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Alex Broad – My best 5 fish this season

It was a slow season for me this year trout wise; however the salt water side of things was not too bad at all.

Early in the season Jack and I did an overnight mission into the Tararua’s, the river was nice and clear and the fish were feeding.  We only managed to hook into a handful of fish, none of which was particularly large, however near the end of the day I managed to hook into this wee gem.  A true pocket rocket, I’ve never been worked so hard by such a small fish before.  Jack did a bang up job of snapping the pic for me too, great shot.

I have a mild affliction, I collect and use old school film cameras, there’s something about it for me, and sometimes you pick up a sweet piece of equipment for next to nothing that whips the pants of any digital camera.  I had picked up an old Olympus pocket camera and decided to head out for a fish and give it a test.  Threw some black and white film in it and took off for the river.  I was greeted by a mayfly hatch of epic proportions and free rising trout, which for a change took normal dry flies instead of some sort of size 20 emerger.  I quickly secured several fish in short succession, if I remember correctly 3 fish in 3 casts.  They were all small scrappers, but this photo I managed to snap really portrays what the evening was like for me, on my own, fading light and a few fat little trout to keep me company.

Cicada’s really get me going in the summer, there’s nothing better than seeing that brownies nose break the surface and swallow your big ugly foam and rubber concoctions.  This fish was another pulled from my local, the Hutt River.  He was lying pretty doggo on a lip in some rough water; I could barely make out a smudge that would sway to the side occasionally.  After a few casts he decided it was time to have a closer inspection, I hit him hard and he jumped and went ballistic for a bit then slogged it out slowly like most brownies tend to do.  A nice solid fish from very very public water on a brand new cicada pattern I was testing.  Can’t get much better.

In February we got a syndicate together and headed north for a week of salt water fly fishing out of Tauranga.  The first couple of days were spent trying to find Kingies, which just weren’t anywhere to be found, on the surface or down deep, but we kept ourselves amused with Kahawai.  By this stage we had basically figured out it was Kahawai or Skippies, as schools of Skippies kept busting up around us then disappearing.  We figured them out pretty quickly, but what took a little longer was figuring out how to control yourself and one of these wee barrels of muscle on a fly rod.  I was testing a new Riverworks concept rod and reel in a 9 weight, this performed flawlessly, but getting used to the sheer power these small fish had was something different.  Busted leaders and pulled hooks had us “green horns” getting pretty frustrated.  But we conquered a few, and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a fly rod.

Before we left on our trip of the year I had laid down some requests, a Kingie on fly, a Tuna on fly and a Shark on fly, well I had ticked the Tuna box, the Kingie box just wasn’t going to get ticked, which left the Shark.  I had come prepared with knot able wire, some 9/0 hooks and some chum style tube flies.  We set up the heavy gear and proceeded to chum up with Kahawai and Skippys.  The idea was to get some Makos in close to the boat, throw a cast and hope they liked the look of the fly, then hold on.  The Makos never arrived but the Bronzies did.  After circling the boat for a while they built up confidence and smashed our chum hanging from a float.  Several casts were made, hoping the smaller fish would take the fly.  It’s not often you want the small one to take a fly.  Instead big brother mouthed the fly for a bit then took off with the 9/0 firmly imbedded, all I could do was hold on and take the inevitable spanking like a man.  After Mr Bronze Whaler had taken the shooting head, running line and a lot of backing the line went slack.  I was gutted but relieved at the same time, after all what the hell was I going to do with a very large pissed off shark at the side of the boat?  My “awesome knot able wire” had untied itself.  I was shaking like a haunted shit house, but amped to have been attached to such a large fish on a fly rod.  This is screen grab from the video footage we shot, me bending a 14wt rod and a shark of around 180kg doing his best to spool an ultra heavy duty salt water reel with the drag cranked up.  While no sharks were landed, this memory will be forever ingrained deeply in my mind.  Perhaps a moment of stupidity? Or perhaps just trying to push the boundaries?  I’ll be back to hit them up again that’s for sure.


