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Andrew Hearne – Five fish I will always remember

Five fish I’ll never forget. No matter ho hard I try.

This entry differs from what the other boys have done recently. I’ll put my top five together later on, but for now this is all about five of the most memorable fish I didn’t catch.

My apologies for the lack of images… but I guess you’ll understand why.

Number 5.

This happened the season before last. I was fishing the Canterbury High Country alone in the heat of summer and the Cicadas were in full swing. I’d caught one fish and lost another already that day on a Cicada pattern, and I had the feeling I was a good chance at catching anything I fished to that day.

I approached a run where I’d seen a pretty big fish a few weeks earlier, and my excitement level lifted. As I made my way to the top of the run I was buzzing with nervous energy, and there it was. I spotted a solid looking fish sitting in the prime spot.

I had to drop slightly to get into a good casting position, which meant I could no longer see the fish. I sent the cicada into the strike zone and hoped for the best. I didn’t need to wait long… the water erupted as the big brown slashed at the fly and I don’t even think I needed to strike, the fish had probably set the hook itself. A strong fight took place from there and I could tell the fish was a good one. It had plenty of length, and was strong and determined.

I got it in really close and was prepering to net it when it rolled on top and I saw its true size for the first and only time. It took off and the line pinged. My tippet hardly ever snaps, but it did on this occasion. I stood there and swore at the heavens for quite some time, until I was eventually able to pull myself back together and carry on for the day.

Number 4.

This is going back a few years. I think it was the start of the 2003-2004 season. The location isn’t too far away from where number 5 took place.

I had fished upstream all day and was on my way out, walking along the side of the river as I went whenever possible. As I came to a certain pool with a small creek pouring in I spied a fish sitting under the feed line. It looked like a pretty nice fish, and it wasn’t there a few hours earlier. I crept into position and started casting to the fish for what seemed like forever. It stayed where it was more or less, drifting slightly but never moving far. After god knows how many casts my indicator dipped under and I struck. I was most surprised when the line went tight and the mighty fish exploded from the water.

My surprise turned into heartbreak when the fish landed on my tippet. In one moment it was all over. I headed for the car thinking about what might have been.

Number 3.

This happened near the end of the 2002 – 2003 season, not long after I had shifted to Christchurch from Nelson.

I’d returned to Nelson for the wedding of some very good friends. While I was there for a few days I thought I should head out for a bit of fishing, I had some unfinished business that needed taking care of at a river nearby.

I’d fished the river a few times, and been alerted to a very nice looking fish which was resident in one of the pools by one of my mates who worked in the area. The trouble was that there was a fallen tree sharing the pool with the fish, keeping it safe. As time passed by, the tree swung closer and closer to the bank… until eventually it was out of the way enough that a chance at catching the fish became possible.

That day I’d caught four great fish on Cicadas. You couldn’t miss, they were moving a mile for them. I decided to drive up the road to the tree pool, and have a go at the big boy. Nervously I peeked over the edge of the bank trying to see where he was, but the light was poor and the water was covered with glare. I was a bit dejected at not being able to see the fish, but I went down to the water anyway.

I worked my way through the pool methodically, and into the fast water at the top. I’d never seen the fish holding this high up, but I fished it anyway. My indicator stopped, and when I struck I was fast into a fish. THE fish!

I worked hard to gain control, and just when I thought I had the advantage the fish leapt high out of the water and I watched in slow motion as my nymph tracked towards me through the air. The fish was free. After all of my previous unsuccessful attempts at capturing it, on this day I had come oh so close, yet I had failed again. This was to be the last time I would try to catch this fish, unfortunately the opportunity never again presented itself.

Number 2.

This is really going back a long time. I was 14 years old, and I hadn’t been fly fishing all that long. I was with my best mate Sam, and we were fishing our favourite river. He’d just caught his biggest ever trout, which was in the vicinity of 7 pounds, and in fact I would confidently say it was the biggest trout either of us had ever laid our young eyes on.

