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Ronan's report

Wednesday 21st March, 2012

If you have been following my NZ adventure FPs you will be well aware that the last part of my trip has been spent in the pursuit of a Kingfish. Not any ordinary kingfish either, a land-based Kingfish!

Anyone can go out in a boat and hookup with a Kingie, whether it can be landed or not depends on the gear, the angler, the structure and the size of the fish. They are widely regarded as one of the toughest/dirtiest fishing fish in the world. Well, I was determined to get a hookup while wading the flats around Auckland and Tauranga and this, as it turns out, is a tall order.

There are many reefs and jettis dotted around that hold baitfish and therefore attract the attention of the Kingfish. Structure is great and potentially increases your chances for a hookup but in-turn it increases the chances of busted tippet, lines and rods. I needed to find a spot that was repetitively clear of obstacles and for the last few weeks I have been fishing there almost every day. Tauranga harbour is a big place and has many potential spots but this one will have to stay as Mystery channel X!

It was regularly producing close calls as the Kings would be busting up around me, sometimes charging in and missing my legs by only a few feet. The problem was the poor timing, wrong rod in hand and a comedy of other errors. I've been close a few times, some of those times I've actually had a 12wt in my hand!

After I wrote last weeks farewell NZ page there was a few good days forecast and the tides were looking good. A couple of evening sessions had produced the usual great Snapper and Kahawai and the repeated brief arrival of the Kingies.

The very last morning in Tauranga I woke early which was strange as I was in the habit of waking at the crack of noon, with a hangover. So I assumed it was a sign and packed my gear up and went for a last foray around spot X. I got there too early as my usual knee deep wade across the flats was a full on dip stick submerge and in some spots above my waist. I had settled on not bothering with the 12wt; I was sick of throwing it around for hours and does my shoulders and wrist no good at all!

I settled on the 6wt and looked forward to a fun last session targeting the Snapper and Kahawai. I found a pack of decent Kahawai that were working the channel edge and were hitting a pretty battered Drapper's Snapper Fly. It's basically a Clouser with a natural rabbit strip and sparse white bucktail. It was tied on a strong 4/0 Gami SC15 for any big crunching Snapper that might scoff it. So I had hooked a few nice Kahawai and was really enjoying the morning wading in warm water in the sun.

Remembering, back on it now, the Kahawai had gone quiet after a busy hour or so; I had assumed they had better things to do and had moved on. A long cast into the channel was being jerked back slowly and the line tightened up. It danced around in circles and I couldn't feel any real pressure. Cool! I thought the Kahawai are back! Then a short but very hard and fast run about 5 meters away from where I had hooked It. A shock that made me think Snapper! It was staying deep and then danced in circles again..

Suddenly it ran... Incredibly fast... the first run was a blistering, knuckle busting 100yds. With my drag at the small fish setting I was having to palm the spool to get some pressure on the fish. Now on the other side of the channel it hung there in the current, solid as a snag. I had a chance to tighten up the drag but my fingers were too wet to tighten it, it was a bit crusted up from the lack of care after the previous trips.

I managed to gain some line by chasing after it and winding like a maniac. Just as i was beginning to win, it surged off on another savage run with more knuckles being smashed in the process, the rod laid flat from the pressure. At this point I had a great idea and used some of my initiative to get some extra breaking power. As it turns out my fat belly absorbs a small fighting butt quite well and the friction from the fleece on the edge of the spool gave me just enough drag to put a bit of pressure on the fish.

Another pause and this time used my fleece to get a grip of the drag knob and tighten it as far as it would go. However this made absolutely no difference to the fish's ability to blaze line from the reel. The reel made a cool humming noise as it spun faster than I had ever seen it spin. With my whole fly line submerged the backing was slicing through the water over 60yds away and I looked at my reel and saw the spool through the backing.... That's when I remembered setting this reel up for trout fishing, I had only put minimal backing on.... and 95% of it was past the rod tip. The other thought on my mind at that stage was the double overhand knot use to construct the loop in the 10kg tippet, my usual Bimini had been left out, after all this was a 6wt and the intended targets were not big fish. With my mind running as fast as the fish it dawned on me that it could be a Stingray as they have been known to eat flies and are well regarded as unstoppable. With that in mind I decided to see if I could land it.

The butt was firmly planted in my stomach and the rod was down low with a deep bend into the cork. Short pumps and winds did nothing but wrap more knuckles so I adopted a different approach. I made slow but smooth progress walking away from the deep channel back up onto the flats. With the rod loaded, up I slowly and smooooothly walked back towards the fish gaining line as I went.

After a couple of laps and some intermediate runs I could see the line rising in the water I wanted to catch a glimpse so badly, just a quick look to see it before it broke me off and disappeared into the deep blue water. I could start to see a shape, it was pale and long. Up it came and as it the pale shape got bigger I could make out a big, bright yellow tail! KINGIE!!!

Now the game was on, I continued with my pacing back and forth slowly gaining line and loosing it again much faster. This tug of war lasted a good while but even then the runs were no less energetic, just thankfully getting shorter. I managed to finally get it in close and it appeared that I had some form of control. The 6wt was bent more than would normally be comfortable with, but I was willing to break a rod on this fish.

With the fly line back on the reel the pressure was on to land it. The water was just starting to spill out of the channel and back onto the sand flats. There was about 30yds of shallow water along the edge and my plan was to beach the fish. After some more close in tussles I finally had him beat. It was rolling for the first time, its bright yellow tail was slowing and I seized my chance.

As he paused I slowly walked him back onto the sand. He wasn't happy about that and powered through the shallow water back to the deep. I gave it another shot and this time got him beached. I threw the rod down and grabbed the wrist of his tail, I'd done it!

After all that effort to build a 12wt rod and rig it with the finest reel, line, knots and 400m of backing I'd done it on a bloody trout rod! There in the clear water laid a 90+cm NZ Yellow tailed Kingfish. With its green Zoro-like mask across its eyes and huge bright yellow tail I was speechless. My heart was pounding out of my chest but in perfect silence I unhooked it, took a few pics and cradled it back to the deeper water. I held it up for a passing boat full of fishermen who cheered and waved there arms, I slipped it back into the clear water and joined in on the celebrations....



Pic Of Day



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