Thursday, April 29, 2010

Final calls around the traps

Boggy Paul - check. Ready to arrive tomorrow night.
Muddy Tim - check. Ready to arrive tomorrow night.
Sink Hole Rick - check. Coming in after Johnny Nick's funeral tomorrow.
Marshy Dick - check. Already there ("hundreds of ducks")
Swampy Tom - no. Presume he's just chugging along in his own relaxed fashion.
The Quicksand Kid (Frank) - no.
The Raupo Bogeyman - no. Muddy's pickin him up.
The dishes bitch. Ready for me to pick up tomorrow am.
Shanksy - not answering. Prolly fondling his new 16 gauge according to Muddy Tim.
Guy - all ready to rock on the ducks, and Lakelands looking primo

About to sign off for the last time until after opening. Saturday me and Sink Hole will be on Willow Pond, with all of his and my electronica creating waves, ripples, star burts, short circuits and general mayhem. This morning was fine with a big moon and at just before 7am I had trouble distinguishing ducks from drakes; still we're planning drakes only so a good dose of restraint will be required.

Loading for Guy's shooter at Lakelands on Monday and so is Rick. Will have to be on best behaviour and leave the swamp language... in the swamp.

Hot barrels everyone. 10-4.

Have a great opening everyone.

Opening weather

By midnight Friday we should be be in the grip of a northerly fresh breeze, accompanying rain bearing low. So let's call Saturday morning as a sticky warm wet opening. The wind will tend to the south in the afternoon, so it will definitely cool down. Anyone unfortunate enough to be wet from their morning's exertions will feel the chill in the afternoon, but then again so hopefully will the ducks! And hopefully they'll just love the look of nice comfy ponds with nice cover for them to tuck up in with all their mates.

I gotta say, this is looking good!

Shitty slimey rock snot

When the news first broke about Didymosphenia geminata aka Didymo aka Rock Snot (a fresh water diatom) having been found in the Mararoa River and Lower Waiau rivers in 2004 there was a fair bit of hand wringing and teeth gnashing. Within months, outbreaks had been noted in numerous waterways in the lower South Island and MAF released its' Clean Check Dry campaign. But still to this day its all a bit toothless and ineffective. Check this out:

And now for the map of how it has spread:

That it has not been found/spread in the North Island is just a matter of random luck, it has to be. Or another possibility is that the South Island is paradise for Didymo, and paradise must be blighted.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Still no rain up here (was originally the name of today's post)

Admiral Harold Hickling was in the final throes of writing the first cut of his classic book Freshwater Admiral, including maps of the famous Tongariro River pools. This was some time in 1958. Just then it started raining, the rain turned into a deluge, the deluge into a 1 in 100 year flood and woomph the whole river was decimated beyond recognition, undoing a year and a bit of his painstaking work. After all, he did write everything in long hand, with a pen. Goddam! That he sat down, rewrote and remapped the whole shooting match is probably testament to why he ended up being an admiral in charge of whole fleets of ships, back when great Britain had real fleets.

Utilising a keyboard, spell check and all the mod cons I started this blog session thinking of poor TT who took 10 days off to fish the Wanaka district and has been faced with brown water, mobs of ducks and geese mocking him and not a trout in sight. I was bemoaning the lack of rain here again. Here in the middle of Auckland it just wasn't falling, despite the good wife telling me that it was heaving down on the shore. Then the heavens broke. I went oustide to watch the first heavy rain I've seen in about 4 months. I hope the swamp got a dose, even a surface flush would be a bonus. Not that it will help the dry ponds all that much unless it persists, but damn its rain!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Water, water everywhere

But really, its not. F&G blocks on the whole are either dry, or getting that way. ABCD Flax Block (not a F&G block)is semi dry. The big "Duck Factories" of the 80's & 90's are almost anything but. Add in botulism and you'd have every reason to be quite pessimistic about your chances of getting a duck or 2. But the AW banding results from early this year, while not 'crunched' and 'documented' indicated that the traditional moulting/banding sites were anything but under-populated, in fact they were crawling with birds and the catch rate was as high or higher than ever before. While the data is extraordinarily skewed to the actual locations of the banding sites, the scientific facts are that duck numbers in the region are hardly dwindling, if anything the birds have simply moved to where the habitat meets their needs.

