The days before the start of the season pass by in somewhat of a trance. I should have been paying attention in lectures this week, but all I could think of was a large brown swinging in the current. If you manage to do anything productive in the days leading up to the 1st of October then you’re a better man than I.
Tomorrow will see me getting up at a disgustingly early hour, heading round to Andrew’s for a hearty breakfast and then beginning the long drive to our location. The goal is a small stream that I know for a fact holds some very large trout. I’ve had good success there in the early season regardless of weather conditions. The idea is to explore as much of the river as we possibly can, hopefully catching a fish or too along the way.
That night I’ve got to rush back to go to a friends 21st. I missed her 20th due to opening season last year, but I think I should probably attend this party seeing as I’m meant to be giving a speech. Think I’ll avoid going to town though considering that I’m planning on getting up at 4am to head back into the hills! I’ll either be by myself or with a mate slumming it in the car over night. At least this time my car will be a bit bigger than the one we slept in at the Tongariro. I’ll be exploring a bit of new water that hopefully won’t experience nearly so much pressure as some of the better known streams.
I don’t actually care too much about catching a fish. I just want to be back walking along the banks of a small stream trying to spot fish again. I’ve missed it. Oh god how I have missed it.
Best of luck for the new season. It’s going to be a great one.
…are worth sweet bugger all when the weather gods conspire to dump one hell of a storm on you. Andrew and myself headed to Nelson this past weekend with well-defined plans of exactly where we wanted to fish each day. Heading out of the Garden City (or does it deserve a new quake related name like the Shaky City?) the weather was dry and windy. As soon as we hit the pass the weather bomb unleashed upon us: there’s just something about driving through horizontal rain that dampens the mood.
Passing by our various river options each was higher and dirtier than the last, so we drove onwards towards Nelson. A brief deviation to a swollen Motueka River was met with the expected results. While we endeavoured to fish the rest of the weekend, the rain, wind and dirty rivers vastly hindered our enjoyment. I kind of gave up on fly-fishing and concentrated on improving my Snap T cast (Very versatile and energy efficient cast when your backcast is limited or you are blind nymphing all day). As it happened the weekend was a bit of a write off as far as the fishing is concerned, but it got me thinking about the importance of adapting to suit the weather conditions. Due to the winter season restrictions and the fact that Andrew had family obligations in Nelson we weren’t able to implement a lot of these suggestions, but they might be very useful for some of you guys to consider before the season starts.
1. Get to know your weather forecasts. By far and away my favourites are those offered at www.metvuw.com. The rain radar will show you rain density and wind strength/direction (although this can initially be a bit confusing – read they key.)
2. Get to know river flow data. Easiest way to do this is to follow the links on Riverworks Weather Info. This’ll direct you to the relevant regional councils websites. While river flows are not always precisely accurate or frequently updated, they can be hugely useful for getting an indication of where to fish.
3. Be willing to change your plans. If you use the two tips above then you should have a good indication of what the weather and rivers are going to be like in the area you plan to fish. If it looks crap, then change your plans. New Zealand isn’t a big place, but you’ve got to be willing to drive if you want to beat the weather.
4. If you do turn up to a river and it’s slightly high and dirty…don’t despair, just change your tactics. If you prefer fishing nymphs and dries then concentrate on fishing the edges of the heavier flow. Often trout, browns in particular, will move into the slower flowing edges and dart into the current to pick out food items. Fish flies that have a bit more colour in them than usual, a bit of flash, a hotspot or go to a larger size.
Here are a few of Andrew’s high water patterns.
My preferred technique for fishing a high river is streamers. Don’t feel that streamers have to be fished on a sinking line, they can be hugely effective fished down and across on a floating line. Again I would use a slightly bigger flashier fly than usual.
5. Lakes are a great option if the weather is crap. My favourite lake fishing setup is a fast sinking line with a green woolly bugger styled booby fly retrieved in short fast strips. I’m far from an expert on lakes, but they often offer a respite from high dirty rivers.
6. If a river is unfishable in its lower reaches then head up the river system. Sometimes tributaries of the main river system can be bringing in large amounts of sediment. Above these tributaries the main river can be perfectly fishable. It certainly isn’t always the case, but it can sometimes rescue an otherwise wasted day.
While this river was closed to fishing at the time we visited it, it would have been perfectly fishable despite the rivers lower down in the system being practically unfishable.
