Tuesday, September 26, 2017


In the winter of 1996, the All Blacks won their first ever test series away to the "Old Foe", the Springboks. As Sean Fitzpatrick, on hands and knees clubbed the ground with joy, Brian, Miles, Al, Andre and I watched the TV and knew that we'd just witnessed history being made. I have a vague memory that we fished the shorelines of both Rotoiti and Okataina, and that Milo hung a couple of large fish while the rest of us blanked. I think that's how it went.

Anyway, we'd never reconvened as a group to go fishing, always one or the other was missing. Families, careers, travel, life - it all conspires to get in the way. And so it would be again - Andre couldn't make it. We'd warmed up by going into town the prior week to watch films at the RISE film festival, (sans Brian who couldn't make that gig). The weekend was planned in advance to allow us to get together and fish the rivers around Turangi.

You know you're in great company when the weekend just flows, and flow it did. We fell straight into banter and fished as hard as we wanted to. I had some river time with Milo who wanted to kick back (with a big guiding season ahead of him a bit of downtime wouldn't hurt) and we sat on the bank yakking in between a bit of swinging. Brian and Al enjoyed themselves and Jase fished hard both days.

For me the fishing on Saturday was interesting. The river was lower and I'd persisted with the Airflo F.I.S.T when maybe I ought to have run a straight floating head. The first 5 fish I hooked were either there and then gone, or threw the hook on the first run. They were definitely taking softly and I now theorise that the heavier tip of the F.I.S.T's head combined with reticent fish and lower flow caused less feel in the take, allowing the fish to mouth and throw the fly. The lower flow did however open up some wading options that haven't been available all season, and I was able to access the Boulder Pool from above. This is the pool where a year ago I hooked my first ever fish on a spey rod, albeit briefly and this time it treated me to some quality takes. I manged to get the final 3 fish to the bank but the first few were frustrating as each threw the hook, including one that peeled line and felt like a solid fish.

Late in the day as Milo and I returned to the car park, Pete arrived with Kaiser in tow, and he and Layla played together as we talked smack. Brian and Al soon arrived and then Jase came downriver. We had all arrived in one place at the same juncture and without planning, and to me looking back now it seems quite apt. Back at base we settled in for a glass of Scotch and snacks before heading out for dinner.

The following day's fishing was absorbing. Bri and Al had opted to not fish, and to leave for home early. Miles and Jase would go up another stream with Andy, and I'd fish alone. The sun was still below the horizon as Layla settled down on her rock to stand guard over the run. A fish first cast would set the scene hopefully, but I dropped the next 3 in a row. I spent a good couple of hours combing down the pool, landing 5 fish and missing several more. I really wasn't hitting anything chrome or super fresh, but none the less a couple of the fish fought for their lives.

Spawned out but still on the chomp

Been in the river a while
I was feeling pretty tired, the day before had been a long one with 12 hours on the river and with daylight savings having robbed us of another hour's sleep overnight I just felt jaded.

I decided on one more run before pulling the pin, so drove up to the OTHP (Over The Hill Pool) which is prime swinging water. The day before I'd taken a dip at the head of the run where it drops from knee to hip depth.... and I promptly did the same again! Given that I'd followed Jase down the pool yesterday and he'd extracted 8 fish to my 2, I thought I'd be a good bet in here. But again I had the dropsies! Fish were holding in the very soft water below me and as the fly gently swung in they were hitting it. I had 3 takes before I got my first positive hook up and the fish bored out into the heavy flow giving a decent account of itself. Not silver, not fresh, but well recovered. I spent a couple of hours here, chiding myself for my ever worsening casting creating sub par opportunities to hit fish in the far seam across the main current. Fish were hitting and missing or occasionally hooking up. By 1 pm it was time to go and on the spur of the moment I decided to drop into one final run near town. Surprisingly, the pools immediately below the bridge were devoid of anglers. Given that they are real troll holes, that was quite unexpected. The run I was in had been generous to us this year, but with decreased water the rocks were slimy and I had trouble getting a grip on the bottom. The wind blew first up and then downstream in darkening gusts. My rhythm was blown and I fished without enthusiasm.

The boys rolled in late in the afternoon, they'd had a cracker up another stream. I'd finished tidying the house and was caffeinated and ready to drive. With an extra hour of light at the tail of the day the drive didn't seem quite as taxing, none the less home was a welcome sight. It won't be another 20 years before we do this again.

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