Popped out for a quick fish with Ryan last Saturday. I’d had a hell of a week with Uni – couple of big assignments including one on freshwater allocation in New Zealand (a difficult topic for a flyfisher to preserve impartiality). So I was feeling a little tired getting up at 5am. Thankfully my reactions weren’t too off as approaching the river I had to swerve fairly wildly to avoid a flying kayak (seriously). That got the blood pumping.
We arrived at the river to bracingly fresh air. The conditions were overcast above us, but the sun was poking its way out on the horizon. A substantial backwater saw our first target cruising an erratic beat. Ryan put several good casts out there, but unfortunately on every beat the fish would move just wide of the fly and hadn’t seen it. We decided to double team him, so I put on a double emerger setup. Placing our flies so as to cover both of his frequented beats, it was on this loop that he saw my flies. Ever so ever so slowly he rose up to intercept my soft hackle just beneath the surface. Strike, and thump thump…freedom. The hook had obviously hit something hard in his mouth, failed to penetrate and straightened slightly. It was disappointing, but given how long we’d fished to him it was very satisfying to get the take.
We continued upwards without seeing much. A little further up we saw why… A couple of fisherman were ahead of us. We paced our way upstream to see what the go was. Eventually we caught up to them and learned that they’d parked at the same spot as we had had, assumed that we’d gone downstream and walked sufficiently far up stream to get in ahead of us. Now I don’t want to be too critical, because it’s easy to get these things wrong. But I just wanted to take this opportunity to point out a couple of useful little etiquette points. 1) If you arrive to your chosen destination and discover that there’s another fisherman parked up there, don’t assume they’ve gone downstream. There’s about a 90% chance that they’ll be fishing upstream. Obviously this can be a little location dependent, and perhaps I should have left a note stating our intentions, but typically it’s a much more intelligent assumption to presume anglers have gone upstream. 2) If some anglers are walking up behind you clearly trying to catch up to you don’t keep walking and pretend you haven’t seen them. Stop and talk to them and then you’ll be able to reach a compromise that should make both parties happy.
In this instance the guy was pretty reasonable. We asked them how far they were planning on fishing, they said 2km. So we walked 2km upstream and started fishing. It just so happened that the pool we started at contained about 8 rainbows feeding very erratically. We covered the fish without much result before something clicked in my head: swimming mayflies. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier. I chucked on my own bastardisation of Pete Carty’s Oniscigaster nymph, which instantly got results. I’ve found the best tactic for fish feeding on these flies is to fish without an indicator and just a single nymph cast upstream to the far side of the fish. Once it hits the water begin to twitch it back in a strip-stop motion. I’ve found the fish seem to hit the fly on the stop after tracking it during the strip, so don’t be afraid to hold the stop period for a little while.
My cast dropped in upstream of the fish, which looked about 3-4lbs in the water, twitch…stop…twitch… smash! I saw the fish’s mouth open and strip struck. It was like something exploded. The fish tore wildly downstream and had me straight into my backing. In all my fishing I’ve never actually seen my backing before. But I saw it about three times on this fish. The battle took a fair while, with the fishes brawn dominating. But it couldn’t keep it up all day and under constant pressure it finally succumbed. The day had suddenly become a very good one…
Turned out it was a bit bigger than 3-4lbs… Truly beautiful fish that had some immense shoulders on it.
Working our way back up the pool we found that most of the fish had returned to feeding – the hatch was simply too tempting. Ryan targeted a fish just slightly downstream of him. On about the fourth cast he got a take, which didn’t stick, but because he strip struck rather than yanked the fly through the air the fish wasn’t too put off. A couple of casts later everything stuck and Ryan was connected to a thunderbolt. The fish took to the air several times and had a few searing runs, but Ryan played it strong and eventually beached a great fish.
A new P.B. rainbow for Ryan. Again, this fish was about as broad as any I’ve seen.
On the way back we dropped in to the water the other guys had been fishing and spotted a smaller fish feeding in the same erratic fashion. Ryan covered it and after a couple of casts got its attention. The fly was higher in the column than we’d thought, but upon seeing the mouth go Ryan struck and came up solid. I’d used the long fight on Ryan’s other Rainbow to show Ryan how to use rod angles to control a fish, and he put them into great use here stopping the fish pretty quickly.
It certainly wasn’t as big as the others we’d caught, but it was a nice little finish to the day.
Driving home we had a few interesting experiences including the graphic reality of the roar, homicidal grannies and the delight of discovering the two new Whittakers chocolates in a dinky little country general store (despite the fact that they hadn’t made it to countdown yet).
Heading into Fiordland next week – can’t wait!
1st October comes round every year, this season I went South to fish the upper Wairau River on Rainbow and Molesworth Stations.
Driving up the Wairau Valley from Blenheim didn’t look promising, water everywhere and rivers were bank to bank in a deep chocolate colour. We tried to push through to the hut on Thursday night, however flooded side creeks made the fords uncrossable. We stayed in St Arnaud on Thursday night while we waited for the Side Rivers to drop. Thanks to a little help from a local machine operator early Friday morning we made it through to the Sedgemere Sleep Out around lunch time.
The Wairau was still a write off, so after lunch we headed over to Fish Lake. Plenty of good sized fish cruising along the edge of the lake however they were too cunning for us. After fishing the sheltered edge of the lake it was time to chill out with cold beer out of the wind. It’s a tough life!
The Wairau was still filthy on Saturday morning so we headed over to Lake Tennyson to fish the lake and upper Clarence River. High flows and only a couple of km’s of high fishable water made it difficult. We eventually retired to the lake to throw a few spinners, after an hour of bitterly cold wind we packed it in and headed back to the hut for a spot of shooting and dinner.
I’m looking forward to heading back to the upper Wairau once the weather is a little more settled. Amazing country that you have to see to appreciate!