Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Fishing the local in prep for the not so local

Our Aitutaki trip is almost on us. It was close to a year ago when our mate Tim mentioned that he and Karl were heading up to the island ('almost atoll') to chase GT and bonefish. The trip was planned to coincide with a bait fish spawn that attracts the GTs -"were we interested?" Hell yeah and with that the trip planning began. To be ultra fair, Tim did the trip planning, Jase's travel agent did the tickets etc and we all began marathon fly tying missions. I tried to get mine done early by using my Xmas holiday time. The bonefish we'd need to use had to be bigger and weightier than the stuff I already had from the 2 previous CXI campaigns as we'd be fishing deeper water so needed faster sinking flies and with a much larger average size it was recommended that we tie on the ever faithful Gamakatsu Sl12.

I'm a serial offender when it comes to taking too many flies away on trips and I don't think this one will be any exception.




The holidays also blessed me with enough time to begin to work on some more local flats, figuring out the comings and goings of fish and putting together the puzzle that are flats fisheries. A long way to go on that journey yet. Of the time spent on a new flat we've twice seen the fish and twice presented flies for no eats. It will happen but first, the time needs to be spent on figuring.

Acting on a rumour (where there's smoke oftentimes there's fire) I'd made up my mind to visit a small flat that's open to deep water and ticked a couple of boxes. Jase was looking for a mission too, and with it being a national holiday we'd need to be out early to assure a car park at the ramp. I like using Castor Bay to launch but its a busy wee beach in the summer so getting in early is mandatory.  I had the boat in by 6 am when Jase came wandering down the beach and we cruised in the darkness to our kick off point. I tied a crab imitation on, I'd be using the #8 with the new Rio Flats Pro intermediate tip. I picked it up for the Aitutaki trip and last time out it seemed pretty good when we busted some kahawai feasting on anchovies and needed fast shots in front of the rapidly moving predators. We set the Minn Kota and began to explore the outcrops. The terrain was ideal, rough and rocky with a good current flow. I missed my first fish of the day as it chomped the crab but hooked up soon after and Jase was soon into fish as well. He'd tied on a chartreuse half n half clouser but the orange/red in my crab seemed to be attracting more bites so he swapped out to a new unnamed fly he'd whipped up.

Chartreuse

Orange

As the incoming tide began to flood, we moved from outcrop to outcrop and the session really heated up. Jase was knocking fish over casting into the heavy flow in the channel. I'd slowed down so raided his fly box for another of his red unmentionables and literally first cast up into a gut behind an outcrop the line came up tight. The rod bowed over and whatever I was hooked sounded and then moved rapidly towards the rocks. I tightened up (when perhaps I should have backed off) but could make no impression at all on the beast which at least stopped running. If I'd planned it right we should have driven straight over to the reef and got on top of him, but that possibility was gone when the leader broke on the rocks. The pressure through the rod had been immense and I called it for a foul hooked ray. It could have been a large snapper or even a kingi but if I had to lay a bet I'd say ray.

Another swoffer appeared in an inflatable and anchored up - this is where the joy of the Minn Kota plays out, moving silently between outcrops and GPS anchoring - it gave us a huge advantage.

On top of one rock I had a big hit and as I pulled the fish out of the reef I realised that I'd foul hooked a parore (luderick/blackfish) who was not keen to be pulled out of the kelp. After a torrid battle Jase got the net under him and he went back with a scar to show for his troubles.




We fished on and soon Jase had a big hit in the channel and had his own big battle before landing a really nice specimen snapper.




as the water increased in depth we began to lose touch with the fish, so set off to see if we could find a flats kingfish. The wind had begun to increase and now we had a breeze to contend with. The water we found was beautifully stunning and of uniform depth. Rays moved around but of Mr Kingi there was no sign as we traversed the flat. With the wind directly on the bow the waves on the way home were less of an issue than I'd thought they may be.

Home by lunch after a fine morning of local fishing. God we're lucky to have this on our doorstep.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Holiday survival

Xmas around here is neat. People abandon the city in hoards, and given that I'm not of a mind to join is such chaos I'm generally happy to hang around and carry out a few day trips. It was a brownie taken a year ago from the Tongariro that had my focus. Its twin would be welcomed for sure - if only fish were as nostalgic as anglers! I fished only 3 times over the break. To me it seems apt to write about the first and last fish taken - the book ends if you will, and let the holiday fishing pictures in between tell their own stories.

