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.
The day started well…
This solid rainbow took a well weighted colubriscus after several presentations. It was the first fish we saw. I was happy.
This happiness, however, was not to continue.
Andrew and I were planning on putting some serious leg work in and heading up up up. All was going well until we concluded that the gorge was impassable, so we’d have to take the alternate route around. Quite how it happened I’ll never know, but for some ungodly reason Andrew and I found ourselves on opposite sides of the river both following what we thought was ‘the track’. As it transpires my ‘track’ turned out to be nothing more than a blaze trail put in place to get to the pest traps. It was absurdly hard going. There was no defined path, just sporadic animal tracks that all of a sudden gave way to waist high falls through rotten logs. I pushed on for longer than I should have, assuming Andrew had to be ahead of me. Eventually, after managing to injure myself in some unprecedented ways, I beat a retreat. Back at camp I wrote a message in ash on our egg carton, and decided to try and salvage something from the day. After all, it couldn’t get worse, right?
I wasn’t sure quite what section of river Andrew might be fishing or whether he was ahead of me or behind me, so I decided to try and do a deep wade to get myself into a position to fish a bit of awkward to access water. The wade was particularly deep at one point, so I decided to shimmy my way across a couple of rocks. Then all of a sudden I hear an odd noise followed by a thud. I turned, just in time to see my Pelican waterproof camera case falling from my now split bag. The image of the case hitting a rock, splitting open and my Canon G11 sinking to the bottom of the river is seared in my memory. After retrieving the camera I simply sat on a rock in disbelief.
Eventually I gathered myself, crossed the river and started slowly making my way upstream. My heart wasn’t really in it, so I wasn’t hopeful when I spotted a smudge sitting a foot from the edge. I had to sit on a log to fish to this fish, so there was a little novelty to the attempt. My first cast was perfect. My second saw the wee beadhead pheasant tail rocket into the water about 6 inches to the right of the fishes face. He ate. The fight was uneventful, but the capture of my first brownie (and quite a solid one at that) of the trip raised my mood slightly. As for the pictures, well…you get the idea.
A little after this Andrew and I bumped into each other. He commiserated with me over the demise of my camera and we commenced our assault on the river in earnest.
It wasn’t until we came to a major bend in the river that created a large swirling pool that the action heated up. Andrew pulled a good fish from the head of the pool that had been rising consistently. It was a horrible drift because of the swirling currents, but eventually the fish ate his wee nymph. It then tore madly around the pool until he subdued it.
I figured that had to be the end of that pool after the antics of Andrew’s fish. However, a fish in the far side continued to rise. It was moving a long way to feed, so it felt like all I had to do was put the cast in the right place. I did, and it ignored it. It wasn’t until near the end of the drift when the fly started to skate along the surface that the fish tore backwards and engulfed it. I’d like to have hooked it this way, as the aggression was rather neat. Sadly the hook never set. Until the next cast when my nymph got eaten. Fool me once…
It wasn’t the best conditioned fish, but it had been a while between drinks.
We continued searching upstream to no avail. Deciding to hedge our bets and head upstream fast while there was still light we skipped a lot of water. But the gamble paid off. Arriving at a pool we’d seen several fish in the day prior it didn’t take long before we’d spotted on. The fish was cruising a slow beat and inspected Andrew’s fly very closely before refusing it. All of a sudden we realised there was a second fish about 3 metres behind. I can’t remember whether Andrew had to cast again or whether he simply continued the drift, but this time his tiny nymph was intercepted. This fish fought like a trooper. A large log bisected the pool and on numerous occasions I thought the fish had made it there. But Andrew fought it hard and there’s only so long a fish can resist such constant pressure. Eventually a great rainbow was brought to the net.
A little further upstream I got another chance and after getting the drift right I was connected to a silver bullet. It wasn’t quite the scrap that Andrew experienced, but a fit well conditioned rainbow will always give you a run for your money.
With darkness descending we headed back to camp to enjoy the now traditional steak, mash and peas topped off with gravy.
We caught some great fish that day, but unfortunately for me it was a tainted day. Taking all the possible precautions and still drowning my camera was a real slap in the face. Still, you can’t be too upset when you’ve still got 3 more days of fishing ahead of you.
Over to Andrew for the final wrap up…
It’s been a couple of weeks since we got back from our adventure down south. Unfortunately essays have prevented me from posting this earlier.
The whole trip seemed to come around rather quickly and I was in a bit of a surprise to realise it was 1am with the plane leaving in 7 hours and no bags packed. After a rushed pack and a short sleep I met Andrew and Jeremy at the airport. We arrived in Queenstown shortly after and made our way to Chris’s place after a quick stop for a beer and Ferg (Double ferg with blue cheese).
Andrew and I took turns tying abomination flies on Chris’s vice…
While Jeremy stared into space. I think his mind was elsewhere.
