Friday, December 28, 2012

Just a quick evening trip

Fishing on the full moon can be frustrating, but I've noticed it seems to affect species like snapper far more than king fish. Jase had been in touch before Xmas to line a day up... and with the aftermath of Cyclone Evan which devastated Fiji still hanging around leaving dull leaden sodden air (humidity this week has been staggering) we at least had a lull in the wind so decided to get into it. Was quite looking forward to getting out as I'd put the casting platform back in the boat and was anticipating what the new transducer would reveal. Quick launch at Torpedo Bay and then across to Okahu to pick Jase up. We headed out and up to Rough Rock and got Jase in position to lay out a cast. The current was surging in; perfect for kingis and it didn't take long before he had a hit - fish on!

We landed his fish and then it was my turn and a kingi obliged fairly smartly and was duly caught and released. I think we took 4 fish before heading off to visit the channel markers. There were plenty of fish home under most of the markers, mostly in the 2 - 4kg range.

We probably landed a dozen or so before heading off for a snapper drift. Bait balls galore showed on the sounder, but the snapper were few and far between and pretty reticent. I had a few taps then Jase hooked up solid on a real rod bender. After 10 mins of hard out pumping he got the foul hooked ray up to the surface and as I went to gaff it the line broke - not only that but the tip section sprang out and disappeared into the depths. We stoically fished on, Jase using my spare outfit and catching the only snapper of the trip.

Having had a couple of long and unsuccessful drifts watching the sounder as snapper unbitingly moved under us we decided on a final assault on the fly rods.

We hit several more fish and I got dealt to by one small fish that had the heart of a lion, he rubbed the leader on the buoy chain - ping! Finally the tide began to slow and so did the fish... not before I had a "Holy mother of god" moment when a good 8kg model cruised in behind the fly before veering off.

Back at Okahu by 9pm and under nav lights I crossed the harbour to Torpedo to retrieve. Lovely evening's fishing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Transducer conundrum

On the boat, I've been running a pretty much generic Lowrance transducer that came with the X-51 that I put on my kayak. It worked well enough with the X-51 when used in the boat, but the HDS Touch has exposed it's limitations. The actual transducer is a deep water model according to its label, and not the fairly common 50/200 Hz dual that I'd thought. The time spent trying to fine tune out the noise and get sharper performance hasn't worked... the more I looked at info the closer I got to the conclusion that a new transducer would tell me more than hours spent fiddling.

Marine Deals have pretty good rates on all things boat electrics, so I ordered an Airmar P66 true dual frequency tansducer, and it arrived the next day. Just in time for the weeknd, so I knew what I'd be doing. I removed the old Lowarnace transducer, then used marine sealant to bog the old holes. Using the method of cutting up a chopping board to use as a mounting plate seemed better than randomly drilling through the transom, so that went on next, liberally siliconed to ensure good a water tight fit. Then positioning on the new transducer - I don't have heaps of real estate at the back of my boat to mount on due to scuppers, plus I mount on the non recommended side as it makes running cable easier for me. (Having said that, when I finally get around to buying a structure scan transducer it will go on the starboard side of the transom.

Sea test this week some time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More on the Black Bastard..

I have to go easy on the motor here... turns out that at last service by agent, a spring was incorrectly placed, putting pressure on the stupid clip thing that eventually gave way. Maybe it came from the factory that way but I don't think so... the whole throttle system and gear engagement was stiff as a plank when I got the motor back from its 3 month service.

Heres the diagnosis:

Yup, some muppet had reassembled the bit that prevents the motor starting in neutral, with the spring loading acting in the opposite way it was intended to.

So, sorry Mercatsu, not your fault.

But what I AM going to do is cable tie the clip, its as flimsy a piece of plastic as I've ever seen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In Threes....

