Saturday, December 27, 2014

The night before Christmas.... Eve

Coch has had to work through to Christmas. We'd loosely said we'd catch up for a fish before Xmas and given it was the 23rd, we were running out of time. A couple of texts and we were set. I launched at Torpedo Bay for the first time this summer and drove across to Okahu to pick him up @ 1700. As usual he was punctual and there was little boat traffic so we didn't have to dick around waiting for boat ramp muppets, it was straight in to pick him up then away we went. We decided to make the relatively long haul [with excellent fly fishing available within 8 minutes of the ramp, a 'long haul' is 20 minutes] to Sargent Passage and work around structure there.

The usual haunts seemed bare and we tried each marker between Motuihe back to Rangitoto for no joy. Maybe the sun was too bright. Up the Rangi Channel we began to find and hit fish. Just rats but nice string pullers all the same. Our work took us slowly back towards the harbour. The call to have a look at a reef system was mine and I'm glad we did. Terns were hitting bait being pushed up from below. The current was fierce; the incoming ripping through. Fish bust the surface and at first I called them for Kahawai, but Coch's first hit turned up a nice rat kingi. We took turns hooking, losing and landing fish. I was on the rod when the surface completely erupted; terns where screeching and wheeling, bait was busting through the surface and minor eruptions blew out when predator fish charged up to hit the bait. The sun was dropping and in the twilight we had the perfect conditions for fly fishing. The fly dropped into a boiling mess of fish carnage and only half a strip was needed to get the hit - straight away line flew off the old Abel. That 'fight' lasted as long as it took the rampaging kingi to hit the reef.

That seemed the perfect way to end the day, with the fish having the final say.

Monday, December 22, 2014

What a difference rain makes

This time last year, we had a water crises and Matt's green pond was drying up. We are in one of the wettest Decembers in recent years and its just great for ponds/ducks.

Matt sent out a photo a couple days ago of our ducklings on their home. High water level and the scene is awesome. You can see our hide lower left, some of the vegetation has died back but it'll regrow over late summer/autumn.

Even better, The Reverend Mk II has come back!

That's him/her mid shot.

Pretty cool.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Island 2015

This past couple of weeks I've not got out on the water. The lead up to Xmas holidays has been pretty hectic; on top of which the boat trailer has a bad bearing. I checked it when we got back from the BOI trip and there was enough play in the bearings that the wheel could be noticeably rocked. Got that sorted yesterday, but the BIG news is that I'll join TT, Coch and a couple of TT's American mates on a trip to Christmas Island in the Republic of Kiribati in July 2015.

The list of stuff that's recommended to take is staggering, but to be fair there's only one flight in and out per week so being self sufficient is the watch word. There are staggering quantities of fish up there, and we'll be targeting bones, GT's and blue water species. I would have thought that with 20 something fly rods lying around or on loan I'd be sweet but... I'm going to need at least 3 new fly lines, and have a new 6 weight in mind too. I'll lug up a #6, #8, #10, #11, #12 and TT said to take the fourteen as well.... but...

Luckily there's a heap of Aussies who've made the trek and reported back on what to take. Most seem to tie 150 [bonefish] flies and only use a couple dozen in a week. Why should we be any different?

Anyway, I've made a start on my GT flies. A pattern called the GT Mullet seems to be the go. I've made a few flies that are similar in profile and design, just different colours.

Lots of tying to do......

Closest to original colour

Purple & black.... bit of red

Just dunno....


Good ol Deceiver

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pre Xmas trip 2014

TT and I had been blathering about where to go for our Pre Xmas trip this year, and to do something a bit different from our usual trout trip I'd put a big snapper trip on the agenda. I searched around a bit and found a neat looking place to rent at Rawhiti, spoke to TT and then booked it. we'd take a bunch of gear with us, as in the Bay of Islands the fishing options are pretty wide.

We loaded up, hitched The Booger on to my truck and set off. 3 and a half hours later we pulled into Rawhiti and found our accommodation - sweet!

