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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Anglers, Kayakers & Gollum Vs. Pioneer in the Environment Court

Well, finally the decision in the Environment Court looms, deciding the outcome of Pioneer Generation's bid to dam the Nevis River. This week, the recreational users get their days in court. The reference to Gollum relates to a small native Galaxid fish, native only to the Nevis. Its presence, and the fact that it is both rare and distinctive, led the High Court to allow the Environment Court hearing.

Hydro is an easy power generation option in NZ - we are blessed with an abundance of water. Hydro power is relatively sustainable and in terms of CAPEX relatively cheap. What's not in abundance however (despite what films such as Lord Of The Rings show) is almost untouched wilderness area. What's also hard to understand about Pioneer's stance is that there is currently no shortage of power generation in NZ... if the general populace were to take measures around being more efficient with their consumption we in effect would have a massive generation surplus. This is not life and death stuff at all as far as humanity is concerned; for the environment and Gollum it is though.

Check these (borrowed) images out.

Image credit: Peter Sundstrom:

Image credit: Oreti River House
This is a truly stunning part of the world, and neither divine influence or the hand of man is creating more truly stunning wilderness areas.

Most anglers try to keep their spots secret or at least hush hush. Bizarrely enough, in this case, the more anglers and other recreational users who avail themselves of the river the better - recreational value is pretty much a coefficient of the amount of use. (I feel a trip coming on).

We need to stop taking the easy options in this country. I truly hope that the Environment Court makes the right decision and kills this thing (the dam, not Gollum) dead.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The low down on Sitka

Having had a series of discussions with Grant from Safari Supply Company, I decided to go with some of his recommendations on Sitka waterfowling gear.

Today my package arrived and I attacked it with enthusiasm akin to a frenzy. Wrapped up were the following items:

First impressions were that the Optidfade pattern was doing strange things to my eyes. Could have been excessive caffeine though. Checked the jacket seams, pockets and usual places where signs of poor workmanship (esp in Drake clothing) show first. Then spent ages reading all the tags about materials, lofts, patterns blah blah - the good old yanks love their descriptions (once had a hat made of "zap fleece").

This stuff is seriously well put together.

Underarm zip for dumping heat when active
Windstopper fabric on the Duck Oven

Rubberised zips

Optifade close up

Traverse Tee - quite warm base layer
The key to the overall system is a series of layers, which are available to suit the climate where you hunt. Obviously being NZ, you'll need a waterproof jackets, and because I mostly hunt in the North Island, I chose the Delta which is a well constructed shell type raincoat. Seam sealed, rubber zipped, large pockets with magnetised flips tops to hold them open - this is a seriously well thought out jacket.

Late in the season when things get a bit bleak, the days shorter and cooler, a warm layer is needed, which is where the Duck Oven comes in, its an insulated jacket that fits under the Delta. The Oven is constructed in such a way that the bit that tucks into your waders is made of a different type of material to the chest, shoulder and arm areas.

The Traverse Tee is a mid layer garment, which I can see becoming a firm favourite in the cooler months as a next to skin or base layer. Like I said, in the North Island it only really cools down late in the waterfowl season. I can also see this shirt being worn on a few pheasant hunts later on. I had to take it off soon after trying it on, she's a bit warm at the moment around here... summer's coming!

The traverse gloves are to replace some old fingerless Simms fishing gloves that have served quite well. Paul Stenning recommended these gloves initially and I can see why. They are unobtrusive, well put together with a rubber mesh hand grip area and relatively warm.

The Traverse Beanie was a bit of a surprise package ... mainly because I had ordered the Dakota Beanie and that's what I got! It features Windstopper membrane over a fleece inner and I really really cant wait to pull it on on a chill winter day. Seriously the best beanie I have ever put on my head.

Finally, and not as an after thought or anything, the Sitka cap. I have this thing about caps... because my face is sort of narrow and weasley some caps look a bit whack on my nut. This one though, feels about right. It's a light weight cap so will get plenty of use over summer chasing trout and kingis on the fly. Time will tell, but I think it could become a bit of a favourite.

