Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Glorious Waitemata

This summer, Auckland Harbour has thrown us the best salt water fly fishing in living memory. Waitemata is the harbour’s name, translating from 'water like obsidian glass' in the Maori tongue [Wai te Mataa]. As the summer unfolds, zillions of anchovies arrive in tight balls to do their anchovy thing, which in turn attracts predators. Chief target for us fly-flingers amongst the predators is the yellow tailed hood himself, the kingfish.

Despite it being the afternoon of the Justin Bieber Fan Club’s first day back at school for the year, Coch and I hatched a plan to get out and start testing our bonefish gear on some hard running fish. He had his new kit along and I chucked in a few bits n pieces but ultimately settled on the #8 as the breeze was stronger than forecast – and it was the breeze that set the scene for us. As I lay at rest on anchor at Okahu bay waiting for Coch to arrive, the wind chop in the marina was enough to make me consider options, and given the massive work-up I’d seen while crossing the harbour bridge a couple of days ago I thought that staying in the lee of the north edge of the harbour would tick the box. With Coch aboard we chugged across the channel – the chop from ferry wakes combined with the NW breeze threw the occasional gnarly steep wave – then we saw terns darting and diving. Coch got set up with an intermediate sinking head and a gurgler while I positioned us upwind. His first cast drew the attention of a pack of predators before the fly disappeared in a swirl – fish on!

The fish turned into a kahawai rather than a kingi, but by now packs of kingfish were showing on the surface – time for me to set up. We drifted close in to the navy docks with the wind against incoming tide holding us nicely in the slowest of drifts, and first cast I was in.

On the #8 the fish fought doggedly, repeatedly heading for the bottom, not a drama in the clean harbour although the wharf piles nearby looked threatening. Coch was soon hooked up and we danced around each other as our fish charged all over the place. Soon we were casting, hooking, losing or landing, photographing and laughing - what an awesome session. As we drifted, ferries zoomed past throwing wakes which with the falling sun behind them silhouetted masses of kingfish in the waves. Kingis crusied around us in waves or single fish, and at times anchovies sprayed across the surface.

After a couple of hours the action died as the tide neared its peak and the lack of current gave the prey fish a chance to hide, so we made a call to visit Shoal Bay on the evening high and fish the mangroves for snapper. Cruising in to sub 1 m water we switched off and began to cast ahead into the mangrove edges with small clousers. Mullet occasionally leapt – so it felt pretty fishy. It was a neat situation to be in, casting flies within 50m of NZ’s busiest highway. Be it the full moon or some other influence, we didn’t manage a single strike on the target species so as the sun dropped away we cruised back to Okahu to drop off Coch, then I made the final run to Torpedo Bay – and in the setting sun the full glory of the Waitemata was exposed. 

I can put up with this hard life, that's for sure!


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