No more than a few hundred metres upstream from where Sam caught his fish from was a mighty pool. It was long, wide, and had plenty of depth in all the right places. It had a nice rapid entering in at the head and a solid rock bottom on the far side providing plenty of stablility.

As we neared the top we spotted a line up of about half a dozen fish, all suspended high in the water column and feeding away nicely. To this day I doubt I have ever seen another situation as perfect as this. I cast my basic rig consisting of a Hare and Copper nymph with wool indicator above the top fish, the biggest of them all. It didn’t hesitate to come across to my nymph and took it with all the confidence of the much smaller fish I was so used to catching. I responded to the indicator dipping with a solid lift of my Daiwa fly rod , and the line tightened.

This fish didn’t treact like the fish I was used to catching, infact I have never experienced the same reaction from a hooked fish in all the years that have passed since. This fish did not splash, or panic. It calmly swam across the river, slowly but surely taking line with it as it went, and took up a position on the bottom. I stood there next to Sam on the side of the river in absolute bewilderment, I had no idea what to do. Several minutes passed, the fish shook its head from time to time, and eventually my line snapped.

Even though I had minimal experience with fish of any size at that point in my life, I knew I had just been attached to something special. With all the years gone past since then, I realise even more now just how special that fish was. If I was to hook that same fish again today I would be in a far better position to land it than what I was back then, but it was incredibly powerful, and nothing is certain. One thing I can say for sure is that fish is lucky it got away, for if I had landed it as a 14 year old boy, there is no doubt I would have taken it home with me to mount on the wall.

Number 1.

This one sits in a similar ball park to number two. It was a bit of a toss up for which sat where in the grand scheme of things… but I decided this one could take the top spot.

It was December 2009. A couple of days after Christmas. I had arranged to take my mate Paul from Timaru and his Dad with me for a day on the water. The fish were in top condition that season, and I knew that where we were going we would have a decent shot at a good fish. It had rained a bit and the water was running a bit high, with enough colour for it to work in our favour.

The day started with a hiss and a roar when Paul caught his first ever fish on a fly. At 8 pounds it wasn’t one to be scoffed at… I made sure I let him know how many years it took for me to catch one that big.

Soon after I briefly hooked and lost one which was about the same size as what Paul landed. A short distance upstream I spotted another fish sitting near our edge which Paul insisted I fish to. I fished at this one for quite some time, and every so often I saw it clearly through a window in the water, it was a big fish.

Many, many casts, and about seven fly changes later I got a result. I set the hook into a very angry fish. It took off at warp factor 6 across the swollen river and angled upstream, taking all my fly line and a good part of my backing with it. I couldn’t do a whole lot to start with, but eventually I gained some back and my fly line came closer to where it needed to be.

This is where it really turned pear shaped. I watched my backing knot as it neared the tip top of my rod, and as the two made contact, time slowed down as I witnessed the knot disintegrate with my own eyes. The trailing fly line flailed off into the current, still attached to my big angry fish. I stoood on the riverbank swearing while Paul and his dad watched in disbelief, before I dropped everything and tore off into the current searching for the trailing line in desperation and anger.

I didn’t find the end of my line, which meant I didn’t get my fish. It put somewhat of a dampener on my day. This is the one which takes the cake.

All of these fish have caused me to lose sleep at some point, but if I’m completely honest I’d have to say I probably wouldn’t change any of them given the chance. Thats a big call I know, but it wouldn’t be the same if we landed them all, would it?

Jack Kos – The top five…

What follows is a list of my favourite fish from the season. Not necessarily the biggest or the prettiest, but the most satisfying for one reason or another. In fact it has surprised me while constructing this list how many of the bigger fish have been left off. They’re certainly satisfying and look great in photos. But these are the fish I’ll remember.

5) Kicking off the list was a very solid rainbow taken on a tough day. To be honest any one of a number of fish could have filled this spot. The fish were feeding selectively on swimming mayflies and couldn’t be tempted by anything else. Once hooked this fish proceeded to take me for the ride of my life through the pool. There aren’t many stronger fish in the rivers than a football shaped rainbow.

