I’ve never been very good at studying. Particularly not when all I can think of is that instantaneous loss of tension that comes with losing a big fish. I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I lose a fish I can’t help but replay it over and over in my head. What should I have done? If I’d just put more pressure on to start with? If only I’d struck a little harder? Well after a few days thinking like that I realised there was only one thing I could do about it… I could seek redemption.
The day began at the ungodly hour of 3:15am when I awoke, crawled into a shower, realised we were out of gas, and thus hot water, and finally crawled out of the shower a cold shivering mess. I managed to force feed myself about 37 pieces of toast, knowing that I’d need the energy. Picked Andrew up and we were on the road bang on 4am. It was a long drive to get there and an equally long walk into the river. The goal was to walk downstream for a couple of hours, before fishing our way back up. Only problem was that we kept spotting fish on the way down, then trying to catch them despite having just walked straight in front of them. Needless to say we didn’t catch any like this.
Finally we reached our turn around point, a braided section that allowed us to cross the swollen river. I think we’d probably walked about 3 minutes before spotting a large brown cruising a piece of slack water. Andrew cast out his stonefly and got no reaction at all. I suggested that he gave it a little twitch, thinking the fish could easily take the large green fly for either a damselfly or a small bully. Well, that certainly got a response. The fish followed it, getting closer each time the fly moved…then finally striking… and promptly swimming off, leaving Andrew with a very perplexed look on his face. Ah well. Andrew blind fished his way up the pool before I spotted a large shape – worth a cover. First cast over it and bang, Andrew’s rod doubles over. Cool.
Good fight with a couple of jumps before the net closes over this cracker.
I think Andrew was quite happy?
Not a bad way to start off the day…
Well I was up next… I spotted a fish feeding on the lip. The slack water in between necessitated a fairly long cast. Out goes the flies… drifting down happily…and then past the fish. I was about ready to recast when Andrew made an excited sound and shouted for me to strike. Unfortunately my reaction was akin to a sloth and the other fish, which had come from between a spot in the rocks to take my fly, had spat it. It’s just a little bit frustrating when you’ve dropped a good fish lately, then missed the strike on another good fish. To add insult to injury a couple of casts later this same fish came up and had a go at my dry fly. Now whether it bumped my tippet on the way up or perhaps it simply missed the fly, I watched the dry completely avoid the fishes mouth. Bugger once more.
The run above this last one held several good fish, most of which showed complete disdain when presented with my offerings. A long bronze shape at the head of the pool turned down a couple of flies, but it simply couldn’t resist the mother of all, double tungsten beaded, rubber legged, purple stonefly.
Came pretty damn close to my backing, can’t even remember the last time that’s happened…
And the fish. The satisfaction of finally seeing the net close over a fish, and a good one at that, cannot be aptly put into words. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Equilibrium had been restored to the world yet again.
Prospecting a side braid a wee bit further up the river Andrew hooked another fiesty brown on the secret fly. This guy did the usual brownie scrap in the shallows before he too succumbed to the pressure.
Andrew is a strange man.
Well my turn on deck again, and it didn’t take long before we spotted another fish. One of the most refreshing aspects of the whole day was the sheer number of fish we saw – stark contrast to most of the rivers we had fished this season. This guy had the audacity to reject the secret fly, but soon succumbed to an outrageous creation of my own invention just a couple of casts later.
Mine’s bigger… er…tongue, that is.
One for the ladies…
After this fish we were feeling pretty damn good about the day, so took turns fishing at the rest of the fish we saw. I must have gotten lucky, cause the next fish that I fished to took a liking to the secret fly. There’s something enormously satisfying that follows a successful strike. That solid contact with the fish, and those few seconds where it hasn’t yet decided to tear off across the river. And then the bedlam when it realises it’s hooked and does everything in its power to get rid of it. I was in a bit of a tough position here, as one hundred metres downstream was a nasty logjam, and there was only one spot where landing a fish was particularly feasible. Oh well, let’s just hope it’s hooked well. Pressure goes on, and I manage to swing the fish into the shallows where Andrew pounces with the net.
