Back in February I spent a day fishing a backcountry river with a couple of South African guys. Actually, only one of them survived the walk (it isn’t short…). Oh well, more fish for the two of us to fish to. Phil was the survivor, and he turned out to be a really top guy. Plus he could fish.
Things started slowly. We were fishing a coloured river, and although we could see fish they weren’t active in the cold morning temperatures. It wasn’t until the sun was a bit higher in the air that things started to change. It was like a switch flicked and flicked good. After lunch we fished to about 15 fish and hooked every single one of them. There was nothing small either. It was just magic. I dream of days like that. Oh, and the fly? Lets call it Andrew’s take on a cicada. Christ does it work.
For bizarre reasons that I won’t go into now, I’ve only got video of Phil fishing, and photos of my fish. So lets let the video do the talking for Phil…
As for me? I suppose I did alright.
Caught in the same lie that I pulled a much bigger fish from earlier in the season.
A casual cast revealed that this was not, in fact, a rock.
Last cast of the day. What a way to finish.
That was only about half of the fish from that day, it was truly spectacular. It’s days like this that I look back on with envy as I study for exams. No idea what’s happening with Uni after these latest aftershocks (btw hope that everyone out there is ok! All safe and sound at the wunder-flat). Apparently they’re letting us know tonight, but that doesn’t make it much easier to motivate myself to study. Andrew’s got a report for you guys coming up in the next week or so with another video from our season.
One last thing – if you haven’t already then join Riverworks (at http://www.facebook.com/riverworksnewzealand) and TwoTroutBums NZ (at http://www.facebook.com/twotroutbums.newzealandflyfishing) on Facebook. That way you’ll stay up to date and get all the good oil asap.
Till next time.
I’ve been pretty slack this season. I haven’t done any where near as much trout fishing as I’d hoped, But I thought I might as well make an effort on the last day of the season.
Trout at the tail end of the season have always been a little hard for me, usually not interested in anything as they’ve got other things on their minds………..This time I had a special fly that Jack tied for me, not something to be showing your mates, it goes against everything traditionalists stand for. I was confident I was gonna slay fish with it, after jack had told me several stories of how well this creation worked on the south island browns. I tried it on closing day. Jack, it spooks fish like nothing else, straight to plan B.
The day was awesome, no wind, bright and sunny, and the river was higher than usual but dropping and a beautiful clear emerald colour. Last time we fished here we were second on water and it was impossible to catch a fish, this time we made sure we were the first there.
The first 2 fish wouldn’t have a bar of anything and both spooked on the second cast, the cast’s were good and presentation was good, I just guess some fish are much harder than others.
The next fish was sitting in a funny spot, Id seen him here before but never managed to get him to look at anything, my cast was a little off, but he moved a long way for the nymph, his mouth opened, his head turned and I came up tight, he fought hard in the fast water and I could feel my leader on rocks, I got the feeling he’s been through this before and knew a few tricks. We managed to get him back into slack water and land him, a little slabby and scarred up quite badly, he still went a shade over 5lb.
Now it was Andrews turn. Andrew has been taking me out on his boat saltwater fly fishing. I found out he had never caught a brown trout before, so I was determined to pop that cherry. We found one feeding deep, a couple drifts and no dice. The fish started to become more active and started feeding the entire depth of the water column, we changed tactics and position to get a better drift and what do you know, before long Andrew was hooked up to a very active brownie who spent spent a lot of time in the air, Andrew was screaming like a school girl at a Justin Beiber gig. After a good scrap I netted a nice brownie around 4lbs, Andrew was ecstatic to say the least, few grip and grin shots and he put him back for next year.
The next 2 fish behaved the same as the first 2, 2 casts and gone. Then we spotted one feeding the width of the river, he was probably the most active fish Ive seen there, I guided Andrew into his location, as he false casted his nymph and indicator the fish came up and took a dry! he rose again and again, Andrew changed up his rig. Andrews new dry and dropper combo did the trick after “several” good casts, and another good brownie of 4lb was netted.
That was the last fish spotted for the day, and what a day. Andrew kept telling me it was his best days trout fishing yet. I was happy to help get Andrew his first browns. We couldn’t have asked for a better day really, maybe some bigger fish……….
I was testing a new prototype fly rod, an 8’6″ 5 weight, and what a honey of a rod! I can’t wait for these to hit the market, my very expensive high end rod will be getting retired! Keep an eye on the blog, we will keep you all updated with the design and testing of some new fly rods.
The weather’s changing, and so’s the fishing. I’ve been back in Christchurch for a little over a week now and still haven’t had my first lecture. Two classes are being taught online and one has been postponed. All of this means that I have precisely one lecture per week. Ridiculous. If only the season wasn’t drawing towards its end.
I’ve managed to get out a few times since getting back, however none have been overly successful.
The first trip can be described rather simply.
