Thursday, March 23, 2017

Saturday Spey session

The Argy team had gathered in late  Feb to meet and greet, run different gear and generally shake down in readiness for our trip. It was a great weekend for me socially, but I couldn't hit a fish with a mallet at 2 feet in a fishmonger's on either day... well that's not quite right but that's how I felt. Further I lost my casting mojo on the Saturday afternoon and never really got it back, so lots of internet fueled self diagnosis took place (off shoulder I could boom out a 60' cast without raising a bead of sweat, but my snap T for example was horrible). I realised that I'd been doing a number of things wrong and would have to be very concious of the path of my stroke and also take power out of my upper hand. Waiting for the Argy trip to practice this would be folly, so a few sessions waist deep in the local lake with swan and scaup and curious paddlers watching me were undertaken.

Early planning with Jase had called for a drift session down the Waikato River but then the rains came... heavy heavy rains which finally moved into the catchment of the Tongariro. Word came out that brownies were moving and then an angler landed a horse of 14lb+ (his net scales bottomed at 14lb) which made the internet waves. That was a week and a half before we could get there but the plan was changed and we set off individually on the Friday evening. I had only a day up my sleeve, whilst Jase could manage the whole weekend. I arrived at Pete and Sherrie's before he did, and Layla jumped out to meet and greet Pete, Sherrie and Kaiser the GWP.

Travelling companion
Layla was along to play with the K dog and they got stuck right in. Jase arrived and we settled our gear in and had a couple of drams of Scotch and told lies for a while. Before long we crashed out and I went to sleep under a string of lights with each lamp in the shape of a rainbow trout. 5.30 am came and I was awake so went out and fed and toileted the black piranha and got my gear ship shape. Pete was working and Sherrie wanted to dog sit and make some pesto from her home gown basil, so Jase and I headed down to fish the lower river pools. I hadn't been down there for too many years so it was a neat change. Jase put me into the Bain Pool and I set off from the head... discovering fly eating snags at the top I quickly moved below the tell tale swirls and started banging ot casts. The rig today was a Skagit head and 12' of T-14 tip followed by a 10lb leader. My casting was if not excellent, then good enough to cover the water at will. Another angler appeared and watched me for a while, he was rigged with nymphing gear so I more than expected that he'd enter the bottom of the pool based on the utter lack of etiquette/manners I'd witnessed since returning to this fishery. But no, he politely kept his distance and probed the run below the tailout of the pool. I moved halfway through the pool before I got the first bump-grab which didn't hookup. A wee way further down I got a solid hookset and played out s small rainbow. The fly in question was a small brown version of Senyo's AI (Artificial Intelligence) which wiggled beautifully.



I almost pulled out of the pool too early but a 'final cast' showed me the near error of my ways when a feisty rainbow nailed the fly and took line on the strike. After a spirited battle a smallish but very fat fish came to hand. I didn't get a decent photo in my haste to return the fish, but she was stuffed to the gills with roe and in perfect condition.



As I released her a couple of anglers approached and asked if they could fish up from above me so I gave my blessing and moved downstream. A guy had dropped his bag and fished down through the next stretch but it looked inviting so I stepped in. I'd retied the fly and wasn't really happy with the knot and after a cast had decided to retie the knot. As the fly swung I said out loud "I bet a big brown eats the fly..." when a fish seized it. A good brown threw itself from the water. "SHIT" I murmured quietly, so only the people within 100 m of me could hear. But the fish was relatively easily dealt with. It was in decent nick and posed for a quick photo.  



I retied and tested the fly and sent it out. The go was to hit the far bank, throw a mend and then hold the running line above the faster current entering the pool on my side, allowing the fly to meander through the slow depths. The fly stopped... this fish stayed deeper when I hit it and soon I got a nice 4-5lb fat as brownie to the surface and banked her. She was a real sight, thick in girth and dark in colour, short and in general a perfect specimen.


The owner of the bag came back upstream accompanied by his boisterous dog, busy telling the world he was happy.. I wished I'd brought Layla down because they'd have had a ball together.

