Chasin’ Sea Runners, NZ style

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Photo Chris Dore

Photo Chris Dore

By Chris Dore

So we don’t have any Sea Trout here in New Zealand as many would know them, but we have some great sea run brown trout fishing.

Our ‘Sea Runners’ are just your standard, wild brown trout simply exercising their efficient feeding patterns: they follow the food into and out of the salt as availability determines. What this means, however, is that there are a whole lot of fat, strong, and very fit fish that don’t see a lot of angling pressure while in our estuaries… Best of all, the months our main rivers are closed are often the best times to target them in tidal areas open year round.

When whitebait run in the springtime, many upstream residents of our coastal rivers drop back to the tidal zones to take advantage of this protein bonanza. Often these fish, along with those already residing in the tidal estuaries will follow the food out of the river mouths with the tides, and patrol the adjacent beaches.

With this event currently happening here in NZ, here are a few tips to get you amongst these estuarine brawlers.

image3-1• Whitebait aren’t strong swimmers: they will swim with the current which means upstream with the incoming tide… Your flies should too.

• However a useful tactic at times is to “swim against the flow” if your flies aren’t getting noticed. With often hundreds of naturals swimming around in a uniform direction, stripping your imitation across the current will stand out and get noticed.

• Fish your flies in teams to maximize their appeal. As mentioned, there are often hundreds of naturals moving about: a solitary fly being twitched here and there will get lost amongst the masses. Instead, fish teams of two, or three flies. With every strip of line they will all move together in a synchronized pattern, an eye-catching movement to predatory fish.

image1•  When I’m casting and fishing blind, I choose flies with profile and movement incorporating rabbit, marabou, etc., to bring the fish to my fly. When fish are swirling and are locatable, I fish a team of slim light naturals, plopping them close and then stripping away from the fish. When chasing bait, especially on bright days, upriver fish can be picky.

•  Matuka style flies such as the grey ghost, jack sprat and silver Dorothys have long been favorite whitebait / smelt imitations, but just lack movement. Consider attaching them on droppers, or via a loop knot to add a suggestion of life.

• I’m a huge fan of the incoming tide as fresh bait, and trout will enter the river fresh from the sea. The two hours leading up to, and hour following full tide can often be epic, especially if coinciding with the change of light.

image2-1• Learn about, and locate the food: that’s where the fish will be. Whitebait will often follow the drop offs as they travel into a river and so this is where you should focus. Wading out to the drop off and heaving long across stream isn’t often the wisest choice.

• Go subsurface. A fast intermediate line creates less disturbance when stripped than a floating line slapping away at the surface, and the pull of the tides often makes a Di7 not too silly an idea.

• In amongst the confused wash of the surf, or a strong pulling tide, a line tray makes life a whole lot easier.

• Watch your back, especially on the incoming tide. Within moments, that ankle deep trickle you crossed earlier may be uncrossable on return. Likewise, when fishing the river-mouth never turn your back on the waves. Never.

So get out there this spring and smash the salt. You don’t have to await October to get amongst some action.


Chris Dore
Gink & Gasoline
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