Alex Broad – Season drawing to an end

Thats right, the 2011/2012 fishing season is nearly over.

For most of us we either stop fishing and start tying flies for the next season, head to winter spawning rivers and lakes that remain open or battle it out in the lower reaches of our favourite rivers.  I had realised I had been concentrating of salt water fly fishing this summer and hadn’t done enough trout fishing, so decided I needed to cram a bit of fishing in before the season closed.

Last weekend had me down at the local (Hutt River), after hooking into a beaut jack of around 4.5lb I was very quickly in trouble, he had run into the rocks under me and I could feel my leader on the rocks.  Determined not to loose this fish I ventured into the river to try and pull him out, it got deeper, and deeper, and a bad decision had me in water up to my neck doggy paddling across a short deep part, while holding the rod above my head, still firmly attached to the trout.  I landed him, but was rather wet and dejected, managing to drown a camera in the process, unfortunately no pictures for this reason.

This weekend, I had some time to kill on Sat morn, so thought Id have a quick look around some of the water that is due to close around Wellington.

It wasn’t long before I had spotted a fish feeding away, however he managed to disappear into the murky depths before I got a cast.  A few pools further up I had another fish in my sights, swaying gently in the current and feeding well, I tied on a special fly that rarely fails me.  A couple of casts to get the drift right and he swung over, the white flash of his mouth was the only indication I needed, I stuck hard before my indicator had a chance to move, fish on!  After a rather slow but dogged fight I had a nice conditioned jack in the net.

A few more pools and another fish was spotted, same rig cast and this time I had the cast perfect first time.  The fish swung, the mouth opened, the indicator dipped and I struck.  I was met with brief but solid resistance before the fly came screaming past my face.  The fish obviously disappeared into the heavy water not to be seen again.  Unfortunately that was it for the morning, another 1 fish day, but 1 fish is better than no fish, and going fishing is better than not going fishing.

Only a couple of weeks left in the season, Ill be making the most of it.


Alex Broad – Andrew Marshall made an awesome captain.

We had just returned from a week of saltwater fly fishing, I was going through all the photos and video footage, and it dawned on me that I didn’t have a single photo of Andrew Marshall holding a fish.  Now I thought this was weird, all the rest of us caught fish.  Turns out he was so determined to get everybody else onto fish before he had a crack, the fishing was super hard and we simply ran out of time before he got have a decent go at it.  What a good bugger.  Thanks Andrew, you made an awesome skipper, maybe next time someone else can drive the boat……

Andrew Marshall, Andrew Sturt and myself set off for an epic saltwater fly fishing adventure late one Saturday night.  The plan was to drive up the line to Tauranga, with Andrews Dad’s boat, for a week of chasing anything that swims in the sea on fly.  After a less than desirable start, auto sparky wired the brakes up wrong, we made it to Taupo, slept on the edge of the lake rather poorly, then pushed through to Tauranga in the morning.  Lucas came over from Hamilton that morning and before long we had the boat sorted, made friends with the local residents at the motor camp and had done a bit of exploring in the upper harbour close to our accommodation.  A rather lethargic afternoon followed with the consumption of a few brews and a good feed whipped up on the BBQ.

The next day, well, it rained.  But that didn’t stop us, we threw popper after popper at all the markers in the channels, nothing doing.  Off into the upper harbour, still a bit rough out wide, nothing doing up there either.  Finally back at the harbour entrance, kahawai working the surface.  We eased into it with a small one,

Then a bigger one,

It was just good to finally put a bend into a rod,

The next day was a cracker, out wide early, sea calm and glassy, not a kingie in any of Andrews spots.  This was to set the scene for the elusive kingie for the rest of the trip.  However before long we were greeted with a small school of Skippies moving through, in very very shallow water.  We weren’t used to the fast moving nature of the tuna and couldn’t connect.  New spot, still no kingies, few kahawai on the surface and huge schools of blue mao mao sipping.  These guys were hard work, very very fussy following tiny flies right to boat before turning away.  We gave up eventually and found another school of skippies working over a rise.  The sea was so calm and flat that  we struggled to get in front of the school and get close enough for a cast without them going down.  Kahawai were the consolation prize here,