There was this one time when I was much younger that dad borrowed his mate's Haines Hunter which at the time was the flashest trailer boat on the water. He had an old 2 Litre Holden Commodore and we packed the family in, hooked up the boat and set off for Pauanui. Back then, the tar seal went to approximately half way up the Kopu-Hikuai Rd and then you were into corrugated gravel. Well, the car began to struggle with the grade and started to overheat... so on with heater (in sweltering summer heat), open with windows and a stop at the top to cool the engine down. That was the first thing to crap out, and everyone knows these things happen in threes. With the passing of years I can't for the life of me remember what # 2 was, but I do remember the third. Quite well actually, as it was the first time I've been rescued at sea (not the last...). Dad, Uncle Tom, my brother and I were on the Haines. We'd taken the battery out of the Commodore as the boat's battery had lost charge. Out to Slipper Island and over the side went dad and Tom to grab scollops. My bro was the boatman, and I was crew.  Dad was first up and the bro told me to throw the anchor line out on a buoy... yup you guessed it, before we'd started the motor. Kids at home, here is the lesson for you - never ever lift or ditch the anchor without having first started the motor. Which wouldn't start due to a flat battery... I don't know if you've ever tried it, but swimming after a boat that's drifting away is hard, add a bit on wind and you aren't going to win... anyhow we were off! Tom surfaced now and had all his scollies in a bear hug.... dad ditched his and swam like a mutha to reach us. We quickly found the spare anchor and deployed it. Tom eventually got to the boat, we pulled him aboard and he lay on the deck panting. Finally we waved down a passing boat and got towed in, which cost all the scollies which we gratefully gave to the rescuers. That night the Law of Threes was explained to me... things that break happen in threes, simple as that.

This morning as I drove from a client meeting, I took a bit of a wrong turn (actually I tried to overtake a truck, ended up in wrong lane, missed my turn off so decided to go with the flow) and as I drove down Waipuna Rd I passed a contractor with a big F-Off weed whacker. It threw a stone the size of a marble through my left rear cargo window - I have tint film on the car glass and it breached that. At first I didn't really know what had happened until I looked over my shoulder. It looked like it was in 1 piece so I thought it'd all be ok until I could tape it and get to a repair shop, but nah, as I took a right turn in the carpark building the window evacuated stage-left... stink. Insurance covered it right away but still, even though its the Xmas lead in we're pretty busy at work, so getting to and from the repairer has cost a couple of appointments with clients. With the boat break down yesterday (#2), I'm thinking that I've obeyed the Law of Threes.

And item #1? Take your pick, was it the regular car service that revealed wrong plugs, blocked filters blah blah and finished with the dopey mechanic putting 8+ Litres of oil in, when the capacity is 4 L? Or was it my failing eye sight (yup I need reading glasses)?

This season I better not break another fly rod.... because I'm back to one again in the Law of Threes count...

Temp repair...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Adventures with the Black Bastard

Much has been written about the Mercury branded Tohatsu outboard motor, known as the "Black Bastard", and to be honest the majority isn't complimentary. Vital bits are made of plastic, parts that need to stay in place are fixed by fiddly little plastic clips that can give and that's what happened to me today.

Put the boat in at Castor Bay at 6.15 with Justin Bieber Fan Club as crew, and we headed out to the 30m mark between Tiri and Rakino. I'd have gone further if I was riding 1 up, but JBFC's only 6 and she wanted to be fishing, not driving. We got a good drift going and had a few nice snaps on board before long when I decided to try the drift again. Hello, the starter rope was stuck. Off with the motor cover and quickly diagnosed the issue with a clip that holds a rod that prevents the motor starting while in gear... trouble is its spring loaded so the "detent" (blah blah) holder was jammed. I fiddled around for a while before calling the Coast Guard.

We deployed the anchor, gave Coast Guard our position and fished until they arrived. With no drift the fishing was crap.

The ride home was at a comfy 20kt behind a giant sea smoother.

Took the boat straight to Fish City and they agreed that the issue was the plastic clip thingy. When I started talking warranty there was some "err, don't know about that" so I responded that I stayed within the warranty terms and it WAS f-ing going to be a warranty or else... round about then the mechanic said
"hey that rod looks bent.." well, the rod in question looks like stainless but nah, I don't think so.

Just glad it didn't fail on the lake the other day, no Coast Guard way up there....

Shoulda got a yammie. Sure I went for cheap motor option but for Christ's sake, that's just bollox when an slightly less than 18 month old motor craps out like that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eye failure

I'm the only male in the family on my dad's side who doesn't wear glasses or contacts yet, and on my mum's side there's plenty of vision correction going on too; so I always knew the day would come where I'd be next off the block. The symptoms creep up slowly at first but sure enough for the past year or so I've been noticing them... squinting when tying on flies during good daylight hours and really struggling in the twilight or darkness; focal point moving further from my nose.. having to hold books out to read fine print... and in the past week I even cast without a fly tied on... god only knows what I knotted on instead of my Orange Witch. In the last couple of weeks my right eyelid has been twitching fiendishly (why lord not my left eye? I shoot right handed...) and I've been getting head achy from my (over sized!) monitor at work. I can still make out objects at a distance very clearly and read words on the billboards across from my office ok, so I know that Dick Does Deals! and that someone in the PWC Tower wishes Auckland a Merry Xmas.

