Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hand to hand combat

Possibly the best way to describe fly fishing for kingis against structure is hand to hand combat. There's no real secret that over the summer months, Auckland Harbour's channel markers are littered with yellowtail kingfish from tiny in size to very respectable. I've seen what (for the location) can be described as 'large' fish in the 12 - 15kg class out there.

What time and experience teaches is maximising your success rate. It can be a costly pastime - over a summer I'd expect to destroy (completely) at least one fly line and to make several repairs. Time had conspired against me getting out there, so much so that I'd had to plan this trip a week in advance, to fit in around other commitments. to begin the day I needed a WOF for the boat trailer. I wiggled the dodgy light until it worked, crossed my fingers and headed down to the station. No problems, it sailed through. Mid afternoon I had my stuff packed and set off for Torpedo Bay. Unfortunately the southerly which had been forecast to be waning wasn't anywhere near done, so she'd be a tad bumpy out there. Torpedo Bay in a sth wind isn't the greatest ramp, but I really enjoy launching there. A friendly neighbourhood, good (free!) parking and you can grab a coffee after retrieving :).

I trundled across the harbour and picked up TT at Okahu, then we tied off to a buoy while we prepared the fly gear. Having battened down the hatches, first stop was Rough Rock which was holding plenty of fish down on the reef but nothing showed to TT's fly so we set off up the channel. At the #1 marker we had immediate success. My first and second casts both were bitten - nice to start the 'season' with a bit of success.

TT got on the board soon after.

His first fish was pretty damn close to legal - and pretty damn close to finding its way into the smoker.

We hit fish after fish - and the kingis weren't all that fussy about what flies they ate. Gotta love un-hassled kingis, after they get to see flies a few times they tend to wise up. After perhaps a dozen fish, we moved on. Seemed we'd left the treasure trove, but in reality the tide was turning and the fish switch off on slack current.

Still, I was able to see the occasional sizable specimen - but I didn't see the one that smashed my piper fly as it sank down the face of a marker - what I do know is that it was a larger fish and it hit the marker chain in a second flat.... cutting the damn fly line. lucky it was cut in the head, so still serviceable. I tied a stopper knot in the line and barrel knotted on a new leader.

Fly carnage

By 7pm, with wind against tide it was getting damn unpleasant for any type of fishing let alone fly casting, so we cut a track back to Okahu. Then across to Torpedo where I was able to skim the boat in in only 60cm of water.

This morning I had a bit of a repair job to do.
Ugly but functional repair


I made record time putting on and testing the new loop. Everything just flowed.

New loop
Will have to tie up a few replacement flies at some stage.

Merry Xmas everyone.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Back at The Ridge

Saturday was the second real post season working bee at Tui Ridge. We'd be putting up a new release pen with the aim of holding some of the new arrivals.

We got a good turn out - the pen site had a couple of challenges - both slope and strata. But this year we had a secret weapon, a tractor with post hole rammer.

Even so, it took a few hours to get it all done, with net up.

We fenced the pen off from marauding cattle and hit the road about 4. Its going to be a very interesting shoot in 2014.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Matt gave us a bit of an update on the missing BOP geese last night; (subject to confirmation) the Regional Council poisoned off 2,000 geese 3 weeks ago. They were ravaging the local maize crops which were in their juicy seedling/shoot stage at that time. As I say above; "subject to confirmation" as I cannot reference it all on the 'net. Not that I'd expect the council to proclaim such an event publicly. Sad.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cool little video

Fish and Game's Mallard research programme gets a little promo clip.

There's always something to fix

And today it was time to work on the boat trailer. I needed to grease the main roller, get the wheels off and take some of the flaking rust off the hubs and generally get it ready for WOF... which is past due. Oops.

First, I downloaded The Booger onto my front lawn.

Then off with the wheels, one at a time naturally.

The hubs weren't too bad. Bearings fine, just a bit of surface rust to rub off with a wire brush on both the wheel and hub. Salt water just chews metal like breakfast so anything you can do to halt its progress is worth it in the long run.

