Monday, February 25, 2013

Saturday & Sunday


Having never participated in the “Summer Parrie Hunt” (special paradise duck season) before I was quite looking forward to the hunt – mainly because it was going to be a goose hunt in disguise. Out of courtesy to other hunters who would be shooting parries on the property, we’d not gone there for geese over the dark of the moon. The moon phase was actually full, but with moon set at ~ 4am we’d be getting prepared in absolute darkness. Our party consisted of the NAGS boys and the lads from Leigh, and we were expecting maybe 17 guys to be hunting the property in total. 04.00 the alarm went and I had a quick breakfast, coffee and jumped in the already loaded truck. At just before 5am I met Tony on the roadside and we had a quick catch up while waiting for Chewie. While we were chatting another vehicle pulled in and we met another guy who was heading further north with some mates. Nothing like duck season to get people moving in the pre-dawn! Chewie showed up so we drove out to the paddock we were to hunt and put my dekes and layout out with those already in place (the northern contingent had set up the previous evening). Then I drove back and parked by the farm shed, and jogged down the farm. We were ready, but still waiting for the other guys. They showed up soon after and we got ready for the 6.30 kick off.


Part of our setup

Nera with a hen paradise duck
 It was actually pretty quiet for the first few minutes, but once the paradise ducks began to wake up and be disturbed around the district, our chances came thick and fast. The shooting was challenging, as the wind was very slight and swirling, so the birds were able to approach from any and every direction. The tally was soon mounting and as the guys kicked back a bit more waiting for geese, a number of parries were able to come and go with only the more sporting chances taken.

Ted collects a bird

Finally the sound we were waiting for came – a ragged flight of geese came off the sea and headed along the tree line at the far end of the flat we were on, maybe a km away. Nate was over there set up for parries but it was shots from another party that turned the birds our way. With no wind they were just diabolical to try and decoy but we managed to put a few on the deck. A few more small flocks of geese came by and then the tap opened. Skein after skein of geese appeared on the horizon. Flocks landed in the paddocks behind us, more well out of range to the right and a further mob of maybe 30 ahead and to the left. With the situation hopeless, Tony released his dog to move the birds up. As the birds began to lift off another group came in to us from another direction and we were able to drop a number. Even after our shots the geese to the right didn’t take to the air – they did when we went to retrieve though. By mid-morning there was a bit of layout restlessness going on with a couple of the guys moving off. We decided to get the downed birds into shade as the temperature was now beginning to peak – the birds would go off quickly unless we could hang them.

Chewie & Ted, Tony & Nera

We used the lull while the ute was being collected to take a few photos. We knew the geese would need to feed, but it wasn’t until midday that they began to move again in earnest. By now the parries were pretty shy and we were close to limits so the call was made to stick to the geese. Over the next 90 minutes we had steady shooting and pulled the pin at 2pm with 37 geese down. The Leigh boys drove around the property picking up their mates and birds, then we drove in convoy across to Chewie’s place at Snells Beach to have a few beers and clean the bag.

We set up a production line and got the birds breasted, the breasts into ice slurry and then bagged within an hour and a half – all destined for sausages and salami. As I was leaving Snell’s Beach I noticed a massive plume of smoke to the north – and as suspected it was reported later on the TV news that a massive bush fire was burning out of control. The drive home was pretty pleasant – plenty of time to reflect on a great “Summer Parrie Hunt”.


I’d spoken with Craig earlier in the week – we needed to move the pheasants at Piripiri from the rearing pen to release pens around the farm. Craig and David Klee – Auckland Waikato Fish & Game-s Southern Game Bird Manager – had leg banded the hen birds on Wednesday. Moving the birds involves catching them up, putting them in crates and transporting them to their new homes. It can be stressful for the birds, so is best achieved in the cool of the morning or evening. So, for the second day in a row I was up and away at 04.00, this time with a 3 hour drive ahead of me. I arrived at 7 on the dot, to find Craig, Mick and Mitch preparing to round up the first lot of birds. The larger crates could hold 25 birds, the smaller crates 15, so with 3 large and 5 small crates we’d be able to transport 150 birds at a time. We also needed to wing tag the cocks as we caught them up (we have not applied to shoot hens on the property), as the tags tell us which year’s bird we have harvested on the property. We formed up and pushed the birds into the capture area of the pen – and boy when 300+ birds start beating their wings it stirs up a hell of a lot of dust – mainly desiccated pheasant kak! Soon we were all coughing as we began to catch birds and put them in the crates. We all took some collateral damage, Craig took a rake from a cock bird to his abdomen and I got a slash across the cheek from a flying bundle of anger. Cool, chicks dig scars. :)

