Updated: Apr 16, 2018
It’s fair to say that I have spent more than my fair share of time on the water hunting kingfish this summer. In fact, I have probably spent more than YOUR fair share of time on the water chasing kingfish too.
Days and days of drifting, walking, sitting, standing, watching and waiting for any sign of that my day is about to get a whole lot better in the form of a yellow tail and green back! It definitely takes a certain type of person to be prepared to spend all day scanning the water for maybe one or two shots at a fish that might or might not take a look at your fly IF you don’t mess up your all too brief window and fluff your cast, presentation or absolutely everything for that matter……and then be excited to get up and do it all over again the next day!
There’s something extra satisfying about pinning a fish after you have made things as tough as you can for yourself. No berley, no bait, no fish finders…..just your eyes, a fly rod and a shed load of patience! There’s a lot of water to cover and even with the help of google earth, maps and even some local knowledge, it still takes an incredible amount of time to cover just one flat thoroughly. Add to that the fact that kingfish are pretty much always on the move and that makes things trickier still. But when it does all come together, it goes from quiet and uneventful to utter carnage in a matter of seconds and you will never be quite the same again….This stuff changes you!
If you are interested in giving this a crack next summer then here’s a few things you may want to consider…
First off, you need gear that is up to the task for this kind of fishing . If there is any weakness in your set up, these fish will find it, smash it to pieces and leave you cursing yourself for not being better prepared. A fast action rod in the 9-10 weight range is perfect for flinging large flies and handling the long, powerful runs Kingfish make. Team it up with a sturdy large arbour reel that has a decent sealed drag system and a couple of hundred metres of strong backing – I have been using the Hatch Gel spun stuff and can’t recommend it highly enough.
For Fly lines, I can’t see past the Scientific Anglers range of lines. You really don’t need anything other than a floating line for this type of fishing as its all shallow and top water sight fishing. Six to eight feet of 20lb fluorocarbon (SA again) and one of any number of baitfish type flies (with the barbs crushed down) will complete the set up.
Learn to tie good knots!
I use a Bimini twist for my both my backing loop and my leader loop and a Lefty's Loop to tie on my flies.
What do you look for once you’re out on the water? Anything fishy really! The easiest thing to look for are the big, black stingrays that cruise the flats. It’s becoming clear that there is a good relationship between stingrays and kingfish. The thinking is that the kingies follow the rays around and make short work of the baitfish and flounder that get out of their way. Not always, but sometimes, that ray will have a mate or three tagging along with them and that’s when it gets exciting. My advice is to cast at any black ray you see! Don’t waste time trying to make out whether or you can see any fish on it, just assume it has and try and get your fly in front and across its path and then strip it away quick. It’s not just about the rays though….Bow waves, baitfish moving, being chased and skipping out of the water, bust ups, swirls, boils, nervous water and tails and dorsal fins are all give aways of the presence of predators and should be cast at.
If in doubt, just cast at it.
Should a fish zone in on your fly and eat it, try not to lift the rod to strike – and this is easier said than done if you have a background of targeting trout...believe me! My good mate and top authority on catching kingfish on the fly, Paul ‘Millsy’ Mills said it perfectly when he told me to “just keep stripping til you feel a person on the other end!”
Usually all you do when you raise the rod tip and try to strike is pull the fly out of the way and kill any chance of that fish having a go at eating your fly.
You don’t need a boat to catch kingfish. You can just as easily get them on foot and its not that much different really, you just get to cover more water in a boat. Be prepared to put in the hard yards and eventually you will be rewarded. You are looking for all the same things but you are just in the water and covering ground a bit slower. Personally, I find it more satisfying to take a fish on foot – it just feels like you are closer to and more amongst the action.
However you are fishing, you have to be ready to cast at any time. That shot can come, and usually does, when you least expect it and if you aren’t ready to go, then you won’t get a second chance. Be ready to cast at a moments notice, every second you are out there.
As with any kind of fishing, what it comes down to as far as being successful goes, is time on the water. You can read articles, watch videos and talk about it as much as you want but to get amongst fish and really get a handle on things you have to be out there putting the time in – nothing beats that. The more time you put in, the more you learn and the more shots you get, it’s that simple.
If you don’t have the confidence or days and days of spare time to put into working things out for yourself, then seriously consider spending the money and get yourself a guide for a day or two. Use your time with them wisely, ask lots of questions and draw as much as you can from the experience that your guide has spent years gathering so that you come away with more than just a great day on the water.…you will have a foundation of knowledge that you can work with from there on your own. Too many people pay for a days guiding and just expect to catch fish because they paid for it and miss out on what it should really be about.
Sure, its awesome to be put onto fish but this is fishing and nothing is guaranteed in this game so you are much better off using your time to learn from someone that can teach you. As a guide, it’s a real pleasure when someone comes along that actually wants to learn rather than just expecting to catch fish.
In conclusion, if you just want to catch fish without having to put much effort in, then fly fishing for kingfish on the flats probably isn’t for you BUT if you don’t mind putting in some time then you will eventually be rewarded with something epic….just be prepared to never be quite the same again!