The thrill and anticipation of a Kingi hitting your fly is one of those highly addictive moments - you will try it once and be hooked for life!
Why fly fish? What are the benefits?
There is no clear reason for someone to undertake the often more difficult path of fly fishing as opposed to another form of fishing. The general idea remains the same, the aim being to catch fish. Fly fishing, besides using a rod, reel and line also shares many wonderful attributes with other forms of fishing: the scenic and often breathtaking places it takes you and meeting kind and generous people, many of whom are similarly obsessed, along the way. However, of course it is in the way in which it is done where fly fishing is different; to be able to gracefully present the line with an almost weightless fly to me is unique, even poetic. Not only the presentation itself allures but because it is such a delicate movement it allows one to get much closer to one’s target without alarming it. Fly fishing consequently offers a visual and tactile aspect which is absent from other forms of fishing - becoming somewhat more like hunting.
What fish species can you target?
There is a multitude of freshwater and saltwater species that can be targeted by a fly fisherman. Generally, if you are able to artificially imitate (with a fly) the food source of your targeted species, it can be pursued with a fly rod in hand. Whether you are able to land the fish is a different question. The appeal of New Zealand specifically is that it presents numerous saltwater and freshwater opportunities for any fisherman in almost heavenly surroundings. It is generally a healthy ecosystem composed of an often untouched environment. A nutrient-rich ocean surrounds the coast and mostly healthy inland waterways crawl with insect life. Accordingly, these factors allow many different fish species to grow to substantial sizes. New Zealand is world famous for its trout fishery, but it is fast becoming known as well as an iconic saltwater fishery. In its saltwater environment, an array of species can be targeted. Kingfish, Tuna and Trevally are all pelagics with cunning, strength, aggression and speed that can test your gear and persistence to the limit. Even reef species such as snapper and blue cod can be targeted on the fly - all are worthy adversaries.
Why is it fun?
There is no clear choice between freshwater or saltwater fly fishing. They both offer a sense of tranquillity hard to find in today's fast-paced society. It is a sense also of feeling at ease, as if you become one with nature. Whether it is in the rain, or sunshine, each day presents something magical, often the fact there are fish is a bonus. And there are wonderful people in the fly fishing community, some who are similarly passionate and share an equal love for the outdoors - they feel a little like family. Nevertheless, at present I am firmly stuck on saltwater fly fishing; and it is mainly because of one fish species. New Zealand Kingfish present to me the species that not only requires both thought and persistence to target but when hooked - if one’s fortunate enough - will deliver an incredibly powerful fight; and on light fly fishing gear the odds are all stacked against you. Also, as you have to get in close proximity to the fish before you are able to deliver your fly - this makes it quite fun. I am still somewhat amazed by the idea of a large ocean going fish, that would normally be targeted on heavy tackle, being pursued with flimsy fly rods in the shallow water.
When saltwater fly fishing, the majority of my time involves cruising flats (large expanses of shallow water) stalking fish - specifically kingfish. When doing this, large areas of water need to be covered thoroughly, effectively and quietly. Wading in the water is effective due to its quiet nature but the areas you may fish are limited. Fishing from a boat, however, is often noisy and with a bigger boat it becomes difficult to manoeuvre in shallow waters, but it does open up larger fishing areas. So, is there a quieter boat in which new areas can be explored? Also, my self-imposed task was to find the equilibrium between the comfort of a large boat and the manoeuvrability and portability of a smaller craft. I was lucky enough to come across an inflatable by True Kit, aptly named the Tactician. I fished with it throughout summer, both in Wellington and Tauranga. It has proved itself to be a worthy and comfortable fishing mobile that also possesses many specific benefits for a saltwater fly fisherman.
What About the Flies?
I choose to make my own flies, my own imitations. The reasons for doing so are, firstly, I enjoy making them (obviously it is a creative process); many different colours, combinations and materials are able to be interwoven. Secondly, it is also more pleasurable catching on my own flies; it feels there is a greater reward and it is more of an achievement fooling a fish on a personal creation. In terms of imitations, Kingfish feed on an array of baitfish who are not all necessarily present at the same time of the year. Because of this knowing and learning about your fishery is vital. Generally speaking, some of the baitfish are Piper, Flounder, Mullet, Kahawai, Jack Mackerel, and Kingfish have even been known to nose dive and crush crabs. The colour and shape of these baitfish will obviously be reflected in these flies. For the angler knowing which are the predominant food source, for not only the area but also the time of the year, will point you in the right direction.
An inflatable where you can only sit down in it does not suffice. A large part of fly fishing is visual. Whether you are spotting disturbances, jumping baitfish or your target - seeing well plays a big role. And, of course, after spotting the fish you need to deliver a cast. Neither of these activities is very successfully executed sitting down. The best way to see from a boat is from a standing position, as well as the best way to deliver a cast. And so the majority of my time is spent standing up-right. This is one of the main reasons I recommend the Tactician. The stability of this 3-metre inflatable surpassed my expectations. I have spent many more hours standing in the boat than sitting, and to be sure it has been a fair few hours. With its 3 air chambers and a semi-rigid floor, the Tactician forms an ideal platform to stand on; stable enough as a viewing platform and to get into position to deliver a cast while also able to fight fish from it.
The size of the inflatable is convenient too, making it easily manoeuvrable. The ability to change direction fast is vital, and because it is not a big craft this is easily doable. There have been instances where I have had kingfish surprisingly come up behind me, and so I had limited time to turn the boat around and deliver the cast. Yet, I was able to do this with the Tactician.
As we all know, fish spook. In close quarter fishing, where you need to stalk and manoeuvre the boat towards fish, they promptly flee if something doesn't feel or sound right. But, happily, the boat is an inflatable! I was originally unaware of this unintended benefit that the tactician has as to noise distribution. Surrounded by air chambers, the noise made in the boat softly fades throughout these chambers and carries no further. On faultless days - with no clouds or the wind - your presence is dramatically magnified in the tranquillity with seamless noise arising. This can make approaching the fishing much harder. The air chambers make a difference though, as there is no clanging, banging or loud noises to disperse through the water, unlike with aluminium or fibreglass boats.
As to the Tactician’s portability, I was able to pack it into a suitcase size shape and transport it along with the necessary equipment (including the engine) in the boot of the car. Also, I was able to alone carry the inflated Tactician for a few hundred metres to the launch point. This is convenient and because of its lightweight portability, you eliminate the need for a trailer or roof rack.
In conclusion, because of the Tactician’s size, weight, stability and noise properties, and for the very simple reason that I enjoy using the boat, I wholeheartedly recommend the Tactician to any saltwater (or freshwater for that matter) fly fisherman.