Saturday, November 7, 2015


In my own muddled way I knew that Coch and I were off for a fish. I knew where. What I failed to do was stay on top of the time table so when we spoke mid-week, I hadn’t organised a get out of jail pass for Thursday evening…. But as it happened that worked out ok, as Coch had to make a long run across to the army base to get “non- exploded ordinance training” for our impending heli trip into the remote back country.  So we arranged to meet up at the hut Friday mid-morning; and when I showed up having got turned around a few times (by my innate inability to read directions) Coch was rigged up and waiting. I moved my stuff in, got changed, rigged up, got my waders on and we headed out. He carried his z Axis double-hander, and I rigged my Radian for the first time ever. We’d fish the big water and then head into some smaller stuff later where we’d share my rod. I have to say that watching a double-hander in action is worth it; it looks such a relaxing style of fishing and I can see how much water can be covered…. Lovely stuff.

We worked downstream with him covering water from above, and I fishing up towards the man with the big rod. I hit my first fish in a deep seam above a large rapid that flowed down into a deep emerald pool and it charged off. And kept charging – the backing loop rattling through the guides. The only way forward was to cross the seam above the raid, and work down to the fish, which gave it plenty of time to rest in the pool below. Cranking the reel like a madman I moved down towards the fish and slowly got it under control, before finally netting out a sweet 3lb rainbow in fighting fit condition. If that was to be the tone-setter for the trip then it would be a real grin generator! We worked our way through some nice water with Coch getting to grips with the big rod and getting some hits that didn’t stick, while I prospected pretty much fruitlessly with a nymph combo. We packed it in and the big rod was broken down, and moved on to fish a small stream. Mayflies were coming off the water to I put on a grey wulff with high brown wings that matched what I could see on the water. Slowly we moved up. Spotting conditions were hard under the overcast sky but the first decent pool looked fishy; and sure enough a big brown snout rose and inhaled the dry. I giggled as I hit him but that chortle didn’t last long when my tippet knot broke as the fish heaved himself across the pool… I can only guess that the prolonged earlier fight with the rainbow weakened the system (tippet was a massive 3x!). A quick re-rig and we were off.

Small stream loveliness
The afternoon passed with fish not seen, fish missed, fish hooked, some landed and in the small water a great deal of fun was had, going fish for fish. We returned to the main river and despite it being late in the afternoon, decided to fish a few of the large pools. Jase fished a large deep pool with the big rod while I re-rigged with a deep water double nymph combo. By the time I was finished he’d worked the water he was able and moved off downstream. I got set and began my journey up the pool. A dink ate my fly midway up and flew around the place before coming to hand; and then I had one of the most bizarre things happen. A good fish hit and as I raised the rod I realised that the line was wrapped around the weapon multiple times, maybe I’d created a massive mend that had done that? I let the fish run downstream and chased it as I tried to undo the wraps. The fish moved to the bottom of the pool and slightly upstream, the tension of the water holding the fly in place. When I finally unwrapped the line and took up the pressure… the hook pulled. I wasn’t surprised in the least but I would have loved to have seen that fish with Jedi line tangling powers. Back up at the eye of the pool I was dealing with a back current as the main flow of the river hit the far bank at full noise. The indicator shot downstream which can happen in swirls and I hit hard and came up tight on a fish that screamed off 70 m of line, straight down to the tail of the pool where it boiled in knee deep water amongst the rocks in the fast current. As I moved slowly down, getting first backing and then fly line back onto the reel the fish shot upstream, the line spraying as it cut the water. Back in deeper water the fish hugged the bottom… I was now level and began to side strain the little bugger, but every time I pulled him off balance he’d slug it out back into his lie. I walked backwards and dragged him… he responded with a thumping run back into the depths. Downstream side strain only led to a small upstream charge. Upstream side strain finally moved him up out of the depths. By now, time was ticking on and 15 minutes had gone by. Then, success, he came up over the lip of the pool into view, and he was a she! A few minutes more of cajoling her into the net and I was looking at the best conditioned rainbow I’d caught in an age. A few snaps and a bad selfie and she was back into her zone, having first pulled the net scale down to an even 5 lbs. Jase came up around the corner looking for me; all I could do was grin and tell him I’d show him a photo later.

Perfection with fins

Bad selfie

He then decided to return to the hut for beers while I fished the Hut Pool. I didn’t really do it justice, to be honest I didn’t feel much like doing too much more casting today. Jase returned with a couple of icy colds and we sat on the bank in the late afternoon sun. Sweet. Then my buddy pointed out a tricky lie that no one fishes because of its trickiness… we waded across the river and down and I handed the rod to Jase. The lie was a real crappy one, the river smashing into a series of willows at full noise creating a seam in which fish could lie… the seam being perhaps 20 feet and crowded in from the bottom by another willow. With almost no drag free drift it would be a SOB to fish but when the indicator went he’d already raised the rod and the fish simultaneously hit the burners, turning downstream and taking to the sky through the willow’s tangled branches… the next few minutes were a bit of a crack up as the fish leaped and leaped again downstream of the willow which had gobbled up the fly line. After a bit of macramé weaving, Coch got the line free and the fish under control and I netted out a sweet 3lb rainbow.

