Published On: Wed, Dec 24th, 2014

Saltwater Fly Fishing – SWF

Even mako sharks have been taken on SWF.

Even mako sharks have been taken on SWF.

Saltwater Fly Fishing

Saltwater fly fishing need not be complicated or expensive. Trout gear can always be tested out on an obliging school of kahawai down at the river mouth. Saltwater fly fishing is great fun and well worth you giving it a try. Most anglers would agree that a kahawai would pull a similar sized trout backwards through the water.

Trout gear, particularly reels, must be carefully flushed with freshwater and sprayed with penetrating oil after even the slightest exposure to salt spray or the corrosive effect will be ugly and almost instant.

As with any form of fishing, there is no substitute for having the right tackle for the methods and species being targeted. There are several, relatively inexpen­sive, purpose-built, saltwater fly reels available here in New Zealand. One such reel is the Alvey Saltwater Fly Reel marketed in New Zealand by Kilwell Sports. Members of the Canterbury Sportfishing Club have used this particular reel to good effect in search of saltwater fly records off Kaikoura. Their target species being, albacore tuna, kahawai, blue shark, and mako shark.

Sheryl Tobeck hooked into a kahawai on the fly.

Sheryl Tobeck hooked into a kahawai on the fly.

There are specialist saltwater fly lines available, however, it depends how serious you are, and what species you intend to target.

For kahawai, barracouta, snapper and the like, a 10wt graphite trout rod, such as you might use for lure fishing in a lake or river, will do the job nicely.

If you hope to go after something a bit bigger a 12 to 15 wt fly rod is the answer. This could also be used to fish for salmon in the South Island.

The bigger the species you intend to target the more back­ing you will need on the reel, and equally importantly, the quality of the reel’s drag system. The Alvey can hold a 12 wt line and 30 metres of 20 lb backing, and it has an excellent drag system. This model is made entirely from corrosion resistant materials: fibreglass, stainless steel, and brass.

Yellow-eyed mullet will readily take a small fly. They are great fun to catch on light gear.

Yellow-eyed mullet will readily take a small fly. They are great fun to catch on light gear.

As mentioned earlier, river mouths are a great place to target kahawai and “cut your teeth” on saltwater fly fishing. When a school is in close it will be almost impossible not to hook a kahawai.

If fishing from a boat the name of the game is to start and maintain a berley trail so as to attract fish to the boat. The fly is then simply cast and retrieved back up the trail to the boat. This method also works in some situations when fishing from rocks if you can find a good spot with space for your back cast. Burley made from bread, fish parts and fish oil mixed with water in a twenty-litre bucket is tossed over the surface with a cup-sized ladle. If the trail is kept up every few minutes with another ladle of burley there are likely to be a constant school of yellow-eyed mullet and small kahawai to practice on. This can be great fun on light gear as well as replenishing your bait supply!

Surf Candy saltwater fly.

Surf Candy saltwater fly.

A word of warning! Don’t be tempted to take your fly rod with you on a charter trip, unless of course, that is the intention of the trip. Trying to’ cast a fly in a boatload of anglers who aren’t expecting it is downright dangerous. Worse still you are sure to hook a big fish which could take hours to land, and the rest of the crew will not be impressed at having to wait around for you to battle and boat your fish when they are itching to move to another reef or drop-off!

Tying saltwater flies is addictive. It is almost impossible to over-dress a saltwater fly. The name of the game is for your offering to be noticed. A possible exception to this rule is when targeting smaller species like mullet. I have landed many yellow-eyed mullet on fly gear and they are amazingly good fighters, especial the bigger ones. It is possible to have endless hours of enjoyment from the rocks or jetty casting a little bait fly to a school of hungry mullet. They will stick around for ages if you keep the berley going.

Deceiver patterns are perhaps the most popular.

Deceiver patterns are perhaps the most popular.

Tying your own saltwater flies is a lot of fun. It is also cost effective because saltwater flies are by far the most expensive to purchase.

The International Game Fish Association has special tippet class sections and rules for saltwater fly fishing. For example one of the rules is that anglers can only claim a record if they fish from a stationary boat. There are also tight restrictions on the length of shock leaders (12 inches). Anglers are only allowed to use fixe

Tying your own saltwater flies is a lot of fun. It is also cost effective because saltwater flies are by far the most expensive to purchase.

The International Game Fish Association has special tippet class sections and rules for saltwater fly fishing. For example one of the rules is that anglers can only claim a record if they fish from a stationary boat. There are also tight restrictions on the length of shock leaders (12 inches). Anglers are only allowed to use fixed head gaffs to land their fish. Incredibly even bill­fish have been successfully landed under these strict rules.

A saltwater fly caught kahawai in great condition.

A saltwater fly caught kahawai in great condition.

Saltwater fly fishing need not be about records, nor for that matter does it require the purchase of expensive tackle. Saltwater fly fishing is about new challenges, and the chance to pit your skill and technique against powerful fish. Many fish in the sea are, pound for pound, much stronger fighters than are trout or salmon. Anyone who has ever caught a big kahawai on rod and reel will know what I mean.

A big part of the fun is the challenge of trying to catch different species on the fly. Almost any species will take a fly. It is just a matter of presenting the fly where and when the can take it. Experienced saltwater fly anglers can usually tell you every species they have taken on a fly.

Lefty’s Deceiver SWF Fly Pattern

About the Author

- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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