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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
Sorry about the late notice for those of you who weren’t already aware. The protection and survival of our waterways is a worthy cause that affects us directly as fishermen. For those of you in Wellington this weekend, this may worth going along to.
I’d been starting to get a little disenchanted with my fly-fishing. The weather and the fish just didn’t seem to want to play ball. Sure, we were still picking up fish but they didn’t seem to be of the same calibre as previous seasons. I knew I just needed one good day – some sunshine and a big fish.
Over the weekend I was struck by a rather irritating fever – just bad enough to make me want to lie in bed all day, not bad enough to justify it. So I was a little hesitant about my chances of fishing on Monday. I thought about it for a long time… and, surprisingly enough, decided to go.
When we arrived it seemed like things were destined to repeat the pattern of overcast days with tough spotting conditions. And that’s certainly how things started out. We crept along the edges and managed to spot a couple. I covered one, then Andrew covered another. He certainly got a more positive reaction, but the end result was the same – nada. The next pool up Andrew spotted a smudge holding close to the bank – we were standing about 2metres from this fish and still couldn’t confirm that it was piscine. Until it swung. From close range, with about a foot of flyline out, I drifted a blowfly humpy over it. It rose and slashed at the fly. I waited…then struck. It was a little bit like a pocket rocket exploding at launch. The aerial acrobatics were instant, and then the booster engaged and we were on our way downstream. It was one of the smallest fish I’ve caught since coming back to the South Island, but also one of my favourites. It had risen confidently and fought like a champion – and to top things off it was beautiful. Solid to the point of being chubby with a myriad of leopard like x shaped spots on a pale buttery body.
The blowfly was embedded well.
A very nice start.
We saw a few more fish, but it wasn’t until Andrew attempted a new tactic that things changed. I don’t think he’s named his method yet, but it was effective. Basically, as I understand it, you cast your fly out a couple of metres just to clear some line, untangle the remaining line from the bushes, notice a substantial boil around where your fly landed, then simultaneously strike and clear the tangled line. If you can pull it off as well as he did then I’ll be impressed.
The efficacy can’t be questioned.
The fish seemed to be getting bigger?
A couple of pools further up a very substantial shape shot forward to intercept Andrew’s fly and appeared to erupt on the surface – surely he’s hooked it? But the mystified look on his face, quickly followed by a flash of anger, explained things. How it failed to hook up I’m not sure.
The sun was just starting to poke through the clouds as I approached a run with a good permanent bank. The angle of the sun meant sighting it was nigh on impossible, but it looked too good to ignore. I took one side, Andrew took the other. As it transpired I picked right. As I was prospecting my way up the run, just starting to get into the money zone, my fly was intercepted by something that felt very solid. It lacked the fireworks of my initial fish, but there was a lot of weight strumming through my 5wt. The fight was determined, if unspectacular. Until it came to the netting. I’d expect a broken finger is a bit of a hindrance when netting, but as soon as Andrew saw the fly pop out of the beached fishes mouth he pounced on the fish and secured it using a move I think I saw on a wrestling show. I was stoked. The fish was as solid as expected.
The pattern continued, the fish got bigger.
Sadly, this was the last fish. I won’t mention that fish that Andrew covered that definitely would have continued the pattern…it would just bring up bad memories.
That day was exactly what I needed. I feel content, my faith is restored. Until Friday anyway.
First cast back in the South Island…
Yep, that’ll do.
Following on from the last post… day two of three in the deep south.
It was a considerably slower start to the next day. It was a bit like coming out of a long hibernation instead of waking up from a night of sleeping.
Fortunately Chris has this fancy pants coffee plunger attachment to go with his jetboil thingee, and we were all fortunate to experience the revival that only a morning coffee can offer.
The conversation was thrilling first thing in the morning.
Lunch was packed up after that, the fishing gear was organised and we were on our way – nearly. First of all we needed to find somewhere to keep the beer cold until the end of the day. Jeremy was right on it.
We split the group in half for this day. Chris drew the short straw and had to go with super pooper, while I went with Jeremy. After we parted ways Jeremy and I walked for a while to our designated starting point. For the record, we were fishing one of the tributaries for the day.