Giving up on these guys we headed for the harbour, only for the wind to come up and us finding several small schools of skippies working the shallow water close to the harbour entrance.  This time we connected, the chopped up surface seemed to make all the difference.  A few landed on trolling gear, and just one landed on fly by lucas,

Several others were hooked on fly, but totally unprepared for how hard they run we lost them.  Mostly pulled hooks with the odd bust off,  the importance of having your flyline neatly coiled in the boat with no tangles became second nature.

The next day we had a crack at a few more skippies, again Lucas landing the only one on fly.

The rest of us either pulling hooks, busting tippets or hooking into “Tuna” for them to turn into Kahawai at the boat.  However, we had kept a handful of kahawai and a few skippies for something a little more adventurous.  It was SHARK TIME!

This has been a minor obsession of mine for a while, after I popped my couta cherry the next most logical step was to have a crack at something bigger with bigger teeth.  I had done my research and thought I had it dialed, Chum up, Mako’s turn up, tease, cast fly, set hook, hold on.  Sounds easy, however none of this went to plan.  We rigged up Andrews 14 weight, shooting head, running line, 500+ meters of backing all on a super grunty bluewater reel.  Heavy butt section in the leader, wire tippet section to a tube fly of my own design and a big dirty 9/0 long shank hook.

Chum went in, 10 mins later, Bronzy of around 2.5 – 3m turns up, fish frames pulled out so he didn’t eat them (think this was more of a nervous reaction on my behalf) and the shark spooks.  Right we know they are here, how the hell are we going to hook one then land it? Well we all fly by the seats of our pants, so we just figured we would worry about that when the time came.  The waiting game commenced,

A tide change and about an hour later we soon had several bronze whaler sharks circling the boat, building up confidence to come in to the chum.  Finally a little fella of around 100kg had a swipe at the fish frames, this seemed to signal to the rest of them “get into it!”  I was very very nearly not going to throw the cast, however the boys told me too, and I didn’t want to loose face.  So I manned up and started throwing a fly in the sharks general direction.

After a minor feeding frenzy off the back of the boat, no fish frames left for obvious reasons, our new mates were hunting round looking for more, another cast was made, the fly sunk slowly into the sharks line of sight, the angler (me) shaking like a leaf, was dead silent apart from “Lucas mate, can you please hang on to the back of my life jacket? I really don’t want to end up in there with them”  line tightens, I pull back, no effect, shark is off like a steam train, straight back towards the swimming beach he had just come from.  I get Andrew Marshall to tighten the drag for me, as all I can do at this stage is swear and hang on to what I think is a mediocre sized Bronze whaler, increase in drag has no effect, after a brief time of me+14 weight fly rod vs shark the line went slack.  The wind of shame ensued, thankfully the running line was still attached to the backing, more winding and the shooting head came through guides, more winding and the leader was visible, better still my wire tippet was still there, what happened? well I had some of that fancy knot able wire leader stuff, turns out its real hard to actually tie good enough knots in it cause it stretches like you wouldn’t believe.  Mental note: stick to normal single strand wire and haywire twists……….

We re rigged with a new fly of a new colour, the sharks were still hanging round, however they all came up to the fly for an inspection then denied it right off the ends of their noses.  Exciting stuff, sight fishing for 150kg sharks and having them refuse your presentation, kinda like back country fly fishing, only the fish is a damn sight bigger, there’s no way in hell you are wet wading and you definitely wont be posing with your catch.  This was enough shark action for me, still shaking like a leaf, cat had my tongue and the boys were ribbing the crap out of me.  I managed to get out “how big do you reckon that thing was?” The boys said this “It was the big one, I dont know, maybe 200kg, 180 – 200kg”

Trying to calm the nerves,

We don’t have any more shark pics, but there is some pretty crazy video footage to come……….