On the weekend I was tying some not very small flies in the size 10 - 12 range and it all came to a head, I couldn't focus, struggled when snipping off hackle (yup, cut the tying thread twice) and even as I sit here near the end of a business day I feel tired in a way that I shouldn't. So off to Optom. on Wednesday I go.

It's all a bit of a bummer, if there's one part of me that I've looked after its been my eyes, only rarely am I in the outdoors without quality sun glasses, I don't stare at the sun, poke myself with toothpicks, read in poor light... so, along with bad knee and sciatic nerve stuff I now have aging eyes.

You know, there's only one thing for it - get out and do way more shit before I'm really screwed!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pre Xmas Trip - 2012

December heralds the Pre Xmas Trip with TT, I think this one is the 6th* annual trip; enough of a fixture now (having done anything for more than 10% of my life makes it a fixture) to be considered an important annual event and always one I look forward to. It goes like this. Some time in October or thereabouts we begin to re-hash the ideas passed around after the last Pre Xmas Trip and to figure out date, time and costs. We then forget about it until mid November and then scuttle around organising ourselves. Then a week out we begin to get our work ship-shape and everything lined up so we can stop and drop and be on our way.

This year we decided to drag the boat down to Lake Waikaremoana, to fish for tailing brownies cruising the lake edge, stalk a small stream on its opening day (1 Dec), strip bully imitations in the evening for cruisers, and hopefully to nail a deer for the freezer. We took one of TT's acquaintances Wayne along to help with that part. It went like this.

Thursday being the second last day of the month seemed a pretty stupid day to be leaving the office... running around sorting out end of month was pretty hectic so I was glad that I'd packed and piled my gear the night before. Get home, hitch boat to car, final double-check of gear, kiss family good-bye, throw gear in, try and remember the vital thing I'd forgotten (turned out to be life jacket - didn't remember until we were well south)... cross town, get to TT's say hello to him and meet Wayne, throw their gear in. Ahead of us lay a 6 hour minimum drive and here we were, setting off at 5.30 into rush hour traffic.... so add another half hour or so... . We got to Matamata in reasonable time and stopped for the boys to do their food shopping (I'd already done mine) then off we headed. We made Rotorua, then Murupara and were into the final stretch... 2 hours of corrugated and twisting gravel road into the heart of Te Urewera. Under no circumstances whatsoever should this road ever be paved. It makes the experience of getting there so damn worth it. While our original plan was to set up camp at Mokau, the weather was looking a bit dodgy so we opted to spend the first night in a 'chalet' at Home Bay which was a pretty damn good idea, as we pulled in at about 1.30 am. A quick unload of gear, refuel of the car from tote tanks and we were settled. My eyes were falling out of my head from the drive so I was pretty glad to hit the hay.

Boom! Awake. 0.600. I dragged my ass out of bed and went for a wander... one thing I know about TT is that he doesn't believe in getting out of bed early. As for Wayne, well, turns out he knows a thing or 2 about sleeping. So far he wasn't showing the signs of being a keen hunter apart from having the gear... but looks can be deceiving so he got benefit of the doubt. There was a very distinct chill in the air so it would be a waders day (snow had fallen over night, the day before the official start of summer...). After breakfast we decided to leave our gear in the chalet (giving us options if the weather packed in) then drove to the DOC Ctr to get hut passes. Then we packed light, loaded the boat and headed in a stiff breeze to the south west arm to find a sheltered area allowing us to spot tailing fish. We landed in a grassy bay and immediately spotted more deer and pig sign that you'd think is possible to find in one place.

Wayne headed up into the bush and we rigged up our 5 weights. I set off on a slow stalk and no more than a minute in spotted a cruising brown, dropped the damsel imitation slightly behind and to his right, he heard the plink of the fly, turned and scoffed it .. fish on! (the danger of catching a fish first cast is that its often your lot for the day...). The fish ran and burrowed into the weed so a quick wade over to drag it out and soon the first fish of the trip was beached.

Solid start
Sweet! And that set the tone for the day... while the overhead conditions and constant swirling breeze made spotting really difficult when the fish were spotted they were hardly backward in coming forward and eating what we presented.

