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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fishing cobwebs – gone!

I really and honestly hadn’t planned to go fishing over the weekend. But when Coch called to say that he was heading down country and asked whether I’d be keen I gave it the amber light, depending on what SWMBO obeyed had to say about the proposition.

Our destination would be a well-known central North Island river that hold a population of solid ‘bows and brownies. By Thursday I thought we were out of luck as the preferred accommodation was already booked, but Coch is ever-resourceful and came up with a second option. So then it was a matter of getting the gear together, shopping for supplies and making sure that we could get away at a reasonable time after work on Friday. And get away we did - remarkably the traffic was light, even the road that we had to take wasn’t suffering most likely as the ski season has ended. We hit Taumarunui by 10.30 pm and found our lodgings – a cool little hut at the local holiday park. Phil the proprietor checked us in and we got things ready for an early blast off – we got our fishing gear sorted, food ready for breakfast, beers in the fridge and then hit the hay.

As usual on the first night I slept badly. Road noise and a train blasting through didn’t help things at all but eventually I managed a few hours… so when the alarm went we staggered out of bed got fed and watered and then hit the road. We arrived at our get out spot in darkness – arriving first gave us rights to the beat so that part of the mission was accomplished – and then followed the access down to the river where we rigged up. Coch gave me the lie of the land; we’d each take a side and fish up.

Coch in the pre-dawn
My first challenge was to cross the river and I had no ‘wading fitness’, having not river fished for quite some time. Naturally I arsed over twice on the crossing and took water aboard so that was a nice start to the day; however the air temp was a mild 12 degrees prior to sun-up so it wasn’t really all that cold. On the other side I rigged up and began to nymph the margin water which consisted of pockets that required bombing with a heavy nymph and short drift. I was pretty rusty so missed the first fish of the day, striking late to feel a head shake before the nymph came away. The next hit was a classic ‘sail away’ as the indicator shot sideways and I came up tight.

With a fish on the board the relaxation kicked in so covering and working the water thoroughly came back as if by second nature. I watched Coch hook and land fish fairly regularly (mostly in the slow side water favoured by browns), so by the time I came abreast of him and we could yell across to each other I fathomed that he’d landed 3 browns to my 3 ‘bows landed and one fish missed. Coch was busy directing me to the next fish holding spot when upstream I saw 4 guys coming down the bank on the far side of the river – effectively trying to jump in ahead of us. I pointed them out to Coch then climbed out and walked 250m upstream to where they were setting up. At first they pretended not to notice me and then played deaf – buggered if I was going to cross at that point so I indicated that Coch was also fishing and that we’d be heading up. To be fair a couple of them looked sort of bashful but one was being an outright dickhead, I started getting a bit hot… Coch had a bit of catching up to do owing to the terrain on his side so I flicked a cast into the run 20m below the interlopers and dragged out a nice rainbow that jumped like a trained seal… couldn’t have done it better if I’d wanted it to! Landing and releasing the fish right where they intended to cross felt pretty sweet. In the meantime Coch caught them up and then gave me directions on how to access the pool upstream… when he caught me up he yelled across that they were carrying crossbows as well as rods, which may have explained some of their reluctance to communicate.

We moved upstream to give them some fishing space, but with 6 anglers in the beat they’d soon run out of room. I found a side arm spilling into the river and fished its tail, landing a big but very skinny recently spawned rainbow that I initially called for a brown by its dour tactics. We then moved up and hit the mother-lode… Coch told me it was my time to shine and that the next broken run held half a dozen good fish. It was classic pocket water, studded with boulders. The first fish smashed the fly, charged into the heavy water and leaped, producing a backward cartwheel that pulled the fly on landing. That leap had revealed the shape of a rugby ball with a tail on it…. And that one leap had made the whole trip worth it.

Over the next 40 minutes I landed 2 browns and 2 rainbows from a piece of water 20 x 10m; it was simply insane pocket water fishing. If I ever needed an injection to bring my love of trout fishing back, I’d just received it. We worked our way up together, the next run above a big pool producing the goods with some great fish for both of us. By this time, one of the river-jumpers had almost caught up, I figure that he’d had this run in mind. So he sat and watched us take 2 good fish apiece from it. We then crossed and Coch directed me to the rock studded edge on the far side of the run where dwelt a fish that had always eluded him. I picked my way up slowly, fishing the pocket water and completely missed what looked and felt like a strike! I swore until the air turned blue but kept working my way up, when the indicator twitched subtly and I hit a big brown that charged out into the current and thrashed on the surface. 2 or three times he bored out into fast water before thrashing on the surface, revealing his bulk and yellow gut, but with a team effort he found himself netted. Soon he was on his way back and after a few high fives we continued up. The fishing was technical enough to be super interesting and soon the nature of the water changed as bush met the river and both sides and the water narrowed.
Whio - Blue Ducks

The crossings became difficult so we linked arms and crossed together. The fishing just got better and better and we each hit fish that tore line off. One ‘bow that was actively feeding throughout the water column, drifting in and out of view finally ate my offering and promptly dragged me 50m downstream before threatening to exit the pool down the next rapid; So I gave it everything I had and pulled her upstream before netting a cracker of a bow; as fat as a house she’d have gone maybe 4lb but fought like a fish twice her size. By now I was tiring, the heavy water and tricky wading had sapped my energy so the next few crossings (including one that caused both of us to ship water into our waders) were pretty tiring.

