Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paradise Sheduck trend counts

Last Friday, Rudi Hoetjes who is Regional Manager for Northland Fish & Game Council undertook the annual "parrie" trend count by flying over nominated sites and counting/estimating the number of birds available.

I've been asking ben Wilson @ AWF&G if we'd get a summer season and the news came through today.


1. Te Hana Irrigation Lake                          550 Shelduck
2. Wellsford O2 Pond                                  900 Shelduck
3. Tapora Peninsula ponds                          320 Shelduck
4. Tapora Peninsula Wetland                      350 Shelduck 6 Black Swan
5. Kaipara Harbour (Glorit Area)                1,450 Black Swan (The swan were again all concentrated on this area and feeding on eel grass)
6. Kaipara Harbour                                     220 Shelduck
7. South Kaipara Heads Lakes                    260 Shelduck 4 Black swan
8. Helensville O2 Pond                               400 Shelduck
9. Tawharanui Peninsula                             255 Shelduck
10. Omaha Beach O2 Pond                         350 Shelduck
11. Snells Beach Pond                                 400 Shelduck
12. Snells Beach O2 pond                           400 Shelduck
13. Spectacle Lake                                        50 Shelduck

The total time for the flight was 1 hour 45 minutes Weather conditions clear with approximately 25 knots of wind.

This translates to enough birds for a special summer parrie season, to be held over 2 days (22 & 23 Feb) with a 10 bird per person per day limit. I found it to be a real highlight last year, so greet the news with anticipation and a bit of excitement. The shotgun will come out of hiding.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A hotel for baby pheasants

The Tui Ridge syndicate will take delivery of our poult pheasants in a couple of weeks; so we needed to finish up the pen with netting cover, feeders and drinkers. maybe a fifth of our birds will go into this pen, the others going into last year's (much larger) pen.

At day's start

The feature of the pen is the big tree in the font third, a perfect place for a hawk to sit while selecting which juicy poult to pounce and then chew on. Because you're not allowed to fully cover a release pen (stupid regulation!) we would only be able to drape net over a portion to allow some cover that the birds can wander in and out of, a temporary arrangement. The team was Rick, Dickie & Helen, Andrew, Malcolm and me. We got stuck in and got things looking pretty good in a few hours.

There are some lovely gulleys nearby that should hold plenty of birds.

So, next mission for the syndicate will be collecting the birds and releasing them into the pens, continuing to suppress predators... feeding, watering...

Less than 100 days to the season.

Slight madness

Despite the forecasters calling 20+ kt NE winds, Sunday was the only chance over the long weekend to get out at fish. Ostensibly a fly fishing mission, we'd chucked some bait rods in at the last minute - to some this is like swearing in church, but TT wanted fish for dinner and a juicy pillie is a pretty damn effective way of having fresh snapper for dinner.

TT and I were getting the boat hooked on when Michael arrived. Another swoffer, he's met TT when practice casting in a park. TT had offered to show him how it was done; had then promptly hooked a tree or fence or stray cat on the back cast and snapped Michael's rod on the front cast. Ehem.

We launched at Westhaven in a minor gale. This wasn't going to be easy. Because of the short chop the water was murky as we headed to the north side of the harbour to find cover. The naval docks were bird and fish free, so a quick cruise to try against the Devonport wharf piles saw us working flies fairly soon.

Michael casting into the old wharf
Nothing moved after several drifts so we decided to poke our nose around North Head and into the howling NE "breeze". It was simply shit out there but on we pressed. As we moved out we briefed Michael on what to expect when casting to channel markers. The poor bugger really struggled to aerialise a line and with no double haul in his arsenal couldn't punch a line into the wind. It was more than a wind so I wasn't that surprised... plus the wind was against the tide, all in all it was pretty hard.

No dice at any of the buoys, markers or poles that we visited before running back into the harbour with the wind... which was increasing.

The afternoon was spent fishing at Shoal Bay, using both fly and bait... the bait put dinner on TT's table. The only really interesting thing was the medium sized kingi that chased up a hooked snapper.

It takes a slight kind of madness to try and fly fish in those conditions, but good to blow away some cobwebs none the less.

On my way home across the NW Motorway viaduct, I saw 3 swoffers fishing the Pt Chev shell banks. I'm seeing more and more fly rodders out there these days.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Had a few hours at the vice today, replenishing flies lost and preparing for an upcoming mako shark adventure. That should be fun, but with their dental attributes the fly needs a few additional bits and pieces.

But to start with I worked up a few piper flies, as I've been using them extensively and almost exclusively of late. They are an easy tie, so not hard turning them out. I made a few sizes, just in case. The red head is to give the fish a target... not sure if that works really, but the fly sure does so no point changing a killer pattern.

Next up, some mako flies. I used 10/0 Gamakatsu SL12 hooks, and tied a couple of bright attractor types along with a couple of "tuna head" flies.

