What follows is a list of my favourite fish from the season. Not necessarily the biggest or the prettiest, but the most satisfying for one reason or another. In fact it has surprised me while constructing this list how many of the bigger fish have been left off. They’re certainly satisfying and look great in photos. But these are the fish I’ll remember.
5) Kicking off the list was a very solid rainbow taken on a tough day. To be honest any one of a number of fish could have filled this spot. The fish were feeding selectively on swimming mayflies and couldn’t be tempted by anything else. Once hooked this fish proceeded to take me for the ride of my life through the pool. There aren’t many stronger fish in the rivers than a football shaped rainbow.
4) This was a brown taken blind in a small stream. It was a strong fish and good looking to boot. Andrew snapped a great shot of it.
3) This fish was an unlikely conquest. Al and I left home at midday and rocked up to the river feeling relaxed. In a riffle at the tailout of the run I spotted a smudge moving upstream. I figure I had spooked it, but covered it anyway. It was with more than a little surprise that I watched a snout poke out of the water to take my klinkhammer. What followed was a very determined fight from a fit fish. Eventually Al secured it in the net and proceeded to snap a photo with a Canon P+S camera from the 1980s that he’d acquired for $2 that morning.
2) I was tossing up between these last two. My number two was also my biggest fish for the season, and my biggest rainbow ever by over a pound. It was a seriously good fish taken in atrocious conditions. It fought hard, if unspectacularly and I was unbelievably pleased to have caught it.
1)But my number 1 had the whole package. It was the total experience. Andrew S and I set off after work and headed north. By the time we pulled up at the stream I’d had 1/2 dozen beers (don’t worry, he was driving) and was in a merry mood. The weather was superb so we donned our jandals and set out for a streamside stroll. The first few fish were spooked in glorious fashion…followed by more…and more. It wasn’t until we came to a bend in the stream and spotted a fish rising 20metres further up that our hope grew. I was on point, so assumed the position. I didn’t dare approach too much more given the behaviour of the previous fish so it was going to be a long cast. The alcohol settled the nerves and the cast was perfect. I thoroughly enjoy the casting side of fly fishing, so a fish caught with a special cast is always that little bit more valuable to me. It’s vividly seared in my mind the sight of the golden fish rising vertically to intercept my fly. As I set the hook it absolutely erupted, tearing off upstream at some pace. In the water it had looked like a nice fish, maybe around 4lbs. After an absurdly strong fight, during which the pitfalls of wearing jandals fishing became apparent to Andrew and I (Andrew, I believe, still has the scars to prove it), a rather bigger than expected fish came to the net. The whole experience of catching this fish was topped off by its appearance. It was short, but incredibly round and heavy. In absolutely perfect condition with substantial giraffe like spots dotting its body. For me it was the fish of the season and one of the most satisfying and enjoyable fish I’ve ever caught.
I like to save the best for last. If I could do it all the time I would, I like having something to look forward to.
The final day of the season rolled around quicker than I expected. It had been yet another great few months spent wandering about the South Island, and it was all but over.
My time off work was all but over too, the next day was my first day back after a month off. As strange as it may sound, I was actually looking forward to going back to work, for a number of reasons – restoring the bank balance being one of them.
The forecast for the final day of the season was far from ideal, with strong gusty wind predicted in most places accessible from here. I guess it was a fitting way to finish. What to do?
Although I’d experienced more than my share of fishing during the past 6 months and 29 days, my gut feeling told me to get out there one last time. If for no other reason than to see what happened. I felt like there was unfinished business that needed attending.
The alarm went off early on April 30th. It was pretty cold and miserable to start with. I nearly pulled the pin and went back to bed. It took every ounce of self – control not to.
I chose to visit a place with few fish, in the hope of finding some good ones. I ended last season with a great fish, and I was keen to repeat the effort this year.
When I eventually arrived at the river the wind was really bad. It was absolutely howling. It was so bad I thought about flagging it and trying to find somewhere more sheltered nearby. I decided against moving on and stayed with plan A.
It took a while, but eventually I found a fish. Best of all, it looked to be feeding. The adrenaline started right at that moment, and I was a wreck as I attached a dry fly and dropper rig. I dropped down to the river and changed my set up again slightly, I figured the dropper length I’d set was too long and the nymph was probably too heavy.
With that sorted finally I set about laying line on water. This was the next issue, the bushes behind me and the still howling wind conspired against me to turn an otherwise simple task into a difficult one.
My first couple of attempts resulted in my line being stuck in a bush. I kept as calm as I could while I unhooked it, and eventually I nailed the cast, and the dry fly indicator hit the spot. I knew I was in the money.
The Humpy bobbed along in the current. I couldn’t see the fish clearly through the wind ruffled surface, and it felt like forever had passed, but eventually the nymph reached the red zone and the dry twitched sideways slightly.
