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Hooked on Tauranga: A Saltwater Fly Fishing Report for the Early Season

A free swimming kingfish. Saltwater Fly Fishing New Zealand
3,2,1 here we go!

Big, no actually, very big free swimmers that taunted and tantalized us is how this season kicked off. The season's beginning with these free swimmers – significantly larger fish easily and comically confused with dolphins – was all we could hope for. As is notorious however, catching these fish requires playing a mentally tough game with few, often quick, only a couple of seconds opportunities and long periods of hopeful waiting in between. This season we have not connected with one of these big beautiful beasts …. yet. Nevertheless, it remains a knee shaking experience to see the wake of a 120-130 cm fish hurtling across the flats; not only for a new fly angler, for any angler this is paralyzing and exhilarating stuff.

Saltwater Fly Fishing New Zealand

As the water continued warming, the ray rider encounters became quite frequent. Often there were two or more of them to a ray. And of course, what a show it is to see multiple of these fish competing for your fly. Also, we have been lucky this season to witness tailing performances fitting of a national geographic documentary. Still, these situations are rare. And they remain one of the most intimate ways to experience these fish as a fly angler. I was lucky enough to capture some of this on camera. 

Tailing Kingfish New Zealand. Kingfish feeding in the shallows. Sight fishing yellowtail kingfish.
Tailing kingfish, dancing around in the shallows.

It was and remains a pleasure to catch up with the returning anglers, quite a few who now feel like old friends. I’m enjoying the days with new anglers; going through the casting, the approach and techniques, really all the little stepping stones. Their stories too of why and how they become interested in this, our most fortunate of sports. And always when a fish is landed, sometimes even just hooked, it really is a rewarding and memorable experience for both the angler, and myself. 

Saltwater Fly Fishing New Zealand. Fly Fishing for Kingfish.
Some of those recent special moments.

The snapper shenanigans too continued. These skittish customers are very often tough to  target when they are in the true shallows. But that's also exactly why we as fly fishers fall in love with them. I’ve had hardened permit anglers stunned by the personae and antics of these fish and very much so when experiencing one tailing. It is not an overstatement to say they are fast becoming my favorite fish to pursue… especially with a camera in hand. 

Fly Fishing for snapper. Saltwater fly fishing New Zealand.
A shallow water snapper.

The weather this season has been more settled compared to last year's. And I believe that there is more of this to come! If you have ever thought about giving saltwater fly fishing a-go there is no better time than the present. It is a challenging experience, and be warned, it is highly addictive. 

And if you are not convinced yet, which would be surprising, here find my final cast: we have also been fortunate to have had the odd, but very close-up encounter with bronze whaler sharks. It is humbling and eye opening to see these guys cruising around, when at speed and the accuracy of their approach. 

Bronze Whaler and kingfish. Saltwater fly fishing New Zealand.
Here a bronze whaler is accompanied by two kingfish.

There is just too much to encounter in a day on the flats to not feel grateful.

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