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.