The next day was a ripper, so it was out wide to have a crack at a marlin.  This was what Andrew Marshall had come for, a crack at a Marlin on fly.

Sadly we couldn’t raise any to the lures, however we did find loads of skippies and practised our tease and switch on them trolling hookless tuna lures.  This was awesome fun but again hard to stay connected to the tuna.  Andrew Sturt had lost alot of skippies on fly by this stage and hadn’t landed one, his frustration showed with phrases like “Nows not a good time to tease me guys”.

Heading towards home we jigged over some pinnacles to try find some kings, Andrew Sturt managed to hook a couple of rats and land one,

14wt deployed again this time for kings, with no reaction.  Drift after drift we failed to raise anything on either the jigs or the fly despite the sounder showing good kingy sign.

Heading for home I spotted a school of tuna busting up, we get close, I throw a fly and it finds the mouth of a tuna, a long dogged fight and I finally manage to land my first tuna on fly, glad to get that monkey off my back.

The Andrews had a few casts, both hooking up but nothing landed.

Our last day on the water was a damp one, we packed up all our gear and checked out of the motor camp, one of the old timers who we had made friends with came to see us off in the morning with the warning “Be careful out there today guys, the weather man said there are going to be RAIN BOMBS!”

Back on the water and back to our favorite tuna grounds, it was lumpy, but we thought it was doable.  After plenty of attempts and a few false kahawai starts, Andrew Sturt was firmly hooked into a good skippy, a long scrap and finally it was netted, much to Andrews relief.

We tried our hardest to get Andrew Marshall hooked up, but it wasn’t to be his day.

Boat on trailer and we thought we were off, we soon noticed brake fluid leaking out of the reservoir on the trailer.  Off to the mechanics and they fixed it up real good.  We were off again Wellington bound we thought, only to stop at the gas station to find smoke pouring off one of the brakes on the trailer.  We spent the rest of the day figuring out what the problem was and how we were going to fix it or at least get the trailer back to the mechanics.  Finally we managed to jack 4 odd tonnes of boat and trailer up enough to remove the tire and offending brake caliper.  We hobbled back into to Tauranga to drop the trailer and boat off to the mechanic, he stayed open for us on a friday afternoon, what a good bugger, thanks heaps to the good dudes at Steve Long Automotive, we can highly recommend their service.

4 guys, close to 40 fishing rods, god only knows how many flies, lines and reels.  Not a single broken fly rod despite our best attempts, however there were many lost flies and busted leaders.  I was testing some new high end Riverworks Fly rods and reels.  What can I say, I put the hurt on the fish with the rods, the reels stopped them in their tracks, neither had any performance issues and I cast the set ups long and hard all day for 5 days.  The only issue was that I wind with my left hand, it was pretty funny watching the boys pick my rods, hook into a fish and reach for a handle that wasn’t there………Pretty sure I was the only one laughing.

So as I write this there is a boat still in Tauranga packed full of fishing gear that needs picking up, couldn’t really ask for a better excuse for round 2 now could we…………………….


Alex Broad – Drags with grunt

I’ve spent years working in the tackle industry and I realize every angler is different, some view reels as an important part of the fishing arsenal, while others think that they are just over priced line holders and would rather “palm drag” their fish.  Well, to be honest in the early days I was a line holder kind of guy, but have now been converted to the ways of the gear freak.  I love nothing more than a hot looking reel, that has an exceptional drag. Sometimes we depend on a good drag, a stroppy sea run brown or a wild back country pocket water rainbow will test your gear to the limits, and generally a palm isn’t going to give you the upper hand (excuse the pun) especially when you need a hand on the rod and the other helping you to negotiate the rough country.

