Monday, May 29, 2017


I don't remember my first duck hunt. I have some vivid memories of walking for pheasants on our old run-off, of dad coming home with quail and ducks, an evening hunt after which I ended up getting sick enough for a stint in hospital, spending time with granddad at the ponds during school holidays... and the first duck I ever shot, a big mallard drake, will stay with me forever. The memories fit together vaguely in a semblance of chronological cadence... but I just can't put my finger on that first hunt.

As happens in our family it is the birthright of our children to become members of our hunting party at the age of ten. Rilee had been to the hut a couple of times and had over-nighted once with Tony's little girl. She'd expressed an interest in coming along but not to "kill anything". So, pre-season we'd gone to our local Hunting & Fishing NZ store to purchase one of their excellent kid's packs containing a bush shirt, jacket, beanie hat, pants, a back pack and finally a pair of binoculars for a ridiculously low price of $100. SWMBO and I agreed that it needed to be a low key introduction to hunting, rather than the full-on experience that goes with the opening and so we decided that the 4th weekend of the season would be perfect. We'd go for one night, hunt a morning and then come home.

Rilee and I did our food shopping and began our preps on Thursday evening, she selected her clothes, got her sleeping bag ready and I made sure that she had warm clothes - the forecast was for rain and quite a bit of it. After a final shake-down it was bye bye to mum and we got going. At the ramp we ran into the Hayward lads, Morgan and Ash and they helped us launch and made sure we got away ok. The tides were again large so the water was well up towards the hut again - and rain was coming. Dad had the hut nice and warm and we were soon settled in. As we prepared for bed the rain started, light at first but gaining in intensity. As usual after a drive I was pretty alert so didn't get to sleep until quite late and my lab seemed equally restless as she wriggled around at my feet. The morning came and the rug rat lay in bed until I'd almost finished cooking breakfast, then she got herself ready for the day ahead. I was feeling pretty excited - hopefully we'd see some birds and that it wouldn't be a morning of staring at the sky.

Hut breakfasts - the best there are!

War paint
Game face - on!

Grand dad and grand daughter in the hut

Boredom is the killer of children's minds, patience is not inbuilt to youngsters. At the maimai we explained firearms safety, got Rilee ready with earmuffs then loaded and were hunting. This late in the season its not light until close to 7am so the first half hour was spent listening to the occasional bird whistle past. Drizzle fell in patches and the occasional breath of wind moved the leaves in the trees. It wasn't until 7 or so that a hen mallard arrived, answered the call and the wake of the jerk string decoys and circled. I took her as she swung behind us and soon Layla delivered the bird, which carried a band on her right leg. The next duck came sometime later, a grey that sprung a sneak approach on us and that required a reflex shot to take. As the morning passed we shot the occasional pair that came by and our bag grew to 6 birds. Rilee served her apprenticeship in the role of "Chief String Puller", operating the jerk string which kept her in the game. By 11 o'clock we were ready to pack up and headed back to the hut for lunch.

Chief String Puller

We'd had a ball, 3 generations of us in the maimai. Good times ahead I think.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Storm front ducks

Summer in the region was in general, crappy. At the time we generally lamented that the 3 days of sunshine we got among the constant rain fronts, were quite nice. There was no sign of drought at all, and in general gave us probably the most perfect duck breeding conditions you could wish for. Roll on to the here and now and a series of floods and king tides events have given the low lying and swamp areas constant fresh water, and this in turn has given ducks vast areas to loaf and to a certain extent feed on seeds and bugs in relative peace.

Dad has been hunting regularly, and getting good bags on a regular basis which is really neat because its been quite hard work in the last few years, and so hopefully some of the belt tightening in terms of season length is now paying dividends with the aid of weather conditions. As they say, "One swallow does not a summer make", but I'm happy to see the increased number of birds in the region and hope that the trend continues.