Fantastic looking fish this one…
And another angle…
We kept plowing our way up the river with Andrew on strike. Unfortunately a few fish decided to do the dirty on him, spitting his fly in record time. A bit further up we came across a nice fish feeding on the edge of some fast water. While he was changing his fly I saw the fish rise. ‘Give a parachute adams a go, bro.’ I always offer helpful advice. Well, this was a rare occasion where the advice was in fact helpful, with the fish rising and taking the adams on its second drift. Andrew damn near hit his backing here, as the fish tore across the stream in very heavy water. Thankfully the hook and knots held, and he was able to beach another cracking fish.
This was quite a rare day, as Andrew actually smiled for some of the photos.
That was it on the fish front. We ate our last sandwich and packed down our rods beside the river, the dying sun beating down upon us. If it wasn’t for the fact that we knew we had a good hour and a half of tough walking ahead of us then it would’ve been nice to sit there a while longer and reflect on a day well spent.
Sadly there was no escaping the walk. We were exhausted by the time we reached the car. We’d arrived at around 7am, and only reached the car again at 6 50pm. It had been a big day, but it had been a very good day.My need to catch fish has been quelled (at least for now) and I might actually be able to get some work done.
I know I’ve said it several times now, but this actually will be the last decent report until the 9th of November. Might do a quick fly tying post later in the week, but other than that it’ll be study study study. I hate exams.
So ya know how I said I would be knuckling down to work and not sneaking out fishing for a few weeks? Yeah, well… I was lying. I need redemption from last saturday, so I’m off fishing tomorrow. I’ll chuck up a report when I get back.
P.S. To my parents – When you read this please note that I have been working hard for the last few days. Also if I didn’t go fishing tomorrow I would spend the day thinking about going fishing. It’s for the greater good, honestly.
Just a quick post from me, mainly because I haven’t really got anything too significant to say (not that that has ever stopped me in the past…)
I’ve been fishing a couple of times, with a resounding lack of success sadly. Last saturday Andrew and I busted our asses driving to and then tramping into a fairly remote river. We’d had great success here last year, but this year didn’t match. We simply didn’t see the numbers we saw last year. I’ve since been enlightened by a learned fellow that more fish hold for longer in this stream after a mouse year (i.e. last year). Over the course of the whole day we saw probably 5 or 6 fish, admittedly they were all of a very good size. I realised that Andrew had hooked one when I heard him exclaim profanities at losing it seconds later. I was to suffer an altogether more tortuous fate a little later in the day. We spotted a fish feeding in a deep gut in the tailout of a pool, which I covered with a dirty double bunny. We’d had remarkably little interest in nymphs, so streamers were the logical choice. On about the 2nd or 3rd pass the fish bolted forwards, spooked I assumed, until the line grew taught and the fish dived deep into the pool. I proceeded to do a beep test across the river (If any of you don’t know what a beep test is then the New Zealand education system has failed you) before the fish bolted downstream through some rapids. I was feeling pretty confident as I had fairly hefty tippet on and had been putting some serious pressure on the fish. Ah, almost beached…just gotta get the net under it. And then slack. That awful feeling that resonates in the pit of your stomach. Euphoria turns to despair. Delight to disaster. I watched as a 6-7lb brownie lay stunned in the flow, before making good his escape. This proved to be the last catchable fish we were to see for the trip. The walk back wasn’t aided when I slipped over not once, but twice, caning both my leg and knee in the process. The perfect preparation for a long walk out…
Desperate for redemption I snuck out with a mate to a couple of local spots, intending to capitalise on the bright sunshine and lack of wind. Enter storm. As soon as we got to the river the whole place gusted furiously. The enthusiasm soon waned and I started to take a couple of photos.
I thought this one was kinda neat in an evocative and moody way.
And another… (We’ll pretend he was hooked up to a fish and not a tree…)
That’s all for now I’m afraid. Reports might be a bit sparse from now until the 9th of November as I have some rather painful exams to get through. However, once they’re over then I should be fishing as much as my bank balance allows. Expect a heap of reports and cool photos.
It’s a small world when two Riverworks Pro Team members run into each other on the river near Murchison, neither of them had met before!