Rearing Pen

The first shipment went out to a swampy grove – Craig had already prepared feeders and drinkers out there. We carried the crates down and released the first lot of birds. As they moved from the crates into the undergrowth, they simply melted away – great camo. After 2 trips the back of the job was broken and I bid the lads goodbye, hoping to be home by 3 and see the family. On the way I stopped by Tui Ridge to check the birds. Maybe 30 were outside the pen so I slowly walked them back in, checked the feeders and water and got back on the road.

Big weekend.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Smash ‘em bro

I’d organised a day out with Carl Muir of Epic Adventures, chasing kingis around from Tairua. Specifically, I wanted to put a decent bend in the Shimano Jigwrex that I’d picked up after the last jigging mission with Andy and Eddie nearly killed me (because of the long rod I was using). On Tuesday afternoon conditions over on the Coromandel were just getting worse and worse, so Carl sms'd to say that Weds was off; in the meantime though, Andy was dropping large hints about how good the weather was going to be on the West Coast. Boom, into action, a plan was hatched. Unfortunately Tim had to drop out as his impending departure to the West Coast of the South Island is dominating his and his family’s time. All the gear was ready so I chucked it into the truck and as an afterthought threw in the 12 weight. (Andy told me the fish would be deep down, but I thought that I’d be able to reach them if they were at 20m if the 900gr head had enough time to sink). Alarm went off at 04.30 and I hit the road at 5. Arrived at Andy’s at 7, surveyed the carnage that is his house renovation (it’ll be sweet when finished) and then had a cuppa while Andy walked the dog. We then juggled around the rubbish trailer to get at his boat and finally hitched it on and got going. Manu Bay was flatter than a flat thing – a very rare occurrence in itself so before long we were on the water and away. When the water changed colour to a deep blue we slowed and deployed a marlin lure on the Tiagra, hoping to raise a stripey or god forbid a black but the marlin were having none of that despite the lure popping and bubbling enticingly. We arrived at Gannet Island and set about finding the fish. The first couple of drifts were fruitless and the words of what some fishermen we’d met in town before leaving echoed “there are no fish at Gannet, we were there on Monday…” . After a few drift resets we hit the first fish and that set the scene for an excellent session.

Highlights included numerous double hook ups, and at one stage we landed a brace of solid 15kg kingfish that looked like twins. Another boat joined us as well as the charter vessel “Clansman” who set his anchor on another pinnacle and got his punters lines down. The fish seemed to be moving around so the drifts were a bit of a lottery – having said that we did very well and hit the fish regularly as Andy set the drifts for the slight variable breeze.

After a number of bruising fights I decided it was time for the #12, so rigged up the fly rod. First cast I let the fly sink and sink, before starting a roly-poly retrieve. BOOM, the hit ripped line through my fingers and the whole thing was over in seconds as the fish dragged the leader over a rock. I re-rigged. Second cast and the identical result, except this time the fish dragged the fly line into the structure… the third destroyed fly line since January. Damn. I switched back to the jigging gear and hit my fish of the day, a stroppy 18kg est model that dragged me around the boat twice.

We began to notice work ups appearing off the island, so with our home time approaching we decided to drag a marlin lure around. The scene was insane, deep blue water, gannets and dolphins smashing into schools of anchovies and saury. Any caught some awesome footage of the dolphins and birds working, nature at its best. Retrieving the boat was easy and soon we were back at Andy’s, cleaning the boat down and having a cold beer.

Happy Wednesday....