Many many reel companies have redesigned the disc drag system over the years.  Whether its conical, disc, click, cork, stainless, teflon etc they all work on the same principal.  They all exert pressure on the spool to slow its rotation down, thus slowing down the line peeling off and in turn the fish pulling on your line.

Here the more complicated physics comes into it, we start looking at torque, inertia and centrifugal forces.  But I’m not going to get stuck into the nitty gritty, simply put, if something is spinning, its much easier to stop it spinning at the outer edge than if you tried to grab it in the middle.  For example a bike wheel, you would have all turned your bike upside down as a kid and spun the pedals, well try stopping that wheel spinning, its way easier to grab the tire than it is to grab the spokes by the axle.  This is torque or turning power created by the reel, or in this example the bike wheel.  The further you move from the axle or center of rotation the larger amount of torque can be applied to the axle or center of rotation, basically meaning its easier to stop or start spinning.

So why would we want some kind of compact drag? with small surface area, small diameter or funny angled cone systems,  which in turn mean little stopping power? I can’t actually answer that.  It beats me, and goes against all physics based laws of motion.  It would be great to have a drag the size of the reel itself, but we have to be practical.  There will be trade offs somewhere with size vs drag, the tricky part is finding the balance.

I’m not about to go slagging other companies designs and systems, but I am going to draw some real world comparisons and explain why these work and why we have tweaked our design to be better.

Take a car disc brake.  Fundamentally unchanged for ages I know, but they work.  Bigger and faster cars have bigger brakes, not more of them.  Space and weight is at a premium on a performance car and brakes are super important.  Much like a fly reel, we want a light weight reel that isn’t bulky and stops fish.  When we designed the R series reels we started with the 3  reel sizes, and designed a drag around these.  We soon realised that we could use the same drag in all the reels reducing our production costs and in turn the end cost of the reel to you guys.  The drag needed some prerequisites however, it needed to be laterally compact, light, durable, smooth, sealed and easy to maintain.

We came up with the “Orbit disc drag”, a simple system based around car disc brakes.  The “Orbit” drag consists of a stainless steel pressure plate to which a high quality cork brake pad is bonded, and another stainless pressure plate which spins with the spool.  We realize we probably could have saved some weight by using a different material other than stainless, but its the strongest most durable corrosion resistant material that could be used in this application with out pushing the price through the roof.  Stainless steel responds well to polishing, giving us an unbelievably smooth drag surface, which means a super smooth drag.  We also realized that even though, as I stated before the drag size is directly proportional to the amount of drag exerted, we only needed a drag size of 32mm diameter to give us more than enough drag for any fish that one may encounter in the size reels we designed.

Cork? you ask, yeah we could have made up some fancy name for it, but at the end of the day its cork.  Its old school, its proven and best of all makes awesome drags!  We could have used teflon, rulon, carbon or any combination of all these plastics, but they just don’t give you the same feel and longevity of a good quality cork drag.  I have to emphasize “Good Quality” here, there is cork and there is cork, all are not created equal.  We have found a really good quality product and have tested it extensively in both fresh and light salt water applications in New Zealand and it stood up just fine to the abuse.

Cork wont get as hot and it also wont melt when it gets hot.  Because as another rule of physics informs us, energy can’t be created or destroyed, only transferred.  In this case, rotational kinetic energy is turned into thermal energy (heat) through friction from the drag.  So the drag will get hot, now if in the real world we happen to be connected to a stroppy back country fish that is really working our gear through some gnarly water, the last thing we want is our drag to get hot, then fail because the designer didn’t think about how hard our New Zealand fish pull.  Luckily for you guys Riverworks gear is designed by kiwis who are out there thrashing it hard at every opportunity. The last thing we want is for one of our customers to take a reel to Atutaki and get spooled by a massive Bonefish, our reel fails, their trip is ruined.  Cork is also relatively inert, its properties don’t change much with temperature, whether your swinging big streamers and drifting bombs in the depths of winter, or tiny dries and large terrestrials in the summer heat, our cork drags will always perform at the same level.