The boys were down for our annual swamp hunt and the early forecast looked promising with a south west front and rain coming in late in the morning on Saturday. I mentally prepared a plan after a quick discussion with Tony where we'd decided to split our forces rather than stack a single pond, partly because a 4 hunter/4 dog combo made management an issue but also because we needed to get dad and his dog into the plan. So the plan was Matt, Tony and dad to go down to Watson's which ought to be protected from the wind and allow the ducks a refuge and the ability to land with wind in their faces, while Chewie ("The Mangrove Yeti") and I would hunt Bollocks. This would put as much distance between the groups as possible so we wouldn't compete for available birds. We met up at my place with Chewie having made a dash from the airport, while Tony had detoured to collect Chewie's gear. We convoyed to the put in point and got what seemed a mountain of gear to the hut in 2 trips. Dad had the fire roaring and the hut warm and the water had dropped from the highs of the previous week. Still, the amazing amount of water that had flowed through was mind blowing. With gear stowed we headed out to set up the dekes for the morning hunt. The night was cold and clear, foreshadowing the cold front arriving the next day.

The boys were up, the fire lit and the show on the road at 5am, right on time. Coffee, bacon and eggs were consumed, warm gear and waders donned, then off to the ponds we headed. There was almost no wind at this stage, so Chewie got to work with the jerk string to create ripples on the pond. As the sun rose we began to be visited by ducks and soon had a few birds down. We got into our teamwork pretty quickly and the old Yeti was on fire, taking his shots really well. I wasn't on fire, missing what should've been mildly easy birds, but we had enough opportunities to keep us both on our toes. My mate got his first ever double on Shoveler and I missed a fantastic photo opportunity as Layla retrieved the lovely drake bird. The weather began to cut up, with drizzly rain coming through in waves - the perfect conditions for water fowling. Birds were moving in numbers now, not all answering our calls but enough that our pile grew. At 11.30 I had to pull the pin to prepare lunch, which would involve heating up some pies in the oven. I got the fire cranking, and washed the morning's dishes while the pies warmed. It wasn't until 12.15 that I emerged from the hut with the lunch, running into dad and Matt who were returning. The cold had got to dad and he needed to warm his core and Matt needed some bits and pieces. I'd stripped off my merino layer which had got damp with sweat while I was out working the dog on retrieves, and I quickly began to feel the chill. I told Chewie that I'd head back to the hut for a thermal layer and was out getting the punt ready when the sky was filled with swirling groups of vocal ducks. It was a sight to behold as small mobs circled us in every direction. This was reminiscent of  'the old days' when mobs of ducks would work in unison on their flight paths. It wasn't until we'd had several such instances that I was able to return to the pond, warmly clad. At that stage we had 12 birds in the bag and then suddenly a flight of 3 Shoveler zoomed in, curved tightly and shot back in front. I fired on instinct and dropped 2 but the third also appeared to be hit as it had flown in tight formation. It zoomed downwards. With a daily limit of 2 per person of these birds apiece, an addition to the bag would be an unfortunate consequence of hunting. Layla retrieved 2 beautiful drakes from the pond.

Chewie then took Layla out to see if he could find the third bird and while he was gone a sudden flurry of bird activity happened - first a brace of mallards came in which I took and then 3 more came in on cupped wings and I took the first 2 easily and then swung on the highest bird and dropped her. She came down with wings set and seemed to level out of her fall at the last second. As I waded across to direct Layla I saw her lying 50m away on the water, stone dead. Chewie was completing his circuit (sans any Shoveler) so picked her up. When he got back we agreed that we'd had a great shoot with 19 birds in hand and one missing in the woods and that he'd go and grab the other guys because for whatever reason the birds were avoiding their spot, pulling out of the 'final' pass at the last second.

Matt came into the maimai while Tony went back to the hut to grab some stuff - the first birds appeared immediately and after some circling Matt took a nice shot on a mallard drake. As he went out to look for his bird, Tony and dad arrived so Chewie and I decided to pack up and leave as this maimai is too small for 3 people, let alone 5. Matt came back with a dead grey duck - our missing bird and we left the guys to it. With 20 of our own birds plus 8 the other guys had shot there was a good pile of birds to be cleaned; we put aside some nice roasters for plucking and breasted out the rest.

