Flats Kahawai on my 3wt Epic 370 Fastglass II – A Date with Little Olive

A Tauranga flats kahawai taken on my 3wt Epic 370 Fastglass fly rod - Little Olive.
A Tauranga flats kahawai taken on my 3wt Epic 370 Fastglass fly rod - Little Olive.

Flats Kahawai – A Date with Little Olive

There have been a few big flats kahawai showing up along the southern edge of the Otumoetai Channel. Another reason I like to frequent this location is that there is always a small chance of seeing a juvenile white.

My heaviest kahawai on a #3 rod using a 3.0-pound leader is 5.25 pounds, caught a few years ago at Matua. I only count these catches if they are taken while wading. I always hoping that a bigger kahawai will pay me a visit.

So I headed out from the end of Otumoetai Road two hours before low tide. The Otumoetai Channel lies 600 metres out from the car park. It’s a safe area to wade even if you don’t display common sense.

Tauranga Harbour and Mt Maunganui.
Tauranga Harbour and Mt Maunganui.

My gear for this excursion was my Epic 370, Sage 2230, Rio CamoLux WF3I, Maxima Ultragreen 3.0 pound leader, and a variety of #8 flies.

The sky was overcast and a light northwesterly rippled the surface. A dull day with poor visibility, but as always, I was feeling positive.

There were rafts of freshly plucked seagrass floating around me, evidence of the destructive feeding habits of Tauranga Harbour’s resident Canada geese and black swan populations. Seagrass fouled every cast, but I put up with it because I knew it would eventually clear.

The wind made easy casting and I didn’t have to wait very long for the small clouser to be eaten. I hooked up and the fish ran out into the channel going well into the backing. The good size kahawai leapt high. My problem was that the backing line was cutting into a raft of seagrass. There was nothing I could do and the light leader popped.

Little Olive - My 370 Epic Fastglass II.
Little Olive – My 370 Epic Fastglass II.

I tied on another small clouser and continued casting. I hooked up again on a smaller kahawai. As I was fighting it, a medium to large size short-tail stingray swam past me. There were no yellowtail kingfish riding it. If there had been, it would have got interesting. I backed up onto the shallow flat south of the channel and brought the maiden kahawai to the net. It swam away strongly.

I retied the fly, as I always do after each fish and continued fishing. The next kahawai I hooked was a jumper and as I brought it over the channel edge, another short tail swam past with no obvious riders. There was obviously a predator close going by the two adult piper (garfish) that leapt past me. I brought the lively kahawai up onto the shallow water and in the confusion of the netting procedure, it took off going between my legs heading for the channel. The rod took a dangerous bend and the leader popped. Had it been a carbon rod, the shaft would have snapped.

Pink Candy Fly.
Pink Candy Fly.

A Small Pink Candy Fly

I tied on a small pink candy variation and continued casting. I heard some splashing behind me and turned to see a kingfish tailing not 20 metres from me. It’s a sight I love to see. The king would have been with a short tail stingray. If a short tail mooches about very slowly, the riding kings put their heads down and dig for crabs, shrimps and worms. The tailing king slowly made its way along the channel, moving against the last of the outgoing tide. When I last saw the king it was over a hundred metres from me.

I hooked up again on a good size kahawai and after a long fight in the channel, I got it over the edge into the shallows. Just prior to easing it into the net, the hook pulled out. I’d had my fun and it saved me from handling the fish.

I saw a swirl within casting range and I covered it with the pink candy. Nothing happened, so I cast again and as I was retrieving the fly, a big bow wave with a yellow tail raced after it. I only just managed to whip the fly away from in front of the king. The last thing that I wanted was to hook one of these precious harbour kings on my #3 outfit.

The last kahawai came soon after, a nice maiden fish that I chose to take for my evening meal. It fought all the way to the net. Its stomach contained thirteen mud crabs and four spider crabs.

It had been an amazing couple of hours. Some of you will be wondering if I was sorry that I didn’t take a heavier rod for the kings. My answer to this is, that the Tauranga Harbour kings that frequent the flats and channel edges are great fun on #6, #7 and #8 outfits, but the kahawai on ultralight fly fishing gear, is pure magic.