Sadly I haven’t been fishing myself. An essay requiring in depth analysis of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim rule has dealt to that. When I can’t get out fishing myself I like to live vicariously through the pictures of others. One thing I’d love to see with this blog is a lot more user interaction (that means you guys out there reading it!). If you’ve got a cool photo of a fish you caught in Riverworks gear then get in touch, it’d be great to be able to do a post every month with photos that you guys have submitted!
Here’s a brief one to kick things off.
Kerry managed to eclipse his personal best with this fantastic 7lb brownie. I’ve fished this river myself, and I know just how hard the fish in here can be to catch. Truly a fantastic achievement Kerry. The jacket looks sharp too…
Right, gotta knuckle down tonight and get the rest of this essay done. That way I’ll give myself permission to go fishing on saturday chasing some more big browns!
Surprise surprise, I went fishing again.
Had another early start, fuelling up with one of Andrew’s trademark fry ups. These breakfasts are pretty damn crucial if you plan to have a really big day on the river, heaps of beans, toast, eggs – all the good stuff. We headed off to a small stream which I had intended to fish on opening day, but due to high flows couldn’t. After a long drive filled with conversations not fit to print we arrived at our destination. The river was carrying a touch of colour, but was certainly fishable.
We did a bit of bush bashing to get down to the river and pottered our way up for a minute or two. Andrew made a passing comment about how fishy the eye of the pool ahead looked, and what do you know, there was a fish. I was first up today and commenced my attempts with a size 16 version of my go-to nymph. I wish I could say that the fish took it with wild abandon, however this was not the case. In fact the whole time I fished to it the brownie didn’t swing to take a natural once. Changed nymphs several times before settling for a fly I had received in a flyshop flyswap (Thanks HerkDrvr/JD). The weight on the fly just seemed right, plus it had that tinge of red which can so often trigger a response early season. My first cast went slightly wide but the second was drifting right over its nose. The fish didn’t appear to move a muscle. It just sat there finning in the current. Hang on, my indicator just dropped. STRIKE! It must have simply opened its mouth to intercept the passing nymph. Immediately after feeling the prick of the hook the fish took off for the other side of the river. I put as much pressure on it as I dared and managed to halt its progress. A dogged battle ensued in the middle of the stream before I began to get the upper hand. Finally the fish was in the net thanks to a graceless (but hella effective) swipe from Andrew. Upon examination the fly was barely imbedded right on the neb.
This is how close I was to losing it.
And the prey we seek.
That proved to be the one and only fish we saw in that stream for the day. After being bluffed a couple of times due to the heavy flow we ended up cutting our losses and heading back to the car to continue our day elsewhere.
We ended up deciding to have a potter up a delightful small stream that neither of us had fished in the past. Started slowly without seeing much. I was on one side of the stream with Andrew on the other. Suddenly he exclaimed ‘****’, the bow wave heading upstream explaining to me the cause of his frustration. Not much further up he spotted a fish apparently unaffected by the spooked fish’s antics. First cast over it with a small colubriscus and bang, fish on.
A good bend in the rod.
We pottered up a bit further before spotting a fish sitting just back from a branch in the tail out of a pool.
Spot the fish.
I couldn’t quite rustle up Andrew’s first cast magic, and ended up changing my flies several times before finally hooking the fish on a small #16 grey and brown nymph. It put up a pretty damn good scrap given the confines of the small stream, but eventually it too succumbed to the pressure.
A great fish for such a small stream.
Grip and grin.
We prospected our way up for another 15 minutes before Andrew again spotted a fish. It was sitting just off a swirling back current, clearly darting into the swirl to feed. Andrew pitched his nymph into the back current and we enjoyed a great visual of the fish moving a good metre to take his nymph. This proved to be the scrap of the day, really making his reel sing.
Hey there fish.
After this we continued our way up, but didn’t see another fish. Possibly they were having their afternoon tea break, but the glare was pretty crappy. We turned back, content with our efforts. I tried to make friends with the old lady in the tea room on the way home, she was not friendly back.
This may well be my last report for a couple of weeks. I’ve got 3rd year law exams starting in just a couple of weeks, so for the first time ever I may have to prioritise something over fishing. Keep the comments coming guys, and be sure to subscribe in order to stay posted.
