Bit of a catchup session here, as I’ve been fishing so much since getting down south that I haven’t really had a chance to write about it.
I took a trip down to the Fly Fishing Conclave in Middlemarch late last month. Managed a few good days fishing for fighting fit rainbows on the way down with Jeremy.
The fishing was pretty tough with good rainbows cruising slow deep pools. The first fish was actually a slight fluke (I should really claim that it was highly skilful – but that’d be a straight up lie). As I was stalking my way up an almost still pool I saw a disturbance out of the corner of my eye. What eventuated was an enormous eel chasing a nice ‘bow out of the eye of the pool. Well, it was worth a go. Crouched on my knees with about 9ft of leader INSIDE the top eye I pitched my nymph out. I could almost see the trout’s eyes light up as it sighted my nymph. All thought of pursuing eel out of its mind, it snaffled up my nymph. As I struck from virtually on top of it I pulled it clear out of the water. Having a good bow on that short of a line is a slightly intimidating experience. Once it calmed down it was easily led to the net.
Good start to the day.
Following that the fish played ball a little more, with several bow’s falling to oversized terrestrials.
The ‘Blow Me’ snared this great fish.
Jeremy took a liking to it too…
That night we camped at the head of a river valley, planning to fish the river during the day. Well we could barely even cast into the wind in the morning. I managed one nice fit rainbow before we ran out of fishable water.
Oh, if you’re wondering about the sunglasses… I lost my previous (quite flash) pair of sunglasses swimming through a sheer and otherwise impassable gorge. The fishing on the other side of the gorge was worth it though…
After that we headed to Middlemarch, with just a brief stop for the most outrageous platter of fried food in existence. Upon arrival the beer started flowing freely. Then the whisky and ginger ale. I made the mistake of drinking with Chris Dore. If he’d gone one for one with me it may have been a bit fairer, but the man played dirty. Before I’d finish my drink he’d have bought me another one. I managed to buy him one drink, so he bought me two. It really wasn’t pretty. I woke up about 3 times in the night, desperately scrambling out of the tent before expelling my stomach contents. On one of the occasions I emerged from the tent to a pointing and laughing Chris.
That day was a succession of casting and fly tying courses, with some casting competitions in the middle. To be honest, I was still drunk from the night before until about 2pm. A little after midday I attempted the casting games. I have absolutely no idea how I managed it, but I ended up winning the competition. I can only really attribute it to the alcohol coursing through my system giving my casting a nice relaxed style.
Photo c.o. of Stefan Florea
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the conclave. I met a lot of really good dudes and learnt a lot. Any collection of very good fisherman typically brings out some serious egos, and that can taint the atmosphere. On this occasion though there were no egos and the attitude of everyone was fantastic. I think this was highlighted when I noticed one casting instructor (he doesn’t need anyone else calling him a good bastard, so I’ll deny him the pleasure of naming him) standing out in the gale force winds going through the fundamental aspects of an overhead cast with the least experienced person at the clave. This wasn’t the only time I saw this happen either, so good on you mate.
The next morning saw the distance casting competition go to Carl McNeil (not too many surprises there). Because Carl had actually donated the prize he generously gave it to a gun young caster. That brought proceedings to an end, so Jeremy and myself jetted off to do a spot of fishing.
Camo’s for pussies, bitches.
Arriving home I thought to myself ‘I’ve been fishing every day for the last week, why not go for a fish tomorrow’, so I jacked up a days fishing with Matt. A long drive and a long walk brought us to our destination – which turned out to be completely filthy. Still, you can’t walk that long without throwing a cast or two. I’m glad I did, as on about the 3rd cast my cicada was engulfed by a great brown.
There’s a real satisfaction about catching fish in conditions that would make most people turn back.
Three casts later I had another.
Even more satisfaction.
Things got quiet after that, although I did manage one slightly smaller fish caught in comical circumstances.
A week back in Wellington had me chomping at the bit to get back down south.
The day after arriving I took a couple of South African guys fishing. The day was so epic (and I don’t have even half of the videos or photos) that I’m going to wait and do a whole report on it. It’s one to look for though.
It didn’t take long for Andrew and I to formulate an over the top fishing plan. Doing a short notice multi-day trip into the backcountry isn’t always advisable, but sometimes it’s the best way to do it. Just make sure you’re prepared and check the weather.
We dawned before the day did and made our way to the start point of our tramp.
Safety garb is important in the bush
Two hours in we decided to start our fishing for the day.
I think it took about 3 minutes before Andrew had his first fish of the trip.
Just round the corner he had his second.
His tactics were dirty, but they worked so I adopted them.
We landed a good number of nice fish over the course of the day before commencing the final slog to the hut.
Quite honestly we were rooted when we finally got there.
The snakes went down a treat.
I was in charge of cooking duties, and whipped up a fine feed of steak and mushrooms with a side of pasta.
Rarely has sleep come as easy as it did that night.
The next morning saw the fishing go slightly slow until the water warmed up. Andrew was getting fairly disheartened after the constant success of the day before. He got even more disheartened when I managed to snare this fantastic fish.
Thank goodness I had unusually heavy tippet on, as the fish had its mind set on wrapping me around a boulder. This fish alone justified the blood sweat and (almost) tears that it took to get there.
It didn’t take much time at all before I spotted a rising fish holding in a tiny pocket against the bush-clad edge. Calling Andrew over I knew this fish would be a sitter if he could just get the cast right. And he did.
A stonking little fish that would have been seriously big if it had any length to it took him through some rough water before coming to the net.
The dry fly action continued as Andrew put a hopeful cast over a lightly coloured smudge and was rewarded with this gorgeous brown.
Definitely the prettiest fish of the trip.
For a few hours there were simply no refusals. Fish would freely rise, and rarely did we have to change from our small mayfly imitation.
One for me.
One for him.
Another for me.
Another for him.
Eventually the water just got skinnier and skinnier. At the junction with a tributary we made the call to turn back and bash our way down to the lower hut so as to give ourselves an easy walk out the following day.
The walk was a bit of a prick, but after a couple of days shouldering our packs we were getting used to it. Arriving at the hut we discovered we had company. Sadly it wasn’t two hot Swedish girls, but rather a couple of American troutbums who turned out to be really good dudes. We swapped a fair few flies before going out for a fruitless night fish.
Upon return the yanks busted out one of the strangest substances I’ve ever tried – chewing tobacco.
Skeptical before trying it…
It was an acquired taste… lets leave it at that. The banter and bullshit extended into the wee hour.
The next morning we were up and out as quick as we could. We had a date with fried food to keep. Salty fatty fries have never tasted so good. When I finally got home I passed out asleep for over 14 hours. Yep, I was pretty damn tired.
Uni starts on Monday, so I won’t quite be able to match the intensity of the past few weeks. I’ve got every Thursday off though, so that’ll be my fishing day – plus the weekends of course. Life is good.