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Posted 18th June 2004


Upriggers, Rollers & Gale Force Winds

Paul and I went up north on Queens Birthday weekend to do some kite fishing demonstrations from Tokerau Beach at the invitation of Tenga, from Kaitaia Air & Tackle Supplies.

It was certainly one of our most interesting demos to date as we tried a completely new kitefishing technique for the first time, and worked out how to increase the wind range of small inflatable fishing kites.

On the Saturday morning we called in to Tenga's store to pick up some bait for the demo, his bait freezer was a fisherman's treasure trove and included baits we had never seen before. There was all the usual baits plus whole snap frozen anchovies and "surfies", a type of sardine that is much tougher than pilchards. I would certainly recommend kitefishers give either of these a try.

Launching In Light Airs

We arrived at the Ramp Road entrance to Tokerau just before 9:00 am, the winds were almost imperceptible, not even the leaves on the trees were moving. A few of the locals who arrived later had said they thought the winds were so light that a kite fishing demo was undoubtedly out of the question so they stayed home until the wind got up around 10.30 am.

Obviously they had not counted on the phenomenal light wind performance of the Mega Air 3 which Paul and I successfully launched at 9.00 am for those who arrived on time.

With the 65 kg dropper rig reel firmly embedded in the ground I walked the mega air 3 kite around 150 metres down the beach and held the kite up, Paul steadily hauled back about 50 metres of the line and the kite climbed quickly up through the still air to a height of around 40 metres where it found one or two knots of offshore wind.

It was just enough to keep the kite airborne and allowed Paul to tease the kite up higher by releasing more kiteline in the slight puffs and retrieving less in the lulls. After a couple of minutes the kite was soaring at 120 metres in a steady four to six knots of wind. It was providing two to three kilograms of pull, certainly enough to haul the 65kg dropper rig way out.

Paul decided to leave the kite flying from the well anchored reel and chat to those attending while we waited to see if the forecast 20 to 30 knots of wind would arrive. By 10.00 am the wind at the altitude the kite was flying at had got up to 15 knots and the kiteline on the mega air 3 was wailing under the strain. The ground wind had also increased to three or four knots

Launching the Mega 3 Kite

We decided the Mega Air 3 was way overkill for what we wanted and, considering the winds were still getting up, we retrieved the Mega Air and chose to fish with a Nighthawk kite instead.

The Fishing Gear

The 65 kg dropper rig that we use for demo's is somewhat unique. The traces on the large rack have a variety of traces stored on it.

There's normal target hook traces, single floating bead traces and some traces with two floating beads. Just for fun, and some added excitement, all of the traces have these tiny little alphabet beads threaded onto them as well.

You know, the type used by children for making necklaces and things. The beads have letters on them so that once a fisher has baited their trace I can record their name and the letters on their trace. This way, when the gear is retrieved, the fisher gets to keep whatever is caught on their trace.

The New Up-rigger System

The 65 kg rig was setting in around 15 knots of wind and when the kite was about 300 metres offshore we pulled out a second beach reel of 65 kg line, a Super kite and a new device, the up-rigger roller (see diagram).

We launched the second kite and when the Super kite was flying at around 50 metres, the roller was attached to the Super kite's kite line. We then allowed the Super kite to go up and out a further 250 metres and locked the second reel off at that point.

It worked a treat, the mainline of the big dropper rig ran up, through the roller, and out to sea with the mainline held well clear of the sea and the beach. As the smaller kite was being used on the roller up-rigger the roller went out at a shallow angle of around 35 degrees above horizontal.

This put the roller around 200 metres in front of us and out around 150 metres past the waterline at an altitude of around 80 metres.

Instantly, all of the experienced kitefishers attending the demo realized the huge benefits available with the new roller up-rigger system, particularly for keeping the mainline well clear of the surf and rip when kite fishing on the west coast.

West coast kite fishers, in particular those that like to fish 90 mile beach, have much to contend with. Besides the horrendous rips encountered here and the frequently high surf, the tour buses and other vehicles are a downright nuisance and can cause havoc with your fishing gear if you're not paying attention. The up-rigger can help solve all of these issues.

The up-rigger also has advantages on the east coast. We've always said that kitefishers using dropper rigs on the east coast should limit the distance the gear is set to where they can keep their mainline supported clear of the water. This was to ensure that, should there be any boats in the area, the boats could pass safely under the mainline.