Then rigged them with heat weld wire, which I attached to 100lb clear shock tippet, finally joining to a 30lb fluro leader.

The theory with these guys is that we'll be chunking cubes of skippie to attract the sharks; so drifted down as a chunk hopefully the shark will make a mistake.

Also whipped up some general attractors, just to hiff at the pointy end of the shark and hopefully get him worked up enough to bite.

Anyway, tomorrow a harbour adventure, maybe we can get a bigger fish worked up.

Friday, January 24, 2014

An old-fashioned good shit bit of kit

I've been freezing my smoked fish lately, with mixed results mostly due to moisture inside the bags. SWMBO went out and came home with a vacuum packer today, which was spurred by a nice piece on fallow venison that Tim had presented in a vac seal bag - still yum a year later on.

I put it to work this evening and the results are awesome.

I can see this thing getting quite a bit of use. Highly recommended, can't wait to seal up a pheasant or 2.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pain, euphoria, being taxed... and a decent bill

Yesterday, I got smacked. Smacked and sent to my room to have a little cry – except that when its big kingfish doing the smacking there’s not much point crying, that’s a just a fact of life. Andy and I had had a week look at the long range forecast (which in a long, narrow country like NZ has to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes), and as Sunday approached the forecast firmed up so a West Coast trip was reality!

We started at 5am, hit the floor, got some coffee in and headed for Manu Bay. Conditions were close to perfect, a long lazy 1 m swell not posing any concerns. Soon we were on the water and away, heading for Gannet Island. Dawn was brilliant, the sun rising over Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island – The fish of Maui) in our wake.

Dawn - the best time of day

Gannet Island

We both had music plugged into our ears – an excellent way to kill time on the journeys to and from Gannet. Finally we arrived, 3rd boat on the spot and began our initial drift. As I’d approached Raglan I realised that I’d not remembered the Stella – loaded with PE8 it’s a monster stopper. As it was I would’ve been stick-baiting with it had I remembered to put it in anyway; I’d put in the little PE4 jigging set and 12 weight fly rod, thinking that I’d have some light tackle fun. So that first drift was a semi disaster, I got hit straight away – but the braid snapped at the water line… immediately I thought that the braid was rotten – but nah, I’d tested it at home recently. On with a new leader – hit – bust off – a clean break. Uh-oh. Andy showed me how to tie the FG knot, so I sat weaving the new leader on which took a few minutes… we then tested the knot thoroughly and reset the drag back…. Andy in the meantime had put a couple of fish on deck so I was ready to do the same.

Next drift and boom, double strike – this time everything held and we both got fish aboard. The fish were biting well despite the moon being in the western sky – not my fav – and we settled in to our fights with grunts and groans.

Soon though, I hit a good one that I only just managed to lift. With the drag at sunset it bored off and dragged me into the reef… jig #3 gone and new leader time… Andy got the same treatment a while later. It was outstanding fishing – as more boats arrived every one of them at some stage had one or 2 rods bending.

Happy punters on Clansman

We put a couple of fish on ice for eating and then I broke out the #12. Silly silly me. I’d theorised with Andy that simply cranking up the drag and fighting tough would get me nowhere in these environs (having tried that before) so I backed it right off, stripped line and got the fly down. The first hit ripped line through my hands then the Gulfstream started purring and then screaming. The backing loops smacked through the guides and quickly I was well into backing….. but I just couldn’t coax the fish off the reef and soon the leader was cut. I rigged again. This time with drag cranked up. It was an even more impressive bust off – this time the drag was shrieking as the fish made cover in seconds. Fair to say that the punters on the charter boat Clansman were having a bit of a giggle at the guy with the noodle stick getting destroyed. Not to be deterred (oh really?), I re-rigged. This time the hit was mid water and I had the fish under control. I said to Andy that this time I was onto a winner as I was gaining line, when it all went slack – in a funny way. There was still some weight but when the front quarter of the fish popped up I knew it wasn’t my day – the tax man had called and taken his pound of flesh.


Andy in the meantime was steadily catching fish… I thought I’d take another shot on the fly and again got hit. Another crazy unstoppable run and this time the cut was in the head of the line, so I packed the fly rod away. If I’d thought that my run of losing jigs (at $25 - $30 each – OW) was over, I ought to have thought again.


By session’s end I was down 5 jigs and the jig bag was looking bare. We were both a bit beat up and were feeling it in arms and legs so with a solid session behind us called it. The little Jigging Master rod had clearly never been bent as much as it had today, as it had developed cuts in the fore grip – war wounds. We'd decided to have a troll on the way home so setup a couple of light rods with skippie lures and put a marlin lure out on the Tiagra. The water was blue and inviting looking and screamed tuna, but it was the big lure that got hit first – a mako charged the lure from the side and cartwheeled on it, luckily not hooking up. A few seconds later and both of the skippie lures were hit; we grabbed a rod each and laid into them. Skipjack tuna on light gear are the best fighters going and Andy’s soon threw the hook. I got mine under a semblance of control and had it boat side before trying to lift it to the net resulting in the rod snapping like a .22 shot going off.

