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Why Tauranga as a Saltwater Fly Fishing Destination?

About the place: New Zealand is known for the Lord of the Rings saga, colossal brown and rainbow trout and uncontroversially the origin of the pavlova, but rising rapidly up the ranks is the country's reputation as a world class saltwater fly angling destination. With exceptional flats-style sight fishing to be had, it is turning the heads of even apparent die-hard trout anglers.

Saltwater fly fishing in Tauranga harbour.
Hooked up on a glassy morning with Mount Maunganui and Tauranga city laying in the background.

About the Fishery/Harbour: There are many reasons that make this harbour such a fine fishery. The airport, restaurants and the angling flats are in close proximity to one another. The city comprises the perfect balance of a fishing-crazy destination whilst keeping the rest of the family happy too. Some luxury hotels have their own piers from which one can be picked up in the mornings and within minutes of a boat commute the city is forgotten. The harbour itself is filled with kilometers of extended flats, with many of these blanketed in eelgrass and even lined by mangroves.

Saltwater fly fishing for kingfish in mangroves.
The emotions! and rightfully so.. this kingfish was patrolling the mangroves and took some work to land.

The Fish: Most anglers arrive wanting to experience the flats’ yellowtail kingfish. Their beauty, high position on the food chain, sometimes ruthlessness and formidable power make them an unruly fly rod adversary. They have captivated many, myself included and even directly influenced my choice of university studies, lifestyle and ambitions. Because of their diverse range of feeding behaviours, they offer several challenges to the fly angler. Imagine combining the noble characteristics of several great flats species into one. That's the fish we are trying to catch.

They can rampage fast across a flat marauding for mullet, or similar to permit, kings can have their tails high in the air while they forage below. Most famously there are the ray riders that travel alongside the southern stingray ( ) on its feeding journey. The stingray not only provides a great casting target but can also often hold several kings, all ready to compete for your fly. Kingfish too are partial to structures, specifically marker pylons. These kings tend to be larger however and thus a challenge to stop.

ray riding kingfish
The ray-riders, a sight that will make any angler weak at the knees.

There are other fish species well worth catching too. The Maori name Kahawai for this sleek and forceful fish aptly translates to ‘strong water’. This fish is acrobatic, strikes a fly hard and is possibly the most powerful fish per pound of body weight. They can be found chasing baitfish, tailing, feeding on krill in large schools in the channels or also cruising the flats. Their colourations and particularly their changes throughout their life are beautiful.

saltwater fly fishing trevally
A beautiful and muscular trevally; one of the hardest fighting fish I've encountered.

The kiwi favourite, snapper, has taken up a large portion of my interest in recent years. They are considered the most flighty of the species. In this, they present a true permitesque challenge as they are unbelievably wary of the goings-on in their surroundings. For those wanting a supreme challenge and to test their own skills as an angler, and a stalker, this is the fish to consider. Lastly, there is the silver trevally; they are muscular and put up a strong fight but with the twist of having a soft mouth. Landing one of these is a luxury and takes some skill from the angler. It is the combination of these species and in this wonderful place that to me, makes Tauranga a one of a kind saltwater fly fishing destination.

fly fishing for snapper
The New Zealand shallow water snapper; the ultimate target for stealth driven anglers.

The best way to experience it: Booking for a few days gives us the opportunity to explore various flats and species. It is also an ideal bet with the weather as we can tailor the fishing to suit the conditions. Like any flats fly fishing, this is arguably closer to hunting than fishing. What we do is challenging and that's exactly why we love it and do it. If you are in this solely for the numbers then this is probably not the thing for you. However, if you are after a memorable time as well as an enjoyable challenge then it doesn't get much better than this


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