Five fish I’ll never forget. No matter ho hard I try.
This entry differs from what the other boys have done recently. I’ll put my top five together later on, but for now this is all about five of the most memorable fish I didn’t catch.
My apologies for the lack of images… but I guess you’ll understand why.
This happened the season before last. I was fishing the Canterbury High Country alone in the heat of summer and the Cicadas were in full swing. I’d caught one fish and lost another already that day on a Cicada pattern, and I had the feeling I was a good chance at catching anything I fished to that day.
I approached a run where I’d seen a pretty big fish a few weeks earlier, and my excitement level lifted. As I made my way to the top of the run I was buzzing with nervous energy, and there it was. I spotted a solid looking fish sitting in the prime spot.
I had to drop slightly to get into a good casting position, which meant I could no longer see the fish. I sent the cicada into the strike zone and hoped for the best. I didn’t need to wait long… the water erupted as the big brown slashed at the fly and I don’t even think I needed to strike, the fish had probably set the hook itself. A strong fight took place from there and I could tell the fish was a good one. It had plenty of length, and was strong and determined.
I got it in really close and was prepering to net it when it rolled on top and I saw its true size for the first and only time. It took off and the line pinged. My tippet hardly ever snaps, but it did on this occasion. I stood there and swore at the heavens for quite some time, until I was eventually able to pull myself back together and carry on for the day.
This is going back a few years. I think it was the start of the 2003-2004 season. The location isn’t too far away from where number 5 took place.
I had fished upstream all day and was on my way out, walking along the side of the river as I went whenever possible. As I came to a certain pool with a small creek pouring in I spied a fish sitting under the feed line. It looked like a pretty nice fish, and it wasn’t there a few hours earlier. I crept into position and started casting to the fish for what seemed like forever. It stayed where it was more or less, drifting slightly but never moving far. After god knows how many casts my indicator dipped under and I struck. I was most surprised when the line went tight and the mighty fish exploded from the water.
My surprise turned into heartbreak when the fish landed on my tippet. In one moment it was all over. I headed for the car thinking about what might have been.
This happened near the end of the 2002 – 2003 season, not long after I had shifted to Christchurch from Nelson.
I’d returned to Nelson for the wedding of some very good friends. While I was there for a few days I thought I should head out for a bit of fishing, I had some unfinished business that needed taking care of at a river nearby.
I’d fished the river a few times, and been alerted to a very nice looking fish which was resident in one of the pools by one of my mates who worked in the area. The trouble was that there was a fallen tree sharing the pool with the fish, keeping it safe. As time passed by, the tree swung closer and closer to the bank… until eventually it was out of the way enough that a chance at catching the fish became possible.
That day I’d caught four great fish on Cicadas. You couldn’t miss, they were moving a mile for them. I decided to drive up the road to the tree pool, and have a go at the big boy. Nervously I peeked over the edge of the bank trying to see where he was, but the light was poor and the water was covered with glare. I was a bit dejected at not being able to see the fish, but I went down to the water anyway.
I worked my way through the pool methodically, and into the fast water at the top. I’d never seen the fish holding this high up, but I fished it anyway. My indicator stopped, and when I struck I was fast into a fish. THE fish!
I worked hard to gain control, and just when I thought I had the advantage the fish leapt high out of the water and I watched in slow motion as my nymph tracked towards me through the air. The fish was free. After all of my previous unsuccessful attempts at capturing it, on this day I had come oh so close, yet I had failed again. This was to be the last time I would try to catch this fish, unfortunately the opportunity never again presented itself.
This is really going back a long time. I was 14 years old, and I hadn’t been fly fishing all that long. I was with my best mate Sam, and we were fishing our favourite river. He’d just caught his biggest ever trout, which was in the vicinity of 7 pounds, and in fact I would confidently say it was the biggest trout either of us had ever laid our young eyes on.
No more than a few hundred metres upstream from where Sam caught his fish from was a mighty pool. It was long, wide, and had plenty of depth in all the right places. It had a nice rapid entering in at the head and a solid rock bottom on the far side providing plenty of stablility.
As we neared the top we spotted a line up of about half a dozen fish, all suspended high in the water column and feeding away nicely. To this day I doubt I have ever seen another situation as perfect as this. I cast my basic rig consisting of a Hare and Copper nymph with wool indicator above the top fish, the biggest of them all. It didn’t hesitate to come across to my nymph and took it with all the confidence of the much smaller fish I was so used to catching. I responded to the indicator dipping with a solid lift of my Daiwa fly rod , and the line tightened.