Rawhiti - one of my favourite places

After unpacking the truck and setting the boat up we hit the water and immediately headed up to Cape Brett, to fish for trevally and kahawai near the famous Hole In the Rock. A stinky little northerly wind made the trip lumpier than the forecasters had predicted so it took a awhile. On arrival we quickly found the trevs and TT got his fly rod ready. I'd tied some krill flies and he put one on and almost immediately hooked up. The fish got away pretty quickly and despite fishing pretty hard was he only trev we managed to hook. After an hour we moved into the lee of Cape Brett - flat as a pancake in there. We moved into a reefy area and got set up to fish flies back into a rocky area. TT hooked up and landed a neat little snapper after a good scrap to set the scene. Despite working the reef over that was the sum total for our effort.

Rounding Cape Brett to head back in to our evening spot the sea had flattened appreciably so our trip back wasn't a long one. We got set up on our reef and got the berley flowing. The bottom was rough and soon we began to get small hits from baitfish, then smallish snaps. After putting a few back each, the sun dropped behind Urapukapuka Island and the moon peaked above the Cape... BOOM TT's rod went off. It buckled over and line screamed off; I just got out of his way and said "that's your 20lb'er bro". He fought it out of the rough and after a great scrap it lay beside the boat. I asked him what he wanted to do and he was a bit speechless so I gaffed it and iki'd the fish for him. A quick photo session ensued.

TT's largest snap in 36 years

The sun disappeared and the full moon rose, illuminating the ocean in front of us. It was beautiful. At around 9 and after no more bites we called it (really we could have fished the whole tide out until 11pm and may have done well). Back at base TT cleaned his fish and we got it on ice.

We had a bit of a sleep in the next morning before launching around 8am and heading back across to Cape Brett. With blue skies and flat sea we had high hopes for good fly fishing. Stopping at The Twins along the way, we found schools of maomao and trevally on the surface. I had a solid hook up on a krill fly almost immediately and the fish sounded. After a torrid fight, the hook pulled {would be the story of my trip...} so we moved on to fish the World Record Reef. TT found a solid snapper straight away which fought doggedly before being netted.

We moved to Piercy Island [Motu Kokako] to fish amongst the acres of trevally and kahawai. The trevs were fixated on krill so very difficult to catch even with the tiniest of flies, however the kahawai were more than happy to switch of krill when a Clouser was ripped past their nose. We had great fishing for several hours before being joined by a pod of dolphin which slowed the fishing somewhat but gave the tourists on boats a thrill.

We decided to move on and fish the coast line back to the bay. Mid afternoon it was time to escape the sun and get the boat sorted for the evening fish. Along the way we met Simon and his mate Dan who I'd invited up for a fish. It was great to catch up with one of my oldest mates. Simon is a snapper catching machine, he's definitely the finest salt water angler that I know. With the 8kg line class world record [14.3 kg] snapper to his name, his knowledge of when and where to catch a horse is unparalleled. We sat around in the shade catching up and having a few beers before calling iit time to get out.

We'd decided to fish a reef in 35m to begin, so headed off in tandem. We dropped the anchor, got berley going and I put down a dropper rig. Soon the banter on the VHF got going, but the fishing didn't... there was almost no current out there. I lost a big fish that wrapped me around the anchor rope and soon after landed a school shark. Too much, time to go shallow. We each headed inshore. We anchored on a knoll while the other lads moved in to a headland. I liked our spot but TT seemed antsy so we soon pulled the pin [I wish we hadn't] and moved closer in. As the sun dropped away and the tide peaked the fish began to bite. TT caught a nice 3 kilo snap, I landed another damn school shark. TT caught a carpet shark. The boys on the other boat were killing it. Simon had put them in a great current line. As the evening wore on we caught smallish fish and ooglies. By the time we called it off I knew this wasn't going to be my trip.... Simon and Dan had landed a dozen snaps including one horse that Simon took on his 8kg gear. It was massive and at close to 11kg a real trophy. He'd had a lean year on big fish so this one was pretty memorable.

Freakin horse

Dwarfing the fuel tank

We cleaned fish well into the late hours and got everything on ice before showering and eating dinner. By now the boat was a stinking mess, scarps of bait, blood and guts all over. I hoped for rain.... it didn't come. {I also hoped for a fish of note, which wasn't exactly forthcoming either!!!}.