With the new up-rigger kitefishers can now safely set their gear much further out while minimising any concerns of boats or surf ski's. More info and online purchasing of up rigger rollers and roller uprigger rigs here

Retrieving the Rig

After leaving the gear to fish for just over an hour the gear was retrieved. The up-rigger roller system was retrieved first and the roller detached from the mainline, this was very easy as it is no different than simply pulling the kite down. Then the dropper rig was hauled in as usual.

The differences between using a single dropper rig, either with a kite and skyhook or two kites on a single line, and using a roller up-rigger system is vast.

In the first two examples of conventional dropper rigs the combined the pull of two kites is carried by a single line, if the wind increases or the kites go into the water it can be difficult to retrieve.

With the roller up-rigger system each kite is on a different line and the kite lifting the roller is always close to shore and easy to recover. The roller up-rigger also has the advantage that lift can be applied to the mainline exactly where it will do the most good, right in the middle of the surf zone. It's easier, safer and regardless of what happens there is always much less strain on the mainline.

Flexiwing Rig

Besides the large 65 kg rig, we also put out one set of 10 hooks using the Flexiwing kite run from Paul's 9/0 Penn reel spooled with 50lb dacron. The winds were perfect and the small rig was 800 metres out and fishing in around a quarter of an hour.

Photo Right

Everyone was interested in the way Paul had mounted his 9/0 Penn reel backwards and upside down on his short boat rod.

Recovery of the Flexiwing Rig was just a matter of sitting on the rod butt and winding the handle of the fully supported rod and reel.

Using this technique allows the line to be easily recovered without suffering any backstrain no matter how heavy the load.

The reel rests on a hard bait board which sits on top of the chilly bin, two holes drilled in the board accept the harness lugs and lock the reel into place.

The left hand takes no strain and is simply used to align the line on the reel when required to avoid bunching.

The Gale

The conditions on the Sunday were much more severe with winds gusting up to 50 knots and very heavy rain squalls which saw everyone scrambling for their vehicles every hour or so.

Tenga mentioned he had been having trouble with his Medium Air 2 inflatable kite on his 31kg dropper rig in strong winds and, while these kites are only designed for light winds, Paul decided to see if we could fly them in the gale.

Steadying a lively inflatable kite in these winds was not easy. Initially we tried launching the kite with just a drogue on the back and attaching the bridle to the top eyelets of the kite.

This proved to be totally ineffective, instead of the drogue bringing the back of the kite down and presenting more of the kite to the wind, it flew directly out the back of the kite causing the kite to be highly unstable and do graceful long slow dives into the sea.

We changed the drogue for a open shopping bag and surprisingly the extra drag didn't improve matters at all!

Next we tried adjusting the setting by moving to the centre eyelets of the kite but, while this slightly improved things, Paul wanted more stability. Perhaps it needed more weight in the tail?

We tied a small piece of drift wood above the shopping bag tail to add the extra weight. This looked promising except the combination of the wood and the drogue took on a pendulum effect which increased with each swing, eventually upsetting the kite.

What we needed was just the slightest amount of weight but enough drag to keep the angle of the kite right in order to deliver stable flight and constant pull.

Paul's solution was definitely unconventional. He made up a 10 metre tail rope with a swivel in it and attached a two litre plastic milk bottle, with about a quarter of a cup of sand in it, to the end of the tail rope. The Medium Air 2 was relaunched with the new tail rope and bottle, it went up like a rocket and sat perfectly stable, even the massive squalls that crazed the sea with streaks of foam didn't upset it.

Zoom shot : Medium Air 2 kite 600 metres offshore with plastic bottle on tailrope.

Three or four kilograms of pull was being delivered from the little red kite, it was amazing, we could have easily set a 25 hook,100 kg longline with it on this blustery day.

We set the 31kg dropper rig from the grassy knoll above the beach and used the up-rigger system with a Super kite again. The wings of the Super kite peeled back as the kite bit into the wind so hard that it sounded like a motorbike engine on high revs.

The up-rigger system worked perfectly from the grassy bank in the car park. The small dropper rig quickly went straight out to sea with the mainline running out easily up and through the roller which was around 80 metres above the beach at the waterline 100 metres in front of us.