We worked the shoreline like herons all morning, winning some, losing some then headed back to the boat where we found Wayne reading his book.  A lunch of fried trout steaks and rolls, then into the boat.

Post lunch....
The breeze had stiffened so when we pulled up to a point with a white sand bottom the waves were rolling around. I headed around to a natural bowl with the wind behind me and proceeded to catch small rainbows and lose a better fish which thumped the fly. TT had difficulty spotting cruisers in the waves and under a leaden sky.  We moved into another bay and pulled in.

By now the wind chill and biting cold added to my 4 hours of sleep leaving me feeling like a zombie, so I snugged down in the bushes for a nice sleep. I awoke to rain on my face so headed to the boat. We packed up and headed around the lake to the Maurauiti Hut, arriving to find deer haunches in hanging in the trees, the best bunks occupied and what looked like it was going to be a full house.

We had a relax on the deck as we planned our next move - deciding to head back to Home Bay, the chalet and the comfy bunks... we had a meal and then dropped Wayne off at a track before heading out for an evening fish. I rigged the #6 with a sink tip and put on an Orange Witch bully pattern while TT fished his floating line and a damsel. It was chilly but pleasant out there and I hit a couple of good fish over the next 90 minutes including a really nice rainbow that spat the hook on a leap, and a good fish that stayed deep choosing the moment when our lines crossed to charge off causing my leader to part. Having retrieved the boat we went off and found Wayne. Day 1 was quite a success!

Orange Witch
The next morning we rose quite late to a beautiful still morning. We packed the car, got the news that it had snowed over night (great call to stay in comfy chalet!), packed the gear and headed off to fish a local stream - opening day! We dropped Wayne off with instructions on pick up time, camp location and gave him my GPS, then turned around and parked on the edge of the river. Conditions were awesome, still blue sky and as we crossed the river we saw fish immediately as a couple of browns cruised around downstream. Light rods were the order of the day with such skinny water; TT packed his #3 and I had my little 7'6" XP #4. What a ball we had; fish were plentiful, the stream beautiful ranging from gravel to bouldery, the fish a good size... by midday we'd hooked and landed over a dozen in various condition and lost a few as well.

It was pretty much the best way anyone could start a season, to be first on untouched water fishing for undisturbed fish ... bliss. The only downside was that as we returned to the car the peace was shattered by a sudden breeze that sprang up.

Our next move was to drive around to Mokau and launch the boat so we could head back to stalk the lake edge again, this time in more idyllic conditions. As we pulled in a cruising brown ignored the boat until were were almost atop her then charged off in a cloud of silt. TT jumped out and I hadn't even rigged and he'd a nice brownie on.

I decided to rig the #6 with sink tip and fish the wave action on the point.... but instead turned and walked the other way... what I found I really needed the #4 for... I found fish after fish cruising and destroyed every chance to trap them with line slap... by the time I returned to the boat to rig my light rod I'd put down 4 fish. So with the right rod in hand I returned to the scene, but too late, I'd wrecked it, so we jumped in the boat to find fresh pastures. My afternoon of (happy!) frustration continued as I pulled flies from fish's mouths, landed a minority of those hit but you'd be a very sad person to feel down! TT caught fish here, there and everywhere, then hit a tough patch. We fished in so many locations and to so many fish that it all became a bit of a blur.. all I can say is that the panorama was truly lovely and the fishing superb.

Finally we travelled around to our meeting point... hullo, no sign of Wayne. We decided on a quick plan. I'd drop TT off at the Hopurahine mouth (meeting point); he'd walk up to the main road and I'd drive the boat around to Mokau, retrieve it, make it secure and leave it there while I drove around to meet TT at the Hopuranhine turn off. I found him there and we drove up to where we'd dropped Wayne. No sign. We headed up to the next camp ground and found some hunters there who hadn't seen him. By now it was 7.30pm and 2 hours after the meeting time... surely with a GPS and good tracks he couldn't be lost... so next part of plan was to drop me at Mokau to set up the camp while TT drove around to Home Bay to alert the authorities. I got my tent sorted and started on TT's palace, only to find he'd not packed any pegs! So I tied it down with his chilly bin and to some trees, made dinner, smoked a trout and then waited.