Saturday's bag
After a cup of tea we decided to go and move the decoys from Watson's where the other boys had hunted in the morning, to Mclennan's which was also sheltered from the cold sw wind. With that done we stood in the maimai to watch the evening flight and what we saw was unbelievable. At 17.20 the sky began to fill with hundreds and hundreds of chattering ducks, headed inland in a SE direction. Mob after mob filled the sky and it continued until the sky became too dark and we packed up and headed back to base. Dad seemed unsurprised when we reported what we'd seen and mentioned that he'd witnessed it on pretty much a daily basis.

That evening Chewie prepared cheesy duck burritos and we ate like frenzied Labradors. personally I was stuffed so had a little nanna nap which became a full on night of sleep with Layla curled up beside me. Poor little thing was shattered and suffered some cramps. She'd burned off a couple of kilos since the start of the season despite getting extra food and has worked hard all day every day in the field.

We got on the road a bit later on Sunday morning and arrived at the pond right on shooting time. The wind had dropped and it was cool so I was glad for a down filled jacket but my toes were telling me a story. We didn't expect too much but in 3 hours managed 8 birds under bluebird conditions, a decent return on more of a fishing than hunting day.

The Swamp Yeti

Thursday, May 18, 2017


It was good to be getting out of town. Paul and I were in the truck, listening to his beloved Blues actually (cough cough) winning a match and traffic was light. We moved through the early evening at good speed in ideal conditions. Right on full time we pulled into Waitomo, where the radio signal pretty much ended and we set off up the twisty road to Craig's. The boys were in good form when we arrived, this year both Jethro and Hendrik would be absent due to other commitments so the hunting party would be Craig, Mick, Mitch, Paul, Andy and me. Craig's brother Mike would tag along also, and on the hound front we were well represented. After a leisurely breakfast over which the morning's hunt was planned we got our gear together and headed off. The plan was for the party to comb the cover crop with dogs on leads to avoid pushing the birds too hard. We arrived in convoy and as quietly as possible exited the vehicles, and moved off. Layla was pretty excited and pulled against the lead - she's still young and ever eager to get into it. At the edge of the paddock and before we'd spread out, birds began to break, most hitting the air - I sort of felt that we'd been properly busted. I ended up at the top 3rd of the paddock with Craig and Mike on my left and a cock burst out in front of me. I dropped it and released Layla but she missed it on the first and second passes and in fact we never tracked that bird cleanly - Mike later said he saw it pick itself up and run. I got Layla back on the leash and we continued the walk. By the far end of the paddock we had a few birds down, but knew that we hadn't really covered the territory all that well so turned to sweep back through with dogs off the leash. Layla made me proud by working to hand command and pushing out several birds that tried to sneak through the cordon. Mick took one beautifully and we doubled on another that wouldn't have ended up a particularly nice eater. Back at the cars we had a quick count up and had 9 birds in hand, and one that needed following up on the far side of the river.

We'd move back around the farm and circle back on the opposite side of the river running through the farm, pinching back so as to cover the river edge and pressure the wounded bird. We split and Mitch soon shot a hare that ran our way and that Layla retrieved, after which we neared the river. Craig's dog Max soon pinned the missing bird which cackled as the dog approached and was quickly caught up and retrieved and then we moved through to the bird release point. I missed a cock bird that put a tree between us and only a shot or 2 rang out - we were definitely doing it hard for birds.

