Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Northern Geese

Northland has possibilities… so many possibilities. Hunting canadas seems to be one of the last I’d normally think of behind fishing, fishing and fishing, but when you hear the occasional whisper about the numbers of relatively unpressurised geese way up there then it makes you think. Even then, you need local knowledge and land access. I was lucky to be invited on a Northland goose hunt by a guy who I met recently, and who is an avid pheasant chaser. His home is on the Karikari peninsular and he is from one of the old families, with many generations having lived in the area.

I got away pretty early Friday morning, and by 9 was in Whangarei for coffee, by 10 passing through Moerewa which was positively heaving – locked out meat workers were making a big noise. Just after 11 I arrived to meet up with the forum guys Zharn, Matt and Tony who had arrived the previous day. Goose info was quickly passed around, several hundred spotted here, a few more there and we decided to go out scouting. A quick trip to a high spot and a few other places where geese had been the day before – nothing home except piles of goose shit. Matt passed the comment that since we were here we may as well hunt (original plan called for Saturday morning hunt) so we got our gear together (Matt has a sweet trailer that eats up his dekes, layouts and beer) and headed into a field to set up.

I’d hurriedly picked a rubbish sack of grass the night before so set about grassing my blind which to be fair was far lighter than the shadow grass and Max-4 patterns the other guys had.

We set out about 60 dekes and sat back to wait. I tried to fire up my camera…. NO! The battery was flat, and I realised I’d not charged it since before the Whirinaki trip… doh. We could hear geese on the lake behind where we were set up and see more, further down the shoreline. The wind was a stiff north easterly and it all looked promising with the dekes set on a small rise while we were tucked in a hollow. Man it got hot, so off with gumboots and socks… We waited for an hour before Zharn decided to go and scout. After half an hour an almighty ruckus went up as geese lifted off and wheeled around further down the treeline. Most headed out to the head land, but a number got above the shelter belt our paddock was protected by. Matt and I put on the calling and 4 peeled our way, followed by another 30. They came from over our left shoulders… my leg was shaking, my calling was reduced to spaniel-like yips and yelps, but hell, they were talking right back… the 4 set and came in but at the last second flared overhead, Matt who was calling the shot told us to leave them… and in came the 30 odd. Not as low as the 4 but we got into them. I killed 2 stone dead with the first 2 shots and hit the third bird twice to claw him down still alive. It was epic, as exciting as anything I’d ever done. Piako style bird busting with the birds 25m up isn’t what some goose hunters like doing but damn, peeling the big birds out of the sky is just the most awesome shooting experience ever – period. Tony who’d never shot a goose before nailed his first and Matt got a couple so by the time Zharn got back we were pretty happy boys. We told and retold the moment and Zharn came back to see what we’d got. The afternoon just melted away and we were chatting when I spotted 6 birds sneaking behind the far wind break, 50 foot pines at the left border of the paddock.

Hunting equivalent of "grip'n grin"
They were coming towards us, and as they crested the trees they set their wings and came in. A few seconds later and they were all on the deck, everyone enjoying a bird or 2. Our final mob came from the other way and hit us with the wind behind them before swing and dropping their gear. Matt jammed on the first shot but Zharn, Tony and I put them all on the deck including a bird that got wind under his wings and screamed off.

