Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Under the full moon

Easter, the time of chaos. Emptying city, traffic chaos, road toll rising, lunacy taking its grip. We don’t travel on the Easter weekend for the reasons above, preferring life preservation and relaxing to the road madness. The full moon can make the fishing hard, but as my snapper guru friend Simon said to me once, with that knowing tone to his voice “The hour after the moon drops…. Make sure your knots are strong”.

Jase and I settled into our usual routine without any undue conversation. Boat launched, motor warmed, nav lights on, GPS set. Our destination was chosen with tidal movement and terrain in mind. It was cool out there. In the dark only one other boat was seen on the move. Autumn’s promise of anchovy fattened snapper in close around the structure, well it’s as good a promise as the salt water fly angler around here can get. Progressively the smaller fish will disappear with warmer currents and the larger kelpies will continue to put on fat for the winter.

First casts were made as the moon dipped behind the western horizon. The sun hadn’t yet fully risen. We quietly sat on point out from a large outcrop, held in place by the quietly thrumming Minn Kota. Jase’s rod bowed over and in the semi darkness I saw a hint of red in the surface disruption. The bottom was relatively hard and in less than 2m of water the fish’s only option was to run shallow and wide. We swapped places in the boat as the fish circled; my job was to get a net under the circling fish and soon it lay in the rubber mesh, a red and chrome snapper and probably Jase’s PB to date. Camera flash. The resulting imagery was really nicely composed. A quick debate – respect Tangaroa by returning the first fish? Or put it in the bin? With a splash of its tail the fish swam away strongly. Fist bumps. Success.

The hits came with good fly control. The fish would take the fly on the sink mostly; fewer hits came on the retrieve. Some fish were kept. How could we not take some fine eaters? We moved into the bay to see if we could avoid wind while fishing another outcrop.  The wind had risen (not forecast) and made casting a real challenge. The electric motor now held us nose on to the breeze, eliminating easier casting options. Three wind assisted long casts hard into a sheer rock face with a clear channel brought 3 hook ups. All 3 were well better than legal fish and 2 were put into the bin. Jase had taken another really nice specimen which he iki’d. I moved us slightly and cast further around the structure. The fly sank and the line came tight as the snapper charged the sinking morsel. This fish was taken as well after a stiff fight.

 I moved us around and Jase fired a long cast into some foul – the fish hit like the proverbial prop forward. At no time did he have that fish under control and when he whooped at its size I knew it was a really good fish. Then it was gone.

With the sun well up more traffic began to appear. Still, nothing like I would have expected. Perhaps the chilly little breeze kept people at home? In this distance terns and mutton ducks weaved and dived. The anchovies were still being hassled. We agreed to go and find some kahawai – I wanted a couple for the smoker. We set upwind of the widespread bird mass to drift down into the carnage and killed the motor. Kahawai sign skittered across the screen of the sounder. These fish are active predators and their sign is easily distinguished. The hits came early and we each leaned into our respective fish. Mine was gilled and bled. Jase let his go. We occupied ourselves in this way for quite some time.

When it was time to go we’d been on the water for 6 hours. On land the day was pleasant and under the warm sun we drank beer and cleaned our catch; job done. That hour after the moon dropped had given us the largest fish. Simon, as usual when it comes to snapper, was right.

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