That night we ate an enormous pizza each and drank enough to feel merry. The alarm came round all too quickly and we jumped in the car, made our way to breakfast…
And then realised we’d forgotten a crucial item. We backtracked, then drove straight into te anau. A second breakfast followed, before we boarded the boat and took in the scenic views of what has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. After a short walk we made our way to our campsite and commenced building the mancamp.
We were in for 4 days and 3 nights, so it pays to take a little time to get things sorted. It’s not easy to do when you’ve got superb fishing so close by though!
Andrew and I decided to head down and fish our way back to camp whilst Jeremy and Chris fished up. It didn’t take long before we found a fish sipping of the surface in a riffle. It was covering so much ground to feed that putting a cast in front of it was far from a given. After a couple of attempts it took Andrew’s nymph and the game began. A decent bit of sideways pressure saw the fish succumb and Andrew had his first ever Fiordland trout.
It didn’t take long before I got on the board as well with a slightly smaller silver specimen. Further upstream in a big deep pool Andrew got broken off by what appeared to be a very good fish. My turn again saw a nice fit fish to the net after it had inhaled my dry while feeding in the eye of a pool.
Things were going very nicely with three fish to the bank on the first afternoon. I hooked and lost another while Andrew covered a few more fish to no avail. Then in a small pool created by a branch sticking in against a bank I spotted a smudge. Andrew worked his way up the pool as we couldn’t spot the fish precisely. As the flies drifted over the lip the smudge reappeared and swung. I shouted strike just as Andrew lifted the rod. What followed was a classic example of attempting to net a very strong fish in completely inappropriate water. The nearest beach was a decent walk away, so we attempted to net it mid riffle. Given the fact that we succeeded I won’t comment on alternatives, but suffice to say that it’s not the best form.
Andrew with the fish of the day.
After that we made our way back up to camp. Andrew took a leaf out of all teenage delinquents books and started a fire with aerosol deodorant. Once the fire was going we set our minds to dinner – Steak, mashed potatos and peas. Good god was it good.
I went out for a night fish that night and hooked a couple of fish, but didn’t manage to land them. All in all it was a very good first day.
Andrew will be along in a few days time with the next installment.
Popped out for a quick fish with Ryan last Saturday. I’d had a hell of a week with Uni – couple of big assignments including one on freshwater allocation in New Zealand (a difficult topic for a flyfisher to preserve impartiality). So I was feeling a little tired getting up at 5am. Thankfully my reactions weren’t too off as approaching the river I had to swerve fairly wildly to avoid a flying kayak (seriously). That got the blood pumping.
We arrived at the river to bracingly fresh air. The conditions were overcast above us, but the sun was poking its way out on the horizon. A substantial backwater saw our first target cruising an erratic beat. Ryan put several good casts out there, but unfortunately on every beat the fish would move just wide of the fly and hadn’t seen it. We decided to double team him, so I put on a double emerger setup. Placing our flies so as to cover both of his frequented beats, it was on this loop that he saw my flies. Ever so ever so slowly he rose up to intercept my soft hackle just beneath the surface. Strike, and thump thump…freedom. The hook had obviously hit something hard in his mouth, failed to penetrate and straightened slightly. It was disappointing, but given how long we’d fished to him it was very satisfying to get the take.
We continued upwards without seeing much. A little further up we saw why… A couple of fisherman were ahead of us. We paced our way upstream to see what the go was. Eventually we caught up to them and learned that they’d parked at the same spot as we had had, assumed that we’d gone downstream and walked sufficiently far up stream to get in ahead of us. Now I don’t want to be too critical, because it’s easy to get these things wrong. But I just wanted to take this opportunity to point out a couple of useful little etiquette points. 1) If you arrive to your chosen destination and discover that there’s another fisherman parked up there, don’t assume they’ve gone downstream. There’s about a 90% chance that they’ll be fishing upstream. Obviously this can be a little location dependent, and perhaps I should have left a note stating our intentions, but typically it’s a much more intelligent assumption to presume anglers have gone upstream. 2) If some anglers are walking up behind you clearly trying to catch up to you don’t keep walking and pretend you haven’t seen them. Stop and talk to them and then you’ll be able to reach a compromise that should make both parties happy.
In this instance the guy was pretty reasonable. We asked them how far they were planning on fishing, they said 2km. So we walked 2km upstream and started fishing. It just so happened that the pool we started at contained about 8 rainbows feeding very erratically. We covered the fish without much result before something clicked in my head: swimming mayflies. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier. I chucked on my own bastardisation of Pete Carty’s Oniscigaster nymph, which instantly got results. I’ve found the best tactic for fish feeding on these flies is to fish without an indicator and just a single nymph cast upstream to the far side of the fish. Once it hits the water begin to twitch it back in a strip-stop motion. I’ve found the fish seem to hit the fly on the stop after tracking it during the strip, so don’t be afraid to hold the stop period for a little while.
