Sunday, November 28, 2010

Free Saturdays

First free Saturday for ages today, which is good because I'm coming off a week of man 'flu, broken sleep and 2 weeks of work hell. Justin Beiber Fan Club has had a wracking cough and conjunctivitis for 10 days and is finally coming right. Talk about a hive of disease in my house. So, stuff that happened in past 2 weeks. I hit the tying vice a couple of times, but my ambitions weren't matched by output, somehow stuff just fell flat. Still have most of a box to fill. Am noticing that my visual acuity is getting shot too, I need lots of light while tying so my eyes are getting tired by night tying efforts. Last Saturday's AWF&G council meeting was just as the bug was kicking in; my head was pounding for most of it. Cocks got pi$$ed with not having shortened season on F&G blocks; put forward a motion that the goose season be of same length as that of duck season, was seconded, voted and hey presto we have a 7 week goose season instead of 16 weeks. We got a special goose season in late summer but that is subject to game bird trend counts. Subsequently paper is flying; we will have a special meeting in Jan to rethink the goose season.

With the exchange rate it is possible to partake in international sales and land stuff at prices that are about as 'reasonable' as you're likely to see. Half dozen Final Approach full body "Starter Pack" dekes can be got for NZ$241 from Cabelas, add in freight and you're still under the magical $65 dollar per dekes mark that seems to seperate the good dekes from the not so good.

Next Saturday is free as well; free in the sense that TT, me and maybe Tim will be in Ureweras chasing fish and maybe we can knock over a deer as well. We'll take off Thursday fish/hunt Friday & Saturday and come back Monday. Should be a goodie.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Swamp working bee

9 am roll call.... well more like 9.20 because we all sort of arrived at different times at the boat ramp. Tom, Paul, Tim, Quinn and me travelled down with Tom's boat, Rick and Jason arrived just before us; Andrew, Aaron and 2 of his kids were already there. A few trips up and down the river (tide was out) and we had everything up at the hut. Scope of work was quite large:

Repair the roof (Tom & Andrew) - include installation of new chimney
Install the new window - Tim & Aaron
Spray the ponds - me, Paul, Rick & Jase.

New Chimney & Window

The day was hot but there was a decent breeze, but still Tom and Andy fried up on the roof. Rick and Jase powered through their work and me and Paul focussed on the heavy poa infestation especially between Park & Willow track and the Western edge of Bollocks. We trampled transverse lines through the crap and laid the spray on. Hopefully it has the desired effect. Lunch was called at 1 pm, Rick putting on a feed of venison sausages.

Venision Sausage in bread - on way up to men on roof

After a good day's work, all was completed. The new chimney looks brilliant, the new window is pretty good, and the Poa hopefully will wither under the intense spray program we applied. Paul and I saw a clutch of grey ducklings as well, a bit of a treat that you don't see everyday.

At 3 we pulled the pin at the ponds, tidying up and travelling to the landing took another hour. A big day's work out of the road, and really good to knock over some niggly problems that needed fixing.

Tom and Andy & the new chimney

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Talking with Nik

.. I know why the big king may be disqualified from W/R ratification. It's a technicality that could become quite embarressing to a major manufacturer. But i still will stay schtum until I'm allowed to say why....

Monday, November 8, 2010

At the vice

My trout boxes haven't had much attention over the past summer & winter. Not really sure why. But of late I've been back in tying mode. I've been thinking about and using new (to me) materials, stuff like Knapek czech nymph hooks, Lucent beads and incorporating more wires and tinsels.

My ties aren't quite good enough to be professional but still I'm pleased enough with the results.

Getting there. Still have about 5 dozen holes to fill in the fly boxes.......

Non ratification

Nik says that it is 99.9% certain that the big kingi will not be ratified as a world record capture. I don't know why; and as he is writing an article about it I guess it will stay under wraps until published.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roll your own sausage

Things I learned about making your own sausages:

1. The meat grinder/sausage stuffer makes noise equivalent to a small chainsaw. Ear muffs recommended. The family had to evacuate to Oma's house (Oma being Dutch term for Granny) to escape the noise
2. The sausage casings are little buggers. Part of the prep involves thoroughly rinsing them in cold water (they come packed in salt to preserve them), and if you're not careful they'll slide down the plug hole.....
3. It's not a fast process. It took me about 3 hours (I should get faster in the future) to rattle up 4kg of sausages
4. But man is it satisfying to end up with chains of sausages, knowing the origination of every single bit - except the casing I suppose

I used Canada goose, pork shoulder and pork belly - with lean game meat you need a source of fat content so pork belly from pigs shot at Shanks' place are the perfect source. Fresh sage, thyme, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt, cracked black pepper and some fresh chilli powder, a bit of playing around and voila! a really nice sausage emerged.