I lifted the rod and resistance was met in the form of a solid thud. A moment later the fish rolled onto its side, stunned. It then took off to the bottom of the pool at lightning speed. I quickly crossed the river to get in a better position, and the fish pulled up at the top of the rapids, seemingly reluctant to head downstream any further. I sidestrained the fish in close and that was when I caught my first glimpse of its shoulder. It was an impressive sight indeed. From there I was pretty ruthless with my approach and was able to land the fish surprisingly quickly.
I don’t mind admitting I screamed like schoolgirl when I landed this fish. I screamed so much it made my voice a bit hoarse for the rest of the day, but I didn’t care.
Getting the photo was tricky. I can set the camera up on the tripod pretty quickly, but it was so windy I thought the whole lot was going to finish up in the river. Fortunately the expensive stuff didn’t, however, some of the less expensive stuff did… but nothing which mattered much.
Here it is…. the reward for my efforts.
The winning combination isn’t exactly revolutionary. I used a size 12 red Humpy as the indicator, with a size 14 Pheasant Tail nymph hung underneath. It was simple, but effective.
I released the fish and packed up my gear. That was it for the season of 2011-202. There was no way I could finish the season in a better way than that. I really had managed to save the best for last this time.
The day started well…
This solid rainbow took a well weighted colubriscus after several presentations. It was the first fish we saw. I was happy.
This happiness, however, was not to continue.
Andrew and I were planning on putting some serious leg work in and heading up up up. All was going well until we concluded that the gorge was impassable, so we’d have to take the alternate route around. Quite how it happened I’ll never know, but for some ungodly reason Andrew and I found ourselves on opposite sides of the river both following what we thought was ‘the track’. As it transpires my ‘track’ turned out to be nothing more than a blaze trail put in place to get to the pest traps. It was absurdly hard going. There was no defined path, just sporadic animal tracks that all of a sudden gave way to waist high falls through rotten logs. I pushed on for longer than I should have, assuming Andrew had to be ahead of me. Eventually, after managing to injure myself in some unprecedented ways, I beat a retreat. Back at camp I wrote a message in ash on our egg carton, and decided to try and salvage something from the day. After all, it couldn’t get worse, right?
I wasn’t sure quite what section of river Andrew might be fishing or whether he was ahead of me or behind me, so I decided to try and do a deep wade to get myself into a position to fish a bit of awkward to access water. The wade was particularly deep at one point, so I decided to shimmy my way across a couple of rocks. Then all of a sudden I hear an odd noise followed by a thud. I turned, just in time to see my Pelican waterproof camera case falling from my now split bag. The image of the case hitting a rock, splitting open and my Canon G11 sinking to the bottom of the river is seared in my memory. After retrieving the camera I simply sat on a rock in disbelief.
Eventually I gathered myself, crossed the river and started slowly making my way upstream. My heart wasn’t really in it, so I wasn’t hopeful when I spotted a smudge sitting a foot from the edge. I had to sit on a log to fish to this fish, so there was a little novelty to the attempt. My first cast was perfect. My second saw the wee beadhead pheasant tail rocket into the water about 6 inches to the right of the fishes face. He ate. The fight was uneventful, but the capture of my first brownie (and quite a solid one at that) of the trip raised my mood slightly. As for the pictures, well…you get the idea.
A little after this Andrew and I bumped into each other. He commiserated with me over the demise of my camera and we commenced our assault on the river in earnest.
It wasn’t until we came to a major bend in the river that created a large swirling pool that the action heated up. Andrew pulled a good fish from the head of the pool that had been rising consistently. It was a horrible drift because of the swirling currents, but eventually the fish ate his wee nymph. It then tore madly around the pool until he subdued it.
I figured that had to be the end of that pool after the antics of Andrew’s fish. However, a fish in the far side continued to rise. It was moving a long way to feed, so it felt like all I had to do was put the cast in the right place. I did, and it ignored it. It wasn’t until near the end of the drift when the fly started to skate along the surface that the fish tore backwards and engulfed it. I’d like to have hooked it this way, as the aggression was rather neat. Sadly the hook never set. Until the next cast when my nymph got eaten. Fool me once…
It wasn’t the best conditioned fish, but it had been a while between drinks.
We continued searching upstream to no avail. Deciding to hedge our bets and head upstream fast while there was still light we skipped a lot of water. But the gamble paid off. Arriving at a pool we’d seen several fish in the day prior it didn’t take long before we’d spotted on. The fish was cruising a slow beat and inspected Andrew’s fly very closely before refusing it. All of a sudden we realised there was a second fish about 3 metres behind. I can’t remember whether Andrew had to cast again or whether he simply continued the drift, but this time his tiny nymph was intercepted. This fish fought like a trooper. A large log bisected the pool and on numerous occasions I thought the fish had made it there. But Andrew fought it hard and there’s only so long a fish can resist such constant pressure. Eventually a great rainbow was brought to the net.
A little further upstream I got another chance and after getting the drift right I was connected to a silver bullet. It wasn’t quite the scrap that Andrew experienced, but a fit well conditioned rainbow will always give you a run for your money.
With darkness descending we headed back to camp to enjoy the now traditional steak, mash and peas topped off with gravy.