My cast dropped in upstream of the fish, which looked about 3-4lbs in the water, twitch…stop…twitch… smash! I saw the fish’s mouth open and strip struck. It was like something exploded. The fish tore wildly downstream and had me straight into my backing. In all my fishing I’ve never actually seen my backing before. But I saw it about three times on this fish. The battle took a fair while, with the fishes brawn dominating. But it couldn’t keep it up all day and under constant pressure it finally succumbed. The day had suddenly become a very good one…
Turned out it was a bit bigger than 3-4lbs… Truly beautiful fish that had some immense shoulders on it.
Working our way back up the pool we found that most of the fish had returned to feeding – the hatch was simply too tempting. Ryan targeted a fish just slightly downstream of him. On about the fourth cast he got a take, which didn’t stick, but because he strip struck rather than yanked the fly through the air the fish wasn’t too put off. A couple of casts later everything stuck and Ryan was connected to a thunderbolt. The fish took to the air several times and had a few searing runs, but Ryan played it strong and eventually beached a great fish.
A new P.B. rainbow for Ryan. Again, this fish was about as broad as any I’ve seen.
On the way back we dropped in to the water the other guys had been fishing and spotted a smaller fish feeding in the same erratic fashion. Ryan covered it and after a couple of casts got its attention. The fly was higher in the column than we’d thought, but upon seeing the mouth go Ryan struck and came up solid. I’d used the long fight on Ryan’s other Rainbow to show Ryan how to use rod angles to control a fish, and he put them into great use here stopping the fish pretty quickly.
It certainly wasn’t as big as the others we’d caught, but it was a nice little finish to the day.
Driving home we had a few interesting experiences including the graphic reality of the roar, homicidal grannies and the delight of discovering the two new Whittakers chocolates in a dinky little country general store (despite the fact that they hadn’t made it to countdown yet).
Heading into Fiordland next week – can’t wait!
I’d been starting to get a little disenchanted with my fly-fishing. The weather and the fish just didn’t seem to want to play ball. Sure, we were still picking up fish but they didn’t seem to be of the same calibre as previous seasons. I knew I just needed one good day – some sunshine and a big fish.
Over the weekend I was struck by a rather irritating fever – just bad enough to make me want to lie in bed all day, not bad enough to justify it. So I was a little hesitant about my chances of fishing on Monday. I thought about it for a long time… and, surprisingly enough, decided to go.
When we arrived it seemed like things were destined to repeat the pattern of overcast days with tough spotting conditions. And that’s certainly how things started out. We crept along the edges and managed to spot a couple. I covered one, then Andrew covered another. He certainly got a more positive reaction, but the end result was the same – nada. The next pool up Andrew spotted a smudge holding close to the bank – we were standing about 2metres from this fish and still couldn’t confirm that it was piscine. Until it swung. From close range, with about a foot of flyline out, I drifted a blowfly humpy over it. It rose and slashed at the fly. I waited…then struck. It was a little bit like a pocket rocket exploding at launch. The aerial acrobatics were instant, and then the booster engaged and we were on our way downstream. It was one of the smallest fish I’ve caught since coming back to the South Island, but also one of my favourites. It had risen confidently and fought like a champion – and to top things off it was beautiful. Solid to the point of being chubby with a myriad of leopard like x shaped spots on a pale buttery body.
The blowfly was embedded well.
A very nice start.
We saw a few more fish, but it wasn’t until Andrew attempted a new tactic that things changed. I don’t think he’s named his method yet, but it was effective. Basically, as I understand it, you cast your fly out a couple of metres just to clear some line, untangle the remaining line from the bushes, notice a substantial boil around where your fly landed, then simultaneously strike and clear the tangled line. If you can pull it off as well as he did then I’ll be impressed.
The efficacy can’t be questioned.
The fish seemed to be getting bigger?
A couple of pools further up a very substantial shape shot forward to intercept Andrew’s fly and appeared to erupt on the surface – surely he’s hooked it? But the mystified look on his face, quickly followed by a flash of anger, explained things. How it failed to hook up I’m not sure.
The sun was just starting to poke through the clouds as I approached a run with a good permanent bank. The angle of the sun meant sighting it was nigh on impossible, but it looked too good to ignore. I took one side, Andrew took the other. As it transpired I picked right. As I was prospecting my way up the run, just starting to get into the money zone, my fly was intercepted by something that felt very solid. It lacked the fireworks of my initial fish, but there was a lot of weight strumming through my 5wt. The fight was determined, if unspectacular. Until it came to the netting. I’d expect a broken finger is a bit of a hindrance when netting, but as soon as Andrew saw the fly pop out of the beached fishes mouth he pounced on the fish and secured it using a move I think I saw on a wrestling show. I was stoked. The fish was as solid as expected.