Nera with a goose

Goose guide Rangi (Zharn) with bag
We hunted until after dark, waiting for the birds to move which they duly did as we had the cars in the paddock. Not that they were anywhere near us but they sounded pretty impressive! 18 birds was a solid effort and we were pretty darn happy, none more so than Tony who’d got right into it. Back to Matt’s where Zharn cooked us up a big Barbie while we breasted the birds. We ate like kings and had a few beers before heading back to Zharn’s for a sleep. Well, that was the idea before chainsaw Tony started up. To be fair he had warned me but I thought I’d sleep ok… nah. After an hour I dragged my squab and sleeping bag into the next room and crashed there. We woke at 4.30 and got out the door to meet with Matt. We then drove to the main scene of bird roosting. Well before dawn we were set, dekes out, blinds hidden. And then we waited. In the pre-dawn gloom (no moon) we could hear a few geese moving. We waited… and waited… at 8.30 I went for a scout, walking a couple of kms past the scene of yesterday’s hunt… I only saw one goose. Where were they? We talked. The wind rose to a very stiff breeze. We nodded off. Ducks were in the air. We were woken by Tony’s dog barking at a plover in the dekes. Some parries dropped in for a visit. At lunch time, Zharn decided to go off and have a moment in the trees . He disappeared into a shelter belt and right on cue, 4 geese got off the lake and flew towards us. We got on the callers hard and they came screaming at us. At the last second they got legs down but still had the wind behind them. When we sat up they were overhead… the first shots laid out 3 and I got the 4th well downwind, even hearing the shot smack into him. 3 birds fell within 2m of each other no closer than 30m away… man they had been moving. The 4th gave Nera a bit of a hard time but she ran it down and retrieved it nicely. A lull for another couple of hours and then the wind went to the north and strengthened. Suddenly, birds were in the air! 4 were moving along the shore to our right and saw the dekes. They came in with feet down and hit the deck. As we retrieved them we had to drop everything and run to the blinds as another 2 pairs approached. Our blinds were set for the NE wind so the birds were able to skirt and approach from just behind us to the left. Matt called it and I rolled backwards trying to get on a bird, no dice for me but they came down in a hail of shots. The flight was on! Not really, even though it seemed that way they were the last geese to come close. Round about then, I noticed the plastic wrapper that some comedians had decided to decorate my layout with. Ho Ho, high jinks! Then the rain came. First a gentle shower then it got heavier and heavier… I snugged down in my blind in my bib and raincoat, the others all had Avery umbrellas and they were really good. I slept for a while and before long it was 6pm. Then the funniest conversation of the weekend.

Zharn – “Hey Nick, what time is it?”

Me – “Just after 6 dude”

Zharn – “Oh… I must be hungry then”!!!!

We picked up before 7 in order to get to the fish and chip shop. Back at Matt’s we ate like hungry hunters, enjoying the zillion dollar view of the bay. We watched a bit of the hunt footage and then headed back to Zharn’s. Sleep came pretty easily.

We’d decided not to hunt today, so I got on the road at 5am, and made it home by 9.15. Sweet drive.

Thanks lads, that trip rocked.


Tony, Nera & a visitor from North Shore

Photos courtesy of Matt McCondach.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A really big Ghillie Suit

Ok, I know you are super interested in how I'm going to finish up the decorating of The Booger's camo nets. Well, I'm going to make a Ghillie Suit. A really, really big one. :D

I've sourced big pieces of jute, which when woven together are known as burlap. I've watched really strange people on You Tube (just type in Ghillie suite and be prepared to be amazed ... now I mean this in the sense that some of these whack jobs really believe that putting on their suits give them powers akin to those that the Green Lantern's ring give him) make their own. And here I've learned how to dye the stuff in various shades.

A project! Wooohahhhrrr.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Issue 7 - Flyfishers Inc

Issue 7 of Rene Vaz's local emag/advertorial is out.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Home this weekend

On Friday night I had to perform a tactical withdrawl from an expedition ... in order to preserve matrimonial harmony shall we say.... so having seen the "Degas to Dali" exhibition at the art gallery (sublime, actually) and had a bite to eat at the cafe there (watercress and bacon soup was damn good too) I felt ready to do something "more blokey". Given that the duck season is not all that far away, I decided to try and make the camo nets for The Booger a little closer to a mangrove shade. This involved an interesting stopping manoeuvre on the Northern motorway right by The Warehouse HQ, so I could snap a shot of mangrove under bright light. Then with the help of a nifty little app from Resene on the iPhone, the colour was revealed as "Crete", an ochre based cowshit sort of colour. A quick trip to the store and away we came with a litre. Back home it was out with the roller and nets and a groundsheet and paint went on. Quite satisfied with Saturday's marriage saving topped with blokey stuff, I retired inside. Then back out to cut the grass....