I gave the hubs a spray with zinc coating as a sacrificial anode. Small hope really but it may help in the long run.

Checked over the springs, rollers, lights and after a couple hours of the boat sitting on the deck uploaded her back onto the trailer. Will go for a warrant next week at some stage.

Speaking of broken things, my trusty Canon G9 gas shat itself after 6 years of faultless service. These are the last images she captured, removed straight from the memory card onto the PC.  Unlike the title of this post, I wont be fixing the camera; last time I got a quote for something like that it was roughly 2/3 the camera price.

To the rescue! (2 weeks too late)

[Scene: Matt's World. Matt is being lazy. Or angry. Or both. Heh heh just kidden bro. He's probably actually being just being very busy running a couple of businesses at the moment]

Matt being calm and happy

Ring-ring (or bleep bleep, what ever his ph sounds like). Matt answers and its his farming buddy from Bay of Plenty - the geese are into his place. They need to be shifted.

Matt get's on the cell and collectively we all discover that we're in the same place - no way can we drop everything and get going. Tony's tied up on a house build. Chewie's got work commitments, I'm about to embark on a series of work related functions around the country, and Matt himself, well he's got his and another business to worry about.

We cross-check diaries and realise it will be 2 weeks before we can get there. So much for coming to the farmer's rescue. (which was a good part of the issue when F&G was managing geese - finding crews with the ability to drop everything, get going and do the dispersal). I booked in my leave. 2 weeks is a long, long time. By the time it had rolled around, we had a crew of 2. Matt travelled down to scout and reported in that the birds had moved on. Some goose kak was evident but the birds themselves were elsewhere.

I almost called it on the spot; work is pretty busy and I needed to catch-up on stuff that I'd let drop. But Matt reminded me that we're young and free, that anything can happen, and also that he's driven 3 and a bit hours so I should too. So out I went to cut grass and to dress the blind. Decoys and stuff into car. I found myself really enjoying the pre-hunt gathering of kit.

The alarm went at 3 and by 3.15 I was gone. Dawn had broken as I crossed the Kaimais and by the time I met up with Matt it was light. We drove down to our spot, arranged the dekes and blinds and began to hear honks as geese began to get a bit vocal.

Prime goose territory

A look around showed goose food for Africa. We wouldn't be dealing with starving birds, that's for sure. And they certainly weren't skinning the area we were hunting, the grass was thick.

Over the years we've spent plenty of time lying in paddocks looking at the sky - goose hunting successfully requires a set of circumstances that are pretty specific;

1. Scouting or being told that geese are there
2. Finding out where 'there' is, to the metre and setting up
3. Hoping that overnight, geese haven't changed their minds about where they want to feed
4. Shooting them

We had zero out of 4 covered.

But lying in a paddock in a beautiful and new part of the world certainly isn't bad - at all. We had cock pheasants calling around us, the weather was nice, the place certainly had potential and it was great to catch up with Matt. 

It beat being at work hands down. After a few hours we decided to walk the lower paddocks and scout for goose sign. We found that they'd been using some standing water at various stages.

Around which goose kak in various stages of desiccation were seen.

We wandered back to the spread and with it approaching 10.30 decided to call it. Matt and I looked at each other as we got to the cars and said to each other "you know what'll happen now.." - sure enough as we reached the paddock 8 or so geese were passing by looking at the dekes.

Back at the farmer's place for a coffee, he mentioned that his mate the maize contractor, was having all sorts of goose dramas as they honed in on his freshly sprouting maize. At least we knew where the birds were now going! And a new lead for next year....

Monday, November 25, 2013

Coromandel 2013

After the previous couple of year's trips with dad and Nik, I was really looking forward to this year's shot at big snapper feeding up under workups and getting ready to spawn. The only thing was... workups are few and far between this year, so we'd have to have a few plans up our sleeves.

Dad and I got to the new Big Angry Fish HQ; Debbie and Gail's new B&B atop the hill overlooking Long Bag on one side and Wyuna Bay on the other.

The view was beautiful, and with bush surrounds the bird life was epic. Tuis darted and dived and in the foreground several cock pheasants wound each other up.