The pattern continued, the fish got bigger.
Sadly, this was the last fish. I won’t mention that fish that Andrew covered that definitely would have continued the pattern…it would just bring up bad memories.
That day was exactly what I needed. I feel content, my faith is restored. Until Friday anyway.
First cast back in the South Island…
Yep, that’ll do.
Just a quick one from me, in keeping with the duration of the trip.
Headed up country immediately after my Nana’s 80th birthday festivities drew to a close on Sunday. I had a special guest with me this time: dad.
After sorting out the lodgings we quickly hit the river, although the first hour or two was rather fruitless with few fish seen. As the light diminished the fishing increased. Things took a definite turn for the better when we came across a deep corner pool riddled with snags. At the head holding high in the column just off the lip was a golden shape. For the briefest moment I thought it was just another log, except logs don’t rise. I shimmied into position and put the perfect cast over it with a #14 parachute adams. And…nothing. And again…nothing. The third was slightly wayward, and met with similar determined resistance. A change of tactics was called for. Off with the dainty mayfly, on with a big ugly terrestrial. It only took one cast. A determined, if unspectacular, fight ensued with the most effort exerted keeping the fish from the countless snags. After a couple of dashes from the shallows the battle concluded with a stonking brown safely in the net.
A reason to smile.
I’m far from an elitist, but I’ll always value a fish on the dry just a little bit more.
The next wee while saw a few fish sighted, usually too late. Dad was unlucky not to rise a couple of fish that he covered well. Finally, with darkness well on its way we approached another corner pool with more than one impediment to casting. Dad opted out, so there I was standing up to my neck in grass watching (well really listening to) a fish rise just feet away. It was almost dapping, but it sure brought about results. This time the #14 para adams certainly wasn’t rejected. What the previous fight lacked in spectacle this one more than made up for in aerobatics. I think the fish spent more time in the air than the water. But the trusty #5 absorbed it all and the fish soon succumbed to the constant pressure.
Another superbly conditioned brown.
After that we retired for the night, got a filthy feed of chinese takeaways and returned to our room where we were embraced wholeheartedly by cold beer.
The next day saw an early start, which turned out to be well worthwhile as not 5 minutes after we started we noticed another angler 100 metres or so downstream of us. On about the fifth cast of the day Dad caught the fish of the day. In fact, barring one small model I picked up, it was the only fish of the day. It rose confidently to eat his cicada and burst downstream as soon as it felt the bite of steel. I had to employ some boot camp tactics to get dad chasing it as at one point there was over 30 metres of backing out. I’ve seen fish fight harder than this, but I’ve never seen them fight so one dimensionally. It just swam in one direction, downstream, for the duration of the fight. Once we’d caught up to it the netting was practically a formality.
Dad once again demonstrates his propensity to make 4lb fish look tiny.
This proved to be the only real highlight in what was otherwise a very quiet day. The trip home was interrupted only by a brief stop for kebabs and a briefer stop for coffee. Great to get out on the water with dad and catch a few fish!
I was starting to wonder if working 9-5 had many advantages from a fishing point of view. Then came a little something called Wellington Anniversary and a weekend filled with 3 days of backcountry fishing in some truly stunning spots.
I drove up after work on Friday and made it to the river rather late after being shouted a meal by the hitchhiker I picked up in Otaki (cheers Andrew!). It took a couple of red bulls to get me there, but excitement was peaking when I arrived. Isaac had been there for a couple of hours and jumped at the suggestion of a night fish. Fish is a rather inclusive term, as Isaac proceeded to demonstrate. Despite putting a bend in his rod this wasn’t quite what we were after:
A few casts later he got absolutely smoked by something that certainly wasn’t an eel. Unfortunately this was the pattern for the biggest fish of the trip.
Eventually, after removing my somewhat ambitious mouse fly and putting on a streamer, I struck into something solid. It wasn’t quite the spirited fight I hoped for, but more a dogged resistance. When the fish made it to the net we understood why.
Jandals all the way. It would have been a spectacular fish in good condition, but times didn’t favour it at the moment. Still…my trip was underway.
We struggled at our intended spot the following morning, so bounced around a few locations before settling on a river. Only problem was, how in gods name were we meant to get down to it? Our problem was solved in the form of Bob, who we serendipitously met on a dirt track in the middle of nowhere. He gave us a couple of hints which we eagerly took up.
After a bush bash and a half we arrived at the river and immediately got into fish on bright and flashy nymphs.
This bow was so pretty that I convinced Isaac to hold my fish for a photo…
After that I picked up a couple more rainbows that fought like banshees with a firecracker somewhere painful.
Then I notice Isaac has a pretty serious bend in his rod. And that this one was taking a little longer to get in than the others. Curious, I thought. So I landed my fish, took the snaps and went up to discover that he had a really rather good fish on the line. Two man netting team did the damage and he landed the fish of the trip.