4) This was a brown taken blind in a small stream. It was a strong fish and good looking to boot. Andrew snapped a great shot of it.

3) This fish was an unlikely conquest. Al and I left home at midday and rocked up to the river feeling relaxed. In a riffle at the tailout of the run I spotted a smudge moving upstream. I figure I had spooked it, but covered it anyway. It was with more than a little surprise that I watched a snout poke out of the water to take my klinkhammer. What followed was a very determined fight from a fit fish. Eventually Al secured it in the net and proceeded to snap a photo with a Canon P+S camera from the 1980s that he’d acquired for $2 that morning.

2) I was tossing up between these last two. My number two was also my biggest fish for the season, and my biggest rainbow ever by over a pound. It was a seriously good fish taken in atrocious conditions. It fought hard, if unspectacularly and I was unbelievably pleased to have caught it.

1)But my number 1 had the whole package. It was the total experience. Andrew S and I set off after work and headed north. By the time we pulled up at the stream I’d had 1/2 dozen beers (don’t worry, he was driving) and was in a merry mood. The weather was superb so we donned our jandals and set out for a streamside stroll. The first few fish were spooked in glorious fashion…followed by more…and more. It wasn’t until we came to a bend in the stream and spotted a fish rising 20metres further up that our hope grew. I was on point, so assumed the position. I didn’t dare approach too much more given the behaviour of the previous fish so it was going to be a long cast. The alcohol settled the nerves and the cast was perfect. I thoroughly enjoy the casting side of fly fishing, so a fish caught with a special cast is always that little bit more valuable to me. It’s vividly seared in my mind the sight of the golden fish rising vertically to intercept my fly. As I set the hook it absolutely erupted, tearing off upstream at some pace. In the water it had looked like a nice fish, maybe around 4lbs. After an absurdly strong fight, during which the pitfalls of wearing jandals fishing became apparent to Andrew and I (Andrew, I believe, still has the scars to prove it), a rather bigger than expected fish came to the net. The whole experience of catching this fish was topped off by its appearance. It was short, but incredibly round and heavy. In absolutely perfect condition with substantial giraffe like spots dotting its body. For me it was the fish of the season and one of the most satisfying and enjoyable fish I’ve ever caught.

Lucas Allen – Strangers in the night

Just a quick pic to ram home why Alex, Andrew S and Andrew M should be planning a trip North… While you boys are wrapping up the end of season, I’m wrapping up warm. The calibre of these lake side fish are very impressive and the fish below is testament.

Matt, Jeez and I fished a Rotorua lake last night and while we got skunked we did witness this fine specimen caught next to us. To be fair, it was a quiet night and this was confirmed by the ranger out patrolling the usual hot spots.

Just shy of that magical mark! Well done Andrew Blake

If that doesn’t spur you 3 on then there’s something wrong with you.

Lucas

Andrew Sturt – My best 5 fish this season

My season started off in good fashion but things certainly went quiet after Christmas for a few different reasons. However along with Alex, Lucas and Andrew Marshall a lot of time and money was focused on the saltwater side of things and we had some success in that department.

At the start of the season Joel and I headed up the line to spend a few days paddling around on Lake O to try and satisfy the winter trout fishing cravings and bend some rods. We put in a lot of hours and a lot of energy over the three days we fished and were rewarded by the fish gods with quite a few fish landed. The typical Lake O bows were full of life and extremely strong. On one of the afternoons we jumped on a mates boat and I was able to snag this beautiful fish who ran me through all his tricks before finally accepting his fate.