It took a wee while, but finally a fish flashed in the current under Jeremy’s fly. It didn’t take on that drift, but the next presentation did the trick and the fish grabbed the fly. We were on the board for the day!
I spent the next while experiencing some tough times, through a combination of misfortune and bad decision making. I missed a couple of takes because of poor line control in tough currents, and snapped off on a good fish when I tried to skull drag it in too soon.
Jeremy got this one fishing blind. It flew out of the water when he struck and landed on a rock… it must have knocked itself out for a bit because it floated upside down for a while. It didn’t seem to be permanently damaged though, it came to in my hand and swam away as strong as ever. Hopefully it recovered properly.
After what felt like forever, I finally caught a fish. It wasn’t this one by the way… it was a horrible thing. I was getting ready to cast at one midway through the pool when I spotted the degenerate fish in the tailout more or less at my feet. I flicked the cicada over the fish, basically dapping it… and the fish snared the fly with its third attempt. I think it just needed the first two to get its eye in.
Anyhow, after that I heaved a long cast into the belly of the pool where I saw some movement. Straight away the rainbow pictured came to the surface and ate the cicada imitation. I set the hook hard and the fish did its thing. Fortunately this one stuck.
At the top of the rapid feeding that pool was another nice run, and it had a couple of fish.
This is one of them. Jeremy got it on the gay white thing. (Its a cicada imitation of sorts)
A while later I had another opportunity. The fish was sitting in very shallow, slow moving water on the edge of the river. I put a parachute fly in front of it and it accepted straight away. It did a kind of fishy burnout / skid when it felt the hook and took off. Water was going everywhere.
It put up a good scrap, but relented with a bit of pressure and came in for a photo after a while.
Things slowed down for a bit, and the light became such that spotting was very difficult. We still found the fish, but is was much harder than before. I spotted one from a high bank and showed it to Jeremy, he went down into the water and managed to sneak into a position where he could see the fish. First cast with a green caddis hung under the gay white thing saw the fish grab the nymph and Jeremy was on again. This one put up a great scrap. It took some beating, but Jeremy was up to the task.
We’d agreed at the start of the day to meet where we split up at 6pm. By now it was around 5, and we were starting to find fish quite frequently. We decided to give it another 15 minutes.
I duffed another one soon after Jeremy’s fish. I cast my parachute fly up and it started dragging immediately, just under the surface. The fish snatched at the fly anyway, but I failed to connect with it. I got a bit grumpy for a few seconds at that point and let the world know how I felt.
Another one was found not far from that, and Jeremy again did what he had to and successfully landed another brown. It was now closer to 5:30 than 5:15… we still didn’t want to leave, so we didn’t.
We continued on upstream, reasoning that the others probably would have been late anyway, and they would figure we were ok and leave us to it. The last piece we came to had a couple of fish in it, and although they were feeding happily enough they were a bit on the fussy side.
I had two refusals from separate fish after very long and deliberate inspections. In the end I had to go old school and tied on a standard size 14 Greenwells Glory. It worked a treat too. The rainbow hit it like a sledge hammer and fought with the same degree of enthusiasm.
The fly was way down by the gill rakers on this one. He really wanted that fly bad.
It was then that Jeremy and I decided enough was enough and turned around. It was after 6, and if we didn’t stop there we would have gone on forever. It was a good walk back to the main track, and we were nearly back when we met Chris and the Lion King on the track. They were armed with binoculars and had come to see where we were. They told us if they couldn’t see us then they were going to drink all the beer themselves… how caring.
They had an interesting time on the section of river they fished. Chris caught a few, and Rodney had 10 takes without landing a single fish. He managed to smoke all of his cigarettes throughout the day too, so he was a happy man by the time we got to him.
That night Jeremy was on cooking duty again since he caught the biggest and most fish for the day. We just sat and watched as we drank our beer and chatted away to an Australian angler who had turned up in the hut during the day. He even gave Rodney a cigarette!
That was it for day two. Another great day out exploring new water.
The trip was nearly finished. Only one day to go.
The next instalment isn’t far away…
Just a quick one from me, in keeping with the duration of the trip.
Headed up country immediately after my Nana’s 80th birthday festivities drew to a close on Sunday. I had a special guest with me this time: dad.
