Kahawai For Breakfast On My #6 Sage Fly Rod

Kahawai for breakfast. These fish are unbelievable fighters on the light weight fly rod.
Kahawai for breakfast. These fish are unbelievable fighters on the light weight fly rod.

Kahawai For Breakfast On My #6 Sage Fly Rod By Johnny Groome

On the end of a heavy line meant for larger fish species, the ubiquitous kahawai is nothing more than a nuisance, or simply fresh fillets for the bait bin! But encountered in the right place, with light gear, the humble kahawai can stir the emotions of anyone who may fish for sport. Kahawai For Breakfast.

While relaxing from the strain of rowing, I awkwardly looked over my shoulder to scan the large expanse of oily smooth water behind me. The small wooden dinghy slid me silently across the silky calm surface of Clova Bay on a fantastic, windless morning.

They were there a minute ago, a concentrated workup of surface-feeding fish, rippling a large patch of the calm water. Scanning from port to starboard, and everywhere in between, I clutched my #6 Sage fly rod in an unbelievable state of anticipation.

There! Out to the right, over shallower water, the school appeared again. They were there working the surface as before with a gentle, almost trout-like rising fashion. No leaping from the water chasing baitfish; just a quiet relaxed feeding session as fish gently broke the surface.

Pulling hard on the oars, I jolted the dinghy into full steam ahead! Mussels all over my body flexed as my frame was galvanised into action.

I noticed the school was moving right to left. So I took a beeline from where I was to where I thought the school would be. With wild enthusiasm coursing through my veins I made the voyage in a flash with plenty of time to spare, plenty of time to watch the fish, now clearly visible just centimetres beneath the laminar surface, slowly glide towards the boat.

Holding an innovative saltwater fly of my own creation between thumb and forefinger, I reflected on all the years I had dreamed of this very moment. It was the moment I finally managed to get a fly in front of a kahawai. But the cast wasn’t made yet!

At the last possible moment, the school changed direction and made a turn to the east. In doing so they sidestepped my outer casting range limits, thus necessitating another frustrating clambering for oars to position myself once again in the path of these wandering pelagics.

With the fish once again in full view, swimming unsuspectingly by, I shot a very nervous cast away across the water, placing the fly just to the edge of the slowly moving school. A couple of strips of the line was all that was required as several fish immediately peeled off the main pack, and with a flashing of silver flanks and gill covers, my little baitfish imitation vanished.

With my mouth and cheeks bulging from the sudden arrival of my heart, I struggled to keep in control as the line snatched tight against my hand – the fish hooking itself – and somehow I managed to keep contact as the slackline whisked through my fingers.

My rod bowed down, the tip almost touching the water as the streaking bullet of power came up tight against the reel, sending the ratchet to its full crescendo instantly. The joyous sound of the reel rang out across the bay spoiling its peaceful atmosphere, and suggesting to all and sundry I had indeed hooked up!

Rod shuddering in my left hand, the right gingerly palming the reel, I watched with a dry throat as green string backing was sucked from the spool down into the spooky depths fifty metres below. The cause of all this excitement hoisted its nimble green and chrome body high above sea level, shaking its head violently as it danced an erratic disturbance across the otherwise benign vignette.

It was hard to believe I was still attached to the fish as the highly resistant fly line – struggling to cut through the water – had hardly begun to react to the fish’s swift changes in direction, enabling it to cover a whole lot of water with the rod tip still pointing sharply downward.

Now the fish went deep where it hung with stubborn determination against the tight curve of graphite as I pumped it in closer and closer to the boat.

Then, after some “never say die” – meaning kahawai – antics at the side of the dinghy, I finally lifted the plump kahawai clear of the water, over the rowlocks, to lie quivering at my feet.

At around three pounds it was an insignificant-looking sport fish, yet it was surprising just how much punch such a lightweight projectile could pack. I was proud of my catch, and my dinghy, plus I was hungry.

There would be more time for a ceremony back at the cottage breakfast table later on. Over the next couple of hours, as the sun began to gather strength enough to slowly burn my unshielded face, I managed to boat another eleven adrenalin-pumping kahawai, all stolen from the same school!

Brown trout line-art by Johnny Groome.
Brown trout by Johnny Groome.

A school that surprisingly didn’t seem to mind at all – or for that matter even seem to notice me in my dinghy sneaking around the perimeter enticing some of its more naive pupils into the back seat of my dinghy for a “bit of a look” and a “quick feel” before being released to scurry back to the safety of the school.

Back at the cottage, which is hardly thirty paces from where I beach the dinghy while breakfasting on butter-fried kahawai fillets garnished with thinly sliced cuts of fried pumpkin, I began pondering what to do with the majority of the day yet to come. Looking at the clock – whilst picking a juicy lump of fish between my teeth with a thin rib-bone – I noticed it wasn’t far off midday. Still, no sign of wind coupled with the assurance of that acre or so of fish still feeding, I immediately began salivating at the idea of another sortie out in the dinghy. You guessed it “kahawai for Breakfast” and “kahawai for lunch!”

Waimaru Campsite past Clova Bay. Alert. Road access to Waimaru closed.

Kenepuru Road and all side roads from it are closed due to major flood damage, and access to the area is only by boat. The road will not open this summer. Check Marlborough District Council map for road information. This is a long-term alert. First published on 26 September 2022. Last reviewed on 25 November 2022.

It's mornings like these that make kahawai and dinghies a wonderful mix. Clova Bay, Marlborough Sounds.
It’s mornings like these that make kahawai and dinghies a wonderful mix. Clova Bay, Marlborough Sounds.

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