Sunday and our final morning. Dan was keen to fish the outgoing at last night's spot. Simon was too stuffed to come along so Dan would ride single handed. We fished for several hours for nothing of note, so decided to head into the harbour where we anchored above a reef on a corner where the current swept into a deep hole. Almost straight away I lost a good fish into the reef. Whodaguessedit? The scenery was stunning and the place so peaceful that i really didn't want to leave, but at 11.30 we needed to get back, clean up and distribute fish. We got the house shipshape, gear cleaned and stowed and the fish sorted and then hit the road.

Another freakin awesome Pre Xmas trip. Next time, I'll smash a huge snap. ;)

Dolphins just off the rocks - awesome

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Forum fishing comp

FishnHunt is a local site that has a pretty active forum for hunters & fishers. I've met heaps of good barstools through activities organised by this and other sites. For the past couple of years a group has gathered at Gulf Harbour for the annual FYM! snapper fishing competition, where FYM! stands for doing something unmentionable to your mum. Ehem.

I'd fished the past couple of comps with Tim who has now moved south, so when the guys announced that the comp would be in November rather than Feb this year, Tony and I talked about entering. A couple of weeks back it looked like I'd have a clash but that got cleared so we got down to planning. This time of year is much better in the Hauraki Gulf to snare a decent snapper than the February date where heaps of small snaps abound. We decided to tip berley in the water first thing and see what we could bring in on bait, and then afterwards go and look for work ups in the afternoon. Weather allowing.

We launched at 6am to avoid the ramp chaos that is just going to get worse as Xmas looms and headed off on flat seas. Our first spot had good structure and decent sign and we fished to the top of the incoming tide without much to show. After we lost the current we moved a couple of kms across to Tiritiri Matangi Island and immediately found great looking water, an ugly reef and masses of current. Perfect. We nosed in on a rock that we sounded and got set up, straight away we started getting hits. Over the next couple of hours we put some pretty decent fish in the bin, although I had trouble getting good hook-sets for a while and dropped a nice fish that felt pretty decent.

At 12.30 I got a strong hit and played a fish that felt solid enough, and landed the largest for the day.


All the while the wind rose so our visions of searching wide for work-ups evaporated; we were sitting exposed to the wind and were comfortable enough but across the channel back to mainland behind us white caps were rolling. By mid afternoon having been torn a new one by an eagle ray, it was time to up and seek shelter or action so we moved behind Tiri for a rest from the wind, but even that was a tad fruitless. We spent some time exploring around Shag Rock with soft baits and jigs before deciding to bite the bullet and head back into the teeth of what felt like 30kts on the nose. The 3.5km trip across Whangaparaoa Passage [Tiri Channel as its more commonly known] doing sub 5 kts to stop waves spilling over us will not be forgotten in a hurry. Tony may have immortalised it with this little clip.

We arrived back soaked, to find the majority of the guys in. A bit of a clean up of gear and getting the boat ready for the road and then it was time to catch up with the crew.

At the weigh-in I was pretty stoked to take out the competition with my 9lb'er.

Great comp, good guys and thanks to Tony for crewing on the wettest boat in the comp!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Spring time

I haven't really blogged much of late; mainly because at this time off year my activities are an ingrained routine of working bees and maintenance.

Same as last year, the year before etc - the price of great hunting includes the groundwork that is put in the previous year. My involvement with the Tui Ridge syndicate will wind down now that I've found myself to not be a financial member; even so I'm happy to continue to assist the team when heavy lifting is required.

So on a beautiful sunny spring day [unlike the current atrocious crap we currently are suffering - snow for gawd's sake!] we set out to build 2 new holding pens. "Many hands make light work" - so goes the old saying and the crew ripped into it, so by day's end we had 2 quickly built pens established.

The past weekend saw the annual November working bee; the first of the 3 big swamp working days between seasons. It's an ok time to spray down noxious crap like Poa aquatica as about now it begins to grow like a frenzied mutant. I truly hate that stuff as it grows tubers so you can never truly eradicate it; although it responds well to spray it'll come back if you let it. While we worked a pair of geese honked noisily overhead in the breeze, probably a nesting pair disturbed from their daily routine. as much as I love hunting geese, i really don't want them in our swamp for a number of reasons. The guys got a heap of work done, including repairing a wash out in the dam and the first stage of rebuilding the last of our blinds that needed an overhaul.