In terms of environmental factors I feel genuinely sorry for the blokes who slog their guts out defending, improving and enhancing wetlands and then have no water, but the facts are that dry seasons do happen, and when they do its going to be a hard road ahead for them. The investment in wetland management, and in fact all types of waterfowl hunting is a big one and I simply don't know of any really succesful guys who just turn up on the day and shoot hoards of birds - well maybe with the exception of maize field shooting, but even then adequate camo and good dekes make a difference and they both take time and effort to maintain. The mudflat guys prep their boats and given that they stay in or on the water 2 months of the year (the Firth of Thames floating maimai ones)they need to be maintained and prepped well in advance. The pond guys need to be spraying, chopping, dragging and generally maintaining on an ongoing basis and that takes a chunk of time and commitment. The point is I suppose, that with all of that outlay it ought to be reasonable to expect a return by way of a harvest. Some guys may be happy to sit in the maimai on a dry pond and have a beer or 2 to pass the day, but the average joe license holder is probably going to reconsider his or her investment in a license if they get hammered by the conditions year after year. And this is shaping up as one of the tough seasons. I drove to Hamilton and back twice in the past 5 days, and can say I have never seen the river so low. The Mangatawhiri River which borders the Dean and Cocks blocks is so low that only the deep channel is carrying water. There were good numbers of birds in some spots on the Waikato, but even she's really low with sandbars exposed that are normally 4-5 feet under water. So will we see a fall in license sales next year? F&G is desperately under-funded and calling on regions to tap into their reserve funds to put into the central pool (ehem) so any weather related impact on license revenue is going to hurt.

Putting life into perspective though - now something like 70% of the national dairy herd is living in drought regions. Production impact is being forecast at anywhere between 2-5% of total output and some farmers are in desperate cash flow strapped situations. We need to spare a thought for those families affected and wish for them that the rains come soon.

And when they do, so hopefully will the ducks come to the F&G swamp blocks, and i really do hope that this happens before Queens Birthday when they are closed up to hunter access.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From the lads

35 bundles of tea tree were sawn down, hog tied and delivered to the swamp. The lads started before 8am and didn't get back to the landing until 5pm so she was a fair day's work. The Park Grand Mansion gobbled up 11 bundles, she's a massive maimai that one. The boys cut several bundles of very long stuff for McLennan's and it sounds like they did an awesome job. Waikato H&F put on their annual duck hunters shoot yesterday, and when I spoke with Andy H in the morning it sounded as though hundreds of shooters turned out. Dad competed in the shoot-off for top place, coming in third behind Larry Discombe and XXX, good to see that the old fellah is still at the top of his game.

A wee (twisted meheh heh)discourse on competition shooting. Deep down I know that I haven't got the mental game to do well at this discipline. I get bored. I lose concentration. I start hot and finish luke warm. I used to shoot skeet every week 15 years ago and would get lots of 23's & 24's. The occasional 25 would come my way, and it wasn't the same target that I missed either, but I'd just get bored, or be drifting away, or whatever, consistency eluded me. DTL bored me silly. Sort of like shooting against pre-programmed robots. I did shoot a couple of sporting events as a "non registered/non graded" shooter and did well enough to win. But I doubt I'd do as well now, back then I was shooting an awful lot and now its very seasonal.

Does competition shooting help with game shooting? I think it must, if your gun comes up the same way every shot, and if you're not dealing with raised cheek/lifted head syndrome and if you have your sight pictures sorted then surely you're going to do well on birds? But do game birds fly straight? (Clays mostly do, apart from battue, running rabbit, springing teal). Why do real birds put so many top shooters off their game? See it must be a mental thing. You MUST pick your target, you must watch your target, you must kill your target and be computing the next one. I've seen some guys really get worked up about shooting at real live birds. So add in, you must relax. And you must have an arsenal of sight pictures to draw on. Here's a neat thing I thought of ages ago that works for me. I watch the bird's chin. Be it a duck or oncoming rooster, I'm watching the chin just behind the beak. Its an almost perfect place to be concentrating on for the majority of incoming or crossing shots that present themselves. [Prolly why I don't get many quail, they are chinless!!!! :)]. Shoot 'em in the chin. Don't watch the body, if you watch that chances are your shot charge will take the rear of the bird which is a crippling shot. With enough experience you'll also mentally sort your chances. You'll have an A, B & C target option - and I suppose those guys with 9 shots up the spout have to have more than that when 30 geese come in.