Monday, February 18, 2013

The plan

Tim and I belong to a hunting-fishing-shooting-catching forum that has a very relaxed annual fishing competition – we fished the inaugural tourney last year and had a blast. Tim entered us in this year’s comp and it rolled around pretty fast. I was looking at some bathymetric charts the other day and decided on an outcrop that just had to hold fish as the place we’d hit up. The plan was to arrive as early as possible, pump burley back into the reef and fish big baits back into the system. On Friday I went down to Top Catch and loaded up on pilchards, free flow squid, salmon burley and salt ice. That all went into the new 56L Icey-Tek bin that’s now doubling as a seat in the front of The Booger. Put 2 full tanks in (just in case we needed to go and chase work ups), a couple of spare batteries and then loaded the car with all the usual stuff.

Tim arrived 15 minutes late - having been at a wedding on Friday and not getting home until late he probably only had a few hour’s sleep – and we set off for Gulf Harbour. We arrived and Tim went looking for the organiser Chris, who was found asleep in his truck, then we launched and set off. The weather wasn’t perfect – a 15kt SW made our 18km trip pretty wet, but I was encased in my light weight chest waders and raincoat so stayed pretty dry underneath. Having said that we made decent time averaging about 19 knots. We sounded the first reef system which appeared dead, before heading over to our intended spot. It just felt ‘fishy’ – overcast, with thousands of terns and sheer waters sharing the location. We set burley on the anchor chain and from the back of the boat and deployed our first baits. The water column under the boat was filled with bait sign. Tim got hit straight off and landed a nice pannie which would turn out to be our largest for the day. We fished solidly for several hours, taking a steady stream of not overly large but really fat high quality snapper. Gannets dived around us randomly and at times the shearwaters got up in mass and moved over to where terns worked bait schools. We chased one workup, but with no mammals around to push the bait up the workup was sporadic. What looked like the slashes of fast moving kahawai showed on the sounder screen but the bottom was devoid of snapper sign. We moved back into the reef system and set for the tide change, and whilst the fish were off the boil we had a hit every few minutes from undersized fish – we probably released 30 odd under or just over the legal size of 27cm. The wind was incessant so we decided to move into the lee of Otata Island with another dozen or so boats. What a difference, the sea was flat and it was warm out of the wind. But the fishing was pretty slack with only very small fish taking the baits. Around then I lost the burley over the side as the knot holding it worked loose – bugger. We fished on for a while before deciding to head off early to give us time to get back to the ramp in time for the weigh in. We thought that Tim’s first fish would be a contender for a prize, but it proved to be an ounce outside the top 3 fish. We hung around for a few drinks and a barbecue, then headed home. With a good bin of iced down fish we were pretty happy with what was an excellent day.

Our little tub alongside a competitor craft... yup, we beat it

Aftermatch function

Next year, I have a plan……

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Playing the gamekeeper

With our pheasants now in residence at Tui Ridge, we’re into the first 2 critical weeks that can make or break the operation. Each day, the birds must be visited, those which have escaped the pen need to be walked back in, the feeders restocked and water troughs checked. My turn was yesterday so I escaped work early, got in the car and drove. Along the way I joined a conference call with our CEO, CFO, MD and various Heads of State; and was asked to mute my phone as they could hear “wind and car noises” heh heh. After listening my way through 45 minutes of exec talk, we arrived at a natural conclusion and I got to leave the car, open gates and drive through crops to the holding pen. On the way I disturbed a rather large hawk and nearly drove over a wild cock pheasant. Speaking with Malcolm the part-time game keeper, the hawks haven’t really discovered our young birds as yet and with the big guy keeping to his territory he probably keeps other birds at bay. Close to the pen there’s also a magpie nest; and a nesting magpie will not tolerate any predator in the vicinity. I checked the traps (no kills) and walked the pen boundary. Only half a dozen birds were outside. They walked into the hopper enclosures and either used them or I pushed them through. As the escapees were reluctant to move away from the pen (probably because of the peeps and cheeps from their mates), it was pretty easy to catch them up. Malcolm arrived soon after and we filled 2 feeders and replaced the empty ones in the pen. They’re going through 25kg of pellets per day. In 5 days the 1000 Litre tank is about 70% full – I don’t know if it was completely topped up at the outset to be honest, but with us having the driest summer in the past few years I wouldn’t be surprised if they are consuming more than they would if conditions were cooler. With feeders topped and water supply all checked I tried to get some photos on my phone. Under the canopy of pines and with a low sun angle, they aren’t particularly great. Malcolm told me that he’d trapped a ferret that morning; overall we’ve nabbed not all that much vermin; a couple of ferrets, some hedgehogs and a rat I think the count stands at.