Just need a rain storm to run around in now.... can't wait to field test all this gear. Watch this space over coming weeks.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Power auger

Yesterday the Tui Ridge riff-raff got together to begin putting in the posts for our release pen. The pen is situated in fairly mature pine block. We'd hired an ancient rattly & noisy post hole borer (auger). Dickie and I as the biggest guys got the job of drilling the post holes. The first auger bit hit a root and the sheer bolt snapped like a cheese stick within seconds. So we put on the second bit and got going. Within a couple of hours, the machine began to throw bits and pieces - a bolt here, air filter cover, muffler nut, muffler bolt (which Rick picked up and burned himself on).. and all in all proved itself to be a complete piece of sh*t. It didn't end there... after we'd got the corner posts in, we managed to get the auger bit stuck in a hole and it took half an hour of digging to free it - right after Dickie did his back in as we tried to lift it out. Dickie had to retire hurt and head home (he wont be getting out of bed today), and we decided that rather than completely destroying the machine, we'd return it and get our rent fee back.

We also decided in the interests of time and effort to get a contractor to ram the rest of the posts.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Absentee councillors & electioneering

Sometimes I just have to scratch my head. Got a text this morning, encouraging me to vote in the Fish & Game elections for a bunch of candidates.. 2 of whom are current councillors who simply can't or refuse to attend council meetings. You have to ask why they'd bother standing? Why waste an opportunity for someone who actually wants to make a difference from having the opportunity to do so? There's every chance that they will make the cut too.

"So go on, waste your votes and give them to Reardon & Chapman". That's what the text ought to have said.

Go here to view candidate profiles for Auckland Waikato's candidates. It amazes me how many candidates are all of a sudden pro mallard research.  I think that Southland F&G council needs a standing ovation for raising if not collective awareness and consciousness, at least something that candidates can write on their profiles to win votes!! Go, kiss a baby you lot, its a great photo opp!

Further, it amazes some that a number of the old AW crew state that they've been on council for 20 + years like its some sort of badge of honour or qualification to continue to be on council. Wow, in that time the duck population has diminished, canada goose has been lost as a game bird, and we can only really begin to touch on releasing upland birds after wading through red tape. Well done you long-termers, look what you've achieved - you guys rock!

I'd prefer that you voted for:

Carey - Craig
Church - Lindsay
Foster - Dick
Foster - Nick
Hutson - Peter
Murray - Rex
O'Brien - Mitch
Ralph - Guy
Watson - Tom

Or, just get another 3 years of miserable results, no feedback and pretty obscure accountancy practices to boot.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Really, truly waterproof?

I always have such high hopes for gear I buy. I've imported gear from the UK and States, often proclaimed as the latest and greatest. Brands like Simms, Drake, Scierra. And Columbia. The common denominator with all have been that they are ultimately constructed in China or Taiwan. I have plenty of stuff made in those countries that work like a charm.... but household consumables and electronics are not really things that you put your faith in to keep you dry, and maybe one day, alive. On the local front I've tried top end rain gear stuff from Macpac and Kathmandu (neither are true hunting or fishing gear brands). Of all of the coats and jackets that I've tried, an old Kathmandu Gore Tex rain shell has served me best on the keeping water out front... as long as the water was coming from a semi-vertical position. Let me explain a bit further. When you're fly casting, your casting arm spends plenty of time above the parallel to earth position, so rain ends up running down your arm and you're wet to the elbow. One Scierra jacket had neoprene cuffs which worked OK until the neoprene got a bit worn. I wore the old Kathmandu the other day on a goose hunt, having chosen it over the Drake and Columbia jackets because the day was warm and because neither of the other 2 jackets are waterproof and if you're lying around in a paddock getting wet then you're going to not enjoy yourself greatly. By the end of that hunt and owing I guess to age, salt water exposure and walking backwards and forwards carrying stuff, the zipper (rubber coated) had leaked and the shoulder areas were wet.

So, time to bite the bullet. For a wee while now I've been looking at Sitka gear, represented in NZ by the Safari Supply Company. The general feedback around the traps has been that it's top of the line kit. Last night, Tim and I had a beer with Paul Stenning, who I noticed had been wearing the waterfowl line of gear, so literally the first thing I blurted out was "so Paul, is your Sitka gear really waterproof?" After a detailed rundown of why the Optifade camo pattern is so good, he confirmed that the gear is about as watertight as its possible to make a garment. Given that Sitka is owned by the Gore company, that ought to be the case. So I'll drop some coin on new gear, and sell off some used waterfowling gear.

Will report on the gear as I go out and get wet.

(Still keeping the old Kathmandu jacket though!)