This fish didn’t treact like the fish I was used to catching, infact I have never experienced the same reaction from a hooked fish in all the years that have passed since. This fish did not splash, or panic. It calmly swam across the river, slowly but surely taking line with it as it went, and took up a position on the bottom. I stood there next to Sam on the side of the river in absolute bewilderment, I had no idea what to do. Several minutes passed, the fish shook its head from time to time, and eventually my line snapped.
Even though I had minimal experience with fish of any size at that point in my life, I knew I had just been attached to something special. With all the years gone past since then, I realise even more now just how special that fish was. If I was to hook that same fish again today I would be in a far better position to land it than what I was back then, but it was incredibly powerful, and nothing is certain. One thing I can say for sure is that fish is lucky it got away, for if I had landed it as a 14 year old boy, there is no doubt I would have taken it home with me to mount on the wall.
This one sits in a similar ball park to number two. It was a bit of a toss up for which sat where in the grand scheme of things… but I decided this one could take the top spot.
It was December 2009. A couple of days after Christmas. I had arranged to take my mate Paul from Timaru and his Dad with me for a day on the water. The fish were in top condition that season, and I knew that where we were going we would have a decent shot at a good fish. It had rained a bit and the water was running a bit high, with enough colour for it to work in our favour.
The day started with a hiss and a roar when Paul caught his first ever fish on a fly. At 8 pounds it wasn’t one to be scoffed at… I made sure I let him know how many years it took for me to catch one that big.
Soon after I briefly hooked and lost one which was about the same size as what Paul landed. A short distance upstream I spotted another fish sitting near our edge which Paul insisted I fish to. I fished at this one for quite some time, and every so often I saw it clearly through a window in the water, it was a big fish.
Many, many casts, and about seven fly changes later I got a result. I set the hook into a very angry fish. It took off at warp factor 6 across the swollen river and angled upstream, taking all my fly line and a good part of my backing with it. I couldn’t do a whole lot to start with, but eventually I gained some back and my fly line came closer to where it needed to be.
This is where it really turned pear shaped. I watched my backing knot as it neared the tip top of my rod, and as the two made contact, time slowed down as I witnessed the knot disintegrate with my own eyes. The trailing fly line flailed off into the current, still attached to my big angry fish. I stoood on the riverbank swearing while Paul and his dad watched in disbelief, before I dropped everything and tore off into the current searching for the trailing line in desperation and anger.
I didn’t find the end of my line, which meant I didn’t get my fish. It put somewhat of a dampener on my day. This is the one which takes the cake.
All of these fish have caused me to lose sleep at some point, but if I’m completely honest I’d have to say I probably wouldn’t change any of them given the chance. Thats a big call I know, but it wouldn’t be the same if we landed them all, would it?
A while back I devised a plan to convince Matt into a weekend of fishing in the Central North Island, that was the easy part. I was overdue a good concentrated dose of fly chucking so we schemed, planned, googled, schemed some more and had plans A to F sussed. What I didn’t plan for was contracting a cold in the lead up. Being a good Kiwi lad I told myself I could beat it, no way was it going to get in the way of a good trip.
We pulled into Taupo on Friday night and did the prerequisite shop – I still don’t know where the bread rolls ended up! We set up camp at the Old mans house and tweaked our final arrangements over some Pilseners. Seriously, how many times can one tie a new leader and fuss over gear? An early start had us on our way with a quick stop for a healthy pie in Turangi. With that on board we carried on driving.The river of choice was looking very inviting from the road so we quickly set up for the walk over some farmland to access the lower reaches.Or so we thought…Having hunted around for an hour to find the supposed “there’s a way down but it’s a bit hard to find” track, we gave up and headed to another point we thought would be achievable. Hallelujah, it was just as Mr Google suggested, a little bit easier than the last spot. I was pretty happy about finally hitting the stoney riverbed.A quick scoff and assembly of our gear and we were ready for the fish of our dreams. This water was seriously lush. Soon we came to a great looking pool that had to hold something, something big and hungry. For a second I forgot I wasn’t feeling too flash. Not a touch, nothing to spot or even spook. We had planned for a low fish count so carried on.The water was super clear and cold, I found that out when I took a dunking while crossing a hairy piece of water above some rapids. Thankfully my foot found a hold and I managed to get back upright before going deeper into the pool. A word of note – if it’s dodgy buddy up, make sure your jacket is over your waders and closures are pulled tight. Wear a wading belt at all times, you can’t put it on in the rapids. If you get fully swept off your feet keep calm and drift feet first, bum down. You’ll eventually wash into calmer waters without snagging a foot on anything. Hopefully you’ll never have to put this into practice.