1st October comes round every year, this season I went South to fish the upper Wairau River on Rainbow and Molesworth Stations.
Driving up the Wairau Valley from Blenheim didn’t look promising, water everywhere and rivers were bank to bank in a deep chocolate colour. We tried to push through to the hut on Thursday night, however flooded side creeks made the fords uncrossable. We stayed in St Arnaud on Thursday night while we waited for the Side Rivers to drop. Thanks to a little help from a local machine operator early Friday morning we made it through to the Sedgemere Sleep Out around lunch time.
The Wairau was still a write off, so after lunch we headed over to Fish Lake. Plenty of good sized fish cruising along the edge of the lake however they were too cunning for us. After fishing the sheltered edge of the lake it was time to chill out with cold beer out of the wind. It’s a tough life!
The Wairau was still filthy on Saturday morning so we headed over to Lake Tennyson to fish the lake and upper Clarence River. High flows and only a couple of km’s of high fishable water made it difficult. We eventually retired to the lake to throw a few spinners, after an hour of bitterly cold wind we packed it in and headed back to the hut for a spot of shooting and dinner.
I’m looking forward to heading back to the upper Wairau once the weather is a little more settled. Amazing country that you have to see to appreciate!
Had a half day out fishing yesterday, just thought I’d throw up a quick report.
After the ordeals of last weekend I wasn’t at all upset when Andrew suggested a slightly later start. We didn’t really have any expectations from the trip, just both had a day off so thought we’d capitalise on it. As we arrived at the destination there was a breath of wind and the water was crystal clear. Oh, and it was damn hot! Felt like the first of those baking hot Canterbury summer days (I half expected to hear cicadas). Got rigged up and made our way down to the river. Blind fished a few pools just to get our rhythm before spooking a nice brown out of the shallows.
As we got round the bend we spotted a fish sitting in the shallows. My turn. Changed down to a small #16 hare and copper with a tiny black tungsten bead. I honestly can’t remember the last time I used a hare and copper, but the weight on this one seemed right for the current and depth. Put a couple of casts past it before it started to move upstream quite fast, spooked perhaps. I ran after it casting madly, not giving myself any chance of success. Then the indicator drops. In. The fish went hard. Put a heap of hurt on this fish and eventually brought him to the net.
We wandered up a bit further and were about to cross the head of a pool when I spotted something. Andrew drifted his two nymph rig past it (a colubriscus and an abomination with rubber legs) a couple of times to no response. Maybe it’s not a fish. One last cast though. And that’s when the dark shape decides to swing. Bang. On. As soon as it jumped we knew this was a big fish. At one point the lead fly (the abomination) got caught in this fishes side, and from that point it was a long and dour fight. Not being able to control a fishes head really changes the dynamics of the fight, you simply can’t put pressure on to turn them. As it was, after a hairy river crossing and negotiating a low lying branch, the big brownie was brought to the net.
8.5lbs of New Zealand backcountry brown.
Very big head and shoulders on this one.
After this point the day turned. The wind picked up and our desire to wander dropped. We pottered up a few more pools, spooked a couple of fish and had a couple more fish. But the real magic was behind us.
Stopped briefly at a pub on the way home for the mandatory pint (Andrew’s shout) before making our way back to Christchurch at a very reasonable hour.
Open season mean’s crystal clear water, hot days and free rising browns, right? For some reason my mind tells me that even though September 30th might be crap weather, the 1st of October will be a perfect day; a combination of all of last seasons good memories (and none of the bad). It brings with it so much expectation and excitement that one can’t help but be slightly disappointed when virtually every river in the region is a complete write off.
Andrew and myself had plans to fish a small stream on Friday, we weren’t going to let the weather get in our way. An outrageously early start saw me dining on baked beans, toast, bacon and eggs at his place around 3:30am. The car ride flew by as we discussed plans for the season. Passing lowland rivers we saw that they were fairly dirty, but hey, the upper reaches will be fine. Except the water didn’t really get much clearer the further up the river system we went. Sure, each tributary we passed reduced the sediment a bit, but the flows were still enormous. Arriving at our intended destination we waited a few minutes till daybreak before heading out to look at the stream. We hadn’t gone more than 5 minutes before realising that further exploration was pointless; it was all but in flood!