The first

Man and dog hit the road early on this morning. The drive was quiet and speedy. The Blue Pool access road has re-opened post logging operations and what was pine forest is now ugly barren and scarred landscape; ripe for rejuvenation. The cycle of life and death will continue and for sure the local quail will boom as they feast on the bugs in the cut over. Its lovely seeing those little bundles of buzz take to the air, and Layla has a penchant for them. Given that I've not hunted Cali's over the dog, she may just see them as a tasty airborne snack...

The little trout Spey rod sent out the payload again and again and I began to anticipate the thump of a fish hitting the fly as it swung down into the seam - in reality the hit came well above the slot I was aiming for. The line tightened and the fish swam with determination downstream. With no rapid charges or leaps I was pretty certain I'd snagged a brown and after a decent battle I drew the fish ashore - a beautifully spotted and highly polished bronzed brownie. The satisfaction of a job done well left me feeling on top of the world!












Trip 2...









The last

The story of the last holiday fish was different. Mentally I wasn't prepared. Physically I had in that I'd set up the boat's electrics and got it ready for a pre-dawn departure, but I was in 2 minds about whether to go or not. Somehow I was mentally arguing about going fishing or not! The time of departure (to avoid crowded launching spots) meant I'd be launching on the lowest ebb of the king tide,  ruling out my preferred launching spot at Torpedo Bay. When the alarm blared I almost rolled over and considered trying to go back to sleep, but when I'm awake I'm awake, simple as that. I had nowhere else to be, and besides it was the last day of the holidays. The launch at Castor Bay was easy despite the lowest of low tides. I traveled smooth seas in the darkness with nav lights and the glow of the fish finder telling the world that I was out there. Boat traffic was light and soon I was approaching my destination reef. With Minn Kota deployed I spent the next couple of hours mooching around the reef, casting and catching a variety of fish.





As the sun got higher in the sky and the king tide flooded in, I moved up onto the flats. I moved with the tide but it was apparent I'd got my approach wrong - The sun was ahead of me and with overcast conditions and some ripples on the water I was going about it all wrong. At the end of my traverse of the flats I turned the boat and came back, this time with an additional foot of water under the keel. The first kingi foreshadowed the sizable wake that followed. He was large... very large. The fly, a large crease fly, was engulfed on the first bloop and 200m of line was gone on the first run. I turned the boat and with the electric motor on full noise simple was unable to get close. The fish charged over a shell bank and rubbed out the fly, leaving me winding in metres of backing and then the fly line... the fly was still there on a very rubbed leader. Really I don't think I could've done anything differently. Inside I knew that my chance had come and gone. So I let my guard down a bit - so much so that the next wake was abreast of me before I noticed that, and the yellow tail-fluke creating the wake. The fish meandered to and fro as I plotted a collision course and it was a good few minutes before I was in a position to get a cast away. The fly landed in front of the fish and I blooped it. The water exploded and I hit as hard as I dared. This time I let the fish run while I sorted out my loose loops, got the fish on the reel and got after him. In 3-4 feet of water the fish ran again and again. I drove the boat ashore and played him out. A friendly passer by helped with photos.


The fish swam away strongly.

Holiday survived. And there's a moral here - its always best to get out of bed. "You snooze, you lose" is quite an apt phrase.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Far north flats boating

Its been a while since I saw Nik and Ann-Marie, a couple of close friends who are living life the way they want to with Pie Dog, their canine companion in the far north. I'd got ahead of them on my way up, and ended up waiting for them at Taipa just over the one lane bridge that must be pure hell with summer traffic using it. We drove to the Cape Karikari and pulled into their patch of turf. Ironically, it was situated directly opposite from the scene of our northern goose excursion 5 years ago and as we sat down for our evening meal the sound of goose music drifted to us as the birds came in for their evening meal. Nik and I had planned to get out and fish some skutes for snapper on Saturday morning, and with light winds forecast it seemed a good plan too. We sat down and tied up what are being called "skutes" which are essentially bucktail jigs embellished with whatever you want to tie on the jig head.


