Saturday, February 8, 2014

New waters

Day 1: Getting in the mood

A big week, even if a short one on the work front. Human frailty to the fore with the mum in law falling and busting her arm, Milo's dad passing and my old man diagnosed with heart stuff. On the home front we'd missed out at a house auction on Wednesday evening, and so with everything going on I really didn't have much time to think about getting out fishing for a couple of days - but I'm damn glad I did get out!
 By late Wednesday evening, TT and I had in a flurry of sms messages decided that we'd head to Galatea to stay with a guy he knew, chase fish down the Rangitaiki from our yaks, fish the low reaches of the Whirinaki, and if time allowed check out some of his old haunts.

I didn't know if I'd be able to be up really early and ready to meet him the next morning, so that night put the roof rack and yak on the truck to at least get a head start. Up at 6 packing stuff (forgot my head lamp) and at TT's by 7.30, we soon had his yak aboard and headed off down the line. The trip from Rotorua to Murupara through the forest was punctuated by the occasional winding down of windows to listen to the scream of cicadas - they were on song at last, after what has been a cool and windy summer. By lunch time we'd arrived at Pheasant Tail Lodge which would be our base, and I was feeling pretty sleepy but ready for a mission. First up would be a walk up the middle reaches of the Whirinaki so we set off with light gear and rigged with cicada imitations.

Vince at the lodge had told us to walk for at least 30 minutes before fishing, but with no prints on the bank we began a bit lower down and in the first pool I missed a trout that snatched the fly under. TT got on the board soon after, and after that we rose a few fish. They seemed to not be hard coded on eating the cicada, and a few drifts with nymphs nabbed a number of fish.

We did well though, knocking over some nice fish, despite the at times ferocious downstream wind, that featured more and more as the afternoon wore on.

We moved through some lovely water, catching rainbows only, hoping for an elusive brownie to show. The cicada when hit was absolutely smashed. TT was using his #3 Composite Developments and I had the old Sage XP #5 - by the time we'd taken a few each using his little rod, I was itching for a lighter rod.

At 18.00 we called it, to allow time to get back downstream, have a meal and prepare for the evening rise. God I love fishing the twilight caddis hatch, and its been some time between drinks on that front. We arrived at a long glide before dusk, and waited for the first signs of fish. Soon the little guys began to splash. I grabbed a fallen cicada, struggling in the shallows and threw it midstream; however he gathered himself and made it across the river smashing headlong into a willow - before falling with a plop on the water... he only made it 2m before disappearing in a gulp.

I sent my Elk Hair Caddis on an exploratory drift and a wee neb broke the surface -  I soon landed a small but fat brown, our first for the trip. As darkness descended I worked a riffle entering the glide and 'thought' I saw a rise and struck into a fish that dragged me downstream. TT was on at the same time and he quickly played his fish out; another small brown. My rainbow was about 3lb and fat as a horse. That was it.

Back at base we talked with Vince about how to put our yaks in for a day drifting the Rangitaiki, but it seemed that without 2 cars we'd not be able to make it work. Besides which, this is no neighbourhood in which to leave a vehicle unattended and expect it to still be intact when you return...

Day 2 - doing it

We decided on a change of plan. Early on we'd visit a spring creek that TT hadn't been to for years and then later we'd head up above Minginui for a look at the middle reaches of the Whirinaki. The spring creek was a cracker - clear and slow, weed beds all over and cruising brownies. While still, over head conditions were grey, making spotting very difficult.

We found browns - big fish, cruising feeding lanes between the weed beds. At the fist pool I cast a wee Klinkhamer at a rising fish and he inspected the fly before inhaling it. On the strike he immediately charged into the weed and buried himself. I tried pulling him out and only succeeded in getting him to dive into the willows where he broke off. FUN!

We fished on, raising and losing fish - while the were ready to eat they certainly didn't want to know about being caught. I nabbed a wee video of one fish that I hooked on the 3 weight...

And skull-dragging proved the kindest way of getting fish to shore. After working the beat we went back to the car and drove for an hour up into Te Urewera, past Minginui before dropping down into the river.

The bank was covered in prints and only a couple of fish came to the fly - one in an amazing hit on a cicada that saw him tearing down the pool ridiculously fast. After an hour we ran into a Maori bloke with a rod; he told us that there were anglers ahead of us so we turned and went down to the car. Next stop was in the native forest where the river was spectacular. Again the overhead conditions foiled us, making spotting bloody difficult.

The fish we found in this beautiful section were wary and ghosted away at the cast. Even the longest most delicate leaders weren't enough.

We each worked to get casts into fish, they simply had seen it all before. We set a quick pace getting out of the forest then headed back to eat, grab Vince and head down to the Aniwhenua outlet canal for the evening.

It was some time before the hatch started - one second nothing, the next fish splashed on the surface. TT and I both hooked up straight away and I lost what felt like a decent fish while he banked his. Darkness fell and then I muppeted my leader into a fine knot so gave it away and watched Vince work and land a fish.

Driving away from Aniwhenua in the dark, I was pretty damn tired. But tired in that nice relaxed way, not that $hitty day in the office way. A return trip is an absolute must.

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