Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where to hide from the easterly

We've been in the grip of a massive high pressure system for a week now. The wind is relentless, and the sun just beats down. One side effect is that rain, which under normal circumstances would be destined for our shores, is being dumped on Australia's west coast. Everything is dry. My lawns are brown and the earth cracked. The vege garden is watered at night, and by the end of the following day is bone dry again. Given that NZ's sea fisheries are east coast dominated, the easterly makes fishing slightly difficult for small boats, but fish we must. TT and I decided on a bait mission in the harbour. What a great city where for $10 parking, $4 launch/retrieve fees, $20 bait and , $10 gas (all split 2 ways) you can be out and catching. Well, trying to... Wednesday evening is when the 3 big yacht clubs have their club days. The ferry lanes are busy. Lots of summer boaties who don't understand speed regulations (and some professionals too... a local charter guy probably decided "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"). Throw in the wind and it was a big mean washing machine out there. We'd got some mullet (frozen unfortunately) for bait, our hope was that the pickers wouldn't hammer the bait before larger fish had a chance. We set up at the start of the incoming tide and hit fish straight away, returning undersized models. I managed to nab a yellowtail and he went into the bait supply. After an hour we'd put a couple of keepers on Ice, and seemed to be doing better than the boats that were on the drift. As yachts swirled around us, some closer than 2 rod lengths, TT hooked up on a much better fish of some sort. It took line with ease in the current. As he played out what we thought may be a ray, a couple of yachts raced by so close that the occupants had time to have a nice chat with us. After 5 minutes of struggle, finally the fish revealed itself with some tail nods and surfaced. A really solid snapper of just over 6kg lay in the net, a solid catch from the harbour for sure.

Soon the tide really began to rip and staying in touch with the bait became really difficult so we upped anchor and moved to Bayswater to fish in the moorings. Our baits were stripped constantly so we moved again to Watchman's Island. As the sun dipped the fish went off the bite and it was time for home.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What we really do...

Someone posted this up on a local forum. I thought it describes what we really do quite well.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Figuring the Big Muddy

Manukau Harbour is a great unknown for me. I've not fished there often and my most memorable catch was a big trevally that hit a jig - and that happened at least 20 years ago. Last year Jase and I decided to give it as much of a nudge as we could. His spear fishing experience had him telling me that the top of the incoming tide either early in the morning or late in the evening would be the best time to get shots. We're after kingfish, and we want to get a goodie on the fly rod. Other guys have done it out there. Speaking to my mate Simon who has the harbour as a picturesque backdrop to his home, he kindly told me that our plan was pretty much on track, if somewhat early in the year. His perfect scenario matched what we were doing, except it would be February rather than January.

I passed Si on the road to Cornwallis, he waved out and I gave him the bird - friendly eh!

Cornwallis is quite a lovely spot, the wharf is a popular fishing destination.

We launched The Booger and headed out to the marker Si had given us the good oil on. The current was ripping and we had wind against tide (again!) for a reasonable choppy ride. Jase had his new Redington #11 teamed with the old Billy Pate Tarpon AR I was lending him and loaded with an SA Streamer Express, pretty much the nicest shooting head going, in my opinion. We set up for the first drift with some expectation - this was the marker that Si had highlighted as having the greatest potential. Jase worked it over completely... nothing home. Or at any of the other markers we worked over the next few hours. Still, it was great being out there, the harbour is quite stunning really.

We're going to get this whole thing right one day soon. Moon, tide, time of day, time of year... and then we'll smack a mean fish over.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Despite the trout strike...

Was bantering with my old mate Brian (BJ) the other day about why he never takes me game fishing. (well, not really never, 3 times in 10 years is more than never). He fired back “where’s my invite?” when I told him I would be looking to head out and chase some channel marker kingis one evening. Fair question too. So a trip was arranged. I’d been down country on business and on my return got my gear sorted; truck and boat loaded and set off for Torpedo Bay. Sunny day, 20kt NE dropping to ~10kt… I was hoping like hell for the predicted wind drop as casting in 20kt should be reserved for people going fishing in Tierra del Fuego. Boat in, and a quick nip out of the harbour to check conditions (choppy!) before going to pick up BJ. Once he was aboard we decided to go to a more distant marker, as the island in front of it would offer good shelter from the NE.

A quick lesson on getting the drag set correctly, not using a trout strike and BJ was set. He struggled a bit with the shooting head but got a cast away ok. A couple of fast strips and despite the trout strike, wham he was on. The fish had inhaled the fly so even the rod raise he employed set the hook ok. The rod tore down – fish on! The fish gave a good account of itself and stayed deep and it was a good scrap to the boat where I netted it. High 5’s! Always good to get the first one under your belt.

