I like to save the best for last. If I could do it all the time I would, I like having something to look forward to.
The final day of the season rolled around quicker than I expected. It had been yet another great few months spent wandering about the South Island, and it was all but over.
My time off work was all but over too, the next day was my first day back after a month off. As strange as it may sound, I was actually looking forward to going back to work, for a number of reasons – restoring the bank balance being one of them.
The forecast for the final day of the season was far from ideal, with strong gusty wind predicted in most places accessible from here. I guess it was a fitting way to finish. What to do?
Although I’d experienced more than my share of fishing during the past 6 months and 29 days, my gut feeling told me to get out there one last time. If for no other reason than to see what happened. I felt like there was unfinished business that needed attending.
The alarm went off early on April 30th. It was pretty cold and miserable to start with. I nearly pulled the pin and went back to bed. It took every ounce of self – control not to.
I chose to visit a place with few fish, in the hope of finding some good ones. I ended last season with a great fish, and I was keen to repeat the effort this year.
When I eventually arrived at the river the wind was really bad. It was absolutely howling. It was so bad I thought about flagging it and trying to find somewhere more sheltered nearby. I decided against moving on and stayed with plan A.
It took a while, but eventually I found a fish. Best of all, it looked to be feeding. The adrenaline started right at that moment, and I was a wreck as I attached a dry fly and dropper rig. I dropped down to the river and changed my set up again slightly, I figured the dropper length I’d set was too long and the nymph was probably too heavy.
With that sorted finally I set about laying line on water. This was the next issue, the bushes behind me and the still howling wind conspired against me to turn an otherwise simple task into a difficult one.
My first couple of attempts resulted in my line being stuck in a bush. I kept as calm as I could while I unhooked it, and eventually I nailed the cast, and the dry fly indicator hit the spot. I knew I was in the money.
The Humpy bobbed along in the current. I couldn’t see the fish clearly through the wind ruffled surface, and it felt like forever had passed, but eventually the nymph reached the red zone and the dry twitched sideways slightly.
I lifted the rod and resistance was met in the form of a solid thud. A moment later the fish rolled onto its side, stunned. It then took off to the bottom of the pool at lightning speed. I quickly crossed the river to get in a better position, and the fish pulled up at the top of the rapids, seemingly reluctant to head downstream any further. I sidestrained the fish in close and that was when I caught my first glimpse of its shoulder. It was an impressive sight indeed. From there I was pretty ruthless with my approach and was able to land the fish surprisingly quickly.
I don’t mind admitting I screamed like schoolgirl when I landed this fish. I screamed so much it made my voice a bit hoarse for the rest of the day, but I didn’t care.
Getting the photo was tricky. I can set the camera up on the tripod pretty quickly, but it was so windy I thought the whole lot was going to finish up in the river. Fortunately the expensive stuff didn’t, however, some of the less expensive stuff did… but nothing which mattered much.
Here it is…. the reward for my efforts.
The winning combination isn’t exactly revolutionary. I used a size 12 red Humpy as the indicator, with a size 14 Pheasant Tail nymph hung underneath. It was simple, but effective.
I released the fish and packed up my gear. That was it for the season of 2011-202. There was no way I could finish the season in a better way than that. I really had managed to save the best for last this time.
The 2011/12 Fish of the Season winner is MIKE!
Congratulations to Mike , it was an extremely tight contest, with only three votes separating 1st and 2nd place but Mike’s Kingy was able to just tip it at the end. Well done Mike your prize will be in the mail soon.
Keep your eyes peeled because we will be running more contests on here in the near future, so there will be plenty more chances to win. Keep taking photos in your Riverworks gear and keep chasing those big fish.
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…
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!