SHMBO has banned me from doing it again, so next weekend I'll put down another batch!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hen Houses

Now here's a really great idea - Hen Houses for mallards.

Teal boxes have been around for donkeys but the entry hole is generally too small for a Mallard hen to use. They are well used, but the ones I've seen are made with big wooden stands which are perfect runways for rats, defeating the whole purpose really.

The Hen House really solves that one, old Rattus rattus can't grip smooth metal all that well, I say it that way because I've seen one run up painted corrugated iron.

If you were to put Hen Houses on say farm ponds, with little natural cover they would provide a hen mallard with a structure in which she could find safety and comfort.

Gonna give these a shot....

Caring for your trout

I was going to call this "Caring for your fish" but that sort of implies keeping the fillets in the fridge or something so that they taste nice. Nope, this one is about caring for your trout once you've caught it. To be clear about the subject, I'm going to assume that like the majority of anglers you don't really want to eat your trout, given that they are:

1. Often wild fish in streams with limited spawning opportunity
2. Farkin tasteless
3.Too valuable to catch only once - economically it is important that the fish you catch today can be caught again next week by a yank, or Aussie, Dane.. whatever, as long as they spend their tourist moolah in Godzone
4. Farkin tasteless
5. An important recreational resource that should be shared with others
6. Really farkin tasteless

I mean anything you have to douse in brown sugar or add garlic to or smoke or... well I mean they are just tasteless. Served in cream with garlic butter sauce, a trout tastes like cream and garlic butter with little bones in it.

I digress. Damn it, I'm good at digression.

So, you've hooked your big trout, played it as hard as possible to bring it to your soft meshed (no knots) large mouthed net as quickly as possible, and screamed in delight as Salmo monsteris has been netted. What you do next determines the viability of the fish's continued existence in this dimension. You want that photo of a lifetime, and your mate is nowhere near you. Forget the photo. Keeping the fish in the water (in the net) use your forceps to remove the hook, hold the fish gently in the current and say goodbye after it fins off when well revived. I can tell you from personal experience that dicking around with a fish, camera, net, rod blah blah on your own gives the fish a short life expectation. It is almost impossible to set everything up and get the snap and get the fish back alive. Smartasses out there will mention sand bags for their camera blah blah, and maybe they can get their shot and get the fish back alive but I reckon its a low margin exercise.

Let's say your mate is there. For a start don't let him net your fish, its safer for both of you that he doesn't. If it gets away while he's netting it there are gonna be either some choice words, hard feelings or digging rights forever after. Don't put yourself in that place, as your mate begs you to net his trophy just tell him he's a pussy and to get on with it. And don't ask him to net yours. Right, so Salmo megaspottyfish is now in the net. Holding the fish in the mesh of the net, head upstream, use your forceps to remove the hook. Whip your hat and sunnies off. Fish is still in net, submerged in water. Your mate positions himself so sun is right for the photo and camera is ready to take the shot. He calls the shot, you smartly lift the fish from the net, taking care not to touch gills, or eyes (don't ask me how you'd do that...). Your hands are wet of course and you've not recently applied sunscreen or anti-fly ointment which burns the slime off the fish.  You take only a few shots, with lots of rest time between for the fish. Then you gently release the recovered fish into a part of the stream that has protected flow. Off he goes.

Check this out.

Here Simon hasn't even taken time to remove hat and sunnies. The water dripping from his hog sized fish shows he's just lfted it for the shot, perfect technique. Hats off to fine angler and excellent practitioner of C&R.

What makes it even better:

The angler is a big fish chaser, but check out the fish - yup its him again! Steven caught the fish in Jan '10, Simon took him in Oct '10. And I've been heard that this guy (fish, not angler) has appeared in no less than 4 Facebook pages.

The lesson here is that this fish has probably driven a zillion anglers into mad dribbling mutterings about travelling to NZ... he may have accounted for more tourist dollars than The Lord of The Rings... oh ok but you get my drift.

