I ALWAYS look forward to the late summer and autumn months to enjoy the best of the saltwater flyfishing. This year, in preparation, I've made 30 new saltwater flies, purchased a Fenwick VK79 R saltwater fly reel, and also purchased a Scientific Angler's Striped Bass Tropicore 10wt fly line that shoots out through the guides of the powerful Nautikos 10wt rod in fine style.
And then there's the Minn Kota Riptide, which was a much-anticipated Christmas present for the whole Kampey crew. Here’s why…
When chasing tuna over the last couple of years I've often wished for a good electric motor, preferably a bow mount model that leaves my hands free to manage the fly line and casting. Tuna are often fast moving, and sometimes show only briefly with a few splashes before sounding, so I’d never attempt to actually chase the fish with an electric motor. Rather, I wanted the electric for an ultra-stealthy approach on tuna that are obviously feeding well to start with. With my outboard, even when approaching fish that were feeding quite well, we’d often get close enough for only one or two shots with the fly. At other times we'd get almost within casting range of the fish and then they’d sound. Does that sound familiar?
The full value of an electric motor for manoeuvre the boat into casting range of these hard-fighting pelagics was driven home to me one morning last autumn off Mooloolaba. Mack tuna and northern blues abounded in large schools, but there was no way we could approach the working schools as the fish had obviously seen a lot of fly anglers in the past weeks and were very skittish.
Yet, as Denise and I were quietly motoring in for yet another attempt on a school of chopping fish, a couple of cluey anglers in a small tinny calmly used their stern-mounted electric thruster to position their boat right on the edge of the action. The fish continued to work and the pair proceeded to extract one fish per cast, punctuated only by the amount of time it took to play each one after it was hooked. They were spinning, sure, but the approach system was foolproof.
Our MinnKota Riptide is a 55lb autopilot model with foot control. It took around 15 minutes of work to set up the bow mounting bracket, and a little longer to install a decent deep-cycle battery up front below the casting deck of the 4.8m Gale Force centre console runabout. The necessary wiring and isolator switch to divert surplus charge from the 70hp Yamaha’s cranking battery took a little organising, but it was well worth the effort.
While the boat could certainly handle a larger electric motor than the one I've chosen, I’m quite happy with the 12V single battery setup and the motor's performance. The 55lb Minn Kota pulls the Galey along quickly enough to sneak in close to working fish, and I love the way it hums along in the blue water environment.
I haven’t had a problem with battery capacity depletion, and there have been mornings when I've used the Riptide for quite long periods. By simply flicking the isolator switch on and allowing charge to travel to the Minn Kota's battery while travelling along under main engine power, the battery tops up well. Just to see how things have gone I usually hook up the battery charger after returning home and the ‘fully charged’ light is usually glowing within a couple of hours. Remember, though, that we use the Minn Kota only in short bursts. We don't chase fish all over the ocean with it, nor do we troll with it.
The results on pelagic fish have been outstanding. We did particularly well on the schools of mackerel near the M8 beacon in Moreton Bay during late summer, and the MinnKota allowed us to approach far closer than any outboard powered craft would have, four-strokes included. The fish had been hammered from day one since their arrival, and the word ‘skittish’ could not do justice to their demeanour. Paranoid was more like it!
On tuna the electric motor is just as effective, and my standard approach – sneaking in from the upwind side where possible, and making sure that even engine revs are maintained before deploying the electric motor – still holds good. Sometimes quartering in with the breeze across the side of the boat works just as well, but I feel it really depends on how engrossed the fish are with their feeding and how much they have been hammered by other anglers and ring nets.
There is no doubt that the bow mounted electric motor has improved our success with the fly rod in the saltwater. The fish just don't seem to take much notice of the low hum emitted by the Minn Kota Riptide, and of course the fibreglass hull of the Gale Force is very quiet underway as well. Double hookups are now so commonplace that we more or less expect them!
We’re certainly going to appreciate the MinnKota during winter when we chase the bass, but for now I'm just happy to deploy it around 40m from a school of tuna or mackerel and enjoy some fantastic sportfishing.
1) The bow mount Minn Kota Riptide is brilliant for sneaking in close to pelagics such as mackerel and tuna.Reads: 1516