7. Go fishing more often. The more you go fishing in as many different locations as you can, the more you’ll get to know which rivers can handle a bit of rain, which waterways are protected from particular winds and so on. Some rivers actually fish a lot better after a fresh when slightly up, you’ve just got to get to know which.
Bad weather is a fact of life for New Zealand fly fishermen. We can’t avoid it, all we can do is learn to adapt to make the most of it. So what other tips have you guys got for adapting to the bad weather? Leave a comment and let me know.
Fly-fishing naturally lends itself to the setting of goals, be it catching a trophy, catching ten fish in a day or catching a fish from a particular location. My personal goals always seem to involve size (insert inappropriate comment here), although there have been a couple of cursed rivers where, despite the fact that everyone else catches fish there, I never have. One of these is the Otukaikino Stream below Dickey’s road bridge, and the other is the Hutt River. It’s fair to say that both of these rivers get hammered, but I like to think a little voodoo magic is to blame for my lack of success. Well, I’m pleased to say that in the last month I have crossed both of these goals off my list.
A few weeks back Andrew sent me a text asking if I fancied going for a quick photo session down at the Otukaikino. The alternative was sitting on my ass and contemplating the rise of the Ottoman Empire, so of course I was keen! We got down there to find at least 2 other people fishing the 2km stretch of open water. Didn’t matter though, we were really just there to test out Andrew’s new camera (All credit to Andrew for the photos from this trip).
Took a few staged photos. I was really enjoying the casting, fishing a 5wt Lafontaine line on a 6wt Innovation (a motley pairing if ever there was one). Provided you employed strong hauls it actually cast a very nice line and was excellent for in close work, curve casts and mends. Kinda drifted into a nice little casting buzz before mentioning to Andrew ‘You know…I bet we catch something.’ It was said with very little sincerity, as numerous brief trips here had proved fruitless. Then…bang. Indicator drops. ‘Oh, must be some weed. Wait a minute… weed doesn’t fight back. You mean the stream actually holds fish??’ After a spirited fight from the wee fella I had this picture perfect brownie to the bank.
I spent the majority of last season chasing big fish, and compared to them this guy looked like livebait. Yet the satisfaction I derived from finally catching a fish in the Otukaikino was immense. It just proves that a fish doesn’t have to be big to be special. Jack 1, Voodoo 1.
Overcoming the second stage of the evil voodoo curse occurred just last Saturday. Rain bucketed down on Friday night, so I wasn’t particularly hopeful that we’d actually be going fishing the next morning. A quick text to Al at 6am was met with the reply ‘Yup, still keen. Rob’s going to take some photos.’ Good enough for me. The lower river was dirty, so we headed upwards in search of clear water. To my vague amazement we found it.
Swung some streamers through this deep pool and up over the lip for one spirited follow, but no hookup. Moving further upstream we came across a dark and brooding pool. Tannin stained water cascaded through boulders against a backdrop of native bush. Made for quite a picture. Pity Rob was fixated on the even more beautiful pool just below it. Well, I just had to throw a streamer through here. First cast, wham. Fish on. An early jump in the shadowed portion of the pool did nothing to clarify the size of the fish, but did everything to get my heart pumping. In typical dogged brownie fashion the fish was eventually brought to the bank. Well, it wasn’t a denizen of the deep.
Who says brownie’s don’t take gold beads? A primo condition brownie with golden flanks that we estimated at a bit over 4lbs. As with the Otukaikino fish, it wasn’t a monster… But I’d fished the Hutt quite a few times (admittedly before I had any clue what I was doing) and never caught a fish, so this was another special fish for me. Jack 2, Voodoo 0.
Just because I beat the voodoo on these two rivers doesn’t mean its over. The voodoo will be back, it’ll find another river to chuck a cheeky curse on, but for now I like to think I’ve got it beat.
So for this coming season I’ve got three goals that I’d like to achieve.
- Brownie over 10lbs
- Rainbow over 8lbs
- A rainbow from a spring creek
Like I said, most of my goals are about size. Last season I came painfully close to the 10lb mark, but couldn’t quite crack it. This season coming I’ve got a number of trips planned which are dedicated to knocking over this milestone. Fingers crossed.