We picked up a few more after that, but nothing of note. Except for that ENORMOUS bow that inhaled Isaac’s stonefly…but that’s not a happy story. I also learned the benefit of a wading stick after gracelessly pirouetting more times than I care to remember. Should have worn the wading boots!
The next day followed in a similar vein with a steady stream of good fish without anything spectacular. I dropped what was certainly the fish of the day after a confident rise to my royal wulff.
Isaac landed this nice fish after one hell of a battle.
They punch well above their weight!
By this stage I was getting rather frustrated at dropping a good fish, falling over and being inept at casting.
That afternoon we got the squall we had been expecting. Fishing through the rain I picked up a couple of OK fish and Isaac landed several good ones. Unfortunately the camera didn’t come out for that one.
The next morning awoke clear but with a bitter cold. After a quick trip around the campground to find someone with jumper leads to jump start Isaac’s car we hit the road. This was one of those rare trips where we saved the best till last. Bush bashing through overgrown tracks for two hours saw us eventually emerge battered and bruised to a crystal clear little stream with well defined pools and runs. The excitement was tangible.
Sneaking our way up the first run we sighted the quarry. This was the first chance for real sight fishing during the trip and we capitalised on it. Casting a large blowfly humpy with a trailing nymph ahead of a feeding fish brought about immediate results. The fish rose in the column intent on eating my dry. The take was slow and my strike was patient. It was at about this moment that Isaac started mumbling something about a tangle. That’s fine I thought, he could untangle his rig after I landed my fish. Then I looked down to see that this was a team effort tangle. As I hauled for the final cast I caught his fly which proceeded to loop around my line. Well, there’s nothing like an excuse to fight a fish hard. Giving line just wasn’t an option. After a few hairy moment I guided a great rainbow to the net.
Yep, this one made me happy.
Two pools up we came across a beautiful thing…free rising trout. I refused to let Isaac fish to this one with the nymph, so he reluctantly tied on a big rubber legged cicada. It only took two drifts before snout broke surface and the dance began. After catching mostly browns for the past few years I’d forgotten how good a real rainbow fight is. Isaac was sure enjoying this one.
After the fish was released we saw a sizeable eel doing the rounds and harassing the 10 or so fish in this pool. They seemed to forget about us while concentrating on the eel, and after he left them they promptly returned to the feed.
Making the most of this memory wipe I quickly landed two great bows in pretty quick succession.
The count, as we left that pool, stood at three great rainbows all caught whilst standing on the same rock.
Fish got a little fewer and further between after that, but they were there nonetheless. It seemed to be my day as an errant cast brought this fish to the fly.
By this stage it was late in the day and we had a long walk ahead of us. It was hard to turn around knowing we were leaving behind more great fishing, but the fact that we’d had such a great day so far made it that little bit easier. We did stop off briefly on the walk and Isaac managed to hook a solid bow from a difficult spot, but it stormed through the pool and utilised the prominent rock to full effect.
I was pretty stoked to see the car after that walk. Red bulls in the chilly bin went down a treat. It was a long drive home and a very welcoming bed.
Cheers Isaac for a great trip!
Three and a half days of backcountry fishing, tents, smelling like ass and tinned food. Can’t wait!
Firstly I feel I should apologise for my absence these past few months. It’s been hectic and I just haven’t been fishing often enough. Cheers heaps to those who took over the mantle and kept things ticking along.
I’ve barely been fishing since I got back to Wellington but, with the exception of a few false starts, I’ve been catching some very good fish on the few times that I’ve been out.
After finishing up at work for the year I headed over into the Wairarapa with dad for the day. The mission was to get Dad onto a fish. Sadly the mission remains unfulfilled. Dad fished really well and managed several takes, but for some reason they just weren’t connecting. It wasn’t until late in the day that I managed this brawler that punched well above its weight.
The day after Christmas Andrew from Hamills and I set off for a wee excursion. The weather was hot and he kindly offered to drive so I spent the trip imbibing some quality IPAs. By the time we got to our fishing location I was half chopped. Couldn’t help wondering if that was the reason we were spooking more than our usual share of fish. When we’d almost entirely given up hope we saw something that lit up our spirits. A rising fish. Because of the failing light we could only make it out when it rose or sat in the section lit up by stream. First cast with my #14 parachute adams was short, but the second was perfect. What proceeded was a worthy scrap. I got towed up and down the river by this fish while trying to keep it clear of sticks and weed in the water. Finally, after a false start or two, Andrew snared it in the net. I was chuffed.
