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