Today Craig and Mick travelled to our game bird breader, to collect our birds for rearing. Day old birds look like cuddly balls of innocence - but as mentioned elsewhere and often they are completely brainless and suicidal and require a level of care befitting a human baby. We got some pretty cool birds in the mix - whites and a few melanistics. The spring time cycle repeats.

Photos courtesy Mick Hutchinson
Day olds
White, mellie & 'normal' colouration

Craig preparing transport cartons


New home

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

45 rivers in a season

I went to school with Nigel Juby, not that he'd remember me [it was primary school after all, some 40-ish years ago]. He's president of HAC - Hamilton Anglers Club, and in a frenzy of angling has managed to fish all 45 rivers featured in Auckland Waikato Fish & Games leaflets.

That, is some effort, particularly with kids often in tow. Respect. :)

I might've fished only half of the rivers featured. There's a challenge - to fish the rest..... in a season? We'll see.....

Monday, November 3, 2014

A moment of helplessness

Yesterday’s weather was too good to miss for a small craft owner. 0 – 4 kts for the whole morning, well I knew where I’d be. We slept badly on Saturday night; my cell phone which would serve as an alarm clock wanted to interact with our normal alarm/radio which burst out with some whacky interference at midnight.

Joy, I knew it had woken SWMBO up; so by 04:00 – the real wake up time – we’d not really got much more sleep. Heading out of the driveway a fuse blew in the car; taking out the interior and rear lamps. I decided to risk the 10 minute trip down to the bay --- but I also know that I’ve got a wiring issue on the boat trailer… anyway the launch was uneventful and soon I was powering through the dark. We needed fish for dinner so I’d decided to berley the crap out of a reef that I’ve been spending time sounding lately. The outgoing tide made it a pretty good proposition.

I’d also thrown my live bait tank aboard; last week’s John Dory had tasted so damn good… Before 05:00 I had berley in the water and a cloud of piper and mackerel were darting into the berley; down with a sabiki and soon a dozen mackerel were swimming in the tank. I pinned one through the back and he went over – johnny trap set. The first snapper that came aboard had picked up the bait and swum up-current so was lightly hooked; back he went – even though legal there’s not much on a 32cm fish. The next fish was lightly hooked also – after the cast and drop the line went slack and I wound hard to hit a 40cm fish that went onto ice. Nice. The sun came up and things were looking good. I was busy checking the livie when I noticed that my 10kg rig had gone slack…. I reeled in and hit when the weight came on and the fish charged away with the nodding run of a good snap.

I fought him hard over the reef and knew it was a good fish as piper sprayed out of the water as he charged around the place and then finally I had him boat side – I’d need the gaff for this one… as I reached for it, the hook pulled … for a moment of helplessness the fish lay there as I tried to grab the gaff… but a thrash of the tail and he was gone. If only I’d been paying attention and had got a good hook-set… Another couple of pennies were put back after that and all too soon the tide had gone out. It was time to move, so I decided to go and scout for bait balls. Despite plenty of sign I only managed to jig a couple of goatfish.

Beautiful colours

That was my signal to pull the pin and go. Home and a quick fuse change-out… I’m sure that there’ll be more to that particular story yet [read; re-wiring].

Monday, October 27, 2014

Holiday weekend II

The boys had decided that now we know how Matt's Green Pond shoots, we would be able to place a maimai with optimum shooting conditions to the fore. We'd decided to use a Paul Stenning special, a simple open topped affair nicely dug in with natural camo.

We arrived at Matt's and got our act together, a quick measure and Tony left Matt, Chewie and I to do site preps, while he constructed the foot well for the dug in blind.

The site

Foot well
It took us about an hour to dig our pit 3m long by 68cm wide by 50cm deep. Then we had to get the foot well across. Needing more nautical adventure (my back still hurt from yesterday's pounding at the hands of the sea) we decided to float the well across in the leakiest dinghy known to man.

It actually worked, saving us both time and effort. A bit of re-shaping of the hole was required and we dropped the well into place. Perfectly level too! (A bit of luck involved I think).

Meanwhile, Tony was making the seat. We boated that across too, and put it in place.

After nailing the seat down, Tony's girls and Matt's wife Gina set to painting the seat, floor and foot well, while the boys began to dig up rushes which would provide front cover.

We rolled back the grass matt we'd pulled up to give natural cover and soon it was looking pretty good.