Although this fish wasn’t a particularly big one, or in fact two, they are fish I will remember for a long time. The day after I caught the bigger one above, we awoke to torrential rain. Our friends had arrived in the comfort of their warm dry truck and were out on the water as we woke up. We crawled out of tent and had breakfast and got ready in the rain. Soggy and tiered we rowed out up to the top of our drift. Or friends on the boat had had no luck so spirits were fairly low. First cast I hooked into a decent fish and as I turned around to brag I saw that Joel had also hooked up. The guys on the boat must have been spewing and so we had a great laugh as we played them. These fish were pretty special to me because I remember thinking at the time that even though I was cold, wet and tiered, there was no place I would rather be in the world. (photos looking back at each other)

Back at home a few weeks later I headed out with the old man for an afternoon fish after work. The weather was looking great and there had been a good rise in the river temperature so we were keen as mustard to get over the hill and see what we could find. Sure enough not long after we arrived the hatch commenced, as did the evening rise. I was trying to make sure Dad picked up the first fish as he hadn’t heard his reel zing in quite a while, so he was on point. Luck just wasn’t going his way that day with a couple of false hook ups and a couple of fussy feeders. We came up to a favorite pool and there was a fish feeding like a maniac up in the eye. Dad had to re-rig and insisted that I try for him. Murphies law being the way it is, first cast he slurped down my offering. Feeling somewhat guilty that I had stolen an easy fish that Dad would have had for sure, I put the hurt on him and lent back hard on the rod. I hadn’t seen any part of the fish at this stage apart from his nose so I was surprised he was so strong. None the less I kept dragging him up to the net and was dumfounded when I lifted him out of the water. Unfortunately the image doesn’t really do this fish justice as the flash bounced back off him. He was covered in the most beautiful red and brown markings and fat as a house across the back. If I had any idea of what sort of fish he was there’s no way I would have put that much weight on him with my little sz16 emerger and 4lb leader. Thankfully luck was on my side.

A week or two later we jumped on a plane and headed down south for our annual, high country opening pilgrimage. On the first day of our six day trip we headed out and chased a few browns around in the morning. Later that afternoon it was off to the rainbow spot to see what we could see. I had been fishing in a favorite spot for only about ten minutes when there was a heavy splash out in front of me just within casting distance. Although I couldn’t see the fish I just tossed out my fly as far as I could in the direction of the rise. A couple of aggressive twitches and jerks and the line came tight. Just as the browny from earlier I never saw this fish until it reached the net. This one however I knew was a solid fish, It made a few good runs but it just felt heavy. I was ecstatic to land what would be my heaviest trout for the season and a new personal best. For the rest of the trip I had a big grin on my face.

As Alex mentioned in his post, February this year we headed North to chase down Tuna, Sharks and Kingies on the fly. As it played out we spent much of our time trying to land Tuna. I emphasize the word LAND as these things are in a league of their own. Although they don’t look that imposing to the uninformed, these things are bullets. They are built of 100% muscle and are stream lined to be exceedingly fast through the water. After spending the trip hooking up and loosing fish due to broken leaders and poorly seated hooks I finally managed to land this guy at the end of the trip. I can honestly say I have never been so relieved to land a fish in all my life. I can’t wait for round two next year.

Alex Broad – My best 5 fish this season

It was a slow season for me this year trout wise; however the salt water side of things was not too bad at all.

Early in the season Jack and I did an overnight mission into the Tararua’s, the river was nice and clear and the fish were feeding.  We only managed to hook into a handful of fish, none of which was particularly large, however near the end of the day I managed to hook into this wee gem.  A true pocket rocket, I’ve never been worked so hard by such a small fish before.  Jack did a bang up job of snapping the pic for me too, great shot.

I have a mild affliction, I collect and use old school film cameras, there’s something about it for me, and sometimes you pick up a sweet piece of equipment for next to nothing that whips the pants of any digital camera.  I had picked up an old Olympus pocket camera and decided to head out for a fish and give it a test.  Threw some black and white film in it and took off for the river.  I was greeted by a mayfly hatch of epic proportions and free rising trout, which for a change took normal dry flies instead of some sort of size 20 emerger.  I quickly secured several fish in short succession, if I remember correctly 3 fish in 3 casts.  They were all small scrappers, but this photo I managed to snap really portrays what the evening was like for me, on my own, fading light and a few fat little trout to keep me company.