Really thrilled to see all our little charges looking so healthy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Relining the duck hut

Paul, Tim, dad and I spent a good day yesterday replacing parts of the hut floor that had rotted due to water ingress, and relining the western and southern walls of the hut. Ended up quite a long day, but we got it done mostly. There will be a few more tidy-ups required prior to the season, but so good to knock over the job.

Andy sent through a picture of the Tui Ridge pheasants, which have arrived at their new home.

Pretty hard to see, good camo!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Playing with dubbing brushes

When I visited the tackle store a few days ago to pick up a new tip top for my broken fly rod (temporary fix), I saw some dubbing brushes and having seen what TT's tied for his Golden dorado trip I was pretty impressed. They offer a nice mobile fibrous body and I immediately saw applications for snapper flies, especially as the fibres look pretty durable.

So I ended up whipping up a few ties.

First I tied in a mono extension, burned the end to form a knob and then tied in a double bunny tail, which I super-glued together.

Then tied in the brush and wound forward, sweeping fibres back as I went.

Tied off, added eyes and finished head with UV glue.

Did a tri-colour variant as well.

This stuff has lots of potential.

But at $14 per brush its not cheap. Probably cheaper sourced elsewhere so I'll start looking....

Cleaning the field dekes

I put the mallards away dirty at the end of last season. Bad move. Dried mud isn't easy to wash off. Cabelas had the new Avery Pro Series decoys on special so I put through an order. I'd seen them when Tim and I were in the South Island last year, and they are smaller than the earlier field dekes so can fit in a standard bag (with zip lid). Given that I had a bag lying around, when the dekes arrived at the office I chucked them in the car and brought them home.... which prompted me to get all the dekes out and clean them.

The red circled dekes are the new GHG Pro Grades, the size difference is discernible as is the new paint scheme, especially on the hen. There are some Higdons in there too (wobble head jobbies).

Takes longer to clean decoys than you may think, but a nice sunny (if somewhat cool) day is the perfect time to get the job done.

Less than 100 days to the dabbling duck season; and just over 2 weeks to the special Paradise Duck season. Hopefully be pulling the trigger soon.

Giving Santa the right directions

I had been looking around for quite a while for a decent (or preferably superior) fly box to replace my Cliffs Bugger Beast boxes. The Cliffs are bulky, the foam inside is cheap and over a few years has begun to distort and pull away from the plastic, despite ongoing repairs. When Montana Fly Company announced the release of their MFC Boat Box, I put in an order through a US fly shop; but despite the fact they had been advertising, stocks were months away and the order was cancelled. Glad in a way, because when I saw the C&F XXL Box on the Gourmet Sportsman’s blog, I knew there was a contender. After a bit of research it became obvious that it would be no cheaper to source the C&F box overseas; so I left the link to where to buy the box locally in our browser and SWMBO found it and took the hint.

So, Xmas morning I found a nice prezzie under the tree. First impressions – a really solid box, slim, tall enough for 2 rows of long streamers (kingfish flies) from 2/0 – 6/0 size, really good foam, and well-constructed.

Side by side with the Cliffs and it’s a no contest; the C&F eats it for lunch in overall size, construction and ability to gobble up flies.

And earlier this week I walked into Rod & Reel in Newmarket and compared the Cliffs, Montana Fly Company and C&F boxes side by side. The MFC box has an option to add a leaf, but looks more crafted towards smaller flies and in overall volume is considerably less space efficient than the C&F. So overall, I reckon Santa made the right (well researched) decision – it’s all about providing the right directions. (And having $150 to spend…).