I was awake just before 3am so decided to just get on with it. Layla was fed and watered, I ate breakfast, grabbed a coffee and got on the road. The trip was pretty good, despite a damp road and a bit of fog I made it in good time and was beside the pool of choice by 7.30. I teamed the rod with a Rio Skagit Max Short 425, 12' of T-14 and tied on an olive bunny leach with an orange cone with enough weight to defeat the strong flow. I could see anglers in the pool below hauling fish so I knew it was just a matter of time before I was in... then I began to snag the bottom. I changed flies. I hung up in the shrubs on the far side. I couldn't feel my fly bumping the bottom. I changed the head to a 450gr Airflo F.I.S.T. I wasn't getting feedback through the line. In short I lacked that vital element of successful fishing - confidence. I sat down in the drizzle and reflected for a few minutes. The river was in perfect nick with a green tinge and running higher than normal. There were plenty of fish in the river. I just needed to go back to basics and trust myself. Layla nodded at me as I revealed all of this to her. Maybe the fish just weren't holding here... and I'd lost a couple of flies so I decided to move.
It took a few minutes of driving and 10 minutes of walking to the next stretch. Most anglers avoid it because the swift flow doesn't look like holding water, but that same swift flow disguises a really nice bucket. As I arrived a nympher worked the fast water at the head of the pool on the far bank... really I couldn't see what he hoped to catch up there but each to their own I suppose. I began to comb the water, with each cast moving down a step. The first fish that hit ripped line and tore off downstream and in a blink of an eye completely did me, taking my running line and plenty of backing as it exited the pool ... before throwing the fly. The next 90 minutes was magic, simply magic. The next fish (and first landed on the rod) hit the fly and then cartwheeled downstream, causing the reel (click pawl Speyco) to shriek. I leaned on the rod to pull the fish clear of the current but time and again it charged into the heavy water before I finally was able to beach her. She was simply majestic, fat, silver and utterly beautiful.
After a few photos she shot away into the current. The depth of the next fish as he leaped when the hook bit told me he was sizable so the fight was perhaps more epic than the previous and hes bored away again and again, causing the reel to have conniptions. When finally landed I was gazing at the largest Tongariro rainbow I've caught in many a year, a large broadsided fat silver jack in full silver regalia.
And as if nothing could top that I managed another 3 fish to the bank before the inevitable happened and jealousy kicked in for 2 other anglers (who had inched closer and closer each time my rod bent) who decided to try and fish the pool from the far bank. This is so typical of human nature but I suppose the sound of a screaming reel has that effect. As their casting began to encroach I started dropping my fly 3 feet in front of them, to show I was still working the water. I had the distinct pleasure of hooking several more fish, one of which I landed and another which took to the air in front of them, spitting the fly. By now Layla was a bit soaked through and was curled in a damp ball on the bank and I was getting hungry so it was time for a move.
In town I caught up with Pete and the shop and we talked tactics, dribble, pheasant shooting, dribble, and even some smack. He gave me the lowdown on some tactics employed by a notable spey angler and from that I knew both where I'd be going and what I'd be doing after lunch. 2 pies and a bottle of V for me, and a pile of dog biscuits for Layla. We arrived at an empty car park (this NEVER happens) and with a spring in my step I strode towards the pool while Layla (who'd perked up) began to follow up scents. The rain had stopped. Upon entering the pool I saw how the extra flow had changed its characteristics... usually the flow of water in the head was swifter creating a massive challenge to sink a fly. With the increased flow a distinct seam of joggly water was created and the likely holding water increased 3 fold. Against this backdrop I have to say that the most fish I'd ever taken here before was 2 in a session. The session that unfolded was nothing short of epic as fish after fish took the fly and screamed line off the reel. It was quite simply a red letter session.
By the time I'd fished 2/3 of the run and another angler appeared with his dog, I'd stopped counting hits and misses, fish caught, fish tussled with and dropped... by the time I'd worked 2/3 of the pool a guy appeared with nymph rod in hand and old dog in tow and asked me my plans. I told him I'd keep fishing down so he was welcome to fish up from me. He duly went in and straight away hooked up. Layla went up the pool to help him land the fish... I called her back.
My last fish landed from the pool was the only spent fish for the day and heralded time for a move. I had just enough time to swing one final run. The fish that took near the bottom of the run was small and silver and I tried to horse her ashore. The hook pulled. And with that, I pulled the pin also. With 4 hours of driving ahead of me it was time to go.
X rod blooded - what a red letter day.