Monday, January 26, 2015

Wee westie visit

Long weekends call for fishing trips. I sent Andy a late happy birthday/Xmas/New Year text and he came right back with a weather outlook for Sunday. As long as his and Christa's second baby didn't arrive (already due) he had a leave pass. I'd make the 2 hour drive and be at his at 6am - we had to get to the ramp early as a fishing comp was being held and Manu Bay would be Disneyland popular.

I passed a number of cars towing boats on the way, and arrived nice and early, waking Andy up with a text. a quick coffee and we hitched the boat on and got going. Arriving at Manu at 5.50am we were about thirtieth boat lined up ready to launch. It was mind blowing, but I'd heard of over 300 boats being launched during the Xmas holidays. The Raglan Sports Fishing Club did really well, with volunteers helping to launch boats and park vehicles so the whole procession ran like clockwork. If only the local ramps were as well organised in busy periods - but they're not so I avoid popular ramps at busy times.

We set off with a slight breeze on the quarter, which combined with a crappy wavelength threw spray. I had my rain jacket on but water was soon leaking in the neck. But it would be a hot day so drying out wouldn't be an issue. It took longer than usual to get out to Gannet Rock, and we were about 10th boat to join the drifts over the reef. We were both jigging; priority 1 was to get fish for the table and smoker. It was harder than usual to find legal fish but I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of keepers which went into the bin. After that I grabbed the fly rod. With masses of rat kingfish chasing the jigs up in the clear water, it was just too good an opportunity to miss. As usual the fly rod got the attention of boats in close proximity, with other anglers giving me that "you're mad" look. On with a fly I'd tied up the other day and down it went.

One thing I've noticed is that flies will out fish jigs when the going gets tough [depending on circumstances], and the kingis were switching off the jigs. With a dozen boats flinging hardware around, perhaps that wasn't too surprising. I got hit after hit and for once didn't get reefed despite fish taking plenty of line.

I lost my fly when the leader knot gave when I'd cranked the drag right up, so on went a Flex Calamari. That got hit straight away and was the cause of demise of a number of kings.

After a few hours we called it and got set to troll back to base. With plenty of albies and skippies around we hoped to find work ups. I set the Tiagra with a large tuna lure and we got going.

Andy hit the first albie and we continued to work that patch, finding a huge bait ball just under the surface. This concentration of bait held our attention for quite a while as we regularly boated fish.

Albies really pull string, so every hit was the precursor to an enjoyable fight. By 3.30 we decided to head in. At the ramp we were met by a friendly volunteer who held the nose while I stepped ashore, really, I could get used to the royal treatment! Hats off to the club.

Back at Andy's we cleaned down the boat [blood everywhere] and fish and got them into fresh salt ice slurry. My evening was spent cutting the fish into chunks to cure overnight, ready for smoking after 18 hours in brown sugar and garlic.

The west coast has much to offer a fly angler, so every visit is treasured. Thanks Andy for hosting me. Ups.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

At the beach

This has been a summer out of the bag. Blue marlin in record numbers are being caught and almost unbelievably we’ve seen the return of yellowfin tuna runs after an absence of almost exactly 10 years. Not huge numbers, but enough to warm the hearts of game fishers everywhere.

My main fishing focus over the holiday period has been tying flies for bonefish. As all of the Christmas Island fishing collateral says “there are no fishing shops on Kirimati” so you have to turn up prepared or really be wasting your time [and money].

In between there have been trips here and there, most notably a few days spent on the Coromandel Peninsula for my folks’ 50th wedding anniversary. We had awesome weather in a fantastic location and a couple of early morning fishing missions in the company of my dad and brother turned up enough snapper to feed the extended family.

Evening fly fishing for kingfish has been very productive, I can say that I’ve never seen as many kingfish around as I have this season. They’ve been prolific in numbers, if not size.

The break culminated yesterday [am at work today…] with a rock fishing session. TT and I set out in a snotty SW wind to get to a rocky ledge with a decent drop off and berley up snaps. Despite my coat the quartering wind blew tons of spray and I got soaked; and with all the boat traffic it resembled a washing machine out there, so by the time we got to our spot I wasn’t getting any wetter  by dropping him and our gear off then anchoring the boat and swimming in to the rocks. The next few hours were entertaining – not for fish caught [zero] but for fish seen. Tons of piper swirled around as rays cruised through. Occasionally a snapper would scream into view but they really stayed down and away from danger. Very nice change of pace from fishing off the boat; I’ll do that again soon.

The wind turned to the West so our strip home was into a chop that slowed our pace somewhat. When we reached Rough Rock I threw a piper fly in and immediately hooked a decent 72 cm kingi that didn’t want to play ball and continually charged away from the boat before being landed. Next cast saw a rat inhale the fly deeply; he was bleeding badly upon release. Would’ve been better in the smoker than in some damn shark’s guts; but rules are rules.

Hope this weather holds.