Day 1: Andrew misreads the weather forecast. We walk out.
Day 2: Isaiah has an allergic reaction to a wasp. We walk out.
Day 3: I get my truck stuck. A tractor pulls us out.
I did vent a wee bit of frustration at a particularly stubborn fish that wasn’t playing ball.
Not my proudest moment.
We did manage a couple of fish in between the wind and the rock throwing.
A true trophy to start the day.
Look, it’s a real fish.
I spotted this fish from approximately 2m away.
The next day, after the incident with the wasp was dealt with, I managed this monster.
That was pretty much it for that trip.
St Paddy’s day saw me in absolutely fine form. I’m not going to go into what I got upto that night, but suffice to say I had one hell of a hangover the next day.
Nothing like a bit of fishing to ward off hangovers though, so I took to the rivers with that old stalwart…the Grinch.
The fishing was a bit slow, but we both managed to connect to fish. Unfortunately Andrew’s fish, which naturally was larger than mine, did the dirty on him and snapped him off.
I managed a couple to the net before we commenced the walk home.
I’m not totally sure what I’m upto in this picture.
Satisfying fish. Filthy tactics.
That’s all for now. This weekend I’m heading into Fiordland for the first time with Chris Dore and Jeremy. Should be a sweet trip. Hopefully I’ll have a great report for you guys following that trip.
Locally Produced: Zane caught this 11lb brown trout in Murchison with his friend Tony Entwistle.
The variety and diversity of angling opportunity is probably unmatched.
MURCHISON fishing guide Peter Carty once wrote that ‘‘fishing is a disease. It’s not usually fatal and there’s no known cure for it, but the therapy is wonderful.’’
I couldn’t agree more and often think back to when Pete and I began our guiding careers together in the mid-80s around the Nelson Lakes and Murchison areas.
They were halcyon days and we were just the latest in a long line of anglers intent on exploring and enjoying the rivers of Murchison. I still fish these rivers and Murchison has become a playground for anglers from all over the world.
Murchison is situated on the Four Rivers Plain – the flood plain of the Buller River, which flows through the centre of town, fed by tributaries the Mangles, Matiri and Matakitaki.
The thing that has always impressed me about the Murchison area is the people, and we anglers are lucky that Murchison landowners are so generous with access to the rivers. Developing relationships with many of these local families, watching their kids grow up, and enjoying good times along the way have made the fishery even more special in my mind.
Murchison is probably best known for the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that ripped the place apart on June 17, 1929, causing 17 deaths and untold mayhem. The landscape still bears the scars of this massive quake. The Mirfin family has a connection to the tragedy, with my grandfather’s elder sister, Jessie, being married to Murchison farmer Charlie Morel when the earthquake struck. Charlie was killed by a huge mudslide and flying roofing iron. According to witness Samuel Busch, the mudslide crossed the Matakitaki River from the west and wiped out Morel’s house at the Six Mile. A gentleman to the last, Charlie’s last words were, according to family folklore, ‘‘Save yourself Jessie, I’m done for.’’
Immediately after the earthquake, my grandfather Ash and his twin brother, Bryce, managed to ride and carry pushbikes through the mangled one lane Buller Gorge road from Reefton in a futile attempt to help their sister. Later, it took 18 months with pick, shovel and saw to re-open this vital link to the West Coast. Ironically, the road works and repair to the land after the earthquake created many jobs and insulated Murchison from the worst effects of the 1930s Depression.
The Buller River system is one of the world’s greatest brown trout fisheries. The variety and diversity of angling
opportunity is probably unmatched, with trout-filled small, medium and large freestone streams and rivers at virtually every point of the compass. Nearby are the waters of North Canterbury’s Waiau system to the south, the Grey and Inangahua catchments to the west, the Wairau catchment to the east, and the Motueka and its tributaries to the north.
The Buller River itself is a worthwhile fishery, but a shadow of its former glory due to the invasive alga didymo, which has choked the upper reaches above Murchison. Its stranglehold on the rivers of Murchison is expanding, but it isn’t the end of the world because the worst affected areas are the mainstem Buller and the Gowan River, which come out of Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa. Tributary streams that are not sourced from fertile lake waters seem to have fared much better. Virtually every river and stream in the Murchison area now has didymo, but even when its presence is heavy, the fishing can still be good, and excellent trout fishing can be had in areas that many anglers avoid.
The Matiri River is a great fishery for small to medium-size trout, but can be a little tough to fish these days, with a lot of didymo present, possibly due to the fertility effect of Lake Matiri.
The Matakitaki is a great blue river, alluvial in nature in its upper reaches and more confined within gorges as it makes its way to join the Buller atMurchison. A fabulous dry fly stream, it is also rich in gold and still mined to this day. Lately, the Matakitaki has been in the spotlight with Network Tasman looking at harnessing it for hydro-electricity generation, but the
river already has a rich history of intensive human use, including heavy mining activity in the late 1800s.