An often overlooked function of the drag is its ability to slip.  We don’t want it to stay rock solid when we are hooked up, otherwise we would snap tippets, loose fish or worse, break rods.  The Orbit drag system is easily adjustable to cover a huge range of drags.  The pitch on the drag knob thread has been designed so that with less than 2 full rotations you have gone from full drag to no drag.  This allows the angler to quickly adjust the drag not only a substantial amount at a time but also easily fine tune the drag mid fight for the best feel and control over your fish.  The best of both worlds.

As the last Reel related blog post said we have a real flash reel coming later in the year, now the drag in this is different again, but based on similar principals.  Keep an eye out for a post explaining its drag system in the near future……..


Alex Broad – Wading Jacket follow up

Hi guys,

First of all thank you all for your help and suggestions for the new wading jacket.  We really appreciate our customers input.

It appears we definitely have 2 very separate camps here, 1 for the wading jacket similar to what is already on the market and 1 for the more compact, simple, packable shell.   All I have to do now is convince Rob to do 2 jackets so everyone has an option!

I received a few jacket designs, which were all really good and well thought out.  Here they are:

From Calum McKenzie, a keen young fisherman and outdoorsman:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Lisa McKenzie:

From Daren Gamble:

Thanks very much guys for all the effort you put in.

Everyone’s ideas have been taken into consideration and will form a check list to help us design a wading jacket for our customers.  The design process for this jacket will be blogged continuously and at every stage our readers will be included in the discussions and decisions relating to this.  We want you guys to see and be involved in everything from the concept right through to production.

Thanks again and keep an eye out next month for the initial concept sketches, we will need your votes!


Alex Broad – R Series Fly Reel, Part 2.

Couldn’t leave all the trout fishing brothers and sisters hanging out much longer, here are a few more details of the new “R Series” fly reels.

This reel has been the result of a long drawn out design process (well over 12 months), getting the balance of features and manufacture methods just right.

The aesthetics were inspired by the arrow head / dots we use in our Riverworks imagery, giving us a reel that looks a little different yet still retains its core look, feel and strength.

The R Series reel is machined from a solid billet of T6061 aluminium.  This alloy is commonly selected for use in heavy duty structures requiring good corrosion resistance, eg  truck and marine components, railroad cars, tank fittings, and high pressure applications.

R Series reels are Type 3 anodized, giving us the most durable wear and corrosion resistance available.  The Frame has been anodized matte black and the spool matte gun metal, producing an eye pleasing contrast look, without being too “blingy” for the South Islanders.

The prototype testing was awesome, we were seriously impressed.  This reel balances my rod perfectly and seems to have an uncanny knack of finding the fish (catching them is another story).  We have developed an “Orbit” cork and stainless drag, a combination of “brutal tippet snapping” stopping power and weight reduction to create a fantastic drag suited for all freshwater and light saltwater applications.  The “Orbit” drag is silky smooth with a nice click just to let your mates know your hooked up without being too ear piercing and annoying.

The large arbor spools reduce line memory and coiling, and also enable the angler to retrieve line quickly when that fish decides to run straight back at you!  The spools have been designed with a slight “V” which creates a little more room for backing as well as helping to align the line and backing on to the spool.

The reels will be available in 3 sizes, R1 = #3/4, R2 = #5/6 and R3 = #8/9.  While we don’t actually have the shipment in our hot little hands just yet, they are on the water and are expected to arrive very soon.

While this reel has been in development, another higher spec reel has also been developed.  However this one is way more technical so wont be ready for a while yet.  Expect a bomb to be dropped on the fly reel market this September…….


Alex Broad – Sneak preview

Here we go guys,

Riverworks is about to take possession of some very very hot reels………………

Just a wee teaser, more pics and details to come over the next day or 2.  Keep an eye out……..