As far as rainbows over 8lbs go, I’ve had several around the 6lb mark, but never anything bigger. I know they say beggars can’t be choosers, but I’d really love for it to come from a river. I’ve got a few spots lined up which I know have bows of that size, so here’s hoping.
The rainbow from a spring creek goal is, I suppose, a strange goal. I’ve just got this image in my mind of a small perfectly spotted rainbow nymphing in a slot in the weed. It’s not about size, not about numbers, not even about a particular location. It’s about fulfilling the image in my head.
So what’re your goals? Leave a comment, I’m curious to hear what sort of goals other people have. Also if you want to keep updated with new posts on the blog then join the Riverworks page on facebook or chuck your email address into the database.
There’s just something about Turangi. Fly-fishing has permeated the entire town. Sure, the fishing isn’t what it used to be, but it’d be rude not to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. I made plans to head up with Andrew and Joel for a couple of days. Plans is probably overly generous, the whole trip was very spontaneous with minimal planning (as you’ll soon see).
I’d like to say that we spent the whole drive talking about fishing, but the reality is that when 3 guys get together girls is typically the topic of conversation. Although Joel did spend a while ogling my flybox. We made it up there and set about trying to find some accommodation. Remember what I said about planning? After a fruitless session at the mouth of the TT we decided to settle for the luxury accommodation option…the car. The logistics of sleeping 3 guys in a small car is not easy. I think I drew the short straw as I was curled up across the backseat while the others reclined their seats. There was one concerning moment when I cramped up in the middle of the night and wildly kicked out, nearly putting my foot through the window.
The next morning saw a tired group fishing the middle reaches. It didn’t take long before the local expert, Joel, hooked up to a nice 3lb jack. I then displayed remarkable skill in hooking a fish without realising it.
These fresh bows are quite something. 3lb fish tow you right round the pool in the strong current. I fish quite heavy drags in order to get fish to the net quickly and with a minimum of distress, so it was good to see the new reel handle it without a sweat. On the way back to the river I decided that I really needed my morning wash, so took a small unintentional swim. Bugger me that river is cold. It was a good test for my new pelican camera case though, as no water leaked through it. A few minutes later I found out that Andrew shares my skill at hooking fish, as he wasn’t quite sure whether he had one on or not until his reel started screaming. The noise seemed to induce some sort of catatonic state as his smile didn’t leave for at least an hour.
While I only managed 1 more fish, Joel proceeded to show off by catching 3 more before the fishing slowed.
A move up river brought immediate results. I hooked 3, landing two, out of a deep slow flowing pool. One fish was particularly satisfying, as it required a long downstream presentation with a heap of stack mends.The next spot was a bit of a partyzone, with 7 other anglers trying to fish the same pool.
I managed another nice bow out of here, but the number of anglers was a bit of a deterrent, so we headed off to find solitude (a rare occurrence on the big T). Walking through the trout centre we debated the likeliness of being caught if we dropped our line (accidentally of course) into the small creek flowing through there – I reckon a hare and copper might look enough like a pellet to do well.
He’s got the river pretty well sorted, so it wasn’t much surprise when he pulled 5 fish out of the one pool. The best was this picture perfect 6.25lb brownie.
I’d like to say I did the same, but truth be told I just got grumpy.
There was a breeze blowing downstream which wreaked havoc with my tracking leading to a number of flies lost in bushes behind. After a couple of unlucky misses Andrew managed a nice bow late on in the piece.
With the sun setting we beat our retreat. Dinner was a formal affair of fish and chips eaten in the car and washed down with a service station ice cream.
All up it was a great trip, good company, good weather and good fishing. However, next time I’ll be sure to book accommodation!
Zane Mirfin, Wildside Column, When the Kahurangi Lion Roared, The Nelson Mail
Outdoors people can have thousand of safe and enjoyable experiences in New Zealand, but things can sometimes turn pear-shaped without warning.
“As I reached the main river I witnessed a huge wall of water, carrying whole trees, as the river exploded in front of my eyes”
Our kids are only allowed to watch one weeknight TV programme and this winter they chose Man vs Wild. This is where a British ex-military guy, armed only with a knife, challenges himself to survive in hostile environments all over the world. I had the greatest time snuggling up with four children in the spare room watching the programme with them. Explaining things to the kids along the way, it was great to see them thinking and asking about survival and coping in the outdoors. After the programme we would
often talk about some of my own adventures in the outdoors and I’d regale them with tales of land crabs in equatorial Kiribati, fishing with bears in British Columbia, living on moose meat with Lapp reindeer herders north of the Arctic Circle, even catching trout in Colorado lakes at altitudes higher than Mt Cook.
