This summer I have placed a large emphasis on targeting Kahawai on the flats of Golden Bay with my clients to supplement our Kingfish catch. Kahawai as we all know are a great adversary on fly. They fight hard, jump and pull string. Its very often I hear remarks around how easy that they are to catch, I have found this to be far from the truth. In a river mouth or offshore schooling situation they can be very simple to catch with lures and flies but in shallow ankle to mid shin deep water these fish are as wary as any trophy brown trout and any heavy presentation can see them fleeing at a great rate of knots.
These days as I look for rays carrying Kingfish I keep a sharp eye on the shallows for any movement in the form of wakes and baitfish movement to give away a rouge Kahawai’s presence. These fish move along at a good clip so making the most of the first shot is imperative. I have been carrying two rod this summer for such occasions. I have my 10 weight rigged for Kings and a 7 weight and a small baitfish fly set up for Kahawai. I fish long leaders up to 12 feet and the fly is typically a surf candy or similar. It is very true that they can be picked up fishing blind in thigh deep water but I feel that these fish are more fun and add more value to your fly fishing skills by sighting them. If you can sight them and present a fly subtly to these fish before they are aware of your presences you should be able to catch most saltwater species on fly.
A long lead of up to 20 feet in front of the fish is sometimes required to keep the line and fly from landing too close to the fish. This may seem like over kill on the caution front but these fish are super touchy when their backs are almost out of the water. In thigh deep water they do appear more comfortable taking a fly.
Kahawai are nearly always a welcome bonus for my clients. They often surprise the uninitiated with their power and high jumps. So when fishing gets slow don’t forget to stalk the extreme edges and challenge yourself to try and take on the Kahawai in the extreme shallows. Your not going to become a worse flyfisher for doing it.