Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rafting a new section

This time last year a weather bomb destroyed our planned rafting excursion on the Rangitaiki River, turning the whole catchment into a chocolate coloured rampaging water-beast. We'd stood on top of the Aniwhenua dam as it was released and watched a tsunami carry away weed and debris and our hopes of finding any water to fish. Fast forward almost a year and we were back. Friday afternoon we'd arrived, and had enough daylight to fish the upper reaches of a favourite stream. Its freestone up there, the fish are mainly larger browns and are as cagey as any pressured fish anywhere. We walked a good half an hour upstream from the carpark and at a decent pace... with no recent rain the stream would be low. The setting was ancient untouched un-milled native forest, quite breath-taking. I've never set foot anywhere else in NZ that is quite so untouched as far as hardwood native forest is concerned - very special. We had no direct sunlight on the water so spotting would be more than difficult. It was coolish as the nagging westerly had an element of southerly in it; and while a few cicadae were bravely singing it certainly wasn't the mind-wrecking chorus that I'd hoped to be assailed by. I tied on a blowfly dry and while Jase got set up I took a few exploratory casts upstream and in the first lie a fish took the fly in a swirl, A few jumps revealed a neat 'bow, not the brownie I'd expected and in fact the first 'bow I'd caught up there. As the sun sank behind the ranges we pulled out and headed back to town. The next day we'd be rafting.

When mentally envisioning the water that we'd be floating I had in mind glides and runs shrouded by trees. As we boarded the raft with our guide Murray at a branch of the river the first thing I noted was that the river was way larger and more turbulent than I'd pictured. Due to the wet summer the river levels were very high. The watercourse had carved a path through stone and shingle so that in places we were canyoned in on the true left while the right bank was festooned with thick willows - access really was restricted. We'd packed 4 rods to cover he scenarios we hoped to face; Jase had aboard his Sage X #6 and Sage Mod #5 and I'd packed the #6 Radian and Sage ONE 4116 to swing through any decent water. Over the day we used the entire arsenal, caught fish on nymphs, swung flies (ok, 1 fish, probably wouldn't pack that rod again for this water), dries and the true highlight of the trip, a selection of Jase's meat pies from his special MEAT LOCKER.... as we moved from pool to run we drifted through long sections of deeper water bordered by either stone walls or overhung willows. When Jase re-rigged with a fast sinking shooting head and tied on a big old Peanut Envy the look in our guides eyes was doubtful to say the least. When Jase began to bomb the willows and a monster brown made a grab at the fly everything changed - the guide lined us up to cover the depths and soon Jase hit a nice brownie that grabbed the big fly. We swapped places and drifted a rock face - within 30m 4 different fish flashed out to snap at the fly before a good brownie ate. This was unbelievable fun! Blasting out cast after cast into every likely spot while floating down productive lies... new experiences add so much intelligence to the angling arsenal and immediately post our take out we discussed where else we could put this style of fishing into action.

Streamer munching brownie

Plans are being laid...