This time the lines were at a higher angle, around 60 degrees above the horizontal, as the bigger, more powerful, kite was lifting the roller.

We even had several vehicles pass below us on the beach totally oblivious that any fishing was going on from shore.

Fishing from the car park came in really handy when it started pelting with rain. We could all jump in our vehicles and sit comfortably while still watching the reel which was only a couple of metres in front of the car.

Photo Above : The inflatable kite rig on the right is 800 metres straight out with the line well clear of the water for the full distance, the superkite up-rigger rig on the left is deploying the roller at around 60 degrees above the horozontal and 100 metres high.

Photo Below : Paul checks the weight in the sand bottle before letting the hook section out to sea

I did get a little concerned there for a while, both reels were vibrating so violently under the load while we sheltered from the strongest rain squalls I thought they may be ripped from the bank.

Paul is convinced that the Medium Air 2 kite, rigged with a two litre bottle on a 10 metre tail rope connected to the back of the kite, will fly in winds in excess of 60 knots.

It certainly performed flawlessly on this day and never looked like misbehaving.

A huge squall turns midday to twilight and the sea into a streaky froth.

Paul also suggests putting plenty of air pressure in the bladders in strong wind conditions to prevent the kite from collapsing.


The trip finished up with no fish, all rigs set returned empty with the baits untouched, according to the locals, the best fishing from Tokerau is at night.

The night before the demo saw several big snapper caught just up the beach from where we were fishing.

Perhaps we need to invest in some massive spotlights for next time and fish at night?

A row of vehicles attending the demo. The rig was set from just this side of the centremost tree.
After arriving home we also received several fishing reports from Whatuwhiwhi, East Beach and Doubtless Bay, large numbers of good sized snapper had been caught over the weekend, particularly around change of light.

An evening catch from Whatuwhiwhi on the weekend of the demo, It's just 10 minutes up the beach from where we were fishing.

I must say that Kaitaia has got to be one of New Zealand's top kite fishing spots year round.

No matter which way the wind blows, there is always somewhere to get a kite out.

Paul and I certainly had a great time in the 'sunny' north and enjoyed meeting so many enthusiasts.

Most of those who attended commented that the techniques we used, the roller up-rigger and the use of a bottle on the tail rope of inflatable kites will vastly improve their kite fishing success in marginal or tricky conditions.

Don't forget, August is big snapper time on the west coast so make sure your gear is ready for when the easterlies arrive.

The new up-rigger rollers will be in stock at our store by the time you read this article. Feel free to give Rob a call on 09-634-5005 for more info.

Demo Report from Tenga

Having trouble flying a kite YES.....NO....Maybe?

Well I was, the Medium Air 2 in fact, the first day I used it was fine but the second day was a whitewash, it ducked and dived all over the place in strong winds. I gave up and went home and invited Paul & Peggy to come up to Kaitaia to do a demo for us.

At the start of Paul's demo the conditions were about the same as I had tried and failed in. The wind at our level was about 15 to 20 knots but up higher it was about 25 knots. When Paul first put the kite it also ducked and dived everwhere, this should be good I thought, Paul is also having trouble.

After some trial and error Paul got out a peice of nylon about 10 metres long, tied a two litre plastic milk bottle on one end and attached the other end to the back of the kite like a drogue. It was a bit tricky to launch, but when it caught the wind up it went.

The main dropper line needed a two litre bottle full of sand just to hold it down. The good part for me was the wind had got up to about 35 to 40 knots with gusts up to about 45-50 knots and the kite was still absolutely stable. IT WAS AWSOME!

The other people who attended the demo had a ball and are still commenting on that little kite in that huge wind and the fantastic possibilities of the roller up-rigger system out on our west coast. We all learnt heaps about kitefishing and I spent a few hours after the demo with Paul and Peggy going over tips and tricks kitefishers can use to get fishing gear out in marginal conditions.

Thanks for a great kitefishing demo


ED : If you live near Kaitia and missed the demo and want a first hand report Tenga can be reached at his fishing tackle shop Kaitaia Air and Tackle, North Road, Kaitaia. Ph 09-408-3336. The shop is a couple of minutes up the main road north of Kaitia. Tenga has a full range of kitefishing gear and is happy to talk kitefishing anytime. Don't forget to check out his bait freezer while you are there.

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