Rabbit pelt and other assorted bits and pieces were pressed into service  and we ended up with a small pile of interesting looking lures. Later we walked Pie Dog along the inner harbour beach and along the way came across what looked like snapper working the shallows - with glare on the water it was difficult to tell exactly what they were and with no fly rod in hand....

Beautiful Rangaunu Harbour
We didn't rise with the sun, rather we set off at gentleman's hours, launched the boat and headed out of the harbour entrance. It was lumpy, and flats boats are nor built for lumpy seas. We persevered and arrived at a spot that had held fish in the past couple of weeks. Nik's first cast was nailed and he soon landed a reasonable snapper. We hoped that it would continue in that vein but it was not to be and after a couple of hours of growing wind we called it and headed back into the harbour.


Our Plan B was to cast small stick baits to see if we could pull kingfish from the channels and after a while we attracted the attention of some decent kahawai which decided to attack the lures. We put a few away in the fish well for use as baits and then pulled the boat up on a bank which would flood as the incoming tide took effect. As Nik waded a shallow pan near by, an amazing encounter with a largish snapper took place, with the fish swimming in knee deep water pretty much under his rod tip. Again, no fly rod! I rigged my fly rod while Nik set a shark bait. He really wanted to nail a bronzie land based as opposed to tiring one from the boat and then bringing it ashore.I waded the sand bank seeing the odd mullet but no prey species. When I looked back to the boat, I saw Nik stagger off the poling platform and knew he was hooked up on the big gear so I ran back to the boat and grabbed my camera. He was seriously hauling on the fish and it was seriously taking line... and then the hook pulled.

Pull mate!
My turn was next and when the bronzie took 300m of line on the first run I knew it was BIG. I cranked the drag and held on. When the fish stopped I backed up and seemed to gain line, and i realised that the shark had gone through some weed and then moved back towards me. I cranked in line and the pressure came back on and I leaned on the fish fully when the braid parted like a rifle shot. With 30kg of drag from the reel to zero in an instant I was hurled backwards and ended up on my butt in the knee deep water. Hell's teeth, that thing was a beast of a fish!

By now the wind was howling and the flats seemed dead so with a decent stint under our belts we headed for home.

Sunset over the harbour
Over dinner (and goose song) we planned our Sunday assault. We'd get out of bed early and go fish the flats for the morning. The boat nosed quietly over the flats and the breeze was fairly light so I grabbed the fly rod. With the boat set over a bank leading into a channel we waited for fish to show and while discussing Greta Van Fleet I had a quick cast at what looked like a ripple but was probably nothing. Bang! The Clouser was hit and line peeled off the reel. I thought that it was a snapper at first, but after the initial run into the backing I got the fish under control and swimming back up current. As it came adjacent to the boat it began to swim strongly past and at that point the familiar tail beat of a trevelly was felt. Nik boated the trev for me and I put him on ice for sashimi later.


As with our single snapper the day before, that fish was all that showed so Nik called a new plan - to visit the mangrove belts at the head of the harbour to look for fish. We deployed the Minn Kota and with the casting platform deployed we got into hunting mode. However our efforts were in vain and after several hours of spotting mullet and rays only, we called it.

Crazy viking. 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Like riding a bicycle

This time of the year everything warms up a bit around here. And with the warmth the bugs really start to get their boogie on. Drive anywhere around the countryside in the evening and your car will be peppered with bugs and this nocturnal activity gives a hungry trout a ton of protein that he might have missed over the cooler months. This translates to daytime too. Jase and I were hoping to be able to cash in on a feeding frenzy visit to a lake, but during the week the forecast was for overcast conditions so I knew it wouldn't fire on all cylinders. But we have to fish when we can, not when we want to, so plans were laid accordingly.

Having launched we set off under greyish white low hanging cloud. We deployed the Minn Kota and began to sneak between weed beds. The spotting was difficult, any wind at all would have made the glare impossible to see through. But we persevered and Jase racked up the first fish soon after. The trolling motor soon became useless when the remote control battery gave up the ghost, which left us in a predicament of having to move around using the outboard. With everything stacked against us we still did ok. I hadn't picked up a single hand rod since maybe January but my casting was still fine - its like riding a bicycle, even if you haven't done it for awhile you can still do it, maybe not perfectly but you get in the groove.