My heart as an outdoorsman belongs firmly in New Zealand, and here I’ve had thousands of happy, safe and enjoyable outdoor experiences and episodes. But ones that really stand outare where things haven’t gone as planned and an outdoor trip has become an outdoor survival epic.
Most of my truly gruelling adventures have involved water, particularly extreme rainfall and flooded rivers. On one hunting trip into the remote Whataroa River in South Westland, we were marooned on a piece of high ground between an absolutely angry main river and two raging side creeks. Confined to a sodden pup tent for four days in abysmal deluge conditions, it was quite an experience.
With improved knowledge and modern equipment, the outdoors should be a much safer place. Regrettably, this isn’t always so and people still regularly make bad decisions and take fatal risks.
Perhaps my greatest outdoor challenge so far was in Kahurangi National Park, on the banks of the famed Roaring Lion River. It had rained overnight, but the river was low and clear as I crossed at daylight in search of some easy venison before the chopper was due to pick us up at lunchtime.
We had just completed an arduous fishing adventure further up the river on foot and I was feeling bullet-proof. Under-dressed in shorts, poly-pro singlet, PVC raincoat and aknife belt, I commenced stalking around grassy river-flat areas hoping for a deer to show itself, when it happened.
Water appeared from nowhere in a gushing waterfall high on the hillside above the Beautiful River (a Roaring Lion tributary), and in one motion I turned and ran toward the main river instinctively knowing what was going to happen next.
As I ran up the dry riverbed, water rushed to meet me. Dirty water, mixed with sticks and vegetation, rose alarmingly up my legs. As I reached the main river I witnessed a huge wall of water, carrying whole trees, as the river exploded in front of my eyes. A shot from my rifle alerted my sleeping companions to my plight as the full might of the storm hit. I couldn’t find shelter as the rain fair pelted down, turning the forest floor into a swamp. Sitting helplessly under a tree, I started to get cold, and being wet, I started shivering. Without shelter I was probably going to die.
There would be no help from my companions across the flooded river, the helicopter was never going to arrive in such conditions, and the only person who could solve my predicament was me. I decided to make shelter and came up with an idea of using the numerous tree ferns available. Making an A-frame structure, I dragged two rotten logs together to go underneath to get me up off the swampy ground. I spent an hour or so cutting fern fronds with my hunting knife, dressing the shelter, and staying warm in the process. At last I was ready to crawl inside, pulling ferns across the small entrance way. Above me the storm raged as I lay warm and snug in my dark bunker.
When the storm abated, I emerged from shelter, and went to check out the Roaring Lion which while raging had become less angry. Fred managedto throw a can of corn beef and a silver-foil space blanket across the narrowest point in a plastic bag. It didn’t quite make it but I was able to scoop the rapidly sinking bag up with a long stick while hanging out over the river on a small tree, to the cheers of my companions.
Darkness came suddenly, and I retreated 400 metres back into the forest, but I couldn’t find my shelter anywhere. Blundering around, I realised I was facing my second predicament of the day and while at least it wasn’t raining anymore, the wind was rising while the temperature dropped. Wrapping my foil safety blanket around me,I cursed as the old folded foil broke into a hundred useless rectangles. I spent the night so cold I thought my chattering teeth were going to crack every tooth in my jaws, and ended up running round and round a tree in an attempt to stay warm and avoid nodding off into oblivion.
Just when I thought I couldn’t last much longer, a pinprick of light through the forest canopy showed daylight was on the way. Soon the dawnchorus was in full swing as I checked the Lion in the half light. While still big it was clear enough to see the bottom. Bouncing downstream through the chest-and-neck deep crossing with my rifle held over my head, I emerged 50m downstream on the other side, to big hugs from my concerned companions who had hardly slept all night worrying about the idiot on the other side.
Interestingly, Aimee (in the days before marriage) had called home that night while on holiday in France after a bad dream sensing that her beau was in big trouble.
As the chopper pulled us to safety later in the morning, I reflected on the close shave. Since that time, I’ve been more careful outdoors and will always remember the time when I saw the Lion roar.