I didn’t sleep at all well that night. I’m not sure whether it was the hayfever or the lack of sleeping bag/sleeping mat. I awoke around 5 30 and knew that I wasn’t getting back to sleep. The day started off slowly, and to be honest didn’t progress much beyond that. The highlight was a great rainbow caught in farcical style. My drift was well and truly over and I’d begun to wind the line back onto the reel when I feel a slight tug. Next second I’m approaching my backing as a silver bullet heads downstream for the horizon. I don’t really feel like I deserved this fish, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The final installment of this somewhat disjointed post occurred just a couple of days ago. After trekking all over the North Island with Liz and crossing filthy river after filthy river it was with more than a modicum of relief that we arrived to find this river running clear. The sight of another car in the park didn’t help, but after encountering these guys on the river bank I promptly headed off for the pool above where they’d finished. I fished half heartedly on the way, but I knew darkness was approaching and this wasn’t somewhere you want to get caught out. On about my third drift the indicator hesistated, and I pounced. Sweet solid resistance. And then straight to the depths. A classic battle followed with the fish alternately leaping for the heavens or diving to the bottom of the pool. For the most it fought more like a browny. I’d get it into the shallows, then it’d head for the other side of the river. It was relief more than anything that followed my successful netting. The photo’s a shitty self timer and doesn’t really do justice to this magnificent fish. It’s a new P.B. rainbow for me by over a pound. It really was quite special.
That’s all for now team. Hopefully I’ll get out for a fish in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got some serious plans for my weekend, lets just hope the weather doesn’t get in the way.
For the first time in my academic career reading about fly fishing has proved useful. I came across this excerpt from whilst studying for my environmental law exam tomorrow:
‘Fishermen are probably more interested in equipment than are the devotees of an other leisure activity, and fishing books are full of endless discussion of flies, lines, rods and leaders. Yet that interest is not at all directed to technological advance leading to increased efficiency in catching fish. Indeed, in one respect, it has exactly the opposite purpose: it is designed to maintain and even to increase the difficulty of success. At the same time, intricacy for its own sake is not sought. The goal is to raise to a maximum the importance of the participant’s understanding, to play the game from the trout’s point of view, so as to draw, as Haig-Brown puts it, upon “imagination, curiosity, bold experiment and intense observation.”‘
In many ways I think it captures the ethos of fly fishing very well. We essentially voluntarily subscribe to an unwritten code of ethics that places restrictions on the techniques we can employ.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
In hindsight it was probably a pretty stupid idea going fishing the night after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup Final… I know I barely got any sleep, Matt got far less. He generously offered to cook me breakfast. I tell you, there aren’t many better smells to arrive at a house to than bacon and eggs. With the breakfast formalities underway it was time to hit the road. After a little while I had a sudden brainwave… Where the hell’s my vest? Upon realizing that my vest was still in Andrew’s car after Saturday I also noticed a certain someone’s study materials in the back of my car. Well I couldn’t go fishing in good conscience without dropping it off at her place first. After that it was a case of a very apologetic early wake up for Andrew, quickly grabbing my vest and finally getting on with the show.
We arrived to cold, windy conditions with the promising hint of sun peering over the peaks. A brief walk brought about our first encounter with our quarry. By this stage the wind was fair roaring, so I thought I’d be nice and let Matt have a go. The fish was feeding like mad, but try as we might we just couldn’t get a drag free presentation with the conflicting currents and the pervasive wind. Eventually the fish became aware, and took off. I encountered a fish feeding similarly just a few pools up, but my luck was barely any better. I managed to trick the fish into eating a small green caddis, however the hook pulled after almost no time.
Things carried on in this vein with Matt pricking a fish on the dry, and myself meeting with nothing but air after a big fish had taken my green caddis. After almost drowning myself attempting an ambitious river crossing to get at a fish (and spooking it in the process) I wasn’t feeling too positive about the day. This all changed when I spotted a smudge holding in fast water. Then the smudge rose. Cool. First presentation with my small parachute adams and the fish rose and scoffed it. I’ve never seen a brown trout tailwalking to quite the extent that this one did. When I eventually got it in I saw that the condition on the fish was absolutely outstanding.
It wasn’t a big fish, but you’d struggle to find many in better condition.
Barely 500metres further up the stream we encountered one of the best patches of pocket water fishing I’ve had in a long time.
Matt made it look easy by pulling this fish out on one of the first casts.
I then proceeded to fish at a fish that kept popping in and out of the current, and in and out of my visibility. Spotting two big fish rising one pocket over I crossed to fish at them. At this point I should note that I’d been having a rather problematic time with my pants. They just kept falling down. When I hit the right cast (not easy when the casting position dictates that you can only cast leader into a nor’wester) the fish rose without hesitation to my grey klinkhammer. Hammer time. What ensued was quite possibly one of the most comical experiences to have transpired on a river. As soon as I hooked the fish the swirling current at the base of the pocket had dragged my line down, tangling it with the fittings on my boots. At this point my pants decided to fall down. Proper down. Here I was with a big fish jumping madly on the surface, my line wrapped around my boots and my pants around the ankles. Matt said he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Personally I felt more like crying. Somehow with one hand I grabbed my pants and hoisted them up, then managed, despite my inflexibility, to lift my foot into the air and clear the line. All this whilst standing in waist deep fast flowing water. After that the rest was just a formality.