Glare on the water, not a bluebird day at all

Brownie
We'd also packed a bunch of 'meat pies' as Jase calls them - big streamers such as Galloup's Sex Dungeon as we'd decided to drive up the feeder river and drift down casting the big stuff into the overgrown banks. Jase was first up and put in some beautiful casts working the big fly behind logs and under overhanging willows. After our experience on the Rangitaiki earlier in the year, we'd expected to arouse the interest of plenty of fish but we simply weren't moving them.

We decided to swap places and I tied on a big old olive SD. First cast and a good sized brown moved at the fly but didn't hit. My heart boomed in my chest - that fish was one tail beat from eating!! The drift continued and in a big back water I put in a decent shot to the bank and a fish hit - on the jump it revealed itself as a 'bow, not the old brownie I'd expected. The fly was a big mouthful for the medium sized 'bow - its amazing how fish will hit those streamers.



We didn't manage anything else on the streamers despite hundreds of casts so decided to head back down to the flats for another drift. Jase fooled another couple of browns, watching the cat and mouse of a fish stalking a small damsel nymph from an elevated possie is ultra cool stuff.

Scenery was outstanding

We'll be back on sunny blue sky day, when those damsels get going ad the fish are in full munch mode.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Top 10 things I learned this year about swinging flies for trout with the Spey rod

1. Trout, even those bright chrome fresh into the Tongariro river fish from Lake Taupo, WILL move up in the water column to smash a fly as long as its fished correctly. At the start of the Autumn/Winter season, I was heaving up to 12' of T-14 with weighted flies to 'get down' to the fish. Through a process of losing a shitwhack of flies, not being able to swing tail outs properly and watching and listening to better anglers than I, I came around to using T-10 and T-8 tips. I snagged less and caught more fish because I was ... wait for it... fishing more! Some fish were definitely hitting the fly in less than 2 feet of water. Go figure. All those grandad aged books that said "to catch Taupo fish you have to be on the bottom..." well, they're wrong. (Not 100% wrong, but nowhere near 100% right either).

2. Small flies on the whole out fish larger flies. The key is to get a balance of size and weight in the fly. At the start of the season I was swinging 4" steelhead flies. By the end I was swinging 2" flies with tungsten beads or cones for weight and regularly pulling multiple fish from pools. For context if I was able to get a hit or 2 from a single pool at the start of this journey I was overjoyed. That's not to say I wouldn't be now, its just an observation that by constantly honing in on your gear and making observations (don't be afraid to ask!) you can get much stronger results. The largest fish I took in Argentina ate the smallest fly I fished all week, a #14 curved hook rubber legged nymphy thing fished actively. That possibly was a hint :)

3. Might is not right. Underhand casting requires precision in setting the anchor and timing. Watch videos and practice!

4. Fish out your swing right-to-the-end. It may take a big hit when you start stripping back metres of running line in preparation for the next cast to drive this one home - fish will follow your fly to the end of the swing and pounce - and this can be right at the edge of the river in stuff all water. If you're not fishing the whole swing including some enticing small strips as your line is completely straight below you, then you're never going to know how many fish spooked off or didn't eat your fly as it was dragged away.

5. This isn't a rule so much as an observation... sad, spawned-out kelts and slabs on the whole will not chase a swung fly as vigorously as a healthy or fresh fish. I caught very few slabs compared to comrades who dead drifted nymphs and eggs. Yes I caught spawned fish but nothing like in the spawned:fresh ratio that nymphers did. Mind you I caught a hell of a lot less fish. Leading to...

6. The tug IS the drug. A jarring reel screaming hit on a swung fly is worth 100 fluffy indicator dips. You wont believe me until you find out for yourself.

7. Do different things. Last year when I knew a lot less than the very little I know now and couldn't cast worth a damn I was hitting fish with the worst possible casts that landed slack and got several metres of free drift as I tried to get the whole thing under control - fish will plain and simple hit a dead drifted swung fly. Its not a tooth clattering hit but when it all comes up tight.. well FISH ON!!!