At some stage there I nodded off and woke as a car arrived at about 11.00 pm... Wayne and TT emerged. Turns out that TT had raised the alarm, then gone back and found Wayne on the road, turned around and driven back to Home Bay to let the police know he was safe, then driven back to Mokau to the camp... Wayne handed over my GPS and I had a quick look and bit my lip. He'd travelled less than 2.14 km from where we'd dropped him. His max speed was 69kph which when I quizzed him on turned out to be because he'd hitched a lift... and been dropped somewhere (wrong place)... all in all he'd basically gone nowhere for 12 hours and caused quite a bit of hassle. To say I wasn't all that impressed would be an understatement. But it was a relief to see him anyway, so I hit the hay feeling relieved, even though it had been a shit ending to the day. (Wayne had pegs for his tent so at least that part worked out ok and TT's palace didn't fly away).

Mokau dawn

Now for a bit of duck humour... with a relatively full moon the bird and animal life was pretty active. Wayne had cooked some sausages and left the pan on the ground.. the fat had cooled and set. I was woken at 01.30 by the sound of duck feeding clucks and a rapid dink-dink-dink sound... when I poked my head out of the tent a pair of grey ducks were pecking the fat from the pan! The sun was about to rise when I got out of the sleeping bag and cleaned up the camp. TT and I got things sorted while Wayne slept on (clearly we'd discovered his hidden talent, which wasn't deer stalking). We made a quick plan to hit the road earlier than we originally planned to do, and to stop and fish some streams (Whakatane, Whirinaki) on the way home. The drive out of the park was excellent and we made good time.

We fished the streams and drew a blank on the first before catching some small fish in the Whirinaki and judging by the boot prints all around they'd seen a few flies since opening (1 Oct). Murupara, Rotorua, Te Poi, Matamata for gas.. and by 4.10 we were parked at TT's place where we said our good byes. Wayne awoke with 10 minutes of the journey to go, thereby proving impeccable credentials as sleepy the urban hunter. :)

Man, what a great few days, adventure, fun, warmth, cold, amazing scenery, new experiences, cruising brownies, fast and loose rainbows, nice looking touristy girls (oops how did that get in there?), boat was great, good food.... and now, what are we going to do next year for the Pre Xmas trip? Hard to top this one...

*looked at diary - is 7th annual Pre Xmas trip

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Accountability to the license holder - where is it?

The following article was published this morning in the Waikato Times. It captures at very high level some key facts but misses several important ones, and highlights Mr Doug Emmett's contempt for the very people who have paid his wages over a very long time.

Every organisation with fiscal responsbility for other people's money needs to have compliance and accountability around process and practice that is completely transparent; and such detail has been lacking within AWF&G. Requests for detailed accounts have been rebutted consistently. As a council we are (were, in my case) jointly accountable for the license holder's funds and as such jointly responsible. But that's not how AWF&G works, rather, a small group of individuals are given more information than the rest. So yes, calling in the auditor general is simply the only way to reveal the detail hidden in the accounts and to answer questions about ongoing "transposition errors". Let me make it clear; as a council there was no way of understanding the accuracy of accounts and as such that is an issue that needed to be corrected.

Further, Mr Emmett's assertion that council was notified of his intention to resign is pure fabrication; I was first alerted by a member of the public who saw the CE role advertised in local media. Further, and to prove the nature of collusion by some, the new CE was appointed through a process that involved ONLY ONE candidate being interviewed by a small body of councillors named the "special executive".  That the new candidate signed a contract prior to the current CE handing in his resignation stinks of pre-determination of an outcome. That the "Special Executive" was established when no such core policy exists for such simply adds to the pre-determination argument.

As for the Ramarama meeting; I would expect the assertion that alcohol fueled the action by members of the public to not leave the meeting will cause further ripples.... all those guys (rightfully) wanted is clarity and accountability.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Light and shadow and colour and pattern

I was yakking to Tim yesterday about Sitka's Optifade camo (he had his new cap on) and I remarked that I was surprised at the effect of Optifade Waterfowl. To me it appears to take on its background somehow. Here's what I mean.

The top picture is the Traverse Tee against a grey/cream background, taken with a limited flash. The bottom picture is the same garment in bright sunlight against a green background (and admittedly is pixilated). I would still have expected the camo to look more brown, but no.

I think the camo pattern is pretty damn good... with the way everything is hyped these days its good to be able to sit back and review stuff objectively.

So far I like what I see.

Tree, tree, 1-2-3...