Back home for lunch after which a siesta was declared. Andy, Paul and I weren't really tired so we set out earlier than the others (Mike had limited out already) to hunt towards the southerly breeze. Layla pushed a bird early which I got but from there on it was all a bit dreary - we were hunting in cool shadowed gullys  in a cool breeze - not ideal for sun loving pheasants. It was an hour before my little lab got hot on a scent and snookered a bird into a patch of low scrub from where his choices were limited to sit and get caught or JUMP! which he did. An easy shot, that was my limit bird. We decided to head back into warmer climes and from the top of a ridge spied the other guys' car. Moving down through a swamp area that always hold birds proved fruitless again - I heard a bird jump but saw nothing in my circumnavigation of the bog. We heard only one shot from the others. We back tracked through some territory that holds a few birds and again the cupboard was bare - this was more like late season! I took Layla to cover some bush edge ans saw Craig coming my way so we'd managed to converge. Either Andy or Paul fired a couple of shots so maybe at last we were onto the birds? All I know was that with the distance and territory covered we were certainly not hunting where the birds were hanging out.

Afternoon bag

We drove home to hang the game in the chiller and the bag consisted of 15 pheasants, 2 pukekos and 2 hares. Craig mentioned that there was a mob of pigs uprooting one of his paddocks that his dad wanted rid of. While we had a cup of tea, Andy flew his drone up the ridge-line towards the top of the farm and after a few minutes reported that the pigs were emerging from the bush.

I didn't have any appropriate ammo but Mitch did - a packet of 20g buckshot. I grabbed 4 shells and pocketed them. Andy had an iron sighted .30-06, Paul a scoped .243 and Craig his 12g with buckshot. I truly didn't think that I'd fire a shot. We drove in Andy's ute up the steep track to near the airstrip and then climbed out. The wind favoured us and after a quick walk we spotted not just a few, but maybe 15 pigs in the paddock ahead. Craig quickly led us down into the bush where we covered ground before climbing up through the fence line on the edge of the paddock the pigs were in. Light was falling and the animals were spread out ahead of us. The largest pig, a grey boar was active and at the extreme edge of the group of animals. Paul was given the task of shooting him, and on his shot we'd need to be ready to shoot animals running towards cover - the bush behind us. When Paul fired the big pig squealed, and his cast turned and ran. Straight at us. I moved past Andy on my right to cover the edge and focused as two 50-60 lb pigs ran at me. I dropped the first one head on, and the second turned sideways before collecting a load. They both dropped on the spot. I opened the gun, fumbled in my pocket for the other shells and then realised that the empties were both hung - neither had ejected due to malformation or some other reason. As I fumbled to extract the empties the big pig - Paul's boar - ran to my right and hit the fence line to freedom. Finally I got a shell in the top barrel and with no time to load the bottom barrel took aim at a black boar running off to my right. At the shot he squealed and then tumbled as Craig took him down. We estimated that the action had taken no more than 15 seconds from first to last shot being fired. We had 4 pigs down immediately in front of us, Andy dragged another back from up to our left and Paul and I grabbed the furthest pig off to our right.

Craig went to see if he could track Paul's pig while Andy went to where the pig had been standing to look for blood. Soon he returned - we'd need to bring one of the dogs back in the morning. With the pigs hung in the chiller we got back to the house for a dinner of goose burgers - the best type of burger there is!

It would be fair to say that we packed a bit of revelry into the evening!

Sunday morning dawned fine and cool with a slight frost. Paul dawned foggy and unable to speak. With the dogs fed and watered we got around to making breakfast. With Axel the GWP aboard we convoyed up to the pigalanche site where Mick and Craig took the dog down into the bush. Mitch, Andy, Paul and I worked the area over looking for blood, I couldn't find any evidence that the big pig was hit, yet Crag who's experience is vast was firm in his view that it had been. So they continued down a steep bush gully while the rest of us drove back down to meet them at the bottom. Mitch and i were in my truck with Andy and Paul behind us when a big black boar - not the pig we were tracking - cut across the track in front of us. It was in no hurry and we had no guns aboard. Rookie error. So he ambled up and over the ridge to our left while we lamented our lack of foresight.

We met the boys with the dog at the bottom of the steep hills and they reported that Axel had bailed a pig - probably the big blackie.

The morning's pheasant hunt was a walk back through the cover crops with moderate success, after which we headed back to base. With plenty of game to process we had a good session ahead of us.

