Andrew Hearne – Opening Day 2011. When the going gets tough
Its that time again… the 2011 – 2012 season has officially begun.What an epic beginning it was.
It goes a little something like this…
A couple of weeks back the plan was developed. On Thursday afternoon Jack came to my place and we went off to the supermarket to buy the food for the trip. Early Friday morning saw me collecting Jack from his place, and from there we went straight to McDonalds for a healthy breakfast of hash browns and massive mcmuffins to kick start our trip.
We were on our way at last. I always have the feeling I’ve forgotten something, and an hour into the drive I realised this that this time I actually had left something important at home. I’d left the sandwiches behind. They were supposed to be our lunch for that day as well as the next. It was too far to go back and get them, so we would just have to stop and buy something somewhere.
We arrived at the start point for the journey late in the morning where we met with our mate Mike Kirkpatrick from Nelson. We first met Mike on the river last season during our November trip. We kept in touch after that, and some of you may remember a previous report of a trip I went on with Mike near the end of last season.
From there it was a solid couple of hours four wheel driving and mountain biking to the hut where we were to base ourselves for the weekend. Along the way we saw plenty of great looking fish which were begging to be caught. We all agreed the fish must have known it was the day before the trout season. They were feeding like crazy.
This is how we roll..
We organised our gear in the hut and had some lunch (Scones, not sandwiches) before heading up to where we would fish the next day on a reconnaissance mission. It was a beautiful day and all three of us liked what we saw.
Mike observing the promised water of tomorrow
More on this one later…
This one was about 5 metres upstream from the last one
We wandered the river for a couple of hours and returned to the hut full of enthusiasm from what we had seen. Dinner that night was venison curry and rice followed by chocolate and some fancy pants whisky which Jack brought with him to celebrate the new season.
Telling lies in the hut
As always, the sleep you get in a hut is as good as you’ll get anywhere. I slept like a log and from what I could gather, Jack and Mike did the same. Saturday morning dawned fine and after a quick breakfast and tidy up we were on our merry way down to the river. The time had come.
We all set our gear up at the bottom of a big run with a creek feeding in at the top. Mike suggested I try my luck.
After searching the lower part of the run I launched a cast into the heavier stuff at the top where the creek came in and I saw a big dark shape coming towards my fly. Instinct took over at that point and I lifted the rod into the weight of a solid brownie. I was on!
It was a quick fight. Jack went in like a hound dog when given the command to go forward with the net. I let out a fair bit of noise once it was secured in the mesh and we even high fived. Unfortunately Mike captured all of this on his video camera.
The season was officially underway
From memory, this is the fastest I’ve ever caught a fish in a new season. Its fair to say I was pumped for quite a while after this.
A while later we came to the pool where we saw the two fish in the pictures from the day before. By now it was completely overcast and it didn’t look like the forecast rain was very far away.
Mike started fishing at the bottom fish while I filmed. Several fly changes later it was still feeding, but I had stopped filming. This fish was locked on to something and so far we hadn’t figured out what.
I’d hate to think how many different patterns and sizes of fly that fish saw, but it was a lot. Eventually after Jack covered it with about 15 drifts with one fly it opened wide and accepted the offering.
Hooked up after a thousand and one presentations!
Jack landed the solid brown within a couple of minutes and he too was officially welcomed into the 2011 – 2012 season with a couple of handshakes.
The next one was fished at for quite some time before it eventually spooked away. They were being very fussy, and it looked like we would have to work hard for them.
Mike missed a take on a fish in a small pool. He was a bit gutted, but there were more to be found further upstream. The light wasn’t as good as the day before when we came for our walk, but we knew roughly where they would be.
It wasn’t too much longer and Mike was casting at another good looking fish. This time there was no need for him to change his fly, it swung to the left on the first cast and took his possum fur nymph.
Soon after that Mike was holding his first victim.
By now the weather had set in and the camera had to be stowed away in the pack. It would be brought out to take pictures of fish, but that was all. The next fish we found was rising. In all my years I can’t recall a time when I witnessed a fish caught on a dry fly on opening day, but that was all about to change.
Jack threw a pink posted parachute over the rising fish and up it came. The strike hit home and after a spirited battle I lifted a very golden fish into the net. I was more than a little jealous that he’d caught it on a dry.
From there we found another one rising. This one was in a narrow pool with a solid rock wall on the far side. It was darkened somewhat by the overhanging trees and the fish was hard to see a lot of the time. Fortunately it kept poking its face above the water to reveal its whereabouts whenever we lost sight of it.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. Mike had to cover the fish several times before it finally took his dry. This fish fought a very stubborn and dogged fight for several minutes before it could be lasnded. It was a great fish, caught in a great way.
It was my turn again after that. We were approaching a pool which I was going to fish, but on the way there we found a fish feeding in the run below.
I took up position and after a couple of casts I was in business again. I leant into the fish as it tried to get among the cutty grass overhanging on the near bank. Once again Jack did a splendid job of securing the fish. I don’t think Mike has ever seen people land fish the way we do. It isn’t always pretty, but I like to think of it as very efficient and effective.
The successful fly being filmed
The big pool had a couple in there, but a big tree stopped Mike and Jack from being able to fish at them effectively. The run above held another fish which didn’t look like it was up to much until Jack put a nymph in the right place. The fish was swinging to the right every time it fed, and as soon as the fly went through the right channel, it was once again business time.
Mr Kos’ third victim of the day
By this stage it was getting late, and we didn’t want to be walking back to the hut in the dark, but there was one more run which we knew would have fish.
After a few more minutes crashing our way up the stream we came to the run, and found a couple of fish. The first one spooked after a couple of fly changes, but the second eventually took a size 16 nymph after refusing other patterns. It was landed quickly and the formalities completed just as fast before it was released.
Last fish for the day
After that it was a quick march through the rain back to the hut. We ate steak and pasta that night and we talked about the day and how special it had been. We caught plenty of fish, but not many of them came easily. All but two required at least one fly change for success.
It rained heavily right through the night and the river came up an incredible amount. The next day the water was unfishable and we only just managed to make it out through the high water. I guess the timing had been right for us really. If the rain arrived a day earlier it would have been a different story.
That is as good a start to a fishing season as any I’ve ever had before. It was a great couple of days away, in a great place, with great people, and we caught some truly special fish.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’m going fishing again!