Grunt, grimace

My turn to step up to the plate. I got in a few good shots and let the fly settle deep but not even a nip. Then I snagged up on the structure and lost the fly. BJ suggested changing fly pattern so I removed the faithful Mushy and replaced it with a slim piper fly. First shot and BOOM it was hit. The fish went off like a demented thing but we steered it away from the marker chain and got on top of it. After a pretty much straight up and down battle BJ slid the net under the fish and it was boated. We played around for quite a while catching and losing fish (the marker chain claimed 4 or 5) including one that hit like a missile giving BJ a line burn before turning and running crazily and unstoppably to the chain. Game over.

Water on lens, always a good idea ... not

A couple of hours of fun at the one marker is good sport; but the fish do tend to switch off so BJ rigged his popper rod to see if he could aggro any of the residents into biting. Nothing doing there, so off to the next venue. Rangi Channel was like a washing machine, wind, tide and traffic causing slop and chop and to be honest it didn’t look all that accommodating. We got soaked by spray on the way in. None the less we moved into the channel markers and BJ launched the popper. Nothing. Off to the next marker where I hit it up with the fly. Nothing. Next marker and things started going wrong…. First up I hit the marker with the fly somehow, and the line whipped completely around the marker and took a grip on the barnacles. The fly itself was wrapped up in the structure of the buoy. I knew that this was fatal… the Teeny T-350 was about to be destroyed. And it was…. Snapping below the shooting head. I guess now I have a pretty good running line to attach some T-14 to… having said that, at approx. $65USD these lines are pretty affordable compared to some and I would have caught well over 100 kingis on it before destroying it. I had another arrow in the quiver and pulled out my all-time favourite 10 weight, my Scott S4s 8810/4. Well sort of pulled, sort of pushed sort of carelessly and heard the dreaded CLICK of the tip snapping – in the space of 5 minutes I’d destroyed a fly line AND broken the tip of the finest 10 weight I’d ever held. Almost zero chance of getting a replacement tip section I reckon (have hit up Manic, the local distributor, here’s hoping) but as BJ pointed out, the break was directly where the tip top joins so putting a new tip on is feasible and would give me a quite unique 8’7” rod. I used the tip-ring-less rod and it actually cast quite well, in the process I nailed another fish which finished the session nicely. We cruised back in on a following sea, agreed to do it again sometime and I dropped BJ off.

I don’t and will not subscribe to not using a rod because it’s precious or holds fond memories – so I suppose it’s reasonable to break one every now and then. That’s now 3 Sages, a Kilwell, and 2 Scott’s I’ve broken in 35 odd years of fly fishing. Not that bad really.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hut refurb

Our duck hut, known as "The Bach" or "Hut 5" has celebrated it's 37th birthday. Built in 1976 to replace the previous hut that was raized to the ground in mysterious circumstances, it's a 2 storey pole structure with 9 bunks, a coal range and running water. I remember as a boy helping with small parts of the construction, and remember accompanying my dad when he put up the wall lining - silver insulation paper. What really sticks in my memory is how bad the mosquitos were. Never really seen them quite that bad since. Time, various rodents, weather... all have taken a toll so at lasts year's AGM we decided to do some refurb work. Dad and Larry lined the ceiling over summer, leaving the walls, some of which are in a very sad state of repair.

We arrived at the hut, did a quick pond tour (where a spoonie hen did her "I've got a broken wing" impression to lead us away from (hopefully) her nest and I scoped the areas needing spot spraying.

A while ago I'd left a roll in sulated paper at the hut; so we decided it was time to use it. First we cleared the bunks from the north wall.

Then I left dad to start and went and sprayed over the regrowth and to knock back some untouched poa. Horrible stuff. A couple of hours later I was done; so came back in to help dad. We got the north wall completed with the materials on hand.

Much nicer. repaired a hole in the floor then used the opportunity of having thye bunks out to have a good spring clean. Every corner swept, all crap thrown out. Lots of dust...