The freezer is restocked.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

3 awesome days: Duck hunting 2017

In the weeks leading up to the opener there'd been 2 flood events; one having been the largest flood event ever, as Cyclone Cook dropped unprecedented rainfall on the Hauraki Plains. 2 weeks ago, dad and I had gone to the duck hut to tidy up the mess and it was substantial, with plenty of gear washed away and a bunch of stuff overturned.

Flood waters on farmland with the swamp in the foreground

There was still water running under the hut at that stage so we knew we'd be guaranteed a good old mud-fest for the shooting season. Our maimais are built up so while they were affected by the flooding, it was only minor - we'd be able to hunt. In the days leading up the chatter amongst the boys grew as it does and excitement levels began to peak. I'd be hunting with Matt who'd be having his first opening in the party and we'd be going into our furthest pond, which is pretty much the most competitive as far as that goes, with several very large bodies of water nearby which get stacked with decoys. With the weather looking fine (again!) and still, and lots of water around the place still, I wasn't too sure if the birds would be dispersed, but what I had seen when dad and I inspected the flooding was the huge number of birds pitching into flooded areas they'd never otherwise use.

Our ponds
I arrived at the hut on Thursday evening before the Saturday opener, mostly to avoid a crowded Friday afternoon boat ramp but also because a power of work needed doing. Dad, Greg and Daryl were already in residence. Our first Friday task was to put the decoys out on the ponds which we got done before lunch, after which I went and picked up Matt while Daryl began to repair one of our landings which had sustained flood damage. With Matt sorted only Tom, Paul and Andy were to arrive and they got in later in the afternoon. Adding to the human element we had a healthy pack of hounds with my Layla, Matt's Zulu (2), Dad's Zulu (1), Andy's Keira and Larry's Tonga on loan. It would sure be cozy in the hut! Ducks aplenty moved overhead as hunters began to setup for the morning and disturbed birds from their haunts. Unusually, I slept really well that night, which isn't normal for me, but I was happy to escape the season's eve insomnia that normally grips me.

After a sold sleep and large breakfast, we were on our way. Matt and I were still getting our gear into the maimai when the neighbours in the Corner Pond fired their first shot, 15 minutes before legal shooting time. After that it was a bit quiet in our area so I told Matt I'd get out and switch on the electronic decoys. Long hard experience has taught me to take my gun when going on small expeditions, as anything can happen and this time it did - after I'd waded ashore Matt called out and as I looked up a large bird folded above me - geese! I upped and fired and brought a bird down as Matt dragged down another. Holy cow! We'd taken our first ever canadas and Matt had killed the first with his first ever shot as an official member of the party. Interestingly, I'd shot mine with #4 steel which is decidedly on the small side. My day was made.

Matt with the bag

Swamp geese!
We giggled (or at least I did) and fist-bumped. The morning was fine and clear and soon the shooting was happening with hundreds of shots booming out across the wetland. We chipped away at birds as they came into range and they soon piled up. Matt shot really well and I felt ok  considering it had been a while between excursions with the gun. At midday, Paul appeared with our lunch, comprising B&E pie and cold drinks. He reported that most of the party had limited out and that on the whole things had gone swimmingly. We ate our lunch in the sun then resumed our watch for birds, finally finishing with our 20th bird around 2pm under sunny skies. We spent the afternoon kicking back before going out to watch birds flying into the ponds for their evening roost. Andy had gone for greenheads only so was the last to finish up and it was a healthy 90 ducks and 2 geese that hung under the hut that night. We had our annual AGM that evening after a meal of goose and venison nachos, a few drinks and then kicked back.

Sunday, saw a shuffle of hunting pairs and ponds. I was odd man out so hunted alone for the morning and had a ball, limiting out early. Layla worked her butt off and I was stoked with her work. Later on Matt and Daryl came to join me, as they were a little quiet on their pond, so I would call for them. Andy who'd gone back to the hut flew his drone out and was able to capture some really neat footage of some incoming ducks, including the retrieve. The boys shot well and at lunchtime came in to help with cleaning the birds which we did in record time. Matt was keen to get out and finish his limit which was achieved late in the afternoon.

