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 video clip from a trip earlier this season. You’ve seen the photo’s now here it is in motion…
Cheers to Mike Kirkpatrick for stitching it all together.
So far I really liked it here. We were in a good place.
This was the day when Chris decided to chill out around camp and muck about with his bow. So while he was doing this, Jack, Jeremy and I headed off upstream together.
The day started off overcast, and ended up remaining that way. Not that it mattered.
There are plenty of fish in the river. Finding them wasn’t an issue. However, we struggled to catch any for a while on the second day. Jeremy decided to wait back at a section of the river where there is a lot of still water. He told us to go ahead and he’d catch up later.
Jack and I continued on our way, and finally after much frustration, Jack fished to one which was rising at the top of a long, glassy run, and it took his dry.
Soon after that it was my turn to bring one to the net.
It was Jacks turn once again, and it seemed like we had found our rhythm at last.
We spent the next couple of hours taking turns picking fish off one after the other. It was pretty good fishing.
Later on Jeremy caught up with us. He’d had a pretty good time of things downstream too.
Things went pretty quiet for a bit once we reunited with Jeremy, but after a while we made it to a stunning piece of water.
Jack kicked it off by hooking into a good fish. While he was hooked up I cast to another fish feeding in the eye. I hooked up too.
So there we were, standing only metres apart and both hooked up to a big rainbow trout each. My one burst out of the water every few seconds for the first bit, and continued to do so less frequently as it tired. Just when I thought I had the battle won, the hook popped out. I stood there, shouting. I wasn’t very pleased. Jack was still hooked up. Lucky for him, he landed his one!
As I stood there feeling sorry for myself and thinking about how unfair the world can be sometimes, I spotted another fish. At first I thought it was the one which had just thrown my hook… but it wasn’t.
I cast to the fish, and it surged forward onto the size 16 hare and copper. This one went like a rocket too. It took some beating, but this time I won. It was a fat fish, and obviously very fit. This was my biggest of the day and finished up being my biggest for the trip.
That was a pretty good way to finish up. A great fish each from the same pool.
Together we walked back along the track after that. About halfway back to camp Jeremy disappeared away from the track for another look at a piece of water he’d fished earlier in the day.
Jack and I had a look off the track a couple of times too. I managed to donate some new jewellery to one fish along the way, and hooked up on the most atrocious looking pink streamer ever to swim a New Zealand river. I really wanted to catch that last fish, just to say I’d caught something on that particular streamer. I guess I’ll just have to wait for that moment.
That night around the campfire was another good one. Although I wouldn’t recommend kids trying it at home, the fire was started in the same fashion as the night before… it’s very effective.
We sat on our log in front of that fire, soaking up the warmth as we fed on soup, steak, rice and veges. This was followed up with chocolate and whisky. We weren’t really doing it tough down there.
Well there goes day two. Jack will cover day three soon.
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…
Last weekend saw a break in the weather and the better halves were out of town. Holy shit, what to do, where to fish. So many options and so little precious time. Matt and I made a plan to mix it up with some fresh water action then attempt some SWF the next day. He had a river near Te Kuiti in mind that was long overdue a visit.
After one too many Friday bbq indulgences I was ready to roll nice and early. We headed South with a quick stop to pick up our companion for the day. Andrew was just as keen and we soon had his gear in the truck en route to one of the regions holy grails.
There’s one thing I’m really enjoying about the Waikato and that is the diverse range of flyfishing opportunities. This river was to be a first for Matt and I. Andrew having fished it a few times prior in the lower reaches.
A quick look-see over the bridge and we were kitting up in short order. The trout were visible within minutes and after spotting a “gimme” Matt was casting to a somewhat stubborn brown. It sulked under a bank after it got annoyed by us.
Hopping and crawling under cow fences we pushed on. We soon found out some of them were hot after one sent Matt sideways and had us in fits of laughter. This seemed to be the tipping point for the day and things started looking up.
There were trout in every pool and they all had breakfast on their minds. The boys cast at some fish I’d spotted while hiding in the trees above. Andrew picked up a fish after busting one off previously lower down due to no chance of a net job.
What we hadn’t banked on was the amount of walking we were going to do. So in the interest of making a long story short I’ll let the pictures speak more from here in.
The river was producing pool after pool of good, solid fish that were more than ready to receive our offers. Not to mention the scenery, it was one of those days that will be etched in the mind for a while yet.
This pool was also a honey. I sat and watched the trout feeding before finally moving in for the kill, only to drop the fly a few meters short and to the side. The fish turned and raced after it so fast I got too excited and smashed my tippet on the strike!
