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!

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