From Badjelly The Witch, this is part of the incantation that Binklebonk the tree goblin uttered to make the door on the tree big enough for the children to enter. Yesterday it was more a case of  "Tree, tree, 1-2-3, please don't fall and smash on me..!!". Swamp working bee time, and we had to knock over a large branch of a giant willow, that was threatening to fall on the hut. We cleared a large lower bough and then Tim propped the ladder against the trunk of the tree and climbed up. I decided that a photo would be cool, so went to get my camera and was fiddling with it to get setup when Tim made the first cut.... immediately the log began to fall and I was (stupidly!) directly in its landing path. A quick dash and leap and I got away, just, but still got hammered by some of the peripheral branches. Turns out that only a small section was holding the branch up, so it was going to fall anytime soon. Nothing like some excitement to start the day.

Tim, dad and I were there to carry out some missions, namely to spray the pond edges and also to cut firewood and construct a new long drop. The ponds were looking great a couple of weeks ago, but with the nice rainy and warm days the weed growth was amazing, especially the Poa Aquactica (Glyceria) which now has a toe hold in our area. We smashed it a couple of years ago but it creeps back if you don't watch it. To get it all requires heavy methodical spray application so our progress was slow and after 5 hours or so we had barely covered half of the pond edges.

Tim spraying

One thing I didn't notice many of was ducks. Tim had a humorous moment when a grey teal leaped from its nest in a hollowed punga right by his head and scared the crap out of him. Plenty of swan sign around, and with duck feathers in abundance as well, the ponds are certainly being patronised, even if we didn't see them.

Swan toilet

So we'll be back to mop up the second phase of spraying and to finish up the odd jobs.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Our new council

Results of the Fish & Game council elections are in, and we have a partially new council. (Truly regrettably, the 2 councillors who don't attend meetings were re-elected). However that's how democracy works. Probably the most telling stat is that only 21% of enrolled voters turned out.

To me I can take or leave the result of the election as far as my position is concerned (and I congratulate those who were elected, I was soundly defeated), but what will stay with me forever is how completely dysfunctional the organisation is; it's structure allows for cliques, poor practice, non disclosure and a complete lack of trust between regions. Even worse, the almost complete lack of relationship between organisation and stakeholder... well I could go on, but that fact of the matter is that no one really cares, as evidenced by the following statistic.

- Of ALL licenses sold in Auckland Waikato, both fish and game bird and assuming that per license (rather than individual - a number of people buy both) a voting right was granted (in reality its not, you have to opt-in to vote..) then the next 3 years' worth of vision and direction has been decided by 7% of the license holding population. So only 7% of the stakeholders understand their organisation. Not something to be proud of at all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tony the Pro Hunter

Tony's a good bloke; hard case and a quick learner (apparently!). At the start of this year he'd not hunted for let alone shot a goose before. 8 months on and he's one of the most accomplished goose callers I know of  (not that I know many, but AJ, Coch and Rick are all damn fine at the art). Tony's living proof that practice makes perfect and I have to say that I'm pretty impressed by what he can do. My role in the cacophony is to supply accompanying noises to Tony's lead vocal. Anyhow, he's been picked up by GK Calls as a pro staff member (see Tony Dobbs) which is a damn fine accomplishment - hats off mate. Now I prolly have to beg to go hunting with him, like some groupie... sheesh :D!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NAGS October hunt video

Matt's constructed another great video. (You'll notice that left to right crossers expose the weakness with the glasses mounted camera for RH shooters). Outstanding none the less, a great way to remember an absolutely awesome hunt.

The track is "When the Planes Fall from the Sky" from Monster Magnet's 2010 album Mastermind.

I was allowed to choose the theme song for this hunt, hence the plug. (Matt was iffy about my choice).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Never say never...

Well, I had thought that October's goose hunt was going to be the last for the year, but as I was sitting at work on Thursday, Tony called to ask if I was up for a hunt on Sunday... I already had commitments for Saturday so figured I'd probably need to do some major begging on the home front. Since he'd got us on to a property that we'd coveted for a while, I knew I had to go. Then on Friday, Saturday's stuff fell over, so I was able to spend the day with the family, leaving... Sunday open!

2.45am the alarm went off... with lengthening daylight hours and the need to be setup pre-dawn we were to meet at 4am to get set before the farmer began to move his cattle. We were able to drive right into the paddock we wanted to hunt (no 630 metre carry in of all our gear!). Finding the "X" was easy, step from car, turn on headlamp, spy green, soft, fresh goose doo-doo (within 1 pace of car door) and get setup with 50 odd dekes and our blinds without breaking a sweat.