While we were finishing up, Tom, Paul and Andy arrived to replenish the firewood stocks. We said goodbye and headed off. Gotta get some more insulation paper and do the other 3 walls, will get them done soon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Back to the office for a rest

Have to admit to some pain today. Bruises on abdomen and under arm from rod butt. Scraped skin on fingers from reaching into the mouths of kingfish to remove hooks, tired from the 5 am start and standing in scorching sun fighting fish after fish. With a weather window for Sunday Andy had called it early enough (Thursday) for me to change a few things around; the plan was to head out off the West Coast and chase kingfish on a couple of offshore reef systems. The third member of our crew was Eddie, he’d be stick baiting while Andy and I would drop jigs and fish the fly. I got to Raglan after a cruisey drive; still in holiday mode I forgave the traffic transgressions (one of which damn near derailed me) – obviously busy people who need to be places fast. Andy and Krista are renovating their house before their first child is born and they had a number of guests over for a barbecue on their deck overlooking the harbour. Great spot. We hit the road at 5.15 and were first at the ramp at Manu Bay, so we launched and as we set off past the breaker zone (was flat) another boat was launching. It’s roughly 20km to the first reef and the other boat beat us there marginally.

Andy taking us out, pretty smooth for the West Coast

I’d rigged my custom built CTS #12m while the other lads set up their gear. I think Andy hit the first fish within a couple of minutes and that set the tone for a big day. Fish were smashing the jig and given that at that stage they were low in the water column than I could reach with my fly, I rigged a jigging rod and heaved a 200gr over – fish on! After a few bruising battles Eddie began to move fish on the surface.

Eddie reaches for a rat
 I changed my fly rig by looping on a 900 grain head to get more depth (at the expense of graceful casting!) and began to hook up. Soon it was a three way party with all of us hooked up at various stages. One time as my squid fly hit the surface it was scooped in a splashy rise but I missed the strike.

By now more boats were showing up and some pretty discourteous boat handling was on display with guys setting inside other’s drifts. After a couple of hours we decided to head for another patch of foul and on arrival struggled to find the exact feature that would hold fish; some guys on another boat put us on the spot and we again began to hook up. I was jigging again by now, looking for fish and finally hit one big enough to stay out of my control. Inexorably he took line and found the reef… ping! The action was cooler here so we decided to head back to the original spot before departing for home. I grabbed the fly rod again. It was madness there… one final drift became another as fish were smashing everything in sight.

Often as the stick bait hit the water it was pounced on by packs of kingfish. I hit fish after fish and landed most – I think I was busted off only once all day when my running line snarled badly and despite turning to rod upside down (guides up) which often allows snarls to flow through the guides, it was a full on jam that saw my leader knot give. On our third final drift my fly was all but destroyed by the hard plates in the kingis mouth, so I took the rod down and sat back.

Off the water we were surveyed by a NIWA bloke, turns out we were first boat out and first back. Back to Andy’s to clean up and have a shower, as I departed for home he and Eddie were discussing the merits of nana naps in the afternoon. I was sun-baked despite lathering myself in sunscreen, wearing long shirt and pants and a peaked cap. It’s definitely summer.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The ultimate classic fly

Yesterday I got up early and headed south to catch up with Milo, my trout guide mate of many many years. The mission was to introduce him to hydro lake fishing, and see what we could rattle up. We met at Matamata at 8.30 and by 9.45 were on the water and heading up the lake. Milo rigged up with a sink tip and tied on a Parson's Glory - a real NZ classic smelt fly, teamed with one of my small Woolly Buggers.

Inwardly I had doubts about the fly choice, having never needed to use anything but a Bugger derivative I knew his Parson's wouldn't get touched. The Buggers that TT and I use incorporate hot beads, UV straggle, UV flash, barred marabou... all the modern goodies. The lake is full of oxygen weed and when sun gets on the water the damsel fly nymphs come to life and so do the fish.

The sun was trying hard to get through the cloud and the wind was gusting NW, but I wasn't concerned as the forecast called for the clouds to depart in the afternoon. We moved into the shallows, struggling with spotting conditions as the cloud obscured the view through the surface film. We spooked several fish before Milo hit one - on the Parsons Glory. I thought "yeah OK, maybe it was a bit misguided.." and soon after hooked upon one of my buggers. After that though, it all got a bit sad for me. As Milo hooked fish regularly, I just couldn't get a take, and yep, they were eating the smelt fly. I should have taken the blinkers off... it wasn't until we headed up to a feeder stream and saw a small trout working over a school of smelt that the penny really dropped for me (god I'm slow...) and so I borrowed one from Milo. We then sat on a weed bank over a deep channel and caught quite a few fish rather quickly. Nothing huge, but just good brownies and bows in the 2 -4 lb range.

We pulled out at 4, by now the cloud had burnt off substantially, the bugs were working and we'd had a pretty good day. And as Milo said (after 11 solid day's guiding) "It was nice to have a day off, do something different and actually get to hold the rod!"... a guide's perspective I suppose.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boat Camo, Mk II

Having got my home duties out of the way today (digging up Agapanthus anyone? Horrible shit... and it 'bleeds' a clear gooey sticky itchy ghacky sap) and having taken Justin Bieber Fan Club to the park for a play, I had some time this afternoon to work on the boat.