Paul, Tom and Andy left in the afternoon leaving Matt, Greg, dad, Matt, Bill and I still in residence. That evening Daryl excelled himself starting with sauteed goose breast and following with an excellent duck ragout on mash - simply outstanding nosh. After the others retired, Greg, Daryl and I sat up talking, drinking and maybe even singing :D before hitting the hay after 1am.... and I had breakfast duty.

Caption required?

Layla - knackered

I really didn't think I'd be in shape to hunt on Monday morning so when the alarm went off I shook my head a bit, fed the dog, got up (or was that the other way around?), made breakfast and we set off. Bill was injured so stayed back, leaving me to hunt Puru,dad and Matt on McLennan's and Greg was with Daryl on Watsons. I wasn't expecting much yet birds began working immediately and I quickly accumulated half a dozen mallards, all drakes, and a drake shoveler. If groups of more than 3 birds appeared I just didn't call at them at all, given the other guys had collectively a dozen shots between them against my 3. Mid morning I decided to walk through the drowned willows and soon Layla brought me back a wounded mallard drake - her work was really solid with a few minor faults to iron out. As I stood against a backdrop of willows, a pair of mallard dropped straight in on me and I took them both. I wandered further and then decided I'd had enough and walked back to my pond with 3 birds on my belt, and one to get for a limit. That bird came soon after when I dropped a mallard drake. Matt and dad came by and reported 17 birds down, they'd had a fine hunt also and the Greg/Daryl combo were doing well also.

Monday's bag
Matt and I decided that in light of having finished our limits we'd head back to town earlier than planned. I have to say that we'd concluded one of the most enjoyable 3 days of opening that I could remember.

Traffic was light on the motorway and all too soon we were home. Roll on next weekend and the pheasants.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Patagonia - a Land of desolate beauty

On the first morning of fishing, we bumped down a rocky track across plains of tussock. Tomas, our guide, was a young bearded dude who oozed cool and played a mix of ACDC and Audio Slave. Before I even got the words out of my mouth he said "you're going to tell me that it looks like the South Island - all the kiwis say that". He was right, we could've been in the McKenzie Country, without the Southern Alps as a backdrop.

The day before, we'd flown into Rio Gallegos, most notable for:

1. Being the main military base used by Argentina in the war for Las Malvinas
2. Being a service centre for the local estancias and oil industry
3. Having only 1 decent cafe
4. Having the largest population of stray dogs in the whole of Patagonia

Because of flight changes, we'd after over nighting in Buenos Aries taken an early morning flight to Gallegos but had a day to kill in town. At the airport, lead guide Carlos met us (on his day off, good bugger) and organised us into taxis to head into town. Not the most salubrious day to be honest, we kicked around a bit and walked around the town before retiring to the cafe for hours as we awaited our 3pm pickup. The drive out to estancia Las Buitreras followed the path of the Rio Gallegos ("Rio Gajego") and suddenly the adventure seemed real. Our party consisted of Tim (host and prior visitor to Las Buitreras), Chris, Laurie, Jase and I. We'd picked up Jeff, an American angler on the way. We arrived at the estancia, were introduced to the (simply awesome) house staff at the lodge and assigned our rooms.

The fishing program is as follows:

We had 11 anglers present, broken into 6 pairs with Tim floating between the kiwi pairs as extra rod. There are 5 beats on the estancia with over 50 named pools. 5 guides were on point with each guide managing a beat for a week which gives them time to learn where the fish are and to mange pressure on the pools. The fishing day was broken into 2 sessions and the anglers would rotate from one beat in the morning to the next guide/beat in the afternoon e.g. on Day 1, Jase and I had beat 1 (Tomas) on the first morning and moved to beat 2 (Carlos) in the afternoon.