Nik rolled in around 5 and we had a beer or 2 while we planned the next day. The weather would be as good as it could be, with a light SE putting a riffle on the surface. We decided to head up to Port Jackson for a fish around the reef systems with soft plastics. We got to Te Kouma at gentleman's hours, paid $10 (to launch and park on the road!!!) and set off. Stopping on the way north we couldn't find many fish, but dad snagged a goodie on a jig before we departed again. I don't like fishing with the moon in the Western sky by day, but when you gotta you gotta.

Nearing the top of the peninsula we stopped to try and deploy a burley trail back onto a point but the lack of current made the trail a depressing soup that sank straight down. Time for Plan C - to stick bait a reef system that Nik had always wanted to. With a 1.5 m swell rolling in, the proposition looked hairy - just how we like it!  We trucked in close, threaded between cray pots and took turns launching the baits. No joy, although occasionally kahawai showed an interest.

Here be kingfish. Well you'd think so...

Finally we were riding huge lifting swells in front of the reef before we decided on discretion and moved into the beach to see if we could get some small kahawai for livies. But no, no joy there either.

Which side of Channel shall we head to Nik? West Side! (We actually went to the East side...)

So with that, we made the call to go up to Channel Island and toss stick baits. We had a leisurely ride up in the big swell and on arrival were met with an extensive kahawai school, and amazingly for a Saturday, only 1 other boat. The first stick bait was cast in and about 2/3 of the way back to the boat kingis appeared under it. Next cast and BOOM! Fish on.

On Nik's custom Offshore 37kg bait stick it was a comfy fight, despite the swell and backwash from the island.

A few bucks worth
We cruised back in and next cast BOOM! Fish on. This time as I held the fish tight all his mates came out too. God I love indestructible gear. He came up and as he did so Nik grabbed the popper rod (big ugly Daiwa Monster Mesh) and smashed the popper down. A kingi grabbed it straight away and Nik shoved the rod into dad's hands. For the next 10 minutes the old man had a hell fight as he battled the fish, the rod, his hernia, the swell.. I shoulda kicked him in the kidney just to make it a real challenge! (Sorry pop when you read this..). Finally I was able to lift the fish in.

Then it was Nik's turn, BOOM! Fish on. He dealt to it quickly and release it soon after.

Who do I look like...?

By now the tide was turning and despite trying to tease a king into fly rod range it was futile as the kahawai disappeared. We moved around the island but the bite was done so we set sail back down the gulf to see if we could find a snapper.

By bye Channel Island
We moved around before at last finding bait and snapper sign. Over the side with small 18gr Grim Reapers to catch bait. I caught quite a number of yellow tail macks, while dad and Nik both snared blue macks... yum yum for a kingi. Then I got hit by a bigger fish, Conscious that my lure's little trebles had started to straighten I played the fish gently for a few minutes before a 3kg snap popped up. Sweet. We moved in close to an island to fish livies and cut baits for kings and snaps respectively; and despite a big few hour's effort came away empty handed. Back to the ramp to get to the fish and chippy before it closed - we made the deadline with 5 minutes to spare.

Dad hit the hay pretty quickly, and had a torrid night. I awoke near midnight myself - the heat was stifling, talk about February weather in November (the nutters will have you believing in Global Warming).

Sunday dawned fine and still. After such a big day yesterday, we'd called an easy day in the gulf looking for fish. The weather was primo. We drifted looking for fish and not finding many. Again the moon loitered in the western sky to piss me off but finally near midday it began to drop. As if someone hit a button, gannets began to circle and circle. We approached them and then it happened; not a full on frenzy but the gannets began to dive. Over went the jigs and we began to hook up. I rigged a ledger rig and dropped down baits. Over the next couple of hours the fishing was sustained without going mental; and the baits out-fished the jigs for size. Another learning - I'll be trying that tactic again.