Generation 1 home made camo looked pretty good, but had major drawback of soaking up water and adding a heap of weight to the boat. Having looked again at what the masses use for camo, I had decided on Avery's Early Season Real Grass, which I got in last year.

Next step was to buy about 300 cable ties!

Then string the net, lay the mats on and cable tie them. 2.5 hours and 200 cable ties later, and she looked like this:

All in all quite a pleasing result, and even better there's 100 and something cable ties left over for JBFC to play with. Never did figure out why she likes them so much.

Wind's still howling. No fishing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wind, wind and more wind - and a shallow water kingi

Over the past few days, the forecast has been calling big swell on the east coast and consistently heavy wind. Late last week you'd think they were talking through a hole in their heads; calm mornings greeted us. I was hoping for something like that this morning (knowing that it was not so likely)... so when I put in at 4.45am I wasn't surprised at the breeze that met me.

I drove up the harbour under lights, under the bridge, and headed for the lee of Meola reef. With outgoing tide and wind in the same direction, I figured that at least in the lee of the reef I could escape any wave action, and so it proved. I got the berley going and rigged the #8 with a dark clouser. As the sky began to lighten I sent out the first cast. Soon I had my first hit, a peewhacker snapper that went back. Over the next 90 minutes I hit small snapper after small snapper - where are the big guys?

The wind was building, probably about 10 knots at the stage when I noticed a swirl and splash behind the boat - I grabbed the #11, peeled line out and made a cast in that general direction on a hunch. 2 pulls into the retrieve and I got hit hard, I jammed a strip strike in and let go - line peeled off like I'd hooked a tarpon. In less than 2 m of water the fish had the option of heading upstream to the reef and busting me or heading down-current, and he chose option 2 which kept him in relatively obstruction free water. The fight was torrid, again and again he used the current to take line, the Tibor gave its growl again and again. I didn't time the fight but by the time I'd worked him up-current it must have been at least 15 minutes, and I was pretty damn happy to slip the net under a well legal sized fish, which I estimated to be in the 5-6kg range.

The wind soon made casting hazardous so I nipped down under the harbour bridge for a flick with a softbait. Again, just small snapper were home, and as I was playing one I heard the "peep-peep" of a duckling... no way... but yes, mum duck had taken her kids out for a harbour trip. They'd crossed the busy ferry lane and were making their way into the wind and tide... I never thought I'd see anything like that.

When the Now Casting service called the gusts at >30 kt I decided to get out while the going was good, a bit of a drenching was received from spray but I got back to the ramp safe and sound.

Hope this wind eases.

2 summer days, hunting prep time

The past couple of days we've been plagued by southerlies, which has been both lucky and unfortunate - lucky because some pretty heavy toil yesterday would have been unimaginably horrible if a heavy wet NW had been blowing; and unfortunate because winds from the south generally kill our fishing around here.

Anyway, on Friday I spent a nice day with the family at the duck ponds, checking up on the spraying results and also looking at the work dad and Larry had performed on the hut ceiling.

Everything looked perfect, lots of young ducks around (and I mean lots) so breeding looks to have been strong. The ponds were in perfect nick, the water black and clear and the spray had knocked back the Poa aquatica substantially.

Poa die-back

Damn, missed a bit!

Ponds looking great

Dad, sis and niece Daisy on the punt

Saturday and I was up and away early, to meet the boys (and girl) of the Tui Ridge syndicate. The day's task was to complete the release pen; having already got the posts in. We had a full crew:

Matt & Warren (Warren the second in command game keeper)
Malcolm (Keeper)
Dickie & Helen

Timmo also turned up; the farm his his shoot at Matingerahi was on has been sold, so he's looking for new ventures.

Originally it had been thought that the job was big enough to warrant 2 day's work but we all just pulled finger. First job was to support the corner posts with strained waratah's; then run the top wire around the pen, put up the shade cloth with 300 odd clips, while pegging it at the bottom edge, and finally running a support wire around the pen.

Jase & AJ... straining a corner post

Site of the pen

The pen door

Shade cloth going up

Our game keep

The view from the pen (imagine birds sailing down...)

We also put in a fence to keep cattle at bay, and finished some shelters inside the pen for birds to get out of the wind.

By 5 we had it done, aided no end by a cooling southerly that took the sting out of the searing sun. A great day's work indeed - next up we need to put in the watering system and the feeder. The birds will be with us by early Feb. Then we'll rotate the effort to feed, shoot hawks, check the traps etc.

A good couple of constructive days.