After sorting out the lodgings we quickly hit the river, although the first hour or two was rather fruitless with few fish seen. As the light diminished the fishing increased. Things took a definite turn for the better when we came across a deep corner pool riddled with snags. At the head holding high in the column just off the lip was a golden shape. For the briefest moment I thought it was just another log, except logs don’t rise. I shimmied into position and put the perfect cast over it with a #14 parachute adams. And…nothing. And again…nothing. The third was slightly wayward, and met with similar determined resistance. A change of tactics was called for. Off with the dainty mayfly, on with a big ugly terrestrial. It only took one cast. A determined, if unspectacular, fight ensued with the most effort exerted keeping the fish from the countless snags. After a couple of dashes from the shallows the battle concluded with a stonking brown safely in the net.
A reason to smile.
I’m far from an elitist, but I’ll always value a fish on the dry just a little bit more.
The next wee while saw a few fish sighted, usually too late. Dad was unlucky not to rise a couple of fish that he covered well. Finally, with darkness well on its way we approached another corner pool with more than one impediment to casting. Dad opted out, so there I was standing up to my neck in grass watching (well really listening to) a fish rise just feet away. It was almost dapping, but it sure brought about results. This time the #14 para adams certainly wasn’t rejected. What the previous fight lacked in spectacle this one more than made up for in aerobatics. I think the fish spent more time in the air than the water. But the trusty #5 absorbed it all and the fish soon succumbed to the constant pressure.
Another superbly conditioned brown.
After that we retired for the night, got a filthy feed of chinese takeaways and returned to our room where we were embraced wholeheartedly by cold beer.
The next day saw an early start, which turned out to be well worthwhile as not 5 minutes after we started we noticed another angler 100 metres or so downstream of us. On about the fifth cast of the day Dad caught the fish of the day. In fact, barring one small model I picked up, it was the only fish of the day. It rose confidently to eat his cicada and burst downstream as soon as it felt the bite of steel. I had to employ some boot camp tactics to get dad chasing it as at one point there was over 30 metres of backing out. I’ve seen fish fight harder than this, but I’ve never seen them fight so one dimensionally. It just swam in one direction, downstream, for the duration of the fight. Once we’d caught up to it the netting was practically a formality.
Dad once again demonstrates his propensity to make 4lb fish look tiny.
This proved to be the only real highlight in what was otherwise a very quiet day. The trip home was interrupted only by a brief stop for kebabs and a briefer stop for coffee. Great to get out on the water with dad and catch a few fish!
First of all thank you all for your help and suggestions for the new wading jacket. We really appreciate our customers input.
It appears we definitely have 2 very separate camps here, 1 for the wading jacket similar to what is already on the market and 1 for the more compact, simple, packable shell. All I have to do now is convince Rob to do 2 jackets so everyone has an option!
I received a few jacket designs, which were all really good and well thought out. Here they are:
From Calum McKenzie, a keen young fisherman and outdoorsman:
From Lisa McKenzie:
From Daren Gamble:
Thanks very much guys for all the effort you put in.
Everyone’s ideas have been taken into consideration and will form a check list to help us design a wading jacket for our customers. The design process for this jacket will be blogged continuously and at every stage our readers will be included in the discussions and decisions relating to this. We want you guys to see and be involved in everything from the concept right through to production.
Thanks again and keep an eye out next month for the initial concept sketches, we will need your votes!
A month ago I spent four days product testing/fishing with legendary Nelson Guide, Nelson Councillor and Riverworks Pro Team member Zane Mirfin. I had a wicked time, caught plenty of fish and really enjoyed the beautiful Nelson Lakes region. Zane is great to go fishing with, I was impressed with the ease at which he caught pretty much every fish he cast to. He made it look easy and like there was no skill involved, which we know is not true!!!
Zane blasting us to our destination.
Zane with a monster.
It was a great to fish with such a talented angler. I have been fishing for years but to go out fishing with a guide with 25+ years guiding experience really made a difference to my own fishing. I would highly recommend getting out and fishing with people at the top of the fishing game in order to improve your own fishing. Anyway that’s enough blowing wind up Zane’s arse!
Rob’s best fish of the trip.
