I poured a lot of time into fishing the flats for Kingfish this summer.
There is something about exploring a place that you don’t know, that really appeals to me. The fact that you could be moments away from discovering something special. It keeps me going, even after days with not much happening. You have time to work things out though, you have to be there at different times of the tide on different days under different conditions before you can say that you have given it a fair go.
It was on one of these flats that my most memorable fish of this season came from.
It was early morning and the sun was still hidden behind the trees but, you could tell that it was going to be a stunner of a day. Not a cloud in the sky and it was already warm enough to be comfortable. It was the last couple of hours of the outgoing tide and I wanted to spend it here as I had seen a lot of bait hanging around previously. I knew that nearly all the water poured off this flat and into a deep channel as the tide hit low. It looked fishy as hell and a great ambush point for Kings to smash bait as they filtered out of the shallows and into the deeper water.
I positioned myself 60 feet or so from the beach and hit the Spot-Lock on the Mini Kotta. I had good visibility from here and could cover anything that swam past me easily. Fresh coffee brewed, rod in hand and the stakeout was on.
The entire harbor was like glass as far as you could see and all you could hear were birds and the odd baitfish flipping around as they went about doing whatever baitfish do. The thing with posting up and doing a stakeout is that you have to be patient. It’s no good getting restless after 15 mins and going somewhere else….you just gotta give it the time.
After an hour or so, all I had seen was one black stingray and no other sign of anything else happening. We were entering the last hour of the tide, so if it was going to happen at all, it would be soon. I carried on sipping coffee and scanning the water.
A big pod of baitfish gathered up against the beach 50 meters or so down from me. I watched them get pushed off the flat and hold up there for a while now. All of a sudden there was a big crash from that direction and I turned my head to see a spray of fish and a big bow wave. Someone was here!
Everything went quiet again and the baitfish gathered together against the beach as they settled down. It would only be a matter of time until whatever had just joined the party came back around for another go. So I quietly drifted down towards them until I was just within casting range.
Literally, as soon as I stopped, another spray of baitfish came flying out of the water. A couple of good Kingfish charged in from the deeper water and started causing havoc, moving straight towards me in knee deep water. I dropped my fly and banged out a short cast of maybe 20ft and immediately gave it a strip. The fish nearest me nailed the fly as soon as it hit the water, I watched him engulf it from where I stood. Another hard strip and I set the hook. The fish paused for a second…..and then just…LIT UP…..then the chaos followed.
The water erupted as he accelerated at top speed out of the shallows and across the flat in front of me, while his mate headed the opposite direction, sending the baitfish school in all directions! The peace and quiet of the morning was shattered in an instant.
The 60 plus feet of fly line I had at my feet a second ago, was now in the air in a big tangle of shit and everything went into a sort of slow motion. As I tried desperately to clear it as it sailed through the guides.
It didn’t work.
A huge knot formed and slammed through the first stripping guide and then the next….
As it ripped through the guides I waited for the knot to jam up hard and the line to break; or a guide to ping off; or rod tip to snap but somehow the sheer force rammed the knot clean out the last one and within seconds I was well into my backing and still in with a chance.
After a 200m run, things slowed down a bit and I set to work on recovering some line. I barely got my fly line back on the reel when he was off again and as I worked him back towards me, I could see the massive knot of shit about half way up my fly line that I would have to deal with somehow.
Within a couple of minutes I had the fish under more control and the knot at my rod tip – there was no way I was going to able to wind it back through the guides and really didn’t want to hand line it as he was a big fish and still had plenty of grunts left.
I decided to jump out of the boat and started to ‘walk’ him up the beach, just quietly keeping tension and leading him along. I dropped the rod in the water and grabbed the line at the knot, by the rod tip and kept walking along, dragging the rod behind me and walking the fish up the flat. I worked the knot with my teeth and fingers as quickly as I could and just hoped that my mate out there continued to cooperate with me.
After what seemed like an eternity (which was probably only 20 or 30 seconds), I got the knot undone, picked up the rod and was back in the game. I turned around, made my way back towards the boat and cranked the pressure on once again. From here, it was a fairly straightforward task of just keeping him away from the boat and guiding him into the net.
Two minutes later, and he was sitting at the bottom of my net and I was doing a little dance!
From the moment I saw the line mid-air, knotted up and clattering through the guides, I didn’t expect to land this one but sometimes things just go your way and you get some luck on your side. I sent him on his way and he swam off strong to grow bigger and badder!
Alex Waller is a fly fishing guide from New Zealand. Check out his epic content on Instagram, @trippin_on_trout!