I wasn’t surprised when I dropped again. This time distracted by some noisy Whio. Damn, this was going to be a long slippery walk. And it was, this river was living up to its name. Devoid of any fish we pushed upriver and had lunch. We reassessed and made the decision to high tail it out, fishing any hotspots along the way.
We blanked, oh well, it happens sometimes. It was an ambitious plan B after all. The scenery did make up for it though. A quick fish in a new river just before dark had the same result! We checked into the backpackers and dried out while my voice impersonated Barry White.
The next day dawned frosty and brisk. It was nice to eat porridge and gear up beside a still burning fire place. The next port of call was Matts pick. The scramble in was according to him “easier than yesterday”. Thankfully it was. Again we found some stunning water that cried out for trout. We’re going back early season. Take a look at what’s on offer below.Soon enough we made the call to exit and go find some fish. I had a beat that produced fish in the past so we began the drive home in order to stop there. Plan E.
Finally after all that walking and scenic imbibing I looked up river to see Matts rod being worked by a cranky brown. Oh yes, by this time I had lost my voice and only managed a little yelp of joy as I ran up river. Some quick net work had the fish in the bag.We partied right there on the riverbank.This opened the floodgates and we soon found rhythm. I spotted a good looking brown in the shallows feeding happily until my size 16 Hare and Copper variant glanced its lip. What came out of the water looked fair decent and in prime condition. After dropping the fish I discovered Matt had sabotaged me and left my net downstream. Upon my return he’d picked up a stunning Searunner.
We pushed up, pricking fish and landing a few others along the way. Even spotting a few more in the murky water. I was having a tough time making the fish stick to my flies and saw another brown thrash the surface as the hook pulled free. This was put down to my lack of voice, there was no way I could yell STRIKE! inside my head.After we made it to our designated limit we raced back down the track to the truck. With 2 hours of light left we knew there was a good section of the Whanganui on the way home that would finish the trip off in style.There certainly were fish in here and we had a blast taking Rainbows from their usual haunts. Any old fly seemed to be doing the trick but one in particular for Matt had him converted. The takes were hard and fast, even I managed to bank a lovely model for the camera.With that monkey off my back we called it a day. The drive home in the dark was a tease knowing that we were crossing bridge after bridge of fine water. There’s always next time.
This weekend I hope to charge the Waitahanui, an old favourite. Nothing beats Birthday fishing.
Best be going to sleep. V is good for the drive home but terrible when it’s 1.30am and you have work at 6.30. Have a great fishy weekend.
Ps. The dog burley is great. Didn’t see it until the fish was landed, must have put out a mean trail. The horiness of that alone and the amount of cops we saw are the best clues as to where we were.
While I’m still madly busy with the end of year duties I haven’t neglected the fishing and have managed to get out a few times. Even though the weather this weekend meant we only looked at the Whakatane bar, gutted!
The trip I had sussed with the old man went ahead on a rainy Sunday earlier in the month. We picked the newly opened reaches of the Ngongotaha river to fish. I arrived around 7am after a quick drive from Hamilton and was greeted by Morri who was just getting sorted after his drive North from Taupo. We were surprised the park was empty and wasted no time getting to the water.
Upon approaching the first pool we stopped and looked into the water. The spot I normally see a few fish sitting in was empty so we crossed the river to start searching the first runs. Just as I was mentioning to Dad to be alert for big browns in the edges we noticed a rather large tail stir up the water and vanish deeper into the safety of the bank/snag. It wasn’t long before we saw a fish feeding in the run and threw a couple of drifts over it until it caught wind and did the old Houdini.
It was still raining and my glasses were fogging up something chronic. While I sorted them out Dad had another flick at a fish sitting in the shallows of a bend, occasionally moving back and forth chewing on nymphs. Whammo, the recovering Rainbow smashed the fly and took off straight up to a big log. After giving the fish some slack it swam back up and off the log much to our delight, some more risky runs and it was near the bank for netting. I jumped down the bank and into the water, putting the net under our first conquest for the day. The smile on Dads face as he helped me back up the small cliff said it all.
