Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Far north flats boating

Its been a while since I saw Nik and Ann-Marie, a couple of close friends who are living life the way they want to with Pie Dog, their canine companion in the far north. I'd got ahead of them on my way up, and ended up waiting for them at Taipa just over the one lane bridge that must be pure hell with summer traffic using it. We drove to the Cape Karikari and pulled into their patch of turf. Ironically, it was situated directly opposite from the scene of our northern goose excursion 5 years ago and as we sat down for our evening meal the sound of goose music drifted to us as the birds came in for their evening meal. Nik and I had planned to get out and fish some skutes for snapper on Saturday morning, and with light winds forecast it seemed a good plan too. We sat down and tied up what are being called "skutes" which are essentially bucktail jigs embellished with whatever you want to tie on the jig head.

Rabbit pelt and other assorted bits and pieces were pressed into service  and we ended up with a small pile of interesting looking lures. Later we walked Pie Dog along the inner harbour beach and along the way came across what looked like snapper working the shallows - with glare on the water it was difficult to tell exactly what they were and with no fly rod in hand....

Beautiful Rangaunu Harbour
We didn't rise with the sun, rather we set off at gentleman's hours, launched the boat and headed out of the harbour entrance. It was lumpy, and flats boats are nor built for lumpy seas. We persevered and arrived at a spot that had held fish in the past couple of weeks. Nik's first cast was nailed and he soon landed a reasonable snapper. We hoped that it would continue in that vein but it was not to be and after a couple of hours of growing wind we called it and headed back into the harbour.

Our Plan B was to cast small stick baits to see if we could pull kingfish from the channels and after a while we attracted the attention of some decent kahawai which decided to attack the lures. We put a few away in the fish well for use as baits and then pulled the boat up on a bank which would flood as the incoming tide took effect. As Nik waded a shallow pan near by, an amazing encounter with a largish snapper took place, with the fish swimming in knee deep water pretty much under his rod tip. Again, no fly rod! I rigged my fly rod while Nik set a shark bait. He really wanted to nail a bronzie land based as opposed to tiring one from the boat and then bringing it ashore.I waded the sand bank seeing the odd mullet but no prey species. When I looked back to the boat, I saw Nik stagger off the poling platform and knew he was hooked up on the big gear so I ran back to the boat and grabbed my camera. He was seriously hauling on the fish and it was seriously taking line... and then the hook pulled.

Pull mate!
My turn was next and when the bronzie took 300m of line on the first run I knew it was BIG. I cranked the drag and held on. When the fish stopped I backed up and seemed to gain line, and i realised that the shark had gone through some weed and then moved back towards me. I cranked in line and the pressure came back on and I leaned on the fish fully when the braid parted like a rifle shot. With 30kg of drag from the reel to zero in an instant I was hurled backwards and ended up on my butt in the knee deep water. Hell's teeth, that thing was a beast of a fish!

By now the wind was howling and the flats seemed dead so with a decent stint under our belts we headed for home.

Sunset over the harbour
Over dinner (and goose song) we planned our Sunday assault. We'd get out of bed early and go fish the flats for the morning. The boat nosed quietly over the flats and the breeze was fairly light so I grabbed the fly rod. With the boat set over a bank leading into a channel we waited for fish to show and while discussing Greta Van Fleet I had a quick cast at what looked like a ripple but was probably nothing. Bang! The Clouser was hit and line peeled off the reel. I thought that it was a snapper at first, but after the initial run into the backing I got the fish under control and swimming back up current. As it came adjacent to the boat it began to swim strongly past and at that point the familiar tail beat of a trevelly was felt. Nik boated the trev for me and I put him on ice for sashimi later.

As with our single snapper the day before, that fish was all that showed so Nik called a new plan - to visit the mangrove belts at the head of the harbour to look for fish. We deployed the Minn Kota and with the casting platform deployed we got into hunting mode. However our efforts were in vain and after several hours of spotting mullet and rays only, we called it.

Crazy viking. 

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