Cicada’s really get me going in the summer, there’s nothing better than seeing that brownies nose break the surface and swallow your big ugly foam and rubber concoctions.  This fish was another pulled from my local, the Hutt River.  He was lying pretty doggo on a lip in some rough water; I could barely make out a smudge that would sway to the side occasionally.  After a few casts he decided it was time to have a closer inspection, I hit him hard and he jumped and went ballistic for a bit then slogged it out slowly like most brownies tend to do.  A nice solid fish from very very public water on a brand new cicada pattern I was testing.  Can’t get much better.

In February we got a syndicate together and headed north for a week of salt water fly fishing out of Tauranga.  The first couple of days were spent trying to find Kingies, which just weren’t anywhere to be found, on the surface or down deep, but we kept ourselves amused with Kahawai.  By this stage we had basically figured out it was Kahawai or Skippies, as schools of Skippies kept busting up around us then disappearing.  We figured them out pretty quickly, but what took a little longer was figuring out how to control yourself and one of these wee barrels of muscle on a fly rod.  I was testing a new Riverworks concept rod and reel in a 9 weight, this performed flawlessly, but getting used to the sheer power these small fish had was something different.  Busted leaders and pulled hooks had us “green horns” getting pretty frustrated.  But we conquered a few, and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a fly rod.

Before we left on our trip of the year I had laid down some requests, a Kingie on fly, a Tuna on fly and a Shark on fly, well I had ticked the Tuna box, the Kingie box just wasn’t going to get ticked, which left the Shark.  I had come prepared with knot able wire, some 9/0 hooks and some chum style tube flies.  We set up the heavy gear and proceeded to chum up with Kahawai and Skippys.  The idea was to get some Makos in close to the boat, throw a cast and hope they liked the look of the fly, then hold on.  The Makos never arrived but the Bronzies did.  After circling the boat for a while they built up confidence and smashed our chum hanging from a float.  Several casts were made, hoping the smaller fish would take the fly.  It’s not often you want the small one to take a fly.  Instead big brother mouthed the fly for a bit then took off with the 9/0 firmly imbedded, all I could do was hold on and take the inevitable spanking like a man.  After Mr Bronze Whaler had taken the shooting head, running line and a lot of backing the line went slack.  I was gutted but relieved at the same time, after all what the hell was I going to do with a very large pissed off shark at the side of the boat?  My “awesome knot able wire” had untied itself.  I was shaking like a haunted shit house, but amped to have been attached to such a large fish on a fly rod.  This is screen grab from the video footage we shot, me bending a 14wt rod and a shark of around 180kg doing his best to spool an ultra heavy duty salt water reel with the drag cranked up.  While no sharks were landed, this memory will be forever ingrained deeply in my mind.  Perhaps a moment of stupidity? Or perhaps just trying to push the boundaries?  I’ll be back to hit them up again that’s for sure.

Lucas Allen – The Deep End

A while back Hamilton Anglers Club held a trip in Taumaranui to fish the well regarded waters surrounding this region. I was fortunate enough to pick up a spot and jump in on the action. Matt, his partner Sophie and I bowled down the line after work on Friday and got into the camp dining room just as the others were about to start 2nds for the nights meal. The shit talking was already in abundance and somehow amongst this we arranged our beats for the following day.

Our sleeping quarters were on the better side of not too bad – pretty warm and no rocks in the mattresses. This ensured a well needed rest and sleep in until 7am. Porridge and fresh coffee were devoured and in short order we were on our way. The camp ground at Taumaranui is so close to the river we could hear it. A quick check to see if the rain over the last few days had affected it heralded smiles all round.

We headed South and straight to the beat that is fast becoming one of my new favourites. No cars in the car park and we were straight into it, in fact so quick I popped out of the bush and stared directly at a trout. I had the honours and thought my new R2 reel couldn’t be blessed better – I was wrong. Somehow in the slightly murky water it picked us up and slipped the cordon. All 3 of us fished  through the likely spots and started to question ourselves…

With the sun still low and at our backs we edged upwards. I left Sophie and her coach to explore the next pool. A decent brown feed in a bypass but the sun and positioning of myself made it impossible to fire one out to it. Hugging a tree I attempted a few lack lustre shots at it. No joy. Another fish metres up and the same result. Bugger this, I pushed on and tried a stretch with better angles.