We wandered back to the hut, cooked up venison steaks and prepared for the evening rise. We’d fish a long flat pool and as the sun set caddis began to come to the surface. We sat and waited as the little guys started up and then finally the slurps of decent fish began to bloop out. I covered a few rises for no gain, while Jase at the bottom of the run hit a good fish that jumped all over the place before being landed after a few frantic minutes.
Back at the hut we relaxed on the balcony before hitting the hay relatively early; tomorrow would be a big day.

What a balcony - indoor/outdoor living at its finest!

I was awake before 5 and got the kettle on. We ate quickly and hit the road – needing to be first on the water means no sleep ins. Our travels took us through territory old and new, in my early twenty’s as a travelling sales rep I’d visited some of the spots we passed, and flicked a fly around. We parked and got walking. The scenery was stunning as the forest began to wake up. The sun poked its nose over the ranges and we rigged up. It was still cool in the shadows but what a cracker of a day! Still clear skies – spotting would be at its best, but would still be difficult given the nature of the water. I can’t give a blow-by-blow, but good presentations got results and we landed a large number of fish. And what fish they were! The fights were often epic, with the most epic of all being a nice ‘bow that hit me in heavy water at the head of a pool before powering downstream around a rock the size of my truck. I ran upstream and then crossed the deep water to the rock, frantically trying to get enough slack to ‘cast’ the line over the rock... no joy, any slack I put in the system was gobbled up by the bow…. By now my line was gone and I was well into backing… and then Coch waded out and climbed the rock. 

Trying to free the line involved him hanging over deep water unhitching the backing from a protrusion on the boulder around which the line was snagged. Finally it came free and I got my first few winds of line back on the reel. Meanwhile Coch was crossing back when he upped-and-overed, completely saturating himself. Getting soaked in the line of duty… it wasn't exactly summer down here… anyway the fish finally came to hand and a nice 4lb jack was released to do his thing. Coch took off his wet gear and removed the cotton layers before climbing back into waders and putting his raincoat over top to cut any wind chill. We got back to it and over 10 hours fished our way through stunning waters that challenged both wading and angling skills. By midday my dodgy knee was grinding but was easily ignored, as we tandemed upstream fishing likely water. For a longish period mid-afternoon I couldn’t find a fish, but Coch seemed to be able to ‘magic’ fish out of their lairs regularly enough. Then it changed for me again and my zen returned. We lunched by a big pool where Coch and I both landed browns in the inflow; his fish was spotted sitting in a slack current and ate his mayfly nymph, mine was hidden by a curtain of bubbles and gobbed down a big stonefly.

We forged ahead and late in the afternoon turned around; 10 hours of current bashing over slippery boulders and I was feeling it. The walk down took a good 90 minutes at a brisk pace; my concentration was dropping at times and I arsed over on several occasions. Soon we arrived at our hop out point and decided to fish the final pool. Mid way up I got stuck into a trout that ran and ran out into backing; the last I saw of the fish was a bow wave and tail wakes as it screamed through shallow water before busting me on a rock.  At the car we dropped in our gear and drove back to base. I was stuffed and hit the hay before darkness had fully set in… epic day…

You know now and again you get a sniff of big fish waters here, hear a whisper there… well I’d heard a tale of a stream that was relatively untouched, held good numbers of fish, was hard to access… in short, we needed to go and find out what was there. And go we did. It took a decent amount of searching to find the rumoured goat track down into the gorge, and that was after finding the damn river in the first place. The goat track was a barely discernible path that no self-respecting goat would use, and given that the gorge was at least 30m of sheer drop it was heart stopping stuff getting down. But my god, when we did… what a magical little stream. Just downstream of our landing point a sun dappled basin with a hard rock bottom just screamed TROUT!!! So Coch wiggled down keeping behind low scrub. I sat upstream, camera in hand. Soon he signalled that a fish was in residence and his 2nd or third cast produced a strike – but only from a tiny little fellah that was horsed out and released. When the big guy bit, I called out to Coch as I saw his jaws open and close on the nympyh and the strike was perfect. The trout fought hard in the depths of the pool and it took a couple of attempts to get my net under the fish.

What a perfect little place… we moved upstream, prospecting each likely run, finding nothing at home until under a veil of spray tumbling down into the crevasse I found a fish in a dark lie. We moved onwards finding stunning water but no fish. Obviously the population there is seasonal and we’d struck it wrong with our timing. We decided to explore for new access points which involved a pretty scary climb out of the ravine… Coch went up like a got. I climbed like a barrel full of lead, broken down rod clutched in a death grip. By the time I hauled myself over the top lip of the gorge I felt a wee bit relieved, a lot dirty and moderately puffed.

We drove around looking for access points and after an hour of dead ends pulled the pin. Back at base we gave the hut a big clean up, packed down and got going. Awesome way to blow off the cobwebs and get the kit ready for what’s coming next….