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Hamish Carnachan – I love Wellington (Episode 2) – delayed report

Now the weather has closed in I miraculously seem to have more time on my hands… so here’s a slightly delayed report of the day that made my season.

The cold southerly is biting here in Wellington today, but it wasn’t all all that long ago that the warm autumnal winds had the cicadas out in force – albeit for a much shorter burst than the previous year.

After such a fickle cicada period, a mate – Andrew – and I decided to make the most of the hatch while it lasted and so on a whim we headed out one blustery weekday in mid-March. Being later in the season, a smaller stream within an hour-and-a-half’s drive of Wellington was our target desitination in the hope some good fish numbers may have pushed up from the mainstem river in preparation for spawning.

The decision looked like a good one – the first shallow riffle we walked into after a half-hour tramp had a good fish holding steady, mid-stream. It was only 10am but already the cicadas were in full swing and the occassional spent specimen drifted downstream in the current. Unfortunately our fish was ignoring the naturals, which didn’t bode well, and seemingly lying dogo depsite there being no chance it had picked us up. I threw a cicada imiation through twice, and was completely ignored. On the third cast (probably a mistake in hindsight) the fish drifted back with the fly – obviously suspicious – and came level with me. Standing in the middle of the river, with no cover, the fish got a good eyeful and shot off to cover… Oh well, at least we saw one straight away.

After that inital fizzer, the day turned into an absolute cracker!

Andrew was next up and cast his cicada with typical pinpoint accuracy under some overhanging vegetation, hard up against a rock face on the far bank. A sizeable snout appeared immediately and sucked down the offering – delay, set. The water exploded and after a short fight in which the fish did several laps of the small pool he had an exceptionally conditioned 7lb brown in the net.

First of the day!

I was up next, and it didn’t take long to find another fish. A few pools on and around the bend from where Andrew picked up his we came to a long and gently glide. Directly in the middle, standing out like dog’s balls, a good brown fed gently swayed in the current – a sitter, this time, surely. My cicada drifted downstream towards the fish on a perfect line and before it even reached its target the brown shot forward to engulf the imitation. shallow water, quick set, and on. Another nicely conditioned fish – this one 4.5lbs – was brought to the net and released.

Happy to be on the board

After a 50m or so stretch of barren we came to a short deep pool formed where the river butted into a solid cliff face of bedrock – one of those places that just smells ‘fishy’… Andrew set himself up in position to start working the pool from the back to the front. By this point the wind had really got up, to a point where it was whipping water off the surface and we had to wait between gusts to make a cast. The temperature had also droppde but the cicadas seemed happy still and were clacking away. Fortunately I had my Hunters Element XTR Extreme Hunter jacket (not so subtle plug!!) to keep the elements at bay and it performed fantasticaly – being totally windproof against a Wellington gale is a true test! The wind, however, worked in our favour, enabling us to really slap our cicada flies down on the water. This is just what Andrew did at the head of pool, the result being an obiging nose slowly sucking in the big dry fly again. This fish put up quite some tussle and as it neared the net it emerged why there was such stout resistance – the fish was big, and in prime condition again. Whe it eventually came in, it pulled the scales down to 8lbs!!

Andrew’s 8lber

My shot next, and the next pool we reached after some barren riffles and pocket water looked excellent. I worked my through, starting at the back again and was surprised not to elicit a rise in the mid-section. Standing well back from the head, I slapped my cicada down into the main current flowing into the top of the pool, the clunky presentation immediately greeted by a dark shape emerging from the depths. It hovered under the fly and moved back with it for a heart-stopping few seconds before engulfing the offering. I set an was into some serious weight and grunt as the fish realised it had been duped. A minute or two into what was a one-sided battle in favour of the fish, the balance changed abrubtly and he slowly came in wrapped in the leader, which was fortunate given I was only on 5X. Another beautiful brown in belting condition – 9lbs and my best for the season – so full of cicadas I could feel them crunching in his stomach.

9lbs of Welly cicada-crunching brown!

About this point in time we were wondering if the day could get any better. Although the 9lber was the best of the day, we went on to get some more epic fish, all on cicada. Andrew’s 7.25lber was next…

Andrew’s beautiful 7.25lb brown

I managed another ‘tiddler’ that went 5lbs…

A ‘small’ 5lber

And Andrew went on to nail another two 6lbers before we decided it was time to call it quits.

Andrew brings a 6lber in to be netted

Last fish of an epic day!

Plug: I’d been field-testing one of the new Riverworks R2 reels for a few weeks before this trip and while I’d nailed some nice fish none had really been beefy enough to give the reel a good work out. Well, the fish we got this day certainly put the R2 through its paces and it came it out great, its silky smooth but powerful drag proved it was up to the test of taming some monster fish! Can’t wait to pit it against some hefty CNI rainbows now…

The Riverworks R2 reel that tamed the monster

And that was our spectacular day! I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again – I LOVE WELLINGTON!

PS – Andrew has posted some awesome video footage which you can find on Fish & Game NZ’s YouTube TV channel here.

Hamish Carnachan – Welly wilderness

Having arrived in Wellington to live after 30-odd years doing it tough in Auckland, I’m still blown away by the quality of the fishing in this region and how close it is to home.

Whereas my freshwater forays used to involve two hours drive across the vast Waikato dairy wasteland to find anywhere half decent to fish, now I have the Hutt River on my doorstep and the Tararuas and Rimutakas not to far beyond. Bliss!

I’ve been getting out exploring as much as family life  will allow, but a visit by a good mate  from Auckland – down  to sample some of Welly’s wares – provided a great excuse to bail into the bush for a night… or three… on a backcountry fishing expedition. The weather looked ok, not the blue sky days we were hoping for, but we pushed ahead despite the forecast patchy rain and winds.

Middle of nowhere

The first half day involved walking, walking and more walking in order for us to reach the hut before nightfall. We had to pass up some pretty stunning water but the prospect of a full day ahead soothed the itch to cast a fly. Despite waves of torrential rain and wind in the night, we awoke to  find the river running high but still incredibly clear. We packed up, rigged rods and set off. It was an hour, and plenty of barren water which looked ideal for holding, before we spotted the first fish crusing a large pool. As soon as the Stimulator landed on the surface the brown slowly glided over and took the fly at the most leisurely pace. Wait, wait – set. With the prick of the fly he woke up and it we were shortly on the board after a typically dogged brownie fight which gave me a chance to put the new Riverworks R2 reel to work… it past the test with flying colours, the drag silky smooth or, as one of my buddies would say, ‘As slik as snot’.

On the board

Riverworks R2 reel's first test

From herein the fishing improved with browns  spotted at regular intervals ll the way up to the next hut, depsite the slate grey skies and gusty wind making live a little dfficult.

Tim latched on to a beauty hump-backed jack that was one of the prettiest coloured fish either of us have ever seen – the pics don’t really do it justice…

Tim's backcountry beauty

The day warmed up, the wind dropped and the fish started looking up, hitting large terrestrials with explosive takes. And as often happens the further up a catchment you get, the fish started to get bigger too…

We topped the day off with eight fish to hand, a few spooked in tough conditions and a couple of blown opportunites – all in all not bad going in some pretty stunning surrounds.

Stunning water

A deer stalk along grasy flats that eveing revealed plenty of sign…

…and an unlucky stag a hunter had nailed some weeks before.

The next day we slogged it up over a saddle and down into another catchment where, instead of the comforts of a hut opted to camp beside the river where we thought our chances of running into a deer would be higher.

No deer but more fish…

…Followed by the long and weary walk….

I love Wellington!