Derryn wonders if his ass looks big in this funky photo (Photo: Courtesy Matt McCondach. Words: Courtesy Snuffit)
The crew was Matt, Tony, Derryn, Warren (new to goose hunting) and me. We got set and then settled down in the pre-dawn darkness waiting for the birds to move. The wind was a pounding NW, almost perfect for us. Spits of rain fell as well at times, then showers, then the sky cleared (repeat that pattern 20 times). Birds began to turn up in dribs and drabs but at the first shots suddenly there were geese everywhere. Small groups and the occasional double came in and most stayed. By 7 we had 17 on the ground when a ute pulled up and a couple of guys came running across the paddock. Turns out they were there to hunt as well but thought that the birds would move at 9 or something like that. They asked if they could hunt with us and seeing as we first timers to the property, we felt that we couldn't refuse. Besides which if they set up nearby we'd be competing for the birds which isn't helpful. So they dragged their layouts in next to ours and we suddenly had 8 guns. Turns out they were good blokes from Leigh and knew who we were, and soon we were set up and had the system down. They had arrived with bare blinds so set about a cursory grassing effort, which as it turned out was good enough (I sometimes wonder if I go overboard with all the grass I stuff on my blind).

Birds were moving regularly now and with the strong wind at our backs they came in on predictable angles. Several times we got birds to sit in the decoys while calling more in, and the shooting effort was very good so not many birds escaped. Even better, the size of the groups was such that they were manageable and we never had any instances of large flocks coming in. With Tony's excellent calling and a good flagging effort from Matt & Warren we kept accumulating birds until about 11am when it all slowed down. We sat and chatted, ate our lunches and got to know the new blokes. Turned out that they had hunted the property for a number of years and had in the past managed some decent goose hunts. They also had maimais on the property and hunted ducks there in the season. One of them had a GSP Vizla cross (a very blond dog) and another had a young GWP in training, so we could tell they were pretty good keen guys.

From time to time, groups of birds would show up, and by now with the sun high in the sky they were scrutinising the setup hard, and certainly not committing easily and the bird we got took some working. By now we had the tide against us also, so the birds were able to head offshore and sit on the mud flats in relative safety. I had a wee snooze for an hour or so and was woken by Matt telling us that a lone goose was coming in, skimming about 5m above the ground. Matt even had enough time to politely ask "Boys, can I shoot him?", so I sat and waved the bird up and Matt took him cleanly while everyone behaved super-politely.

From memory that was the finale for the day. At 12.30 we walked back to collect the trucks and no sooner had we got onto the farm race than a mob got up several km away and began drifting on the wind. Matt and I looked at each other ... should we run back? But we decided to push on, all the while watching the birds sailing this way and that before setting down in a paddock behind the boys. We stopped to chat to the farmer and he was very happy to hear that we'd downed 57 geese, and basically asked when we'd be back.... packing up was nice and easy with the vehicles parked right by our setup, no killer hikes this time!

We thanked the farmer again, promised him some salami, and headed up to Matt's to clean the birds. I got home slightly late, slightly tired but pretty happy, mowed the lawn and cleaned up my gear. On that note, happy to report that the new Higdon's performed nicely in the semi gale. No need for the pins that come with the stakes either - not once did a body fly off. And I got to use the Sitka tee, rain shell, hat and gloves too. Everything performed flawlessly.

Photo: Courtesy Matt McCondach

Another damn fine goose hunt. Thanks to Matt & Tony in particular for doing the ground work - much appreciated guys. And that should be (never say never) the last hunt for this year, as the birds move into their moult and we all get busy with the silly season.

How many geese can you get in the back of a Hilux?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's only a thirteen and a half footer...

Had the opportunity recently to buy one of the new Lowrance Gen 2 HDS7 touch screen models at a ridiculous price. Not quite the first in the country, but none the less for once I'm an early adopter.

These things are sick, GPS chart plotter, fish finder, inbuilt structure scan, telemetry and the larger models even serve up video. To get the best out of it I really need a transducer upgrade and the structure scan transducers but shit, The Booger's only a 13.5 footer....

You do all sorts of stuff like configure your own screen splits; given I've only got 2 inputs (GPS & Sounder) I can't really get the best out of this feature other than put the navigation in left pane and sounder in right; or to be super daring, swap them around!