We got to our camp site at about 3pm and setup the tent and fly, left our gear and went for a fish up the river. We took a rifle with us in case we saw a deer. After walking for miles up the river catching plenty of nice fish we decided to stash our rods and have a look for a deer. We didn’t have any luck and it was getting late so at 9:30pm we decided to head back to camp. I was getting pretty hungry at this stage, I had been looking forward to our packet curry pasta with lamb and rosemary sausages since about 7pm.
We finally arrived back at camp about 11pm to find our bag of food spread everywhere. A bloody Kea had crawled under the tent fly poked a couple of holes in the mosquito mesh before figuring out he could unzip the door and drag our bag of food outside where he could polish it off while keeping an eye out for us. The Kea tried everything in the bag, crackers, sausages, pottle of fruit and what it didnt like it spread everywhere. The worst thing was that I had been looking forward to having a Toffee Pop for dessert the whole way back. The little bugger loved Toffee Pops, well the best part of the Toffee Pop. It ate all the chocolate and toffee off all the biscuits and left the biscuit bases spread everywhere. Right now we were devastated that this little punk had got into our food and spread it everywhere. We started to clean up the mess and salvage what we could. I picked up the Toffee Pop packet to find that he had graciously left two Toffee Pops in the pack, one at each end. We polished off the two remaining Toffee Pops, they tasted amazing!
All the photos are Zane’s (thats why they are all of me!). It was nice to leave my 10kg of camera gear behind for a change.
After a couple more days of fishing, solving the problems of the world and walking to what felt like the end of the earth and back I jumped on a little plane and arrived back in Wellington. I had a fantastic trip and am now looking forward to getting back down South again soon.
Firstly I feel I should apologise for my absence these past few months. It’s been hectic and I just haven’t been fishing often enough. Cheers heaps to those who took over the mantle and kept things ticking along.
I’ve barely been fishing since I got back to Wellington but, with the exception of a few false starts, I’ve been catching some very good fish on the few times that I’ve been out.
After finishing up at work for the year I headed over into the Wairarapa with dad for the day. The mission was to get Dad onto a fish. Sadly the mission remains unfulfilled. Dad fished really well and managed several takes, but for some reason they just weren’t connecting. It wasn’t until late in the day that I managed this brawler that punched well above its weight.
The day after Christmas Andrew from Hamills and I set off for a wee excursion. The weather was hot and he kindly offered to drive so I spent the trip imbibing some quality IPAs. By the time we got to our fishing location I was half chopped. Couldn’t help wondering if that was the reason we were spooking more than our usual share of fish. When we’d almost entirely given up hope we saw something that lit up our spirits. A rising fish. Because of the failing light we could only make it out when it rose or sat in the section lit up by stream. First cast with my #14 parachute adams was short, but the second was perfect. What proceeded was a worthy scrap. I got towed up and down the river by this fish while trying to keep it clear of sticks and weed in the water. Finally, after a false start or two, Andrew snared it in the net. I was chuffed.
I didn’t sleep at all well that night. I’m not sure whether it was the hayfever or the lack of sleeping bag/sleeping mat. I awoke around 5 30 and knew that I wasn’t getting back to sleep. The day started off slowly, and to be honest didn’t progress much beyond that. The highlight was a great rainbow caught in farcical style. My drift was well and truly over and I’d begun to wind the line back onto the reel when I feel a slight tug. Next second I’m approaching my backing as a silver bullet heads downstream for the horizon. I don’t really feel like I deserved this fish, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The final installment of this somewhat disjointed post occurred just a couple of days ago. After trekking all over the North Island with Liz and crossing filthy river after filthy river it was with more than a modicum of relief that we arrived to find this river running clear. The sight of another car in the park didn’t help, but after encountering these guys on the river bank I promptly headed off for the pool above where they’d finished. I fished half heartedly on the way, but I knew darkness was approaching and this wasn’t somewhere you want to get caught out. On about my third drift the indicator hesistated, and I pounced. Sweet solid resistance. And then straight to the depths. A classic battle followed with the fish alternately leaping for the heavens or diving to the bottom of the pool. For the most it fought more like a browny. I’d get it into the shallows, then it’d head for the other side of the river. It was relief more than anything that followed my successful netting. The photo’s a shitty self timer and doesn’t really do justice to this magnificent fish. It’s a new P.B. rainbow for me by over a pound. It really was quite special.