8. Use heavy as leader. One day on the Big T I ran out of 10 & 12lb. The fish ate flies looped on with 20lb no problem at all. Ok so these are passive aggressive spawning fish biting at the fly for god only knows what reason so this probably wont translate to fishing wee wets or small streamers in your local.If you could get mono/fluro that thick through the eye of your hook. At one point in my career I used to use 6lb in the Big T on my nymphing rigs. I got spanked a lot, quite needlessly.

9. Match your heads as well as tips to the water in hand. 40 cumecs flow in the Big T is very different from 25. I found the Airflo F.I.S.T concept excellent in heavy flow but in lighter its just less effective than a full floater. This of course should seem obvious but I for one fall into the trap now and again of 'it worked last time, so it should damn well work this time...". That my friends, doesn't hold for fishing and we all know it!!!

10. Double hand fishing is stupidly addictive.Much to the detriment of my other fly fishing, I've hardly lifted a single hander this year. This will backfire for me of course when I go out for a kingi or snap soon and can't get my shit together.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Re-unionisation

In the winter of 1996, the All Blacks won their first ever test series away to the "Old Foe", the Springboks. As Sean Fitzpatrick, on hands and knees clubbed the ground with joy, Brian, Miles, Al, Andre and I watched the TV and knew that we'd just witnessed history being made. I have a vague memory that we fished the shorelines of both Rotoiti and Okataina, and that Milo hung a couple of large fish while the rest of us blanked. I think that's how it went.

Anyway, we'd never reconvened as a group to go fishing, always one or the other was missing. Families, careers, travel, life - it all conspires to get in the way. And so it would be again - Andre couldn't make it. We'd warmed up by going into town the prior week to watch films at the RISE film festival, (sans Brian who couldn't make that gig). The weekend was planned in advance to allow us to get together and fish the rivers around Turangi.

You know you're in great company when the weekend just flows, and flow it did. We fell straight into banter and fished as hard as we wanted to. I had some river time with Milo who wanted to kick back (with a big guiding season ahead of him a bit of downtime wouldn't hurt) and we sat on the bank yakking in between a bit of swinging. Brian and Al enjoyed themselves and Jase fished hard both days.

For me the fishing on Saturday was interesting. The river was lower and I'd persisted with the Airflo F.I.S.T when maybe I ought to have run a straight floating head. The first 5 fish I hooked were either there and then gone, or threw the hook on the first run. They were definitely taking softly and I now theorise that the heavier tip of the F.I.S.T's head combined with reticent fish and lower flow caused less feel in the take, allowing the fish to mouth and throw the fly. The lower flow did however open up some wading options that haven't been available all season, and I was able to access the Boulder Pool from above. This is the pool where a year ago I hooked my first ever fish on a spey rod, albeit briefly and this time it treated me to some quality takes. I manged to get the final 3 fish to the bank but the first few were frustrating as each threw the hook, including one that peeled line and felt like a solid fish.

Late in the day as Milo and I returned to the car park, Pete arrived with Kaiser in tow, and he and Layla played together as we talked smack. Brian and Al soon arrived and then Jase came downriver. We had all arrived in one place at the same juncture and without planning, and to me looking back now it seems quite apt. Back at base we settled in for a glass of Scotch and snacks before heading out for dinner.

The following day's fishing was absorbing. Bri and Al had opted to not fish, and to leave for home early. Miles and Jase would go up another stream with Andy, and I'd fish alone. The sun was still below the horizon as Layla settled down on her rock to stand guard over the run. A fish first cast would set the scene hopefully, but I dropped the next 3 in a row. I spent a good couple of hours combing down the pool, landing 5 fish and missing several more. I really wasn't hitting anything chrome or super fresh, but none the less a couple of the fish fought for their lives.

Spawned out but still on the chomp


Been in the river a while
I was feeling pretty tired, the day before had been a long one with 12 hours on the river and with daylight savings having robbed us of another hour's sleep overnight I just felt jaded.