I explained that I'd hooked a couple of fish when for the third time the fly stopped. I laid back hard into a snag. Damn. I pulled hard to see if I could release the fly with pressure and the snag moved... holy shit.. this was a big fish.  I guess that my hard work pulling on the fly achieved its purpose because the fly released and came back to me. Its easy to call a lost fish a big one, but deep down I know it was.

I moved to the bottom of the honey hole and fished down through some perfect swinging water - when the winter runs come it'll get further attention.

I fished down to Jase who'd had an up and down morning, then we trudged back up to the car and back to town for lunch. Caught up with Pete at the shop and then planned the afternoon. There was some eye catching water in the town pools that neither of us had swung through, so we decided to keep it local and head there. I went up to the top of the run and began swinging. I worked the water as best as I could and soon Jase was following me down. My casting form was still good and I was really enjoying myself despite not turning a fish. Jase had a triple grabber - a fish that followed and hit the fly 3 times and seemed to be more assured in the way he combed the run. The run tipped into a deep pool with a rocky wall on my side. I wasn't really paying attention as my fly swung into the slow water and broken current by the rocks when I felt a fish gently pluck at it. I moved the fly, felt weight and struck. Only a brown would hold in that water. I had good pressure on the fish as it slowly swam upstream and then... the hook pulled. The hook was bright and sharp - I haven't had the best run of hookups to fish landed since Spey casting but can't really put my finger on any single issue causing hook dislodgement.

We jumped in the truck and headed upstream, Jase wanted to break his Mill Race run of no fish and I had my eye on a stretch downstream of the car park. We split up and I wandered to the edge of the cliff overlooking the Admiral's Pool... over the sandy bar lay a few very large looking fish in the safety of the back swirl in the depths.

I reached the head of my stretch and began swinging. It turned out to be very productive and in the next hour I hit and landed no less than 5 fish, all rainbows holding on the inside seam of the fast current that boomed down the far side of the run.

Back at Sherrie & Pete's we were treated to pork belly and fresh coleslaw. The dogs looked tired after a day of scragging each other. Layla and I left in the early evening; she snored the whole way home.







Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rio Gallegos

In just over 20 days, months of planning, preparation and gear testing culminates in a Patagonia adventure. (I say adventure in a tongue in cheek way, its not like we're roughing it in the Andes, tenting under freezing skies, avoiding condor attacks). What's really happening is that 5 kiwis are heading over to fish the Rio Gallegos in the Santa Cruz Provence for a week; a week of chasing huge sea run brownies and their more modest river dwelling cousins (which run up to a pretty damn respectable size themselves) - to put the fish in perspective in the week just gone, 8 anglers landed 51 "sea trout" at an average weight of over 9lbs with the largest going 22lbs. The stats for resident fish are not published, but looking at it, its a game of working hard and being rewarded hard.

The fishing itself looks super different from anything I've personally done - the river is long and meandering, the scenery sparse and wild, and the landscape is harsh and wind-battered. The river can be affected by rain anywhere along its ~300km course, from the headwaters in the Andes to its confluence with the Atlantic. So you could be fishing on a cloudless day and experience rising water from a rain event in the foothills of the Andes. The river bed looks stable and snag free (no trees to fall in) and reasonably shallow. The fish themselves will hit flies mid water, so dredging is not necessary and an intermediate line/head will suffice most of the time. On the topic of flies, after dark its just big black bushy numbers... but in the daylight, well, all I can say is I've never used so many white rubber legs on flies in my life! Have a nosey here -> http://solidadventures.com/rio-gallegos-argentina-las-buitreras/flies/

We were given advice by our (unofficial) team leader Tim that our nymphs were to be tied on heavy duty hooks - we've pretty much opted for Kamasan B175s - really heavy shank numbers.

4 of our party and either proficient or semi useful with spey rods so that'll be the main mode of fishing for me, although a couple of single-handers will make the trip also in my kit. I've an unused Abel 7/8 N that needs a run, while more of a bonefish reel it would be plain wrong to leave it at home. 15-20lb tippet - for trout!!!!

So, now most of the preps are done and the rubber's soon going to hit the road. May the force be with us.

Tim with a beaut Rio Gallegos fish, 2016
Photo Credit: Tim Angelli