That was to be the theme for the rest of the day. We each landed a mix of nice fresh run rainbows to 4lb and some recovering darker jacks that inhaled flies with no hesitation. The big brown wasn’t the only one we saw, we counted at least 6 lurking around in log jams, under bank edges and vegetation. One of them even stuck around to let me bounce a massive black streamer right on its nose. It was incredibly dominant and kept its mouth shut while it was pestered. The river also had a lot of fish that appeared to still be spawning that were very spooky and not that interested in eating.
The pick of rigs was the dry/dropper as it is super subtle on the spooky fish and also keeps the dropper out of the snags which abound the river. This is part of the reason I love fishing the Ngongotaha, it’s a pokey, fun wee river with a reputation for large fish. We also did a quick recce around the lower reaches of a few nearby rivers, spotting some hefty fish that were very reluctant to take our offerings. One fish in particular is the reason I’m going back for a night fish hopefully this week, it was much larger than the ones seen earlier in the day!
The following weekend some mates and I had a charter booked for Raglan. It was to be my first trip over the notorious bar and into the wild west. This day the bar was very docile and Shanan soon had Game On racing out to Gannet Rock, once there we hit the sign with an array of jigs and after a few fishless drops we settled into the idea of a snapper fish closer in. Once anchored up the fish began to slowly come on the chew. Our lucky angler Richard from Hunting and Fishing Waikato lead the charge with decent gurnard and a nice sized pannie lining the bottom of a freakishly big icebox. We kept up with our share, adding sharks and tangles much to Shanans delight, also taking a few kahawai, legal snapper and gurnard.
After a while we lifted anchor, even managing some gear back off the rope. A quick squirt to a nearby reef and scout around had us over some more kingi sign. The first drift was unsuccessful but the next one had us hooked up. And hooked up. And hooked up. It was calamity as I watched our mate Riki take his first ever king flanked by 2 pros doing battle. My only words of advice to him were to hold on to my rod, I was glad he listened because later on he got absolutely dusted on 80lb braid. We each boated a few kingis in the quick fire session.
My new early (thanks Tina) Christmas present was still too shiny so I put a 5inch grub tail on and flicked it away from the jiggers. A couple of knocks later and I came up solid, the fish racing off as line peeled from the spool. I vaguely remember Richard pre-selling me some more braid as a joke. Just as I thought things were starting to go my way we drifted past a cray rope, the fish going straight around it. I watched the float go under and pop back up as the line parted from the fish, thankfully not too much new braid was lost.
Next cast was met with the same response and shortly after I was locked in with a hard fighting trevally. This thing was determined to get away but the new kit was well worth the purchase. After what seemed like 10 minutes and already having sore arms we finally saw colour, much to my relief. Some quick gaff work from Shanon and I had blooded my rod, stoked.
Well that is all that’s worth reporting on for now. I have pretty much sorted my next month for fishing plans so am hoping for good weather, willing fish and in particular sight fishing for kings on the fly at Leigh (please Santa).
Thanks for reading over the last year. Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas, keep safe out there and most of all have fun.
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.
Part of me hates to admit it, but Jack is right. He did catch the same fish as I caught last year.
Honestly though, I am pleased the fish is alive and reasonably well. It looks like it has been involved in a mighty scrap during spawning season – it was only missing one part of its face last year, not two! It did well to live through the big flood in December.
Here is how it looked nearly one year ago.
In the famous words of Weezer and the Jackass crew… Memories, they make me want to go back there.
Nostalgia. In my opinion it’s a big part of the fishing experience.
Winter can drag on, particularly here in the South… I often find myself thinking about and reliving the good times from days gone by.
As with most people who share the love of fly fishing, I have some very fond memories of days on the water.
While I wouldn’t be able to say categorically what my favourite memories are, I thought I might share some memorable moments with you all – if for no other reason than to pass the time away until I can fish again… fortunately I only need to wait until next week… we’re off to Taupo for a few days. I can’t wait.
Since I’ve already mentioned Jack, I might as well start with with him.
As much as I hate to admit it, Jack and I met over the internet. It isn’t as bad as it sounds… you have to trust me on that.
It was November 2009. Jack was relatively new to the South Island and I arranged to pick him up for our first fishing trip. Two things stay with me from that day.
1) We get to the river and he discovers he forgot to bring pants… At that point I realised I was dealing with a pretty special guy. He wasn’t bothered though, he fished the entire day in polyprop tights.