Ah well, Andrew had (as he always does) a plan B. No cars in the car park, so we started the trek into the river. When we finally saw it the flow was high, but it wasn’t actually too dirty. We blind fished a few pools despite the fact that this river holds a very low population of large fish. A few kilometres further up the river Andrew spotted a fish in the run he was prospecting. The next thing I heard (I think everyone in the valley probably heard it too) was ‘Oh ****’. One seriously spooked fish scarpered pretty quickly after getting pricked. Heading further up the river we only saw one more fish, which Andrew covered. On the way back downstream he decided to swing a streamer back through this lie. When he was halfway through the pool I saw a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye. Big streamers tend to get a pretty strong reaction, but this fish simply swum slowly up behind it before engulfing it. Bang. Fish on. Andrew literally screamed like a small girl. He’s not really much of a winter fisherman, so it’d been a while between drinks.
A good bend in the rod
Big fish like big bites of protein.
A fantastic start to the season.
Sadly I didn’t manage one that day. Given the numbers in that stream I wouldn’t be surprised if I hadn’t covered a fish all day. Sure, I felt a little envious, but Andrew deserved it. Over winter he’s put a hell of a lot of effort into tying streamers and learning how to fish them for situations exactly like this. Even though I didn’t catch a fish it was still a supremely satisfying day. Getting out there on a day where everyone else probably stayed at home, using our heads and finding the only clean water in the region, and then finally catching a cracker brownie in tough conditions: a very challenging, but rewarding start to the season.
Having a 21st the night before doesn’t typically leave you in a great state to go fishing the next morning. I’d made plans to head out nice and early with Isaac, so I felt a bit bad sending him a text saying I would be an hour or so late picking him up. The rivers we had intended to fish were pretty much shafted, so we decided to do a wee bit of exploring close to home. To be honest, the only thing that really came from the day was that we were able to help out a guy who had gotten his car stuck.
Fancy a Land Rover pulling out a Toyota…
I gave Isaac a choice of heading into the hills that night and crashing in the car, or getting up at 4am the next morning. He chose a night in the car. After exploring the prospects for the next day we headed back to the camp-site, which I later dubbed the Hilton, for some kai. We ate like kings.
Big Mac ain’t got nothing on that.
The view from the campsite.
A good mate had once mentioned to me about these hot springs on the banks of a river, and after a fair bit of searching we found them. It was truly idyllic lying in scalding hot water on the sides of a river in heavy flow staring up at the stars. Very much befitting of a night spent at a Hilton.
The next morning saw us prospecting up the lower reaches of a fairly well known river. Isaac got a strike early on, but failed to hook up. Further up the stream we saw a nice fish feeding in a run. I believe I threw every single fly in my box at it over the course of an hour. Yet it simply continued to feed. Due to the currents in the pool I’m not actually convinced the fish saw my fly. However, it couldn’t help but see the 10cm long streamer I threw at it next.
Protein bars for trout.
The first fish of the season.
We headed further upstream and saw some fantastic water and a few more fish, but sadly couldn’t hook anything else.
Picture perfect pool
After getting bluffed we returned to the car for some refuelling.
Isaac really went to town on that orange.
On our way home we decided to have a flick in a very high and dirty river. I decided to go bling with my big gold beaded stonefly pattern (I’m actually quite taken with this pattern, so will probably post a picture of it at some stage) while Isaac was going to dredge the depths with his homemade 5wt shooting head. I think I’d made maybe 3 casts before I hooked a very well conditioned wee brownie.
Another brownie on a big gold beadhead.
After this Isaac got a few strikes and a couple of hookups, but sadly nothing stuck. It was a fairly tough day as far as the fishing went, but just so good to be out there again. I remember saying to someone before the weekend ‘Search out stable water. Some rivers fish better high. Big flies. Bling flies. Streamers.’ Turned out to be a bit prophetic really.
Heading out Wednesday and Friday with Andrew again in search of some big fish now that the open season jitters are behind us. How’d your opening weekend go? Leave a comment and let me know.