Some photos courtesy my bro, Snuffit big bro

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Working day 1, 2015

Swirling masses of kingfish, piper spraying, surface bust ups, double hook ups…. fly carnage. All of this on the first day back to work. With boss and uber boss still on leave, I was made temporary boss and exercised my temporary boss status to leave the office early under a still blue sky. Coch was a starter – he needed no prompting whatsoever. I’d heard that the naval base was holding hordes of bait and predators, but that’s very much an outgoing tide spot and we’d be starting at the bottom quarter of the incoming. None the less having launched and pushed the boat out, I decided to have a quick look down that way, but she was dead as a dodo.  With a few minutes up my sleeve I scoped a few spots around the harbour; all have good potential to hold a good cruiser from time to time. 
With Coch aboard we set off, first for another bypass of the naval base [no signs of life] and then we set off out into the channel. Plenty of boats were about and as we began to find plenty of birds. Mutton ducks sat on their fat asses [they are far from my favourite bird] in hundred square metre patches and terns wheeled around. Bait balls showed on the sounder…. Sooner or later there would be some carnage. We hoped for sooner. And our hopes were fulfilled. We rigged up and first cast against a channel marker saw Coch’s rod buckle and line scream off as a kingi ate the fly.

The ‘fishiness’ in the atmosphere was palpable; soon a slight breeze built up and clouds spanned the sky, making the fishing conditions better than perfect. Schools of kings slashed at piper on the surface and the bait fish took to the air in waves. Under the circumstances we were able to fish 2 up and double strikes were common.  We got crossed up and had to move around each other with line screaming off.  Netting fish single handed was a challenge I'm used to but what a hoot anyway... and with wind against tide we were held close to the action and as the sun slowly eased towards the horizon, and the workup intensified. 

Coch and I were able to change flies and test patterns at a whim; what better situation to test what flies work? I set aside my usual never fails and tried out flies gifted to me with some success and some abject failures. It was pretty special being out there as such carnage unfolded. No style of fishing would have been more suited to the situation than fly; and nowhere else in the world I rather have been. Our banter was minimal as we concentrated on hooking, playing and netting fish around each other. With twilight upon us we made the call to head closer to home and on the way just had to stop and fish the Rough Rock, scene of brutal hook ups and bust offs in the past. I reached for the fly box and settled on an EP Flex Calamari in bleeding colours. We jointly cast and Coch hooked up straight off while my fly was mouthed but not taken. Finally after several casts I got a good eat and set the hook on my last fish of the day. It was a stroppy little bugger and why he’d decided that squid was on the menu…. Well who can say?

Fly carnage

The short run back to base was easy on calm seas and my final blast back to the ramp was a pleasure as a full moon rose swathed in orange clouds. If only every work day could be so good.

Showing off, 2 rods, 2 kingis

More fly carnage

Sunday, January 4, 2015


The hols have drifted by; and I've really had not much that 'needed' doing. Last couple days have been different - busy with pond spraying and then yesterday, the New Year's first foray to fresh water.

The stream was in perfect nick, although many of the shading trees had either been felled or fallen due to some of the winter storms. My walk down to the entry point took slightly longer than usual; I put it down to age. The 7'6"#4 felt like a twig compared to the kingi gear I've been casting of late and it took a while for the rhythm to return. On the way down I'd spooked a nice brownie at one of the crossing points [doh!]. The sky was overcast but I knew it would clear later in the morning; so for now spotting was difficult and as its sight fishing water I knew I'd be against it for the first hour. I missed or spooked the first 2 fish but the third was predictably hiding under the fallen willow that I jumped on and pushed through, climbing out onto a contorted mess of branches. I bow-and-arrowed a yellow Wulff into his window and he came up and grabbed at it but inexplicably missed. I dropped the fly in and again he rose but stopped short. From my perch I had to retrieve the fly carefully, cut the tippet and then tie on a nymph which I'd plink into his path. All cool in theory but that involved getting my reading glasses out while balancing on a tangle of weak looking branches over an 8 foot hole in which Mr. Trout lay. I managed it eventually, tested the knot and flicked the nymph n 5 feet up from the fish. As soon as he saw it he charged and ate. I hit him and he - thank the fishing gods - charged upstream. In commando [yeah right, more like clown] fashion I leapt from the branches to the head of the pool, landing in waist deep water and making enough noise for the fish to continue his upstream surge. After a decent battle in which the little 4 weight was hooped over I netted a spunky little 1.25kg fish and released him. Good stuff. Over the next 6 hours I hit enough fish to make up for the clangers including [doh! doh!] almost walking on a good 2.5 kg brownie that I should have known was there.

The fight of the day was from a rainbow rising freely 10m upstream of where I'd spooked the brown. As my fly was dropping he rose for a natural and then in a double take hit my fly and when the hook bit took to the air. He screamed up into his lair leaping like the proverbial bucking bronco, and jumped no less than 8 times in a series of somersaults and backflips. I really wished I could have caught that on video.

It was 3pm by the time I reached the car and by then I was chilled out. Fantastic day.

Happy New Year!