The Mangles River, along with its major tributary, the Tutaki, is a lovely fishery and I have great memories of wonderful days on-stream. There are some great scenic drives up these valleys, such as the track over the Braeburn saddle leading to Lake Rotoroa or the road through to the upper Matakitaki and Mataki Station.
Two other world-class Murchison rivers and Buller tributaries must also be mentioned. To the north is the small limestone river, the Owen, a bountiful fishery complete with challenging leopard-spotted browns. The Owen was
the apple of my eye when I was a boy, and it was where I learnt to fly fish and hunt with my father, Stuart.
To the south of Murchison is another great trout river, the Maruia and tributaries. The Maruia has always been revered as a fish factory, and this year the bonus for south bank tributaries such as the Maruia and Mataki has been some large mouse-fed trout, many into double-digit weights by imperial measurement.
However, there have been some low catch rates around Murchison the past few months. Many anglers and guides have told me their fishing has been the worst in living memory.
Fish and Game field officer Lawson says recent assessments of trout populations have shown up excellent quantities of medium and large fish. He believes that with so much trout food around this year, the fish don’t need to feed as often or for as long, making them less vulnerable to capture. Let’s hope this is the case and that the Murchison fishery is in good shape for future generations to enjoy.
The Murchison area, people, land, rivers and trout fishery will always be special in the minds of many. Recently Murchison dairy farmer Ken Caldwell struck a chord when he talked glowingly about his new farm in the area and described how he was ‘‘farming it already in my mind’’. Fly fishing addiction and love of rivers is no different and I, for one, will be fishing the trout streams of Murchison in my mind forever.
Zane Mirfin – http://www.strikeadventure.com
Dry flies and rainbows go together like bbq’s and beer: they could be made for each other.
I thought Wednesday would be a hard day to beat, but in terms of sheer enjoyment and satisfaction I think today took the cake. A few weeks back Andrew and I had offered to take Thomas, a keen young fisherman, out for a days fishing. Well today that day came about. Thomas has done a lot of spin fishing, but this was to be his first big fly fishing trip. It started off in classic fashion with me scoffing as many weetbix as I could stomach on four hours of alcohol induced sleep, before dashing off to pick up the others.
We got the river and were astonished to see no-one else there.
Turns out there was probably good reason. Our first choice was very borderline fishable, but we persevered for a few hours. The river yielded two mighty trophies for us though.
Andrew snared this behemoth…
Before I trumped him with this monster…
We’d had enough of that spot, so ate some kai and motored onwards to our next port of call. It didn’t take long…
Guess where we started…
Thomas’ biggest to date on a fly rod. It rolled back to take my bionic bug in classic rainbow fashion, and once hooked I handed over the reins.
Not much further up we spotted another fish. Andrew chucked his big Royal Wulff up, and the fish moved a good few feet to hoover it in. Once again, Thomas did the honours. Really good fight from this big bow.
Tom’s last fish came from a very stubborn fish, which I eventually snared with a wee woolly bugger. We took the opportunity to teach him how to play fish on the fly rod, showing him how to guide them into the slacker water.
Rainbows in heavy water, good times.
He played it well, and yet another rainbow fell to the young fella.
Andrew then proceeded to do what I thought to be impossible. He missed four strikes on one fish. By the end of it it had ceased to be frustrating and had simply become hilarious. Somehow I don’t think he agreed with me. However karma was to get its own back on me. We’d crossed some pretty heavy flows that day, so it was fitting that I would fall flat on my ass crossing a shallow braid. As soon as I felt myself falling I flung my rod up in the air and cradled Andrew’s precious camera. If there can be such thing as a coordinated fall on your ass then this was it.
The rod still worked though, as this wee bow will attest to. They just couldn’t get enough of our big dries.
That was it for the day. We stopped off on the way back for pies before dropping Thomas home. It was a fantastic day, despite the frustrating start. Watching Thomas chasing a big bow downstream at full pace was priceless, as was his smile when we finally got it in the net. Both Andrew and I agreed that it was a hell of a lot more fun than catching the fish ourselves!
Couple of days rest for me before a wee trip out with Ryan on Monday.
I’ve never been very good at studying. Particularly not when all I can think of is that instantaneous loss of tension that comes with losing a big fish. I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I lose a fish I can’t help but replay it over and over in my head. What should I have done? If I’d just put more pressure on to start with? If only I’d struck a little harder? Well after a few days thinking like that I realised there was only one thing I could do about it… I could seek redemption.