If I try to describe the unbelievable sunrises and sunsets of Patagonia in words I'll fail miserably; I'll simply say that I've never seen the like in my life, the sky ablaze with earth scorching oranges, purples and reds. The first few nights were miserable in terms of sleep, as we also had a full moon which beamed in lighting the entire landscape so we were always up before sunrise and able to capture various sunrises on camera. Post sunrise the breeze would start, an unrelenting typically westerly ranging from 15 to over 45 kt. The pools in the river were different in nature, "fast water" here was moderately flowing as opposed to the boot ripping white water we are used to - consequently wading was easy. A "deep" pool maybe 5-6 feet deep or so and with absolutely no trees around there consequently are no logs to snag on. As a result I only lost one fly on a snag all week and that was when the guide asked me to step back closer to edge of a pool so as not to disturb the lie with my wading, and as I did so I dragged the fly into a gap between rocks. To deal with the wind we fished double handers exclusively, with medium sink polytips followed by leaders of 15lb (or thereabouts) fluoro.  Because we fished a low water period our flies were small, usually bead headed and exclusively rubber legged. Casts were to the far bank, 45 degrees downstream and then the fly twitched back slowly. Chinks in your casting armour are quickly exposed by the wind! Day one was (despite catching a beautiful resident brown early) pretty difficult for me as my double hand experience has been 95% skagit, so the scandi head required to deliver a stealthy cast was a bit troubling.

Over the course of 6 fishing days we fished most of the big name pools and got fish on a daily basis. My first sea trout, a beautiful silver chrome bright fish came in the morning session of day 2 as I focused on putting the fly into broken water downstream of an underwater wake creating rock - if a fish was going to lie anywhere that was the spot.

Mind blowing sunrises and sunsets (credits Tim Angeli & me)

We had some amazing sessions, standing in pools with the wind whipping up waves and the turbulence created by your body causing spray to fly in your face as you cast, to casting swishing lines into the darkness under a molten sunset with each swing promising a pull. We fished wide pools with high banks or cliff backdrops, creating their own unique wind patterns blowing casts adrift, shallow runs where the fish would hide in the faster edge water, weedy embankments - nothing was the same except for the need to carefully cover the holding water and work the fly.

As with all expeditions there were some real highlights and I had many -

Jase and I doubling on sea trout in the same pool and our (fantastic!) guide Juan having 2 in the net for the first time in his career, I went on to catch another in the same pool that was a twin sister to Jase's fish and then lost a 5-6kg torpedo of a fish - or more accurately a polaris missile of a fish that leapt straight upwards as it threw the hook (that sight is indelibly etched in my mind). Going on to land 5 sea trout in that afternoon session in what became my favourite beat on the river (#4), the last as the sun dipped below the horizon. In another session losing a largish fish after 10 minutes and seeing the look on Juan's face - he was too cool to say I'd duffed it but I knew I had when I'd allowed the barbless hook (#12) to work free, then going on to put one in the net in the next pool after which we laughed and danced. Tying on a big rusty coloured AI in front of Riccardo (Big Fish Rick) who said "fish what you want" and then having a fish smash it inches from the far bank. Watching Jase sweep the pools effectively with his snake roll swishing out with precision. Chris landing 2 large trout, one a resident, one a sea trout. The meals, "lunch" being the main meal of the day consisting of large meat potions, Malbec, and the occasional tomato. Chimicurri. Sunrises. Sunsets. The company of anglers from Germany, the US (Jeff) and us kiwis. Amazing guides. A completely different style of fishing to any other I've done - some of which will translate beautifully to NZ waters. Buenos Aries - more time needed there to uncover the vibe, a fantastic city!

Fish in the net! (Tim Angeli)

Patagonia will stay with me for a long long time.

Seatrout - chrome

God rays

Dusk on the final evening

Those browns! Note the blue spot behind the eye

My first fish of the trip

Chris with a goodie (Tim Angeli)

Sea trout

Resident brown

Chrome time

Waves in the river - did I mention the wind? (T Angeli)


Perfect chrome

Kiwis, Germans, a Trumpian and guides

Super Toni with a stonker

Felix and a 20lber