2) We had a great day fishing. It was the first time either of us had been to the river, and we found out together what a great place it was.
Look at that… no pants!
Great fish though.
This is probably the fattest trout I’ve ever caught. It fell out of a hole in the net… I wondered what was going on when Jack started making a weird noise as I stood there with the fish in the net and it turned out to be his way of warning me that the fish was falling out.
A week later I added another memorable moment to the bank.
This time I was with my mate Ashley Wilson. We’ve fished together quite a bit over the past few years, although not as often as we’d have liked because ashley was more often than not busy at work.
This was another trip to a new place. I caught a couple of fish quite quickly which I considered to be of a very good size from the small stream. The weather turned and it started to rain just as we got to a promising looking pool. Despite the deteriorating weather I spotted a fish holding in the eye. Ashley had packed it in for the day so it was all mine if I was good enough.
I cast at the fish for quite a while without a result. The truth is that i wasn’t too bothered at that stage, having already caught two good sized fish. Just when I was ready to quit, a window in the current went over the fish and I could see it more clearly. It looked a bit bigger than I had given it credit for.
I changed my smallish nymph for a big brown stonefly which the fish took on the first drift. It wasn’t until I lifted the net that I appreciated its true size. It was big.
Early in 2010 Jack and I went away to the West Coast for a few days. We had some good fishing over there, but the thing that stands out the most for me is the spped in which the rivers rose after the rain. It was frightening.
It rained heavily in the morning for a few hours. We decided to go and have a look to see what the rivers were like.
We crossed a bridge and the river below was perfectly fishable. At that point we both decided to proceed and walk into the tributary we’d planned to fish, so we packed our gear and headed off.
It was probably only twenty minutes from the time we crossed the bridge until we saw the river again. The second time we saw it the water had gone from being slightly tanin stained to an angry, milky brown torrent that was literally smashing it’s way through the valley. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at and neither could Jack. I’d heard the stories, but this was beyond belief…
After some deliberation we decided to walk the track and see whether it would drop since we were already there. That afternoon we arrived at the tributary stream and found it to be higher than I’d ever seen it before. We considered turning back but in the end stubbornness was the winner and we decided to stay. Hell, we even went fishing that afternoon.
… and we found fish!
The next day the river was pretty much back to normal. Again, I couldn’t really believe it.
However, not all fishing memories are positive.
In December 2010 I took a mate and his father fishing for the day. It started out well when I put Paul onto a fish not far from the car. He made the cast, hooked and landed the fish which was an absolute pig at eight pounds on the dot. Not bad for your first trout on a fly rod.
A pretty good start to a day
After Paul landed his fish was when it went downhill.
I hooked a fish not far up from where Paul caught his one which was just as big. It exploded from the water and the hook came free… but the worst was yet to come.
I found another fish very soon afterwards which I could see was every bit as big as the one Paul landed and more. After about six fly changes it finally took a small caddis nymph. I set the hook and it powered to the other side of the river. I couldn’t stop it, it was too big and powerful. My entire fly line was out and quite a bit of backing too, there was a big belly in the line and I was doing everything I could to straighten it. Eventualy I started to gain line… but when the backing to fly line knot hit the top eye of my rod it separated instantly. The sight of my fly line disappearing into the river is one I’ll never forget.
Initially I just stood there filling the air with obscenities… then I got it into my head that I could retrieve the line, so I tore off into the water and searhed frantically. I came out empty handed.
As much as it hurt me to lose that fly line, losing the fish hurt me more. I’d happily swap a fly line to have landed that beast.
Another time Jack hooked a fish on a day when nothing was working. He had it on for quite some time. It had already bolted down a wild set of rapids and remained attached, so it looked like landing it would be a formality when it was sitting in close. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. The hook popped clean out and the fish stayed where it was for a few seconds, before disappearing for good. That was a tough moment.
I could go on forever about the times of old and so forth… but I won’t.
I’ll just finish off with a few more images which hold special memories for one reason or another.
It took me three years of trying before I finally caught this fish.
This is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught from this stream. For some reason I tried to be clever when taking the self timer picture and got it horribly wrong… Great fish, crap photo.
At the end of a very long day when the fishing was extremely tough, Jack tried something out of the box and caught this pig brown. I remember standing in disbelief when he hooked up… It’s fair to say this fish single handedly changed my approach to fly fishing.
That’ll do for now. Hopefully there will be something to report back on from our trip North.