That’s all for now team. Hopefully I’ll get out for a fish in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got some serious plans for my weekend, lets just hope the weather doesn’t get in the way.
Finally we have sunshine…
It seems like every time I’ve been able to go fishing so far this season it is either raining, or has been raining, usually rather heavily. Not this time though. The rain stopped last week, and the forecast was for fine weather and light winds.
The last time I fished with Shagger it was in the pouring rain, and we decided to have another go in the week leading up to Christmas, in the hope that we wouldn’t get as wet and cold, and that we may even be able to spot some fish. Our wish for better conditions had been granted. It was time to get amongst it.
We drove to the end of the road where we mounted the horses of steel and continued towards the day’s destination. After an hour or so we couldn’t ride any further so it was time to travel on shanks’ pony for the remaining distance.
The river was in great condition and it wasn’t too long until we found fish. Shagger was first up and he didn’t disappoint at all. The fish was moving around a bit, but as soon as Shagger covered it with the cicada it came up and took confidently.
The fish took Shagger a way down the river, never really doing anything spectacular, but refusing to come easily to the net. It fought the typical fight of a big heavy fish.
Unfortunately the fish was a bit sneakier than we expected it to be and shot out from the net after it was unhooked just as it was about to be lifted for the grip n grin picture. It really took off like a rocket.
There was another fish feeding in the run above us. I climbed down the bank to make the cast and it took the first presentation of the cicada dry. This one fought differently from Shaggers fish, it leapt a couple of times and released a few bursts of energy by tearing off into midstream at times throughout the fight.
My first netting attempt was a bit sloppy and it got back into the current, but I got him on the second attempt.
It was built differently from the first one, but it weighed the same.
It was right about the time when I released the fish that it occurred to me Shagger might not be familiar with the finer points of getting the focus set on my camera… so I gave him a 10 second midstream tutorial…
This was as good a start to a day as any I could remember. It was suggested that we could be in for a great day if the fishing continued in the same fashion. As it turned out, we spoke too soon. The fishing soon became very frustrating.
Shagger fished at the next one, which was actually sitting below where I had just hooked my fish from. It must have moved in there while we were downstream. This fish obliged in the same way as the first two did, but only stayed hooked for a few seconds.
Can you see the fish?
We found another one further along the same run on the other side which I crossed over for, but it soon disappeared after only a couple of presentations.
After that we went through a long period where the fish were very spooky, and the ones which took did so in an unusual manner. They were nipping at the fly rather than taking confidently. The fresh boot prints explained to me why they were behaving this way.
The wind picked up throughout the day. It was blowing quite strongly behind us and made it difficult to load the back cast and place a fly accurately… so much for the forecast of light wind, although I got the feeling the wind we were experiencing was on the lighter side of the scale for the valley.
Time went by with a few fish cast at and not caught, until we came to the run which was to become our saviour for the day. It started off when I hooked one on a blowfly pattern which snapped me off. I was a bit angry, but reasoned that at least it was a solid hook up. Shagger then fished at one which took the fly but didn’t stick… again. Once again it was my turn, I hooked up, and at last I landed another fish.
It was a great feeling to get one to the net finally.
It was a shade smaller than my first one.
Another one was found a short way up, at first we thought it might have been the fish I just released, but it lifted to Shagger’s dry fly and took it, so apparently not.
This one also stayed hooked and made it into the net. This fish was a real warhorse… it looked as thoughit had survived through some hard times.
This was the biggest fish for the day and Shagger’s biggest fish for some years. He was stoked and so was I.
It looked like things were turning for the better.
After that, Shagger brought another one to the net, however, it wasn’t using any traditional method. He used the bum jacking technique… the fish was just sitting there minding its own business when dirty old Shagger snagged it in the rear with his sunken fly. The poor fish got one hell of a fright and took off for the other side, taking all the fly line and plenty of backing with it.
To his credit Shagger pulled it in quickly to save it any undue stress, but he insisted on having a photo with it. Who was I to say no?
We carried on for another hour or so, but we stopped seeing fish at that run. Eventually we turned around for the long trip back to the truck. It took a long time to get there, and I was one very tired boy by the time we rested the bikes down.