Bait caught
We finished up with 20 odd fish in the bin before calling it a day; then back to Long Bay to clean the boat and catch. Dad and I hit the road, making Paeroa by 5.30 and putting me on a trajectory to be home by 7pm... a wee bit later than the mid afternoon I'd told SWMBO. That put me on a trajectory with the back of her hand!! Nah, not really.

Bloody awesome weekend. Great company, good fishing. Yeah, life's good.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

420 chicks

420 demanding chicks. All yelling. All trying to talk at once, climb over each other and get attention. Sounds like Miss Universe doesn't it?

But I'm talking about pheasant chicks. This week, Craig went down to pick up our pheasants from Colin Heard at Horohoro game birds. For being good customers we got a few extra, always handy with day olds because as previously documented they are by far the most seriously suicidal demented little buggers in the world. As of today we've only had 4 deaths which is just a fantastic result.

Transiting pheasants

Craig sounded pretty tired when I spoke with him on Tuesday, travelling with little birds is a bit of a mission, especially as the road to his place in the wops is a journey of 10,000 bends in the road. He did well, no mortalities at all during transit.

From there the birds are delivered into our rearing facility.

Heat lamps in a red painted concrete water tank - no corners - perfect

Now they go into survival mode - food, shelter and water is where its at.

They are kinda cute for the time being. When they turn into angry little tail-pecking monsters, they (like teenagers) are far less endearing.

I'll keep up with progress reports.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The pond project

We've decided to rehab a pond up at Matt's place on the Kaipara coast for a number of reasons. It's one of hundreds of farm ponds dotted around the district and while overgrown definitely attracts waterfowl. Part one of the project required us to fence the pond off and Saturday was the chosen date. With Matt tied up elsewhere, Tony, Chewie and I got stuck in.

Tony surveys the pond

Post laid ready for digging & ramming

It was a stunning day and as I waited for the boys to arrive I had the pleasure of listening to various cock pheasants cackling. Tony arrived, we loaded the posts into my truck and headed down to the pond. As we arrived a cock pheasant ran from the pond edge - Nera caught his wind and tracked and flushed him. nice.

Mud plowing duck dog

We got going and soon Chewie arrived. The earth wasn't too hard despite lack of rain, and we powered through the first half of the job.

By mid afternoon the temp was up to 24 degrees and we had slowed a tad, but had cracked the job of putting the posts in. Next up was to install a couple of feeders, in readiness for the feeding period.

Looking down to the nozzle feeder

Then out with some bait stations and a DOC 200 trap. A good day's work all in all. With a digger due to scrape back and deepen the pond we hope that we'll have more open water and be able to hold birds. With some planting to offer shelter it could be a nice wee spot for a tired hungry duck to rest.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

6 weeks, 10 ducks a day, and we're still allowed mechanical decoys.. and sub gauge lead shot

At the Auckland Waikato Fish and Game Council meeting on Nov 23, it is expected that staff's recommendations for the 2014 game bird regulations will be adopted, as is council policy.

I say 'expected' because a couple of the councillors are closer to the loony green movement than the game bird hunting movement they were elected to represent. They have votes to cast. So we'll see.

Anyway, congratulations to the very few hunters who could be bothered making a submission this year regarding 2014's game bird regulations. My submission was very short; I'd support staff's recommendations (after all they are paid & expert wildlife managers for f%cks sake - its their job to do this stuff) and am relatively ambivalent about the use of motorised decoys. I'll shoot birds with or without them.

On the subject of using toxic shot though sub-gauge guns... well let's just say that the system that allows a double standard will remain. Whether or not lead shot kills our ducks via ingestion is largely unproven. I just hate double standards, and in this country we have a truck load of them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Elegant (if somewhat rough), simple and deadly.

The best type of legendary figures are those who walk amongst us with humility and modesty. They impact others postively, and take life on objectively. Jack (Jax) Murray is such a man. To my regret I never fished with him extensively; rather I met him on streams on occassion and over the years we've swapped fly patterns.

