during which time I managed to hook and landed three small (8") kahawai in quick succession. I then changed to a Binsky blade to see if there were any bigger specimens about and proceeded to land another 2 small and one feisty 2lb kahawai. My new found pal was gob smacked, especially when I called it quits and gave him the lure.
What a session. 8 fish, including two decent trevally. Caught despite a regular procession of noisy boat traffic. Trevally in spring a welcome novelty. Unbelievable!
Sunday dawned overcast and muggy. Overnight the wind had swung to the NE and was steadily gusting 10 - 15 knots. Consequently the temperature dropped to a pleasant 18 degrees C. I headed out to the channel at 12.30 pm and started fishing. Aside from a new trace everything was identical to yesterday. I started slightly upstream from where I’d begun on Saturday again with a Sassy shad Bento bait on 1/6 oz jig head. I caught couple of small kahawai in the margins but it was obvious that I was not getting out far enough or getting down deep enough due to wind lifting the light braid off water. I like the lure to tiptoe across the bottom as it is pushed shoreward by the current and this was not happening.
Fortunately I had a ¼ oz. jig head with red tailed Bento bait (Perch) pre-threaded in my box and it was a simply exercise to switch the lures over. The first cast with the new lure was much better. The lure plopped in 25’ further out and sunk like a stone straight into the open gob of an angry leviathan. I struck and the fish exploded out of the blocks like Usain Bolt. The first run peeled of 50 metres of line in an instant and the second run which immediately followed the same amount again. The power was immense, either a small kingfish or an XOS trevally. I had no control whatsoever. Couldn’t lift my rod tip for fear of breaking the beast off and had to try and work the fish inside the mooring buoys. “This is going to take some skill” I mumbled to no one in particular. Minimal side strain coupled with walking back from the shore kept it in the right place but it was walking me steadily back to the harbour mouth at an alarming rate. It is a long time since I’ve felt so helpless with a fish on. It was just like being taken for a walk by a Great Dane as an 8 year old. I struggled on for about 15 minutes but the fish was showing no sign of weakening. I had to try something to gain the upper hand so I increased the pressure and immediately proceeded to snap the fish off. Dirty bar steward. The 8 lb braid had snapped above the trace knot probably where the line rubs on the tip guide during casting. I was absolutely gutted.
After I’d cut off a small amount of line and replaced trace, I fitted with another 1/4 oz. jig head and Bento bait sassy shad. Within three casts the lure was absolutely slaughtered again by another monster. Groundhog Day. The first run was phenomenal and took me back to the Great Barrier Island kingfish. Such was the awesome power. The spool was a blur and the rate at which line was leaving was disconcerting. Again I managed to keep the fish inside the buoys but never was in control. 15 minutes later the braid again snapped at the same place as I was forced to try and stop the fish from running under a yacht. Dirty bar steward squared. Why didn’t I put on the heavier braid!?
By now the tide started to slacken and it was impossible to get the lure to drift properly with negligible tide run. I did manage to land another small kahawai but to nail trevally and snapper it is imperative to have lure bouncing along the bottom in an arc.
Two sessions. Great fishing. One session ended in euphoria while the other ended in despair. I’d definitely have given up the two fish on Saturday just to catch a glimpse of one of the two monsters hooked on Sunday. I hate losing big fish and not knowing what they were.
I know you are going to give me a lecture about heavy braid at this point. However, I’m trying to balance casting distance, sink rate and jig head weight. If the braid is too heavy then I need a greater jig head weight to get out to the fish and the extra weight does not allow the lure to tiptoe along the bottom naturally. I’m wondering whether Nanofil is an option. WDYT?
Many thanks and best regards,
I honestly wish I was out there with him. Particularly as their spring is well underway. Of course I'd use heavier braid but I might not hook the fish if I did. It's always a compromise but both Alan and I hate losing fish without seeing what they were. I suppose he could tell himself that they might have been three or four pounders hooked up the bum but I know from personal experience that he wouldn't believe himself.
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