We (Shagger) cooked up a feed of steak, onions and packet pasta in the back of the truck, before heading towards greener pastures elsewhere.
I have no idea how long it took us to get there, but it felt like forever until we were setting up camp for the night. I slept very well that night, Shagger confirmed this in the morning when he mentioned the amount of snoring that had been coming from me. I was a bit second hand to start with when I woke up, but after a while I limbered up enough to be of some use and went to work cooking up the bacon and eggs breakfast I had been looking forward to so much.
It was a pretty gentle start to that days fishing. The sun was already on the water by the time we arrived and it didn’t take long to find a fish.
Shagger tried a few different patterns over it, but it wouldn’t budge. The next few fish were pretty much the same… they were very still and sitting in strange places. There were a lot of footprints around. Perhaps the owners of those prints had a successful day on the river a day or two before?
I managed to hook one fish which was sitting at the bottom of a very heavy run. I had to change to a massive stonefly to get a result, and the fish only stuck for a few seconds.
We made the call to bail out and try somewhere neither of us had fished before. The water had far less clarity there, and the wind was rather strong, but we were both confident of catching what we could find.
It took a while, but we found a fish sitting near the edge. Shagger put a dry fly over it and the fish came up immediately. Shagger struck, hooked up… then lost the fish. Not to worry, it was more promising than what we had seen at the other place.
Soon afterwards I found one in a small channel. It too took the dry on the first presentation, but this one stayed on. It scrapped like a demon despite its small size, but it was hooked well enough that I could bring it to the net.
We found another one for Shagger a short way upstream and it was the same deal. The fish took on the first cast and he landed it after another spirited fight.
One more fish was hooked, but it snapped the leader like it was cotton… I don’t think it was very big, it just had a lot of energy. I guess I will never really know?
Despite the smaller size of the two fish we caught, It was good fun catching them. I can see myself there again at some stage, hopefully when the water is a bit cleaner though.
And that was it. Two more great days out on the water, and I can’t wait to do it again…
I’m going back to work now for a few days, so I won’t be fishing anytime soon. Hopefully you all have a safe Christmas and the weather stays good so you can get after some fish at some stage.
Sometimes, things aren’t all plain sailing. Usually when I have plenty of time to go fishing the weather doesn’t do me any favours. Earlier this week was no exception.
Robert Hakkanson hails from Sweden, he has been religiously following the Riverworks Lifestyle blog since its inception. Robert is a super keen fly fisherman and has been in regular contact with both Jack and I for the past few months while he hasbeen preparing for his trip of a lifetime.
Last week he landed in Christchurch for his long awaited trip to New Zealand.
Jack and I were half way through a feed of burgers and chips on the way back home from our trip with Tony and Mike when Robert called my cell phone. He had been fishing already and had a great time by the sound of what he was saying.
I told him I would need to get home and make an evaluation before I knew where we were at and then get back to him. I didn’t like what I saw when I looked at the forecast, it looked pretty bad everywhere. I decided we would need to venture further than normal to give us a chance, so I called Robert and let him know what the rough plan was.
We left on Monday afternoon, so we would be in the right place for an early start on Tuesday. It rained solidly for the entire drive, it was more than a little concerning that the rivers we were passing had as much water in them as I had ever seen before. There was more than one occasion I thought about turning back for home, but I figured we might as well give it a shot. I didn’t have anything else to do and neither did Robert.
We nearly missed out at the back packers that night, because they were pretty well full due to road closures. What a disaster that would have been. However, we squeezed in to a room (One with two beds) and awoke early the next morning ready to go.
The plan was to drive as far as we could, then walk the rest of the way to what I hoped would be water that was fishable. I was both surprised and disappointed to find the road had disappeared a short way into the journey, the river had washed it away. We were going to be walking further than I thought.
We stopped along the way briefly and managed to find a Brown for Robert to fish to. He tried a couple of different flies before I tied on a whopping big stonefly. The fish seemed to like it and grabbed it on the first drift. Robert hooked it briefly before it became unhitched. Not a bad start, but it could have been better!
A couple of hours later we arrived to a very full, dirty river. At that point I told Robert we had to catch one. We couldn’t walk all that way for nothing!