We handlined the fish in and put him on ice…. Luckily that was the end of the tackle carnage. The rest of the journey was highlighted by a couple more skippies and then finally an albacore – just what we wanted for sashimi.

Back at Andy’s we had quite some cleaning of the boat to do – blood on the deck and everywhere else a reminder of an epic session. We put the fish on ice and then Andy prepared the albacore.

Sitting in the afternoon sun with a cold beer overlooking Moonlight Bay eating fresh sashimi – a fine finale to another outstanding mission.

Resolutions –

1) Buy a jig per week to replace those lost.
2) Always carry the Stella – ALWAYS. 
3) Don’t underestimate Mr. Seriola lalandi lalandi – over sand he can be tamed but in a reef system with toothy critters around he’s a dirty low down filthy tackle wrecker.
4) Grow stronger finger skin – the FG is fine the first 2 times, but by the fifth… owwwwww!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I think there's a clue here...

I don't know the angler's name, but he was fishing on the Smart Wave boat that visited the naval docks on Sunday morning. This particular fish was caught elsewhere, maybe same day or maybe not - and its a pretty damn good fish in anyone's language. The clue isn't the location (which I know because Charles the boat skipper posted it on a forum) - it's the size of the fly. It looks a very good imitation of a smallish kahawai and a tempting morsel for a bigger than rat kingfish. I don't carry anything like that in my non-ocean going fly box, but I'm going to start to...... Thanks Charles, never too late to try something different.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


The trouble with recollection, is accurately recalling what you’ve just done. That was the case for me today, never before had I experienced such a sustained kingfish session and that somewhat explains my inability to recall events.

I’d actually planned to go and hunt down an inner harbour snapper on soft baits and jigs, but half way from home to the ramp I suddenly realised that I’d not packed the fish finder… added to which I’d not thrown in the landing net either. Too much hassle to turn around, so off to Torpedo Bay to launch. I had thrown in the 8 weight though…. Don’t leave home without the fly rod!
Arriving at Torpedo, I saw that some twats had decided to decorate the ramp with McDonald’s wrappers, so my first job was to pick up after those slobs. So I wasn’t exactly stoked by the time I was trundling across to the container wharves and set up for a drift. I didn’t like the drift direction so much, so nipped over to Stanley Point, noting birds beginning to work up at the naval wharves. The first 2 snapper were tiny so I decided to rig the fly rod, and head over to test the dark waters behind the naval vessels. First cast was hit straight away, but the current was ripping me into the 70m exclusion zone around the jetty, so I had to drive out holding the rod over my shoulder – and the fish got off. A naval bod of some sort was waving me away so I waved, cruised around up-current of the melee and got the anchor sorted. I reckon I anchored maybe 15m outside of the exclusion zone, and soon the predator fish were pushing the bait out towards me, under a cloud of terns and gulls.

This is where my recollection fade kicked in; I was so in the zone knocking fish after fish off that I lost count of fish hooked, lost, landed (without a net I considered them landed if I could grab the leader – often resulting in the hook pulling or fly breaking off).

Birds whirled everywhere and hooking at least one was unavoidable – luckily the hook didn’t bite and I was easily able to unwrap the leader from around the tern. The noise was constant, gulls screeching and terns chirping and kingis slashed the surface – casting to these fish was pretty insane and I found my accuracy was pretty much spot on which happily made hooking up pretty easy. I also found myself trout striking – resulting in light or no hook up, so slowing down and getting back into a rhythm got things going again. The fights were long and dogged, the #8, fighting fish and current and I was taken into backing for the first, second, third etc time in ages. One fish ran out the flyline and then 80m of backing… I pictured him heading for the wharf piles before I stopped him and 10  minutes later landed a legal sized fish.

Over the 3 hours I was able to stay, a procession of visitors came by – boats, a kayak with a bloke who decided to drop a jig on top of my fly line with fish attached… and the pressure told as the workup began to retreat into clear water in the navy exclusion zone. By then I’d hooked at least 20 fish and ‘landed’ more than half, god it was awesome.

The final visitor was a fellow fly fisherman, not a sight seen often around here, 2 boats casting flies, so I welcomed them. The angler hooked up soon after, landed a small fish and then they departed. That was my signal to leave as well, family duties called..

What an insane session. I can go back to work tomorrow, completely happy with my extended break - and by my count, my little piper pattern has accounted for 35 fish in 2 trips. Its deadly so I'll put up a shot or 2 when I tie some more.