Today I decided to dedicate to boat maintenance. First and foremost, I wanted to fit the camo nets to the frame. I knew that they would be a bit on the short side, so I needed to know how much to extend them by.

I'll need to add at least 50cm of camo to the bottom of each net, which I'll do with Jute strips. I'll weave more into the netting to break up the boxy look as well.

Having done that, it was time to look at the hubs. Not sure about these Mudgway trailers. I'd just not expect the hubs the rust the way they are in such a short period of time. The hubs on our Voyager are perfect and that trailer must be 15 years old. I think quality is being sacrificed for price at the Mudgway place in Kaikoura.

So, went down to the shop and got some rust remover and a can of CRC Zinc It, removed each wheel, cleaned off rust coating with wire brush and applied the Zinc coat.

Yup a gratuitous CRC shot!

Gave the motor a flush, put wheels back on, cover on, boat away.... maintenance done.

Pretty sure I'd never buy another Mudgway trailer. Bad number plate on light mounting position on a rubber flap thing (had to remount), poor winch placement, cheap bearings, cheap hubs. Not really built for salt water, in my opinion. Now, back to the camo net extensions...............

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jesus wept

You thought you'd seen it all, didn't you? Well, you haven't..... Monkey with a gun

From the other side... of the camera

Milo sent me some shots from our excursion. I'll excuse my lack of camo (not sure Milo will...) but bold colours make for better photos. My excuse anyways.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Not long to go now...

The duck season starts this year on Saturday the 5th of May. 7 weeks away or thereabouts. The maintenance program never ends and yesterday we had a couple of tasks. Dad, Tom, The Hollands including Quinn, and me met at the landing at 9. Our jobs were to clear willows that had encroached over a period of years, turning one of our big producing ponds into a bit of a shocker. McLennan's was historically a shallow pond surrounded by puru grass and giant rushes. 20 something years ago we cleared it with a digger, creating a large sheltered piece of water that ducks took a shine to. So we were there to clear the big willows and open the water up. Our second task was to repair one of our duck punts that some low life had taken to, holing it with an axe or hammer. I'm at a loss to explain the mentality of people like that, probably just some knuckle dragger with a sense of entitlement.

Duck punts

Dad had chopped the willows around the pond, so we dragged and stacked the debris.

Tom fixed the punt and Quinn seems to have gone for a swim.

We spent a couple of hours dropping willos at the Willow Pond also, to clear a flight path. Jobs done, back soon for more....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The edge of Te Urewera

Tuesday just dragged on, as work does pre-mission. Left the office at 3.45 home to see the family and then threw my pre-packed gear into the truck. Traffic south wasn’t at all bad considering. The weather was a bit of an enigma though, forecasts leading up to Weds & Thurs hinted at cloud, heavy cloud, thin cloud, rain, sunny spots, cloud… typical NZ stuff of late. Arrived at Milo’s, packed his gear in and had pause to stop and think about where we were staying as the booty included axe and firewood. We got on our way and headed south as the sun dropped. It was well dark by the time we hit Murupara and crossed the plains to the edge of Te Urewera.

Our mission was to fish cicada imitations to fat hard rising fish. The weather gods could well have put paid to that plan, the previous week snow had fallen on Ruapehu and Tongariro and cold snaps kill cicadae off overnight.
We arrived to find the hut vacant, but some previous occupants had left bottles and cans in the fireplace, however it was pretty sweet. We got the fire going then sat outside with a drink and watched the stars overhead. Basically we talked sh*t until 3am then dropped into our bunks.

It got a bit chilly under the still sky, so when we woke at gentleman’s hours (7.30) it was no surprise that a decent dew fall greeted us. A cooked brekkie of bacon, eggs, hash browns and beans washed down with hot tea got us going and with full stomachs we headed away from the hut. On the way to explore some water that Milo had passed through at some stage, we stopped on a high bridhe to see if we could spot a fish. In the tail of a long run a fish rose and took a bite off the surface, then swung around in the current. 100m upstream, a cicada hit the water, throwing out vibrations in the form of rings on the pool. We watched in morbid fascination as the cicada slowly floated down towards us (we were 30m above the water) and after a minute or two entered the trout’s zone. He saw it 6 or 7m out and casually lined it up before scooping it off the surface – great scene setter for the day!