We caught some great fish that day, but unfortunately for me it was a tainted day. Taking all the possible precautions and still drowning my camera was a real slap in the face. Still, you can’t be too upset when you’ve still got 3 more days of fishing ahead of you.
Over to Andrew for the final wrap up…
It’s been a couple of weeks since we got back from our adventure down south. Unfortunately essays have prevented me from posting this earlier.
The whole trip seemed to come around rather quickly and I was in a bit of a surprise to realise it was 1am with the plane leaving in 7 hours and no bags packed. After a rushed pack and a short sleep I met Andrew and Jeremy at the airport. We arrived in Queenstown shortly after and made our way to Chris’s place after a quick stop for a beer and Ferg (Double ferg with blue cheese).
Andrew and I took turns tying abomination flies on Chris’s vice…
While Jeremy stared into space. I think his mind was elsewhere.
That night we ate an enormous pizza each and drank enough to feel merry. The alarm came round all too quickly and we jumped in the car, made our way to breakfast…
And then realised we’d forgotten a crucial item. We backtracked, then drove straight into te anau. A second breakfast followed, before we boarded the boat and took in the scenic views of what has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. After a short walk we made our way to our campsite and commenced building the mancamp.
We were in for 4 days and 3 nights, so it pays to take a little time to get things sorted. It’s not easy to do when you’ve got superb fishing so close by though!
Andrew and I decided to head down and fish our way back to camp whilst Jeremy and Chris fished up. It didn’t take long before we found a fish sipping of the surface in a riffle. It was covering so much ground to feed that putting a cast in front of it was far from a given. After a couple of attempts it took Andrew’s nymph and the game began. A decent bit of sideways pressure saw the fish succumb and Andrew had his first ever Fiordland trout.
It didn’t take long before I got on the board as well with a slightly smaller silver specimen. Further upstream in a big deep pool Andrew got broken off by what appeared to be a very good fish. My turn again saw a nice fit fish to the net after it had inhaled my dry while feeding in the eye of a pool.
Things were going very nicely with three fish to the bank on the first afternoon. I hooked and lost another while Andrew covered a few more fish to no avail. Then in a small pool created by a branch sticking in against a bank I spotted a smudge. Andrew worked his way up the pool as we couldn’t spot the fish precisely. As the flies drifted over the lip the smudge reappeared and swung. I shouted strike just as Andrew lifted the rod. What followed was a classic example of attempting to net a very strong fish in completely inappropriate water. The nearest beach was a decent walk away, so we attempted to net it mid riffle. Given the fact that we succeeded I won’t comment on alternatives, but suffice to say that it’s not the best form.
Andrew with the fish of the day.
After that we made our way back up to camp. Andrew took a leaf out of all teenage delinquents books and started a fire with aerosol deodorant. Once the fire was going we set our minds to dinner – Steak, mashed potatos and peas. Good god was it good.
I went out for a night fish that night and hooked a couple of fish, but didn’t manage to land them. All in all it was a very good first day.
Andrew will be along in a few days time with the next installment.
The Fish Of The Season competition has come to a close. We have had some truly great entries that weren’t included in the final list. Sadly we could only choose 5 and these are our picks.
So now’s the time to choose your favourite. Click on the image to have a closer look.
Voting closes Monday 21st of May at 7pm.
A while back I got a message from Chris, one of the boys I used to go to school with way back in the day.
It turns out Chris has been into fly fishing for a wee while now. He has been spending a bit of time during the past couple of seasons fishing with Ben, who we also we went to school with.
The boys have even been reading the Riverworks Lifestyle blog!
It was long overdue, but today we finally got out for a fish together.
We didn’t travel all that far from home relatively speaking, so we left at a reasonable hour in the morning and found ourselves on the water just as the sun was peeking over the hills. The idea was to explore a piece of water none of us had fished before. Although most of the water we passed looked very promising, it turned out to be very disappointing indeed.
We saw one fish. (We didn’t catch it)
There ain’t no fish here…
Plan B was hatched after we came to the realisation that plan A sucked. We marched back to the car and took off up the road.
There were a few fish in the short stretch we fished, and they were as difficult as usual.
Right near the end we found one in the lower part of a pool which was feeding happily. Chris went forth and tried to entice it… unsuccessfully.
Ben went next, and after several fly changes he had it fooled.
It fought a good fight, and when it came to the net I could see why.
And there it is, Ben’s biggest trout.
It wasn’t long before this I’d been saying to Ben that often a single fish can make the entire day worthwhile. This was one of those fish.
It was time to leave after that. We had to get back to town, and I was losing my sanity fast as I became the food supply for several thousand sandflies.
We’re gonna do it all again before the season ends. Next time we’ll head somewhere with a few more fish, even if they are slightly on the smaller side.
Here is a little fish I caught a week or so ago, it was a fat wee pig. I caught it on a black terrestrial pattern.
Somehow I’ve managed to swing the whole month of April off… so I hope to get out fishing once or twice during that time. Watch this space…