That was one river that will be forever on my favourites list. It had so many attributes and ticked all the boxes for me. We walked back to the truck absolutely buggered and pretty chuffed with scoring a near perfect day on the water.
The following day saw Matt and I bowl over to Waihi. We were in search of some Saltwater flats style fishing. Kingfish were on the target species list, well anything was to be honest. I’d been hearing reports of good fishing in shallow water and also had softbaits at the ready for a stealth mission.
Lets put it this way, the weather dictated our locations. We didn’t pick up much at all after doing a few recces near markers, in the channels and over the sand flats. But it was so fishy, we scratched our heads a bit and had almost given up hope until the tide changed and the harbour came to life.
Our saving grace were a few snapper pulled from 2 meters of water on fresh fly caught Kahawai. Just as I was considering throwing them a fly the bite dropped off and we had to leave. I’m going to be getting into this more as I can see the potential excitement of this type of fishing. Just need the gods to be good and we’ll be hooked up in no time.
This week is bollocks on the weather front. Unless you like standing at a river mouth on a dark stormy night, which is exactly what I intend to do tomorrow. I hope to have more pictures and stories to tell for the next installment.
Last weekend Rob came down from Wellington for some fishing with Jack and I. We had the plan sorted… and then it rained. A lot!
Despite the weather, we still went fishing. It just meant we had to travel further than we wanted to, a lot further as it turned out.
It seemed appropriate that most of the pictures were taken in black and white. It matches the doom and gloom that followed us wherever we went for the three days…
The first day was spent on a river which was very high, but usually remains reasonably fishable after even very heavy rain. There wasn’t a lot of photography taking place that day though, the rain kept coming on and off throughout the day. The camera was tucked away safely for most of the time… except for when Rob caught a fish.
That was all for the day as far as it went for fish on the bank. They were tough to find in the conditions, but at least it was a start.
That evening we headed off in search of cleaner water. After nearly a couple of hours we eventually found some. We arranged accomodation for the night, and headed off to the pub for some sustenance by way of steak sandwiches, burgers, and beer.
That night I slept pretty well, as did the other boys I believe. I’m not so sure about our Mexican friend who was unfortunate enough to have to share the room with us that night… the snoring might possibly have been a bit much for him to handle.
The next day dawned reasonably fine, although it quickly clouded over. It seemed like whatever we did to avoid bad weather, it was going to find us anyway. It wasn’t looking flash as we headed for the river. We arrived to an empty carpark and as we started getting ready patches of blue sky began to show through the cloud cover. It looked far better than before, but we resigned ourselves to the fact the weather might change a bit during the day.
The river had a touch of colour in it, but it wasn’t really a problem. We were reasonably confident we could find fish.
Jack found a fish, and after a couple of fly changes it took his nymph. Unfortunately it didn’t stay on for long… it spat the hook pretty quick.
Rob was next in the batting order.
It didn’t take long for him to connect with a fish.
This one stayed on.
It looked like it had been on the lean cuisine diet for a wee while, but at least it was a fish caught.
After that we walked for a bit without seeing much, then I found a fish holding in a small bit of pocket water against a solid bank. I managed to put a fly in front of it and it took, but like Jack’s fish it came off pretty quickly.
At this point in the day, it was almost threatening sunshine.
Not far upstream from here we split up for a bit. Jack took one side of the river while I went on the other side with Rob. It turned out that jack was on the wrong side!
If you have a close look at my right hand, you’ll appreciate that catching this fish was a bit harder than usual. I broke my middle finger right down near the knuckle three days earlier. Casting wasn’t very much fun… but where there is a will there is definitely a way!
Soon after that we found another one which Rob fished to. It was on the move, but as soon as it saw the fly it accepted nicely.
We carried on for quite a while after that, but didn’t manage to land any more fish for the day.
It was a decent walk back to the car, but not as bad as some of our past hikes to the car. We ate and drank at the same place as the evening before, and stayed another night. The Mexican dude was gone when we arrived back, I hope he didn’t leave because of us…
The next day we opted for a smaller piece of water. For whatever reason though, the fish weren’t willing to co-operate, and we blanked. We didn’t even look like getting a fish that day, but it was a day out nontheless…
Not long after lunch we had to pack up and head back to Christchurch so Rob could make his flight back to Wellington. It’s a shame the trip was a bit of a fizzer as far as the weather and fishing went, but we still managed to have a few laughs and made the most of a crap situation. Cheers guys…