Take care out there.
Stefano from Alpi Fly Fishing is our distributor for Riverworks in Italy. Stefano caught this wicked Blue Fin Tuna on fly in the Adriatic sea.
It’s SNOWING! (Alright, I’m a North Islander – but this shit is exciting for me!)
Well, it’s now past the half way mark between the end of April and the beginning of October.
I’m not one to wish for time to pass too quickly, life is too short for that… but I really am looking forward to the start of the new season, as I’m sure every other freshwater angler is too.
I’ve been keeping pretty busy, today Jack came around, among other discussions we talked about how awesome we will be this coming season, and we tied more than a few flies each.
Anyhow, I thought I would share some of my experiences with you all in relation to multiple encounters with specific fish. I’m sure you’ve all been there too at some stage. I’m not really one for getting too deep and meaningful, but this is a subject I find reasonably interesting.
We’ve all encountered fish that were memorable. Sometimes you just have to go back for more. Many of us have had more than one encounter with the same fish. However i’d be interested to hear how many people have actually landed the same fish more than once?
This past season I was fortunate enough to catch two different fish twice during the course of the season. It’s a rare occurrence for me at least, I can only think of one other fish I’ve caught twice, which was a few seasons ago now, and even then I only realised later when I was going through photos at home.
The two fish I refer to from this season were different though, I knew that they were the same fish as I’d previously caught even before I had them to the net.
Both fish came out of small streams with small populations of fish. They were holding in the same place each time, and were the only fish resident in their respective locations. They were both weighed and photographed, I’m 100% sure they were the same fish.
The first fish was caught at the end of October. I ducked away for a sneaky day trip while Jack was at the business end of studying for his end of year exams. He loves it when I go fishing at that time of year… (Not really, I think he actually hates it)
I caught it from where it was stationed at the eye of a fantastic pool holding only that fish. According to my scales it was eight pounds on the dot. Unfortunately I took the picture with my old point and shoot camera and got it all wrong. Despite being one of the first ever digital cameras available, it usually does an acceptable job, howvere I was out of practice at the self timer technique on this day and to make matters worse I also had the flash set wrong. The result was a completely blown out picture of me holding a very nice fish.
I caught a couple of other great fish that day and returned to Christchurch to tell Jack of my good news. Jack was thrilled for me when I emailed him the picture. (Again, not really…)
The first of my two encounters with this fish
After I received the reply email I sent another which mentioned the fact that I had also seen a couple of really big fish which I didn’t catch. I suggested we go back together to try and catch them immediately after his exams were finished.
Two weeks later we were on the road. There were less fish in the river this time, but my fish was exactly where it had been a fortnight earlier. Again it was holding nicely in the eye of the pool. Two casts and the fish was on again. It was pure deja vu. I even landed it in the same spot as the last time. Fortunately this time I had my trusty sidekick with me to take the photo, I definitely didn’t want another crap picture!
Jack swore at me when I was landing this fish.
For the record, that day Jack caught one of the big fish I’d seen on my previous visit. For that reason alone he should never complain again when I go fishing while he is studying.
Anyhow, that was the first of my twice caught fish for the season. The next one wasn’t quite so straightforward…
The first encounter came when I first visited the stream on a bright sunny day in January. Again, I was fishing alone, and the trip was an exploration of sorts.
I’d seen other fish, which I failed to catch, and I was nearing the point where I intended to stop and turn around. Not to mention the end of my patience, with fish which just weren’t interested!
The fish was easy to see in the shallow sunlit water holding on the near edge of the run, and was one of the few which was actively feeding that day. But, to cut a long story short, I didn’t catch it that day. In fact, I saw that fish on a few subsequent occasions and failed to catch it every time… until one overcast day in February when my luck finally changed for the better.
Jack had just returned from his summer break in the North Island, and was with me on this day and fizzing to be back in the best part of the country again. He caught a fish more or less straight out of the car which at nearly 30 inches long tipped the scales at a whopping 5 pounds (It looked like it was the result of an ugly trout that couldn’t find another willing trout, so spawned with an eel instead) I had briefly hooked a good fish a short time earlier but it didn’t stick, so I was still fishless for the day. Until we came to the run where the very fish that had by now become my nemisis was residing.
It all went right. The hook connected well, and stayed that way until I removed it. The fish was weighed, photographed and released. At that moment in time I was a very happy man. Persistence had paid off, and I could cross that fish off my list of fish that must be caught.