2 things spring to mind when I think of that fish:

1. Some people are doing a good job of releasing their fish in a fit and healthy state, ensuring that a valuable resource is available to others
2. That fish would taste awful, even in beer batter with extra spices.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shanks Ranch, sorting the pen

The usual early start was had, and we chugged away from Tim's pretty much on time. Coffee call was made at Huntly, then we travelled onwards to TA to catch up with Mick and get the stuff for Craig's kitchen. Except Mick was absent and Mrs. Mick sounded like she truly appreciated her wake up call.... not! We made it to the Shanks Ranch about 9 and Aunty rocked up a bit later. Coffee, tea etc then out with tools and down to the pen.

Where we'd left off last time

Today we had to dig in the corrugated iron and lay up the wire netting around the pen; effectively proofing it from ground predators. A couple of hours of yakka and we'd got it ship-shape looking.

Simon & Craig at work. (Baldies!)

Wires were strung for the shade cloth roof, leaving the final big job for Craig - putting up and stiching the shade cloth. Then in with the feeders, drinkers and out with the traps... one final big job is building the boxes for the traps.

Chicken wire strung

Iron dug in & nailed

All done barring the shade cloth


Craig got 100 odd of the reconditioned traps ex AWF&G so we need to get them operational ASAP.

In the afternoon the lads took the dogs for a walk after a pig and I hit the river looking for a trout. I'd been looking forward to heading upstream following the river into the bush, but water clarity wasn't the best so spotting fish wasn't easy. Those that I saw were small and the peewhacker I brought ashore was but a 10"er. Somewhere along the way I felt the kiss of nettle on my neck.. and then in a big pile of Supplejack I slipped and heard the dreaded "click" as the top 2" of the Sage 5 weight parted ways with the rest of the blank. Stink, but lifetime replacement is exactly why you pay a bit more for these rods. incidentally I've broken the tip of this rod twice now and smacked the guides off my TCR 6 in a rock fall. Sage replaced the last tip for a small shipment fee and I paid for replacement of guides. If the blank had broken instead of guides it would have cost less.... but anyhow. I got back to the car and headed downstream for a look, the rod, while abbreviated was still functional. Still nothing. Back to the house we had afternoon tea and made preps for an evening hunt. I nipped down to the river below the house, now a much broader beast full of snags and other horror. The first pool is a big broad one, with current emptying into the pool along the far (true left) bank. The angler stands on true right bank, above a mini cliff some 15 feet above water. The cast is not overly long, perhaps 40 feet, across the pool which because of the nature of the inflow has a big upstream swirl/back eddy. The drift is natural for about 10 feet before the line is impeded in the back current. I had on a big Mike Davis stonefly imitation in brown with long wiggle legs, although damed if there'd be a stonefly natural within 300km of the place (they require pristine water and generally a rocky bottom). At the termination of the natural drift I began to retrieve the fly jerkily. Half way back as the fly came into view so did the fish shape chasing it, always a foot behind. I stopped the fly, the fish pounced, and I set the hook. At first it was just a "fish" but as it came up through the water column (and murk) a flash of gold gave it away as a brown - and a good one too, just the right size to feed us (Craig wanted smoked trout for dinner). Fighting fish from a high bank really gives them no chance, the upward pressure tires them and you can exert control easily. After a pretty good tussle it was on its side and I had it beat ... if i could get to water level and gill it. As i looked around for a way down I moved downstream a few paces and the fish sensing the extra speed of the water as it shallowed and exited the pool made a frantic run and threw the fly. Not that I think fish can sense anything logically; it just knew to head for cover! I wasn't too dark because the back up plan for dinner involved steak! Then I went and blew it by catching a food sized rainbow and giving it its last rites, so after all that it would be fish for tea instead of steak. Incidentally the fish ate one of those big blingy wire bodied things with a red abdomen, red bead, orange legs, flash back.... it would never have seen anything like that in its life so just more proof that fish are completely base and will eat just because they have to.  Its gut was packed with horn caddis (Olinga feredayi) so guess what I'm tying on next time I fish there?

The evening stalk was a goodie, the chill Easterly doing its best to chill us down; it was quite dark before Craig muttered 'There's a pig down there'. There actually were 2, and after a stalk a nice fat young boar hit the dirt with a bullet thru his shoulder. Back to the house to watch a DVD then we hit the hay. Up at 6, pig skinned, on the road and back in Ak hell by 10. Joy. Next Saturday I'll be making sausages....

Chinese Whispers

The record kingi is 32.7kg, not 37.2kg as first reported.... sort of a dyslexic Chinese Whispers thing happened, by the time I got the news it was pretty third hand. Still a massive fish and still an impressive record.