We walked up for a bit before dropping into a pool where I hoped to find a fish. Eventually I found one, right near the edge off the bank we stood on. Robert generously offered me the chance to catch it, since he had already hooked one on the way there. I used his rod, because it was better set up for this situation. I attached a brown stonefly and waited for the fish to get into position. Robert was on station with the camera and filming as I poked the rod through the bushes and flicked the leader out. I was so close that there was less than a rod length protruding from the tip.
The fish saw the stonefly and made its way over, I watched from right above as it opened its mouth over the fly and I set the hook. The fish bolted downstream and I had to quickly thread the rod through a series of bushes until I was in the clear and able to follow the fish properly. Robert followed behind and filmed what he could. We got to the bottom of the pool and it was all good until I took my net from the back of my vest and realised it wasn’t quite right. I’d tied a knot in it to stop it from getting caught in everything during the walk, but forgot to undo it until now…
Robert came to the rescue, he came rushing out from behind the camera with another net, and we were back in business.
That was a great start. We had one to the bank. Whatever happened after that didn’t matter so much.
We had to walk for a while before we found another couple of fish. They were feeding very close together on the edge of a long run. The fish were easy enough to see initially in the sunlit river, but a small patch of cloud covered the sun for a time and made things slightly more difficult.
Robert crossed over armed with a couple of secret weapons. The first one didn’t work, but the second one did the trick. I nearly blew a vocal cord calling the strike when the fish took. I was stoked to see Robert connected to the brown, and he was even happier.
I charged across and helped him out with the net. It was the same size as my fish, but cleaner looking. The photo shoot then took place before the fish slipped through Roberts’s fingers and back home.
After we finished up with Robert’s fish we saw that the other one was still in position. Again I borrowed Robert’s rod and set about presenting a nymph. Secret weapon number two didn’t work on this one, so I changed to the very sophisticated pattern known as a Bead head Hare and Copper. The fish liked this fly and took it as soon as it hit the zone. I set the hook and the dog fight began.
The fish kept deep for a lot of the time and the leader came pretty close to some big rocks on a few occasions, but I managed to keep it clear and the fish finished up in the net. That made three out of three from the river so far. This day was getting better and better!
The river was clearing quite quickly throughout the day and the fish became tougher to catch. We fished to a couple for quite a while with no result, and another was hooked and lost.
Robert did well to spot a fish in a side braid when it lifted in the water column. He threw a caddis nymph at it and got a result straight away.
It was a great looking fish, and Robert got this one all by himself. It was a very good effort from him.
We arrived at a nicely structured run and found a fish feeding well in shallow water on the near edge. It looked like a sitter at the start, but after about half a dozen fly changes I was beginning to wonder.
In the end I fired a Royal Wulff into it’s feeding lane and the fish had half a look. I tried again and this time the fish nosed the fly for what seemed like forever before slowly breaking the surface and taking the fly. I waited, and waited, then set the hook. Sadly the fish made it into the fast water below me and the weight of the current was too much. The fish was free…
As we walked along the run I saw a fish very briefly in heavy water near the centre of the river. This fish was for Robert. He tried a couple of different flies without success, I had the feeling they weren’t heavy enough to get the job done. Secret weapon number two was attached and it did the trick. Robert hooked up solidly, but when he was moving along the rocks he stumbled and jerked the rod, just enough to snap the tippet. Bummer…
We were already past our agreed turn – around time for the day, but I wanted to look in a big pool I knew wasn’t too far away. When we got there we immediately saw three fish. One was close, one centre pool, and one on the far side.
Robert went across to the one on the far side, while I tried for the one which was closest. To cut a long story short, after a lot of casting with different stuff, I tied on the whopper stonefly from earlier in the day and threw it in front of the fish. Straight away it moved over and took the nymph, I struck, hooked the fish, and lost it. Then I lost it myself. A barrage of terrible words flowed from my mouth, welcome to NZ Robert.
As always, there always has to be one last fish. In this case, I found one not too far upstream and spent a few minutes on it. It took a few different flies, but it ended up taking… secret weapon number two!
It was another great fish and gave a good fight. It was a perfect way to end the day.