My nemesis fish. Tamed at last.
That was mid February. Fast forward almost exactly two months to mid April when I returned to the stream.
Once again I found myself at the same piece of water, and after searching for a while I spotted a healthy looking dark shape sitting in the fast water near the top. I hooked the fish, and landed it without any trouble. It was the same fish as the one caught in February. As with the other twice – caught fish from earlier in the season, it was great to see it had been released unharmed the first time and had continued to live in that same piece of water. However the feeling was definitely different from the first time in that the first time was much more emotionally charged, the second time it was still nice, but without wanting to sound too negative, there is a touch of “been there, done that” about it.
There’s nothing to it really
For me, if I know there is a good fish resident in a certain piece of water then I’ll go to great lengths to catch it. If I hook that fish and don’t land it, then it only serves to increase my desire to catch that particular fish. However, once that fish is caught the desire to catch it again is nowhere near the same. For sure, if the photo doesn’t turn out, I’ll try and catch it again to get a good picture of it, or I’ve failed to catch a fish for the day then I’ll certainly go looking for it in order to save the day, but otherwise I think I’ll just leave them alone.
Keep an eye out for our next video clip due out in a few days. It’s the footage from our November trip… it’s worth a look.
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!!!
At 4:40am on the 29th August 2007, the North branch valley of a (name suppressed) river near Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, suffered a landslide subsequently blocking the river’s path.
A wall of approximately 11million cubic meters of rock formed a dam creating a new lake 500m wide, 2 km long and 70m deep. This makes for a lake volume of around 23 million cubic meters. The location of the lake is near the source of the river affecting the several kilometers of pristine water downstream.
The river was a well known favourite fishery amongst local fly fishing guides and recreationals alike, and with the landslide the river turned from an incredibly clear freestone paradise to a silt coated suffocated and temperamental spillway remoulded by a single destructive act of God.
The fishing of course was completely wiped out for several years due to the aluvial silt and debris. The fly life dwindled unable to sustain itself with the once loose river stones now being smothered. All in all a soul destroying moment for those of us that love what the river provided once upon a time.
Well good news!… This year on one of our regular country-wide fly fishing reconnaissance missions we managed to find many (average 3-4lb) wild rainbow trout back in the damaged yet recovering river system. They were strong fighting fish happily feeding on cicadas falling from the overhanging NZ Beech trees. This was of course a great day to have but even more so a relief that the river was on track to recovery. Never (used loosely), will the river return to it’s original glory but there is hope.
Potentially, there is a risk of the dam failing and the consequent flood would again destroy the river’s progress but maybe then the silt will be washed out. On the reverse side, the dam could hold forever, who knows?
For our next study we are researching the effects of high water levels on a local drainage system near Wanaka with data from the ORC and NIWA. Very fitting after a particular river system shot up from 12 cumecs to 1020 cumecs in 1 single day… by the way a cumec is 1 cubic meter or 1 tonne of water passing over a single point per second…just imagine 1020 tonnes flowing past you every second… that’s awesome! Stay tuned for our next study.
Craig Somerville of Castabroad New Zealand – www.castabroad.com
Acknowledgements for factual material:
Gavin Palmer (Otago Regional Council), Paul Hellebrekers (Department of Conservation),Tim Davies (Canterbury University), Oliver Korup (Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research)
Central North Island fishing guide.
Just a quick note from me letting you guys know that I’m heading bush for 3 days in about 4 hours time. And on that note, I should probably get some sleep. Look out for a report in the coming week.
I have been in China for the past week meeting with factories and quality checking this seasons products. I learnt of the Christchurch Earthquake while I was away. It was on the front of every paper I saw. From all the Team at Evolve Outdoors Group we send our regards to the hardy people of Christchurch, hang in there and take care. Our condolences to the people who lost loved ones.
Just thought I’d let you guys know that I’m fine. Our flat survived remarkably well. I’ve been volunteering as a welfare officer with Civil Defence for the past couple of days, but I’ve got a rest day today. Probably going to go check on a relative this afternoon. Things are pretty awful in Christchurch, but the event has galvanised the city. There’s a determination amongst those remaining in the city to help each other and see this through. It’s been heart-warming to see some of the kindness strangers have been extending to each other.
I hope that all of the Christchurch readers of the blog are safe and sound. Take care.