We parked and got out at a high point - The River was a beaut! The day was sweet – sunny without a cloud in the sky and cicadae were singing – not quite in summer force but enough to encourage us to tie on big terrestrial patterns. I got the first run to fish…. and was a bit rusty as I hit the first fish far too early. My second and third were much the same, even though I told myself to slow down. Finally I got a good hook set on a nice rise and had a hell battle with a fat stocky ‘bow, the fight was quite torrid so I was happy to get to use the net. The water was pleasant and the day hot – hot enough to regret my choice of wearing my lightweight waders, and hot enough to keep cicadae singing. The aerial displays put on by wood pigeons was awesome. The water covered ranged from gravel runs to some gorgeous rocky pools.

Lunch was eaten sitting on a fallen log, re-catching some of the earlier fish and just shooting the breeze. We got a few nice shots and captured some underwater video. When we reached a magic piece of water, it was my shot and I had tied on the most god awful double-decker foam sandwich Chernobyl Cricket thing with legs sticking out all over the place. Milo directed me to a fish and I smacked it down – the fish charged the monstrosity, opened wide and smashed it off the surface. Game on! The fish ran me ragged, taking line with ease. I was quite glad to finally net him and get a few fly-in-the-gob shots. We fished the rest of the pool for no result.

We wandered upstream to our get out point but the fish weren’t quite done with us – Milo enticed a strong rise from a fish that went vertical when the hook bit, and it didn’t stay in the water long either. It was his fish of the day and a fine way to finish.

We walked up to the car and went to look at other spots up and downstream, finding nice water in the process.

Clouds were starting to gather on the horizon by now. That night the wind hit, blowing smoke all through the hut. I was in bed early, needing to make up for the 4 hour sleep from the night before. Milo slept badly though, the flapping iron in the chimney keeping him awake. As we sat on the veranda the next morning, the wind was howling. A tree groaned and fell taking a few more with it across the valley… we decided to pack our gear into the truck and head off to find some sheltered water. We got out with no dramas, just a bit of dead fall on the road and made our way up to the spot we had in mind. When we arrived we met up with a bloke in a house truck with a quad on a trailer behind. He was there with his wife for a few day’s hunting. We picked his brain and he willingly gave up some of his 40 year’s experience, telling us that the stretch we were about to fish got quite a bit of pressure. We parted ways and headed upstream. The water was different from yesterday’s, with a boulder bed and surrounded by heavy native. Very reminiscent of some South Island waters. We fished up, pool hopping. As luck would have it, I didn’t cover any visible fish and nothing rose for my fly; Milo on the other hand had 3 chances and each time the fly popped free of the fish’s mouth! One of his misses was a beautiful big brownie who put his whole head out to eat. Oh well. We had many highlights including blue ducks and arriving at an amazing grotto like gorge.

 Milo did hook a small rainbow on a sunken cicada, and then that was it, time to leave. Next time we’ll give ourselves more time. Thanks bro, sweet trip.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fishing with the long missing mate

In the past 5 seasons, Milo and I have fished together maybe 5 days in total. Not great when you consider that this is one of my closest mates. Life gets like that, things happen like families coming along, work gets busy, priorities change and things have to drop. Understandable, but the danger is to let things stay fallen. We had to change it. So, we spoke a month or so ago and decided to set and stick to a couple of day's fishing the Whirinaki. As I sit here typing now, the sun is streaming in, cicadae are singing heartily and my Sunday chores are mostly done. A weather bomb has passed through, devastating the Taranaki, so having a calm blue sunny day is an absolute joy and relief. My role at work is about to be restructured (recurring theme) again but I genuinely don't care. All I can think about is catching up, kicking back, casting cicada patterns and just enjoying the opportunity.