I decided on one more run before pulling the pin, so drove up to the OTHP (Over The Hill Pool) which is prime swinging water. The day before I'd taken a dip at the head of the run where it drops from knee to hip depth.... and I promptly did the same again! Given that I'd followed Jase down the pool yesterday and he'd extracted 8 fish to my 2, I thought I'd be a good bet in here. But again I had the dropsies! Fish were holding in the very soft water below me and as the fly gently swung in they were hitting it. I had 3 takes before I got my first positive hook up and the fish bored out into the heavy flow giving a decent account of itself. Not silver, not fresh, but well recovered. I spent a couple of hours here, chiding myself for my ever worsening casting creating sub par opportunities to hit fish in the far seam across the main current. Fish were hitting and missing or occasionally hooking up. By 1 pm it was time to go and on the spur of the moment I decided to drop into one final run near town. Surprisingly, the pools immediately below the bridge were devoid of anglers. Given that they are real troll holes, that was quite unexpected. The run I was in had been generous to us this year, but with decreased water the rocks were slimy and I had trouble getting a grip on the bottom. The wind blew first up and then downstream in darkening gusts. My rhythm was blown and I fished without enthusiasm.

The boys rolled in late in the afternoon, they'd had a cracker up another stream. I'd finished tidying the house and was caffeinated and ready to drive. With an extra hour of light at the tail of the day the drive didn't seem quite as taxing, none the less home was a welcome sight. It won't be another 20 years before we do this again.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Small hackled wets on the swing

I've got a real hankering to swing some wet flies on the light double hander, so I've had a couple of sessions tying wee wets. I've never really focused on this style of fly before and all my swinging efforts have been focused on streamers large and small. Don't get me wrong, the streamer method has served me well on both runners and resident fish, but I want to try something a tad different. The reading I've done indicates that fishing small wets with the double hander is not always a swinging game; upstream and across presentations to drift the flies dead appear to also be on the menu. I guess the real appeal is that its a new and exciting aspect to the trout spey game that I haven't tried yet.

The other day as a cold rain fell (it had snowed earlier) and the river was high, we noticed a swarm of swallows diving and bombarding. It was apparent that a hatch was on and after we'd (successfully) fished through the run with streamers I asked Pete (one of the country's foremost bug spotters and fly tiers) if he'd seen what was coming off - he hadn't. I didn't even bother to look, given that the fish were actively smashing my streamer and it wasn't until much later that I'd sort of out 2 and 2 together that perhaps the hatch was stimulating the fish to feed, and as a juicy streamer came past they'd lash out at it because they were already on the chomp.

If I'd swung some small flies would they fish have taken them with gusto? That would've been a cool scenario. Really keen to try this in lower water conditions than I think we'll find anytime soon. With more rain forecast there's no sign of a letup or a chance for the water levels to fall. The good news I suppose is that the fish runs should continue unabated.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Blown out

Jase and I had planned to swing the Whanganui River over the weekend, as spring is the season of plenty where the fish feed heavily and regain condition lost over winter. Spring is also the season where we receive the most rain - although in a year like the one we've had its hard to believe that we get anything but constant rain. We got into the hut late on Friday night, and soon after the rain set in. It was ferocious. The river below the bluff on which the hut sits roared. The temperature dropped and soon I was feeling quite uncomfortably cold as the hut is not insulated and we hadn't put the fire on. I got up several times to answer the call of nature and put another layer of clothing on. It was a pretty uncomfortable night all in all, and I woke at 7. We grabbed coffee and salmon on grilled buns, made lunches then rigged up. A 10 minute walk saw us at the river where we quickly turned around - a roaring mass of chocolate milkshake greeted us. We quickly made a few calls, threw our gear in the truck and headed for Turangi - whilst there'd been decent rain in the foothills around the Tongariro it had been nothing like what had fallen our side of the ranges. The Tongariro was running high but our mates described the river as "coloured but imminently fishable". We got to Pete's place and picked him up, dropped Layla off for a day with her mate Kaiser and headed down to look at the river. We found that a preferred run was unoccupied so headed down. While Pete and Jase got setup in a tail out of a large slow pool, I headed down to the next run. The fish were certainly moving - it seemed that every time I looked upstream one or the other was hooked up. It took a while for my first hit, which didn't hook up, but after that I was able to land a couple of beautiful fish and get smoked by a couple more.