Sure enough the tactic worked and soon after I had a fight on my hands. If you want a scrap these fish pack some serious grunt and will push you around like you were Beth Hekes bitch. Even the little tackers go like stink. I’ve since been advised the 8wt is a better option at times!We had more club members coming along and they headed up further. Sophie and Matt caught up and we tried another pool before we called lunch and turned back to the Truck. A quick drive and we had the best tailgate Ham and Cheese rolls in town at our new location. From here we walked to a spot that was recommended by a fellow member.

This resulted in a nice wee brown and another flighty ‘bow. One of those pools that has major holding promise and massive summer terrestrial potential. As Sophie was feeling rather ill by now – seems the flu was doing the rounds of a few others to – we decided to head closer to the camp grounds. We jumped back in the ride and floored it back to the Whanganui. This stretch gets a hammering but for some reason just keeps on keepin on.

As funny as it seems there were fish at each end of this rainbow. It was touching the bank on our side so this is where we started. Soon enough Sophie had a fish to the net then promptly had a much deserved sleep next to some (a lot of) sheep shit. I was just up river and at times we had double hook ups culminating in some unsavoury words yelled from Matt as he dropped “the brown of the trip”. He was having a rough day but was a stellar guide to Sophie.

That night we all regrouped and tallied our days efforts. I was pretty chuffed with my days total hooking 9 and landing 9, not every day you nail a 100% strike rate. 31 fish landed by 10 anglers, biggest brown was 3.3lb to Craig and a 4.25 lb rainbow went to Steve. There were a few stories of trophys lost so it’s good to know they’re about. We all piled into the Taumaranui RSA courtesy van and went to watch the first Ireland v ABs game. Talk about being on the set for Once Were Warriors x Boy movies, what a hard case bunch of local characters. Once back at the camp we set about solving the worlds fishing problems over some reds and a good blue.

The next morning dawned pretty much the same, foggy and threatening to drizzle. Perfect if you ask me. The rivers were still clearing and we decided to put Sophie onto some fish from where we finished up the night before.

The plan worked in no time and she nailed a few fish in quick succession. All nice rainbows in tiptop condition.

After scoring a handful more fish each we started the drive home. Matt had a lovely King Country stream to try that fed the Whanganui. We dropped in near a country sports ground and set to work. In the second pool a slight twitch had the indicator struck at and I was away.

Hot potato
This Jack was a feisty little bastard. It only took 3 attempts with the self timer while he splashed water all over the show, including the lens! Sophie “tag and released” a beauty brown and soon after we turned back to the truck to push up further. This section had the lovely setting of native bush blended with farmland. We made friends with the huge local Fantail population – at times 3 would be cheekily perched on your rod.

Matt spied a good fish gobbling away in the tea-stained water and crashed down the bank while we peered over the cliff to spot for him. After ironing out the drift it moved sideways to intercept. Then all hell broke lose as it found the closest log to hide under. It happened to be right by Matt and he tried in vain to stop it but to no avail. A flash of colour and it snapped free.That was to be it for the weekend. Bloody good fishing in some familiar water and exploring some virgin water – good times. There were no stand out flies although a Hot UV spot did help. Anything from a H & C, Pheasant Tail or small Olive Naturals were being picked up in the grubby water.

It has rained nicely over the last few days and coupled with the cold snap last week the Winter fishing around these ways should be sparking up even more so. A quick look at reports suggest the Tongariro was around 50 cumecs and highly fishable.

As I have a few things on over the next few weeks I’m going to sneak off for a fish this Friday. Here’s hoping for a cold, miserable dark night.

I’ve also been busy at the vice making flies and hope to post up a new Green Caddis that will be ripper for the Tongariro this Winter. Stay tuned, stay warm.

Lucas

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