But cross we did, and forge head we did – on a red letter day you have to keep going! Our final run had us fighting thigh deep water fishing pockets. Coch took a couple of pearlers before indicating a fine looking run on the far side of the river – I’d need to wade across and fight the force of the current while dropping in a technical cast and drift. The fish that hit smashed out of the water, a deep rainbow that simply charged downstream, and broke my leader on a rock – and that was enough for me. I moved down to the pool below and sat on a rock while I changed to a sinking line. We’d decided to plumb the depths with some of Coch’s articulated ‘meat pie’ streamers on our way back down. By now the sun had left the canyon we were in so I was feeling a bit chilly, not that it was cold, but having taken water aboard it felt cool.

Meat Pie

We linked arms to move back over the deepest crossing and worked our way down, dropping the big flies into the deepest polls and dragging them back in fits and starts type retrieves. It was in the eye of a hugely deep pool that I had a heart stopping strike, the rod tip was dragged down with a thud-thud and I struck only for the line to fly back at me. My heart was in my gob as I realised that the 10lb fluoro leader had smashed… so I tied a new leader with 13.5lb, the heaviest I was carrying. I’d love to say that a monster brownie jumped on the fly, but not so. So that concluded our day, and we picked our way downstream on tired legs. 12 hours on the river, what a magic day. Back at base we got dried and changed, hung our waders and then fired up the barbecue. As we waited for our entree of confit pheasant legs to brown, we grabbed a beer and headed over to sit on the bank of the Whanganui River [just out of camp] as the small trout began to rise to caddis. Main course was fallow back steak with salad and mash – right then life couldn’t be better. Magic end to a magic day.

Beauty 'bows

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fiji fishing with Bob

Bob”, a chief’s son, met us on the dock with a “Bula” and told me and Aussie Ian [whom I’d just met] to follow him. SWMBO had decided that since I’d been good and had not gone fishing on our annual trips for about 10 years that I should take the chance to chase spanish mackerel, giant trevally and coral trout while I could. As Ian and I were introduced to our other angler [can’t remember her name but Ethyl seems appropriate], another Aussie, I cast my eyes around at the gear on the boat which is always a tell-tale of the quality of the overall operation.

Shimano Tiagra reels in various states were [poorly] loaded with braids and one 50w was spooled with what looked like 100lb long line backbone. A couple of the rods were missing guides… The glimmering hope lay in the popper outfit; a Daiwa Dogfight 6500 on a Shimano Caranx Kaibutsu rod. The leader was joined by a PR knot and the ends were tidy and the knot tight… definitely the class equipment on the boat. The boat herself was a solid ali 8m craft and well enough appointed with twin yammie 200’s on the back. But the fittings told of a lack of care, pins were missing from rod holders, rod holders were half held by popped rivets – small stuff that’s easy to fix. The ‘bottom bashing’ gear was akin to children’s fishing gear, low quality reels on telescopic rods…. But I told myself that the cost was minimal so to just kick back and make friends with the deckie, which is invariably the best way to get the best tips and gear. Moe the deckie had fished professionally for a dozen years and seemed keen and knowledgeable. Bob gave us the safety rundown, kicked us off and soon we were cruising out of Port Denerau where he put the hammers down.

Within 15 minutes the water had changed to a light clear blue reflecting from the sand below and we put in bibbed lures. Bob explained that we may expect multiple strikes if we hit a school of mackerel and what to do if that occurred. Then we sat back and trolled. While we motored along I sat next to Bob in the cabin… he was well over driving around the ocean and told me so. I pointed out that with paying clients aboard he should try and be enthusiastic, not that I was all that worried but the other guys had reasonable expectations. Finally as we drew over a reef one of the rods went off; well sort of as a fish was dragged across the surface on a heavy drag. Ethyl grabbed the rod and wound the fish in (literally - there was no playing the poor thing), a nice coral trout that would have gone a couple kilos which was photographed and unceremoniously dumped on ice [later I opened the bin and iki’d it].
Ethyl scores...

That was encouraging but would prove to be the only lure strike. As we moved towards a group of bommies [reefs]. Bob broke out the popper rod, walked to the bow and said to Ian and I “2 casts each, I call you, you come up!” “Great” I thought, “I’m into that” but what Bob meant was that he’d cast 4 times and if he hooked up he’d call Ian or I to take the rod.

Screw that, I told him I’d cast my own bloody popper and that I knew his kit would be roughly $2k to replace if I dropped it overboard. So he handed over the rod and I hit the mark first cast, ‘blooped’ the popper and got ready for… well nothing actually, despite covering all the fishy water I didn’t raise anything except a decent sweat. Next stop was for some ‘bottom bashing’ next to a large isolated reef. We baited up ledger rigs with bits of pilchard. My terminal rig was terrible so I tied a new one under the dis-approving gaze of Bob. Fact is that I thoroughly enjoyed the session, managing to catch several new species including coral trout and Fijian bream and a sort of cod. The fish were pretty small so not too much drama on the low quality gear we used. In fact, several pulled string.

The fish went on ice for the village to consume and we all caught a few. We fished for an hour or so to the top of the tide when the bite died, then upped gear and trolled back towards base.

When we hit the murky water the gear came in and Bob hit the afterburners back to port to gran his afternoon crew. We jumped off at the dock and I hit the nearest bar for an ice cold beer - the best way to cap off such a trip. Overall it would be churlish to be overly critical of Bob and his boat, because it really was a highlight to snag a few species that I’d previously not – all I know is that if I had Bob’s boat I’d run a different style of operation