By mid morning the rain started in earnest and sticks and debris began to come downstream and the water coloured up. I moved up above Pete and waded out; immediately the leak in my waders made itself felt. Pete left the river to answer the call of nature and immediately 2 people moved into his spot! Seriously, the utter lack of etiquette in this river is appalling. Pete gave the interlopers a curt serve and moved down. I soon hooked up and in short order landed 2 fish and lost a 3rd that jumped in front of the chief interloper.

By now the water was tinged brown and still rising so we left and went in search of coffee where we ran into local guide Dave Wood. He'd put his clients into numerous fish in the morning and was on his way home. As we spoke a black cloud loomed and hail pelted down - we scuttled back to the truck and headed upstream. It wasn't any better up there but we jumped in anyway for a quick shot at the Blue Pool (which was greeny brown) before pulling the pin and heading back to Pete's where I was happy to stand in front of the fire and dry off my soaked leg and socks. The drive back over 'the Punga' to the hut was slow but ok, and still it rained. We got the fire going and hung our coats and waders up to dry and the hut rapidly warmed up. Laya lay in her crate nice and warm and we ate venison slices followed by duck/goose/veni sausages, salad and oven fries. I was exhausted and hit the hay early. I awoke at 1 am to heavy rain and again at 3 - it was suddenly very cold... I was up at 6 to news that it had snowed in Turangi. We packed quickly, tidied and locked the hut and hit the road. I'd told Pete that we'd drive slowly in anticipation of black ice. Sleet was falling as we headed up the range and that shortly turned to snow, so we were reduced to a crawl. At the summit we found a small car parked, being blanketed with snow. The couple in the car were tossing up whether to progress or go back - we pointed out that the conditions were likely to be the same both ways so they said they'd follow us as we crawled forward.





Photo credits: Jason Cochrane


Another car joined our small convoy and we snaked our way down the far side of the range and soon the snow falls cleared and we were back into dark drizzle.

Breakfast at Pete and Sherrie's was awesome and warmed up we grabbed Pete's gear and headed off. Our nominated spot was occupied so upstream we went. The river was a beautiful hue of green and had dropped markedly. A couple of guys were already in the tail out we wanted to fish so Pete and I headed up to the Whitikau pool which looked fishy but where neither of us garnered a hit and then the Fence Pool which marks the upstream fishing limit. The fence is an ugly back swirling mess that ate 2 of my flies and so we quickly moved on. On the way back downstream I dropped into the Reef Pool while Pete carried on. I was getting a really good swing and after a while hooked a small fish that swam upstream before throwing the hook. The next fish handed me a caning of a lifetime - it hit, ran out my running line, continued into the backing and in the current with no means of following, I knew that I was doomed. I tried to put pressure on but the leader broke and I was left wondering what if... winding and winding that line back in I had to stop for a little rest.

I caught up with Pete and Jase down at the Blue where Pete reported that he'd had a hit and Jase had caught a couple. I decided to kill time by following them down and Jase soon nailed another fish. His efficient casting makes my agricultural efforts look clumsy. But as long as there's a fly in the water there's hope.. speaking of which I'd been using various flies after losing one on a snag decided to change to a favourite fly. The hit when it came sent water spraying and the fish tore off cartwheeling across the current. Jase who had finished fishing the run motioned to Pete below me and he waded ashore as the fish zoomed by. I got it under control and Pete netted it for me a shapely fish of 5lbs.



That signaled time to move on and the banter flowed as we talked about the next location. The car park was moderately full but we stopped for a look and couldn't see anyone in the water we wanted so a quick walk saw us in place. Pete had decided to fish the tail of Cattle Rustlers and Jase was in the bushes so I got in and quickly hit a nice little fish. Pete reappeared below us - another guy was fishing where he'd wanted to go so he moved into the tail of our run. Jase jumped in at the head and hooked up straight away. He'd given me some tips on setting my anchor and keeping my arm straight and I was focusing hard on keeping my casting sweet - as a result I was laying out straight cats which swung really nicely through the holding water. And the fishing was epic! Pete nailed a couple and in my traverse of the run I hooked 7 fish and banked 5. It was epic! Every few casts and I either got a tug or was tight to a fish and I had an utter ball.


Cloud over Pihanga

Small & feisty

It rained all the way home....