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!