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.
Craig Somerville – Putting them through HELL! XRT wading boots getting a hammering and still going strong.
Riverworks XRT wading boots are living up to their reputation… A year in the life of the XRT wading boots coming to your screens 2012 in HD.
Craig Somerville – proud owner of Riverworks XRT wading boots
Zane Mirfin, Wildside Column, When the Kahurangi Lion Roared, The Nelson Mail
Outdoors people can have thousand of safe and enjoyable experiences in New Zealand, but things can sometimes turn pear-shaped without warning.
“As I reached the main river I witnessed a huge wall of water, carrying whole trees, as the river exploded in front of my eyes”
Our kids are only allowed to watch one weeknight TV programme and this winter they chose Man vs Wild. This is where a British ex-military guy, armed only with a knife, challenges himself to survive in hostile environments all over the world. I had the greatest time snuggling up with four children in the spare room watching the programme with them. Explaining things to the kids along the way, it was great to see them thinking and asking about survival and coping in the outdoors. After the programme we would
often talk about some of my own adventures in the outdoors and I’d regale them with tales of land crabs in equatorial Kiribati, fishing with bears in British Columbia, living on moose meat with Lapp reindeer herders north of the Arctic Circle, even catching trout in Colorado lakes at altitudes higher than Mt Cook.
My heart as an outdoorsman belongs firmly in New Zealand, and here I’ve had thousands of happy, safe and enjoyable outdoor experiences and episodes. But ones that really stand outare where things haven’t gone as planned and an outdoor trip has become an outdoor survival epic.
Most of my truly gruelling adventures have involved water, particularly extreme rainfall and flooded rivers. On one hunting trip into the remote Whataroa River in South Westland, we were marooned on a piece of high ground between an absolutely angry main river and two raging side creeks. Confined to a sodden pup tent for four days in abysmal deluge conditions, it was quite an experience.
With improved knowledge and modern equipment, the outdoors should be a much safer place. Regrettably, this isn’t always so and people still regularly make bad decisions and take fatal risks.
Perhaps my greatest outdoor challenge so far was in Kahurangi National Park, on the banks of the famed Roaring Lion River. It had rained overnight, but the river was low and clear as I crossed at daylight in search of some easy venison before the chopper was due to pick us up at lunchtime.
We had just completed an arduous fishing adventure further up the river on foot and I was feeling bullet-proof. Under-dressed in shorts, poly-pro singlet, PVC raincoat and aknife belt, I commenced stalking around grassy river-flat areas hoping for a deer to show itself, when it happened.
Water appeared from nowhere in a gushing waterfall high on the hillside above the Beautiful River (a Roaring Lion tributary), and in one motion I turned and ran toward the main river instinctively knowing what was going to happen next.
As I ran up the dry riverbed, water rushed to meet me. Dirty water, mixed with sticks and vegetation, rose alarmingly up my legs. As I reached the main river I witnessed a huge wall of water, carrying whole trees, as the river exploded in front of my eyes. A shot from my rifle alerted my sleeping companions to my plight as the full might of the storm hit. I couldn’t find shelter as the rain fair pelted down, turning the forest floor into a swamp. Sitting helplessly under a tree, I started to get cold, and being wet, I started shivering. Without shelter I was probably going to die.
There would be no help from my companions across the flooded river, the helicopter was never going to arrive in such conditions, and the only person who could solve my predicament was me. I decided to make shelter and came up with an idea of using the numerous tree ferns available. Making an A-frame structure, I dragged two rotten logs together to go underneath to get me up off the swampy ground. I spent an hour or so cutting fern fronds with my hunting knife, dressing the shelter, and staying warm in the process. At last I was ready to crawl inside, pulling ferns across the small entrance way. Above me the storm raged as I lay warm and snug in my dark bunker.
When the storm abated, I emerged from shelter, and went to check out the Roaring Lion which while raging had become less angry. Fred managedto throw a can of corn beef and a silver-foil space blanket across the narrowest point in a plastic bag. It didn’t quite make it but I was able to scoop the rapidly sinking bag up with a long stick while hanging out over the river on a small tree, to the cheers of my companions.
Darkness came suddenly, and I retreated 400 metres back into the forest, but I couldn’t find my shelter anywhere. Blundering around, I realised I was facing my second predicament of the day and while at least it wasn’t raining anymore, the wind was rising while the temperature dropped. Wrapping my foil safety blanket around me,I cursed as the old folded foil broke into a hundred useless rectangles. I spent the night so cold I thought my chattering teeth were going to crack every tooth in my jaws, and ended up running round and round a tree in an attempt to stay warm and avoid nodding off into oblivion.
Just when I thought I couldn’t last much longer, a pinprick of light through the forest canopy showed daylight was on the way. Soon the dawnchorus was in full swing as I checked the Lion in the half light. While still big it was clear enough to see the bottom. Bouncing downstream through the chest-and-neck deep crossing with my rifle held over my head, I emerged 50m downstream on the other side, to big hugs from my concerned companions who had hardly slept all night worrying about the idiot on the other side.
Interestingly, Aimee (in the days before marriage) had called home that night while on holiday in France after a bad dream sensing that her beau was in big trouble.
As the chopper pulled us to safety later in the morning, I reflected on the close shave. Since that time, I’ve been more careful outdoors and will always remember the time when I saw the Lion roar.