Mouse feeders are often easy to identify, with wide thickset flanks, big full bellies with hard nugget-like chunks being able to be felt from the outside…
Huge New Zealand trout feasting on rats and mice are the stuff every trout angler dreams of. Big, fat, heavy brown trout, engorged on a turbo-charged, proteinrich diet of rodents are something to marvel at and enjoy. But it only happens once in a blue moon, in those special years when the native beech forest produces an abundance of surplus seed, which causes rodent populations to explode in number.
Most New Zealand trout are limited in size by the food available to them. Many trout streams here have limited fertility and are not the insect-rich waters that premier overseas waters often are. So, when they get a bumper terrestrial food source, trout are only too happy to take advantage of it.
Recently, I read reports in the Nelson Mail about increased catches of rodents and predators by volunteer trappers in the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary area. I also noticed a few more rodents around my garage this winter before I put out bait stations, with the excellent name of ‘‘departure lounges’’.
With the general trout fishing season due to open on October 1, I’ve been busy fielding inquiries from international anglers interested in the fishing prospects for the coming season. Reports from Nelson Lakes Conservation Department staff would indicate that a spectacular beech seeding in autumn has paved the way for a substantial increase in rodent populations in the spring and summer.
New Zealand rodents range from small to a massive 30 centimetres for a big norway rat. Rodents are prodigious breeders and a female rat can produce 12 litters of 20 rats each year, according to pest contractors Target Pest, potentially having the ability to have thousands of descendants a year, which is a lot of trout food.
When rodent populations boom, their predators, such as stoats, ferrets and weasels, also peak, which is bad news for native birds and invertebrates, which suffer when rodent numbers abate. Cuddly little critters such as rats and mice don’t get a lot of positive press from government organisations and the media, but they are actually pretty interesting animals and, whether we like it or not, they are part of the history of humanity as well.
European history is richly laced with tales of rats and mice. In New Zealand, rats were of cultural importance well before Europeans arrived on the scene, with kiore or Polynesian rats being a treasured part of Maori culture, having spiritual value to some iwi. Maori considered kiore a delicacy. Rats fattened on a diet of berries and invertebrates were trapped and preserved in their own fat for those cold winter days, long before Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Ratatouille or self-styled love rat Major James Hewitt.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate as a recreational angler and professional fly-fishing guide to have been involved in the capture of an unfair share of very large brown trout, many of which have been fattened on rodents. Some seasons’ trout will be 1kg to 2kg heavier than normal in many rivers, and we all dream of trophy trout 4.5kg and bigger.
So how do the mice and rats end up in the water? It seems rodents range far and wide nocturnally for food, move to new territories, die of hypothermia, drown, and fall or swim in rivers and so become available as trout fodder.
Most mouse-fed trout are caught on traditional tackle offerings such as dry flies and weighted nymphs during the daytime, although we have caught trout on mouse imitations fished during the night shift. Slow-stripping a large floating deerhair mouse imitation across a still pool after dark can provide exciting fishing, although, interestingly, the trout usually take the mouse imitation quite softly.
Rubber mouse imitations or other topwater poppers also work well on spinfishing gear, with the advantage being that anglers can cover larger distances with longer casts and also avoid standing in the water among the eels. Mouse feeders are often easy to identify, with wide, thick-set flanks, big full bellies with hard nugget-like chunks being able to be felt from the outside of the fish. Trout can eat multiple rodents and fish with up to several dozen mice inside have been recorded.
Sometimes with rats, I’ve seen a rat’s tail hanging out of a captured fish’s mouth. I remember one captured trout regurgitating dead mice in the net. Big trout act like a magnet to overseas anglers and word of big fish present will prompt many anglers to book longer and more adventurous trips.
One overseas fishing agent is already playing the mouse card, with worldwide recession and lower than normal bookings requiring different strategies to attract high-value, big-spending tourist anglers. Personally, I’m waiting until I get on to the water and have a look around this coming fishing season before I talk too much about mice and rats. If the hype fails to match reality and the big fish just aren’t there, a river can be a lonely place as you attempt to be a modern-day Rumpelstiltskin trying to spin straw into gold.
Secretly, however, I’m hoping a big rodent year will happen and that the big trout will appear like magic. It might be tough on the native birds but the trout fisherman in me says ‘‘bring on the mice’’. Let’s just hope the Department of Conservation isn’t crying wolf – or in this case, rodent – because, when you’re a hardcore trout bum, you can never have too many mice. Hickory, dickory, dock.