The day began at the ungodly hour of 3:15am when I awoke, crawled into a shower, realised we were out of gas, and thus hot water, and finally crawled out of the shower a cold shivering mess. I managed to force feed myself about 37 pieces of toast, knowing that I’d need the energy. Picked Andrew up and we were on the road bang on 4am. It was a long drive to get there and an equally long walk into the river. The goal was to walk downstream for a couple of hours, before fishing our way back up. Only problem was that we kept spotting fish on the way down, then trying to catch them despite having just walked straight in front of them. Needless to say we didn’t catch any like this.
Finally we reached our turn around point, a braided section that allowed us to cross the swollen river. I think we’d probably walked about 3 minutes before spotting a large brown cruising a piece of slack water. Andrew cast out his stonefly and got no reaction at all. I suggested that he gave it a little twitch, thinking the fish could easily take the large green fly for either a damselfly or a small bully. Well, that certainly got a response. The fish followed it, getting closer each time the fly moved…then finally striking… and promptly swimming off, leaving Andrew with a very perplexed look on his face. Ah well. Andrew blind fished his way up the pool before I spotted a large shape – worth a cover. First cast over it and bang, Andrew’s rod doubles over. Cool.
Good fight with a couple of jumps before the net closes over this cracker.
I think Andrew was quite happy?
Not a bad way to start off the day…
Well I was up next… I spotted a fish feeding on the lip. The slack water in between necessitated a fairly long cast. Out goes the flies… drifting down happily…and then past the fish. I was about ready to recast when Andrew made an excited sound and shouted for me to strike. Unfortunately my reaction was akin to a sloth and the other fish, which had come from between a spot in the rocks to take my fly, had spat it. It’s just a little bit frustrating when you’ve dropped a good fish lately, then missed the strike on another good fish. To add insult to injury a couple of casts later this same fish came up and had a go at my dry fly. Now whether it bumped my tippet on the way up or perhaps it simply missed the fly, I watched the dry completely avoid the fishes mouth. Bugger once more.
The run above this last one held several good fish, most of which showed complete disdain when presented with my offerings. A long bronze shape at the head of the pool turned down a couple of flies, but it simply couldn’t resist the mother of all, double tungsten beaded, rubber legged, purple stonefly.
Came pretty damn close to my backing, can’t even remember the last time that’s happened…
And the fish. The satisfaction of finally seeing the net close over a fish, and a good one at that, cannot be aptly put into words. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Equilibrium had been restored to the world yet again.
Prospecting a side braid a wee bit further up the river Andrew hooked another fiesty brown on the secret fly. This guy did the usual brownie scrap in the shallows before he too succumbed to the pressure.
Andrew is a strange man.
Well my turn on deck again, and it didn’t take long before we spotted another fish. One of the most refreshing aspects of the whole day was the sheer number of fish we saw – stark contrast to most of the rivers we had fished this season. This guy had the audacity to reject the secret fly, but soon succumbed to an outrageous creation of my own invention just a couple of casts later.
Mine’s bigger… er…tongue, that is.
One for the ladies…
After this fish we were feeling pretty damn good about the day, so took turns fishing at the rest of the fish we saw. I must have gotten lucky, cause the next fish that I fished to took a liking to the secret fly. There’s something enormously satisfying that follows a successful strike. That solid contact with the fish, and those few seconds where it hasn’t yet decided to tear off across the river. And then the bedlam when it realises it’s hooked and does everything in its power to get rid of it. I was in a bit of a tough position here, as one hundred metres downstream was a nasty logjam, and there was only one spot where landing a fish was particularly feasible. Oh well, let’s just hope it’s hooked well. Pressure goes on, and I manage to swing the fish into the shallows where Andrew pounces with the net.
Fantastic looking fish this one…
And another angle…
We kept plowing our way up the river with Andrew on strike. Unfortunately a few fish decided to do the dirty on him, spitting his fly in record time. A bit further up we came across a nice fish feeding on the edge of some fast water. While he was changing his fly I saw the fish rise. ‘Give a parachute adams a go, bro.’ I always offer helpful advice. Well, this was a rare occasion where the advice was in fact helpful, with the fish rising and taking the adams on its second drift. Andrew damn near hit his backing here, as the fish tore across the stream in very heavy water. Thankfully the hook and knots held, and he was able to beach another cracking fish.
This was quite a rare day, as Andrew actually smiled for some of the photos.
That was it on the fish front. We ate our last sandwich and packed down our rods beside the river, the dying sun beating down upon us. If it wasn’t for the fact that we knew we had a good hour and a half of tough walking ahead of us then it would’ve been nice to sit there a while longer and reflect on a day well spent.
Sadly there was no escaping the walk. We were exhausted by the time we reached the car. We’d arrived at around 7am, and only reached the car again at 6 50pm. It had been a big day, but it had been a very good day.My need to catch fish has been quelled (at least for now) and I might actually be able to get some work done.
I know I’ve said it several times now, but this actually will be the last decent report until the 9th of November. Might do a quick fly tying post later in the week, but other than that it’ll be study study study. I hate exams.