Canny KA­HAWAI

The chal­lenge of Main­land based con­trib­u­tor Tony Or­man has a con­fes­sion to make. He has done much less trout fish­ing this year than any other year in his 60-odd years of an­gling af­ter be­com­ing hooked on fly fish­ing for ka­hawai.

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Much of the rea­son is due to the fact that pound for pound (or should that be ‘kilo for kilo’?), a ka­hawai’s fight is so much bet­ter than its fresh­wa­ter brethren. Also, they are gen­er­ally much eas­ier to catch than trout – but not al­ways. Most peo­ple know the old trout fish­ing adage ‘match­ing the hatch’, which in­volves match­ing the fly (and its pre­sen­ta­tion) to the par­tic­u­lar in­sect trout are feed­ing on. Well, there are days when ka­hawai can be just as sin­gle-minded!

Sev­eral years ago, I was at the mouth of the Wairau River with my fly rod. Four other spin-an­glers were to my left within 50 me­tres of my po­si­tion. That evening, I hooked and landed about 20 ka­hawai, while the oth­ers caught one be­tween them. I killed and gut­ted three ka­hawai and all had tiny bait­fish in them. The sim­ple anal­y­sis was the other an­glers’ spin­ners were too large, so failed to match the bait fish. My small ka­hawai fly fit­ted the bill per­fectly.

Some­times with ka­hawai it gets even trick­ier. One af­ter­noon I took Alan Sim­mons, a very ex­pe­ri­enced fly fisher in both fresh­wa­ter and salt, down to the mouth to have a look at the ka­hawai ac­tion. He wanted to watch, not fish, so it was just me cast­ing.

The fish were there, but they seemed re­luc­tant to take, chas­ing and just swirling be­hind the char­treuse-winged fly. “Try a blue fly,” was Alan’s ad­vice. I did as sug­gested, and hit the jack­pot there­after, hook­ing and land­ing sev­eral good ka­hawai be­fore we de­parted for din­ner. Colour proved to be the vi­tal in­gre­di­ent.

At times such small de­tails can be cru­cial, be­cause ka­hawai

are not al­ways a pushover. Even when spin­ning, such de­tails can be im­por­tant. As al­ready al­luded to, I be­lieve many spin an­glers tar­get­ing ka­hawai use too large a lure. Ka­hawai of­ten feed on small fish such as white­bait and an­chovies, and in such in­stances only a small lure proves en­tic­ing.

Also keep in mind that ka­hawai are not spread evenly over the river chan­nel just be­fore it is­sues into the sea. In­stead, they of­ten oc­cupy cer­tain spots, such drop-offs from shal­lower wa­ter into deeper gutters. This sea­son, I dis­cov­ered one such gut­ter at the river mouth that was right in against the bank, mak­ing casts of only a few me­tres nec­es­sary. The ka­hawai caught here were su­perb, fat spec­i­mens av­er­ag­ing two ki­los and some­times reach­ing three ki­los. On be­ing hooked, they screamed line off the reel at a fu­ri­ous rate, well into the back­ing.

But some days these fish proved de­cid­edly fas­tid­i­ous. It took quite a while to sort, but even­tu­ally I found that a slow, lin­ger­ing re­trieve was the way to hook them. Such chal­lenges and thought-

pro­vok­ing anal­y­sis sim­ply en­hance the suc­cess.

I like Clouser-style flies, but avoid over-dress­ing them with ex­ces­sive glit­ter or sparkle ma­te­ri­als. These flies need some ‘flash’ but not too much.

If fish are not tak­ing, try vary­ing your flies’ size and colour. And when you do hook a fish on a tough day, it’s usu­ally worth check­ing the stom­ach con­tents to see what they’ve been feed­ing on.

Speak­ing of which, if I’m killing a fish, I do so straight away to be hu­mane and re­tain the best qual­ity fish flesh. I then im­me­di­ately gut and take the ka­hawai’s head off to al­low the sur­plus blood to drain away. The re­main­ing dark meat should also be cut off the fil­let be­fore pan-fry­ing the ka­hawai fil­lets, or per­haps mak­ing them into a de­li­cious Thai green curry.

But once you’ve got your din­ing-ta­ble needs, I urge you to catch and re­lease in­stead. Ka­hawai are awe­some to catch on salt-fly and light spin gear, and sur­vive the re­lease ex­pe­ri­ence well. So let them go for some­one else to en­joy!

Ka­hawai are a blast to catch on light spin or fly-fish­ing tackle.

The size of a fly used should be sim­i­lar to the bait­fish the ka­hawai are eat­ing.

Keep flies lightly dressed. A favourite is the Clouser-style fly (orange head) with pre­dom­i­nantly white and grey dress­ing.

A prime ka­hawai spec­i­men des­tined for the ta­ble.

Ka­hawai chunks are su­perb in a Thai green curry.

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