He's a hugely accomplished angler and a self-effacing role model, and is the only bloke who I've met who has his flies featured by Hans Weilenmann on his tier's page. We've vicariously shared each other's angling adventures for over a decade. Jax's most influential fly, The Roughie, was first introduced to me by my mate Milo on a stream that was in low flow. The browns were cagey and lethargic, moving only for tiny natural nymphs and semi rising for unseen microscopic pupae. From time to time a hatch came off which normally signals a dinner gong for trout, but not today. We tried tiny nymphs. We tried emergers in nymph and flymp versions. Finally Milo tied on a small black bodied shaggy wee thing, first cast and the fish snaffled it. I rummaged around in Milo's fly box (do guides have the messiest fly boxes?) grabbed one and tied it on.

Since that day, The Roughie has proven itself time and again. I don't always use one, but when stuck for answer have found it to be a wee little gem of a fly. I got an email from Jax the other day; he'd ventured out on opening but had forgotten to take a drink so ended up dehydrated. I asked if he could spare some original roughies and promptly forgot - then received a wee small package containing a small pill bottle containing 6 of the lovliest examples a man could wish for. Thanks mate. You're a legend.

No pictures? Then it didn’t happen…

Actually it did happen, but I didn’t bother to drag the camera out at all. With a reasonable forecast (a bit of SW wind), a sheltered bay, an early incoming tide and reports of reasonable fish around it seemed a good excuse to have a dirty old bait & burley session. Quick text to Tony and he was in. Plan - launch 5.30am, head out to reef, burley up hard on the incoming and fish back into the structure. A hoard of kayak anglers were on the water as I arrived and prepped the boat before dropping her in at almost dead low tide; and another boat had just launched. Could be busy out there! Tony arrived and we loaded his gear in then got up and went… the slight breeze was coming from NE so it was warm, but we knew it wasn’t going to last. We arrived at the reef and chugged around – out here the breeze was as forecast which made getting wind and tide aligned a bit tricky, so we had more than one go at getting the lie right. Then, burley tied on and first bait in – while I messed around something picked up the bait and reefed me… not cool. We fished pretty intensively before the first keepable fish came aboard, a nice little trevally, which was destined for sashimi. A rat kingi played around in the burley trail and stayed for most of the morning; chasing small snaps as we brought them aboard. He later scoffed one that Tony threw back... Then a dark kelp snapper came up. Finally a whole baby squid was taken and the fish (we called it for a kingi) tore out towards the horsizon before doubling back and tearing into the kelp. I could feel the 6kg braid sawing through kelp and thought there was a chance… until the hook pulled. After that we fished patiently until 9.30 am when the bite really started (this spot looks to fish better as the tide covers the reef) and we had a good run, keeping only fish well over the legal size. The best came as I’d re-rigged, cast a whole pillie into the wash and was settling back when the bait was smashed, the fish tore line from the little Twin Power which screamed. A nice 3kg fish surfaced. The terrain was challenging which kept the fishing interesting and we nattered about all sorts of crap (duck calls, ducklings, pheasants, geese, fish..) - by 11 we’d used our bait supply up so called it. Back on shore the kayak fleet were in; we had a coldie each, divied the fish and hit the road. On a sunny day after a fishing trip the NZ countryside is just an amazing place. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, we really don’t know how lucky we are.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A 'Care Package' arrives

Quite a while ago I picked up some Avery summer mallard rester and sleeper decoys in the Cabelas close out of Avery GHG stuff - they were dirt cheap. The dekes were despatched to Mintz Decoys for flocking and a re-spray as NZ Grey and greylard (mallard/grey hybrid) ducks. With a huge backlog of work on at the Mintz factory it took quite some time for my job to percolate to the top of the pile; finally this morning they were delivered.

Each deke was individually bagged, and then wrapped in cling film before being boxed.

The results are quite stunning.

The greys look quite good, however the mallards are typically US light even though I'd asked for a darker scheme. I will give them a very light spray to darken up the backs of the drakes somewhat.

The flocking application is out of this world. Tough and durable looking, but still I'm pleased to be able to press the heavy duty plastic bags that Kelvin from ChCh gave me into service to protect them. They once housed corn chips....

J weights and decoy strings to be added.

Roll on duck season.