By the 3 hour mark we were pretty much complete, including having watered the transplanted flora.

Spot the maimai
When the grass grows up it'll be virtually completely concealed from all but a directly overhead perspective.

We retired to HQ for a barbecue of Chewies special sauasages, Gina's couscous and broccoli salads, some confit pheasant legs and marinated venison. And a few beers.

Bloody good effort and I think the results will be better than shooting from layout blinds with the additional mobility the new maimai will afford.

Holiday weekend I

Labour weekend is normally quite a nice time to be around town, as people head off to the beaches in droves so things are pretty quiet generally for us non-beach house owners. I'd earmarked Sunday as a fishing day as the forecast had called it for lightish wind all week. I was up at 4am for a bait & berley mission, to see if I could emulate or improve on my success of the previous weekend (I'd had snapper for lunch every day last week). I ran straight into the spot where the fish had come on the bite last week, a rocky outcrop with a gutter that heads out into deeper water. The difference was that this time I'd be fishing the incoming tide ... and I'd not really thought about how that would affect the spot. Whereas last week I'd caught half a dozen fish to 50cm, this time the current dragged my rig into the foul constantly. I re-positioned to get my berley flowing into the gut and was rewarded with a nice 38cm snapper before the breeze came up - stronger than expected. It was pretty chilly too, with the wind and overcast sky combining to make me think about packing it in. Instead, having lost at least a dozen hooks and swivels I decided to find shelter so drove around to Administration Bay where I tucked into the rocks.... when I say "drove" I mean I first had to retrieve a well fouled anchor which only came back once the shaft was bent 30 degrees... sheeeet. Anyway, at Admin Bay I sounded a ton of bait so set about catching a livie to snag a john dory... first up was a common sprat which went back down on a circle hook. Not a minute later the rod nodded over and I gently brought up what would prove to be a nice johnny. The sprat was gone so I couldn't re-use it (I've caught 3 johhnys on one livie before) and buggered if I could catch another. I steeled myself for a spine pancaking trip home and decided to use the following sea to round Motutapu and come in through Motuihe Channel. Dumb dumb dumb... no reprieve there in fact the wind seemed stronger and that channel is a plain 5hit with wind against tide. I beat the living crap out of myself getting though so by the time I'd circumnavigated Rangitoto and headed into a horrible quartering sea back up to my launch spot at Castor Bay I was pretty well over it.

John dory is one of my favourite eating fish so at least that worked out.

All mouth, no trousers


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fishing the Elk Hair Caddis

How to fish this famous fly

It all kicks in

Last night for the first time in ages, I sat down at the vise to turn out a batch of flies. No doubt that last weekend's mission gave me the impetus to get in to it. I rattled out a few of the usuals (having noticed holes in the ranks of Pheasant Tail Nymphs and Hare's Ear Nymphs) and then set about solving the crab fly conundrum.

After a couple of attempts I managed a reasonable Furry Foam Crab or 2.

Tomorrow I'll see if the snaps will eat them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

By the way

We rose later on Sunday, with a plan to look at waters locally to our accommodation. We ate breakfast then checked out and headed down the Whanganui River, looking for a likely spot. The further we went, the poorer the water quality as small streams clouded the main water. We turned around and headed off the beaten track to a stream I hadn't fished in ages. Better for fish number prior to the Xmas holiday/tourist rush, its not unusual to see 2 or 3 fish per pool. It took us about an hour to reach the stream and get access permission, then we set up. The river was coloured, but fishable. I'd not seen the water this colour on the few occasions I'd fished it in the past.

We didn't hit fish for the first hour, so I was thinking it was a bit of a bust. Coch and I split up to cover water independently and despite fishing some lovely runs I hit nada.... the eventually I rolled a rainbow in a deep roiling pool.

That set the scene for a change of fortune. The winning fly was a big ugly green headed green flashy backed rubber legged thing that resembled a giant half caddis half stonefly. All the fish I hooked took that and only that fly.

Coch donated me the run of the day and I was able to extract a small brown, 2 medium rainbows and I lost the largest 'bow of the day [of course!] as he shook the barbless fly on a head thrashing run.

Soon our day was over, certainly the footing had been gentler than the day before so it was a nice stroll back to the car. 3 hours later and we were back in town. Awesome weekend. Thanks Coch.