At the time I had a slightly inkling that this may have been the same fish Andrew caught a year beforehand. Upon getting home and checking the spots it was confirmed.
My guess is that they were feeding on these fellows.
I won’t go into details with what happened in a big pool a little further up. Suffice to say I was left nearly in tears as a rather large fish flipped me the bird before popping the hook and lazing about in the shallows. I attempted an overly ambitious swipe with the net, but to no avail. I will be back.
The next pool up saw a rather bizarre experience. A fish sitting in a small alcove and popping out only occasionally into the current took a liking to my most successful creation over winter – the Deviant fly. Matt was fishing to it, and it took his fly not once…not twice…but seven times. I’ve never seen anything like this before. On the seventh the hook bit and a long hard fight ensued.
A great end to the day.
It was a long walk back, and a couple of very tired lads that made it back into Christchurch late in the evening.
What a weekend. After two weeks of flat-tack, nose in the books torture I knew I’d enjoy this weekend, but I think I underestimated just how much.
Saturday morning saw me get up after 3 hours sleep. Andrew and I were taking a special guest on a fishing trip into the backcountry. Being the Saturday of Labour weekend we figured a very early start was in order. It wasn’t. After a long drive during which certain members of the crew drifted in and out of consciousness we turned up to find no other cars in sight. Walking through bog at 7am is a really wonderful experience. Believe it or not, I’m not being sarcastic. After thrashing myself writing essay after essay getting into the backcountry was a relief. Life was very good.
Andrew kicked things off nicely by catching the first fish we saw. A couple of fly changes were all it took to see the tell tale roll as the fish took his nymph. After a start like this it’s easy to get complacent, to assume you’re in for a cracker day. It was tough. I missed a strike on the dry in a small pocket, and then missed a possible strike on a rather large fish holding in a deep side braid. The fish moved, the indicator went down, but somehow I’m still not convinced it took my fly.
We all got a little distracted watching a stonefly emerge from its shuck. For some reason you see a lot of adult mayflies in New Zealand, but relatively few adult stoneflies (despite the abundance of stonefly nymphs).
By this stage we were a little perturbed. We’d fished this stretch at almost exactly the same time last year, with dramatically differing results. What’s more, we’d seen about 10 times as many fish. The leading theory we came up with was that a party had thrashed the water the day before and the fish had not yet resumed normal feeding behaviour.
Nevertheless, Andrew persevered prospecting the fast water and was rewarded for his efforts.
Just upstream of this I spotted a fish holding in a small braid off the main flow where the current ran hard against the bank. Did it want my offerings? Hell no. I moved up and was about to initiate phase 2: attack phase. Just as I’d tied on something big, bad and heavy I spotted a movement in the current about three metres ahead of me. It was one of those fish with light sides and a green back. A fish that looked very solid in the water. Motioning to Liz to drop down I retied my original flies on and made a presentation to the right of the fish. It moved, inspected my dry and then refused it. One more I thought, this time to the left. No mistakes this time as the fish lifted and took the generic black dry from the surface. It was like striking into a freight train. Before you start wondering, it wasn’t massive. But Christ it was solid! I had my dry tied straight to 8lb tippet and I needed every ounce of it! As soon as it felt the bite of the hook it headed straight across the flow and under a rock. I just couldn’t move it. To be honest I thought it had broken me off and snagged me. I think Liz was sensing my concern, but she still laughed as I ploughed across the pool and attempted to use different angles to budge the fish. In the end I decided to play dirty. I grabbed the tippet and started tugging on it. Now this isn’t a ploy I’d typically use, but in this case it was necessary. I felt the telltale thud, thud, thud and knew that somewhere beneath this rock the fish was still attached. In an effort to drown me the fish, which I was quickly gaining a lot of respect for, bolted straight downstream causing me to pirouette gracelessly in the water; straight downstream, and under another rock. Thankfully this time it wasn’t so stubborn, and with a little more pressure I was able to swing it into the waiting net.
Now that’s what I call a fight. It was backcountry fishing at its best. Big, strong fish on dry flies.
After that the day somewhat petered out. I had a couple of glances from a fish sitting in the shallows. Then a bit of bush bashing, not one but two unplanned swims, and a very deep and dodgy river crossing brought us to the only pool on this stretch that we saw fish in. That said, it held four of them. I managed to stuff up three of them and Andrew fluffed the fourth. A solid fish feeding at the back of the line up happily engulfed my stonefly, but no resistance was felt on the strike. The second fish spooked first cast after the antics that unfolded below it. The third took my colubriscus without hesitation. Some frightening pressure was required to keep it in the pool. A swim through rapids entailed if it got out, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
Just as it was nearing the bank the hook popped (it became a theme for this weekend – more on that later). If you look at the trajectory of my line you’ll get an idea of the amount of pressure I had on that fish. A couple of new decorations in the tree.