It was a very long walk back to the car after that, more than three hours in fact. It felt like longer…
That night we had a grand feed and a couple of beers, and stayed at the same place as the night before. The next morning we hoped to fish for a while before returning home, but the weather came in hard and stopped us from doing that.
As it turned out, the Tuesday was the only window for us to get out in a patch of crap weather. We put in a lot of leg work, and got the reward. We couldn’t help but feel it was one out of the bag.
Thanks Robert for a great day out. It was a pleasure to fish with you.
In hindsight it was probably a pretty stupid idea going fishing the night after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup Final… I know I barely got any sleep, Matt got far less. He generously offered to cook me breakfast. I tell you, there aren’t many better smells to arrive at a house to than bacon and eggs. With the breakfast formalities underway it was time to hit the road. After a little while I had a sudden brainwave… Where the hell’s my vest? Upon realizing that my vest was still in Andrew’s car after Saturday I also noticed a certain someone’s study materials in the back of my car. Well I couldn’t go fishing in good conscience without dropping it off at her place first. After that it was a case of a very apologetic early wake up for Andrew, quickly grabbing my vest and finally getting on with the show.
We arrived to cold, windy conditions with the promising hint of sun peering over the peaks. A brief walk brought about our first encounter with our quarry. By this stage the wind was fair roaring, so I thought I’d be nice and let Matt have a go. The fish was feeding like mad, but try as we might we just couldn’t get a drag free presentation with the conflicting currents and the pervasive wind. Eventually the fish became aware, and took off. I encountered a fish feeding similarly just a few pools up, but my luck was barely any better. I managed to trick the fish into eating a small green caddis, however the hook pulled after almost no time.
Things carried on in this vein with Matt pricking a fish on the dry, and myself meeting with nothing but air after a big fish had taken my green caddis. After almost drowning myself attempting an ambitious river crossing to get at a fish (and spooking it in the process) I wasn’t feeling too positive about the day. This all changed when I spotted a smudge holding in fast water. Then the smudge rose. Cool. First presentation with my small parachute adams and the fish rose and scoffed it. I’ve never seen a brown trout tailwalking to quite the extent that this one did. When I eventually got it in I saw that the condition on the fish was absolutely outstanding.
It wasn’t a big fish, but you’d struggle to find many in better condition.
Barely 500metres further up the stream we encountered one of the best patches of pocket water fishing I’ve had in a long time.
Matt made it look easy by pulling this fish out on one of the first casts.
I then proceeded to fish at a fish that kept popping in and out of the current, and in and out of my visibility. Spotting two big fish rising one pocket over I crossed to fish at them. At this point I should note that I’d been having a rather problematic time with my pants. They just kept falling down. When I hit the right cast (not easy when the casting position dictates that you can only cast leader into a nor’wester) the fish rose without hesitation to my grey klinkhammer. Hammer time. What ensued was quite possibly one of the most comical experiences to have transpired on a river. As soon as I hooked the fish the swirling current at the base of the pocket had dragged my line down, tangling it with the fittings on my boots. At this point my pants decided to fall down. Proper down. Here I was with a big fish jumping madly on the surface, my line wrapped around my boots and my pants around the ankles. Matt said he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Personally I felt more like crying. Somehow with one hand I grabbed my pants and hoisted them up, then managed, despite my inflexibility, to lift my foot into the air and clear the line. All this whilst standing in waist deep fast flowing water. After that the rest was just a formality.
At the time I had a slightly inkling that this may have been the same fish Andrew caught a year beforehand. Upon getting home and checking the spots it was confirmed.
My guess is that they were feeding on these fellows.
I won’t go into details with what happened in a big pool a little further up. Suffice to say I was left nearly in tears as a rather large fish flipped me the bird before popping the hook and lazing about in the shallows. I attempted an overly ambitious swipe with the net, but to no avail. I will be back.
The next pool up saw a rather bizarre experience. A fish sitting in a small alcove and popping out only occasionally into the current took a liking to my most successful creation over winter – the Deviant fly. Matt was fishing to it, and it took his fly not once…not twice…but seven times. I’ve never seen anything like this before. On the seventh the hook bit and a long hard fight ensued.
A great end to the day.
It was a long walk back, and a couple of very tired lads that made it back into Christchurch late in the evening.