Need to do a bit of a shake down and tweak. If anything like the camera I've had for 5 years, I'm probably just best to put it on auto and shoot...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Higdon Alpha Wobbler Shells

Alphas are the latest generation of Higdon goose decoys, and someone was thinking when they came up with the Alpha Wobbler Shell which are a 3/4 bodied shell decoy cut from the full body version. The second I saw these in a catalogue I knew that they answered a big question, namely - how to fill out the goose decoy spread while preserving space? Storage is a big issue for me now. I saw some shots online of how they stacked and liked what I was seeing, so popped some on order in the Cabelas sale.

I knew that Cabelas had them on back order so was really surprised when an outer of 6 dekes arrived in my office this week. Only just got them home today, so whipped them out to have a look.

Looks like a reasonable option for filling out the spread cheaply (on sale for USD 79 per 6), each decoy landed is NZD20, vs ~$65 each for a quality full body.

6 more out in the shipping lanes somewhere....

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chasing workups

I was on the phone to Nik last week, getting a catch-up on how filming for his show Big Angry Fish was going. Lots of challenges and hurdles producing this country's most popular TV (fishing) show... anyhow, we got around to discussing how the snapper fishing was going off the Coromandel Peninsular. This trip was almost exactly a month later than last year's, where we'd had an insane day hitting snapper under big workups.

We scanned for reports from the gulf as Nik hadn't been out up there for a couple of weeks. Same news from everywhere, the workups were sporadic and brief, over almost as soon as they started. I finished up work on Friday morning, threw the gear into the car, drove to Paeroa and grabbed dad, and we set off at a leisurely pace on a beautiful spring day. As we passed over the small creeks between Paeroa & Thames I made a mental note to come back and explore with a #3 before the water gets too skinny and the fish drop back down into the Waihou. We got over the hill from Manaia and dropped down to Te Kouma, and drove around to have a look at the ramp... full to over flowing and no parking anywhere! Hello, something was up for that many recreational boats to be on the water. We stopped and enjoyed a cold beer and then carried on stopping for a lunch of fish and chips then driving into a very busy Coromandel township. Arriving at Long Bay Motor camp we were filled in on the reason why it was so busy - the "Softbait World Cup" and the Fireman's Fishing Competition events were both on. We set off for a walk from long Bay to see the sights and then came back, enjoyed another ale and then dozed off. Nik arrived at 7.30 and we ate dinner and planned the next day's events. We decided on a gentleman's hour's start, launching at the motor camp and then to go wide and look for birds. We set up the boat (Big Angry Fish's new Extreme 6.5m) and got prepared.

The alarm went at 6 and we got up, ate, got ready and set off. Funnily enough we just didn't see all that many boats out and about, but they were most likely working the pinnacles around the islands. Birds were in the sky but not much was doing on the work up front, however when we saw dolphins working and gannets started bombing we got there pronto. Over the side with the inkichus and Nik hooked up. From a quiet start, the fishing hotted up. Not constant streams of fish coming aboard, but the size and quality was pretty impressive with the majority of the fish between 3 and 5kg. Dad landed the biggest of the day at ~7kg pretty early on, and we knew it would be a hard fish to better.

The work ups were like sporadic mini events rather than sustained bait balls, by the time we got there the gannets would be sitting having come up from their dive bombing, but we still hit plenty of fish. The weather really played ball as well, the niggly little SW dropping away by mid morning so conditions were absolutely mint.

By late afternoon we were ready to pull the pin when the NW came in so set off to clean up the boat and catch. On arrival back at the camp we spoke to other parties who had been out soaking baits for very little reward. I guess sometimes you have to burn some gas to get results. We filleted out 20 very respectable snapper and put the fillets on ice.

Over a glass or 2 of red wine and snapper fillets we planned Sunday's excursion - this time we wanted to launch and retrieve at Te Kouma so decided to be on the water at 6am. We packed that night, loaded the cars and boat and woke at sparrow's fart to be the first boat on the water. The wind had sprung up and was decidedly chilly and cloud shrouded the sun. Definitely not quite as nice as Saturday. The results were worse also, gannets drifted here and there, but not a work up in sight. After a couple of hours of sitting in the chop only catching a few very small fish, we decided to go and swim some soft plastics over a pinnacle. After an hour or so, we'd caught some pannies and were ready to go ashore and find some coffee.

I'm cold, I want my blankie...

Always fun out fishing with Nik.