Andrew spotted a fish feeding in a small pocket further up, and after a couple of fly changes procured a strike. Sadly he too met nothing but air.
We bashed our way further up, looked in all the likely spots and finally finished things with a wee river crossing…
One member of the party decided to cross a little further upstream.
I wasn’t laughing…honest.
That night I went to probably the strangest party of my life. It was like entering a cult. Suffice to say I didn’t stay for very long. Sleep came easy and uninterrupted.
That’s all for now. I’ll chuck the second instalment up in a few days…
It’s SNOWING! (Alright, I’m a North Islander – but this shit is exciting for me!)
What a crazy week. First week back at uni inevitably means late nights, lots of alcohol and not much actual uni. I was not disappointed.
Got another video for you guys from the season past. You may remember the report that featured Thomas, a keen young angler. Well here’s the video to go with it.
I can’t stress enough how satisfying this day was. Getting a fish yourself is great, but watching Thomas battle feisty rainbows was just brilliant.
In order to break up the monotony of city living I spent a few days last week up in Turangi with Isaac. I was planning on doing an epic report complete with heaps of video footage of indicators diving and rainbows taking to the air…but, I’ll be honest with you, the fishing was seriously tough.
When I arrived at about 7:30am the river was incredibly low and gin-clear. Instantly the prayers for rain began. Isaac already had one fish to the bank…and that’s the way the stats stayed until about 3pm when Isaac managed another on the wetline. Just before dark I managed to drop the only fish I hooked at the tail end of a long drift. Still, it was a pretty gorgeous day on the river…
We were staying at the Tongariro River Motel. What a primo place to stay on a fishing trip (electric blankets)! Ross, the owner, is about as in touch with the angling scene as anyone possibly could be. Turns out he’s also a bloody good bloke (if you want proof then have a look at this ). After the saltiest feed of fish and chips imaginable we went out for a night fish at one of the river mouths. Other than tearing my sinking line to pieces we met with abject failure. Pity that.
The next day was christened off bright and early with two true trophies from the Tongariro. Oh alright, they were 6 inches long – but they were the first fish I’d landed in about 2 months! I did manage to drop one good fish after getting a good look at it. Once they hit that current… goneburgers. We did manage to get into a few good fish following a change of tactics. The best of which was this thickset model…
Another feed of fish and chips (less salty this time) resulted in a food-induced coma that led to a bit of a lie in the next morning. It was bucketing down by the time I woke up, and that didn’t change all day. Funny how the rain comes on the day we’re leaving. I’d love to say we finished off with two 6lb bows a piece, but things kinda fizzled out. It was a long drive home and I was shattered by the time I made it back to Wellington. Then I went and got really drunk. Life is tough when you’re on holiday.
Come 4am tomorrow morning I’m making my way to Turangi to get really cold, cast heavy flies and eat noodles for 3 meals a day. And I can’t wait!!!
Back in February I spent a day fishing a backcountry river with a couple of South African guys. Actually, only one of them survived the walk (it isn’t short…). Oh well, more fish for the two of us to fish to. Phil was the survivor, and he turned out to be a really top guy. Plus he could fish.
Things started slowly. We were fishing a coloured river, and although we could see fish they weren’t active in the cold morning temperatures. It wasn’t until the sun was a bit higher in the air that things started to change. It was like a switch flicked and flicked good. After lunch we fished to about 15 fish and hooked every single one of them. There was nothing small either. It was just magic. I dream of days like that. Oh, and the fly? Lets call it Andrew’s take on a cicada. Christ does it work.
For bizarre reasons that I won’t go into now, I’ve only got video of Phil fishing, and photos of my fish. So lets let the video do the talking for Phil…
As for me? I suppose I did alright.
Caught in the same lie that I pulled a much bigger fish from earlier in the season.
A casual cast revealed that this was not, in fact, a rock.
Last cast of the day. What a way to finish.
That was only about half of the fish from that day, it was truly spectacular. It’s days like this that I look back on with envy as I study for exams. No idea what’s happening with Uni after these latest aftershocks (btw hope that everyone out there is ok! All safe and sound at the wunder-flat). Apparently they’re letting us know tonight, but that doesn’t make it much easier to motivate myself to study. Andrew’s got a report for you guys coming up in the next week or so with another video from our season.
One last thing – if you haven’t already then join Riverworks (at http://www.facebook.com/riverworksnewzealand) and TwoTroutBums NZ (at http://www.facebook.com/twotroutbums.newzealandflyfishing) on Facebook. That way you’ll stay up to date and get all the good oil asap.
Till next time.