That was Snuffit on shotgunning. God bless the target shooters, keeps ammo prices down. ;D

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ducky AGM

Last night the Upper Piako wetland Management Association held its AGM. Turnout was good, but again, as with EPCM meeting last October, the demography was staggering. 95% of attendees would have been over 40 years of age. I don’t know what to read into this as it was not a school night (holidays), but I can’t help but think that we’re still not recruiting youngsters into our shooting sports. While no one new stood for any of the seats on the committee, it seems that the vibe was overall one of being relatively happy with the direction of the group. The DOC guy presented on hydrology and “herbography” (god I’m lost for the word…. Hmmm) studies undertaken on the Kopuatai peat dome, and it was good to see some results from the funds levied from area users being put to work. Topography of the overall wetland is staggeringly interesting if you’re into that stuff, with quite an array of differences above mean sea level. There are 2 quite distinct epi-centric “humps” if you like, one in the north of the block, the other at south eastern side. On the vegetation front, I got the impression that DOC had learned that mass boom spraying of grey and crack willow trees is a stupid idea, simply leading to encroachment of surface growing noxious weeds. Lots of noxious weeds. The blackberry infestation at the Willow Pond is a direct result of the removal of the willow canopy. Anyway, they won’t be doing that anymore; as Mr. Doc said they simply can’t control the willow population seed crop with spray. The hydrology stuff was interesting; our ponding sites are one of 9 locations chosen for attention. Mr. Doc really needs a history lesson, but he seemed quite casual about it when dad offered advice & support. Personally I felt uneasy about the guy. At least for the first time there’s an indication that Doc want water kept in at sustainable levels all year around.
Went to Rick’s work yesterday for a chat. Like a duck shooter’s convention it was; Lance Faulkner, John Fraser, Aj and a few others surrounded by dekes, ammo, camo… great stuff! John Fraser is a police dog handler and a gun SWF angler, so we had a good catch-up about happenings involving marker buoys, rocky headlands and line ripping kingis. Cool.
Paul emailed this morning that we have only 22 sleeps to the BIG DAY.  Excitement is building!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

At the Noises

Garth Planck, TT and me met at TT's house yesterday to go for a snapper fish. I had thought we were fishing a shallow reef off one of the city's main beaches, so was not really prepared for the trip that we ended up doing to the noises. Bags of pillies and burley were purchased, then we gassed up the boat and headed to Okahu Bay. Launching was a breeze, and we headed off on a mill pond like sea. 40 minutes later and we were at anchor, pumping burley. I packed the 6 weight for small snapper action; Garth (world class competition angler) had his 15 weight Gatti on board. We fished baits, catching snaps regularly of small to medium size, as it happened the big boys didn't come out to play. Occasionally kingis would buzz the clouds of piper in our burlry trail and the fly rod would come out - Garth's that is, I'm far too chicken to play with 5kg + kingis on a 6 weight!!! The incoming current poured our burley into a reef system with channels interspersed with rocks, pefect snapper territory. Being a bit bored soaking bait I rigged a small black Clouser and cast it across current, getting a good drift and sink. I caught snapper after snapper in the 20 - 30cm class which was really good fun. Fly was beating bait 2-1 as well, a nice result.
As the tide began to turn (out) the snaps dried up so we upped anchor to chase some work ups which turned out to be horse sized kahawai in the 3kg range. The 3 fish I caught took me a while to land, was wishing for the 8 weight after a while. The backing loop wizzing through the guides reminded me why kahawai shit all over trout on the fly rod.
Fresh fish, a nice touch of sun and a good relaxing day out, man I slept like a baby. :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Almost there!

Big team back for further pond preps on Good Friday. Rick, Frank, Dad, Andrew, Paul & me. Tim's away after a stag and Tom at Warbirds over Wanaka. We had to fix a walkway between boat landings where the bak was collapsing, trim back the overgrown willow trees around Puru and Willpow Pond maimais, fix the McLennan's maimai wall, feed out and last but not least build a spillway to stop bank erosion around DOC's ill founded and stupid dirt dam. Another big day out, but always feels good to get on top of those jobs. Even gave the hut a vacuum clean! Yup, that's right, a vacuum in the duck hut. Lots of ducks araound, all last weekends hand feeding eaten, the big feeders well trodden around but unfortunately the new feeder seemed not to be working. Who knows why? Next weekend is tea tree day. That'sll be the last big mission pre-season, barring taking in the dekes. :)