Monday, September 9, 2019

Leech day

Jase is a long time advocate of the simple bead head leech pattern for migrating rainbows. Whereas I've used small silver bodied orange bead headed woolly buggers for quite some time, the simplicity of tying leeches began to appeal. Tungsten bead flies hang up in rocks and sink quickly to meet snags. Tying replacement flies that take a couple of minutes each to fashion appeals more and more!

But there's that thing about using 'new' patterns. Your mate has caught hundreds of fish on them, but still that little nagging doubt nibbles at your brain. Can I catch with them? (I mean, of course I can but I don't know that yet).

Another early start. SWMBO is getting used to me waking before the alarm goes, before 4am. Dog is fed. Porridge. Coffee. Into the truck. Dog gets extra sleep on the back seat. We arrive in T town and head straight to the river. Encouraging sign #1, no one else is at the car park. Gear assembled. Brisk walk to the crossing. A chilly wind whips clouds across the sky. Even though its spring now, a system they are calling "the mole from the pole" drags cold air up and across NZ. Layla hunts the scrub and chases down duck scent at the river crossing, where I drag her across to avoid her spilling downstream through the next holding lie. At the entry point she rolls in the sand. On with the leech. I start with an olive body orange bead on an Ahrex #4 barbless. Short line first, swing through the gut. Lengthen to swing the first of the holding lie, nothing, try different drifts (fly side on, or tail on) by mending. I'm almost into the prime water and am swinging into slack current in front of a snag, giving the fly action with rod movement when the fish hits. Airborne, spray flying I glimpse silver as the fish cartwheels towards the bank then runs at me. I'm reeling fast but there's slack in the system and inevitably the hook pulls. Hmm. A few swings later but into the broad choppy part of the run and the line shudders. This time I clearly see a large jack fish, coloured from a few days in the river, take to the air. He jumps and jumps and throws the hook. Too much rod pressure? Apart from another bump, the rest of the run gave nothing up. Telling the dog to stay I jumped in the river to cross the deep channel to a gravel bed below a snag, from where a long cast dropped into deep (snaggy) water under the bank covers the tail out.

Fish hang in the gentler tail out. The water was pretty clear, after the recent rain I'd expected more colour. When the cloud receded, the sun beamed down, not really ideal conditions. The water deepened as the shingle bed fanned out, but from this point coverage of the holding water peaks. The rod shuddered and a fish ran upstream - fast. I stripped running line to maintain control as the fish streaked past me, aiming at the snag upstream. With line on the reel I gave it a bit of jandel and forced her downstream. On the #3 every fight is epic and this one is no different.

Beached she shone in the sun, fresh and clean straight up from the lake. Back on her way. I waded back out to the gravel bar. The next hit came soon after, this time a darker fish which fought dourly. The run gave me one more hit that didn't connect.

Calling Layla to join me on a bar midstream, I swung what could be great holding water if not for the presence of a mess of snags. We worked our way downstream but there were no further rewards. The wind blustered and made casting difficult. At the truck we ate lunch. Layla scoffed some biscuits while I tackled a couple of kransky sausages. 

Overlooking the river from the road bridge I watched half a dozen guys hammer arguably the most productive pool on the river. Its a pool not to be missed if you enjoy company!

I decided to spend a couple of hours in the 'town pools;. Arriving at the car park we found a disgusting sight. Well to me, not so much to Layla who was immediately interested - the remains of a skinned and cleaned sheep.

I'll never understand the mentality of some cretins. The Lodge Run was unoccupied so I swung the bucket at the top and then the tail out. No hits.

The Cnut was occupied but to my surprise the Stumpy was devoid of angers. But not of fish! Its such great holding water and the fish will lie both sides of the pool, which spills right to left past a mass of  drowned timber. It duly gave up a number of hits through its full length, the leech getting plenty of attention.

Representative example. Leech in mouth.
Having combed the water once and with no on else around, I moved to the top and came through again. This pass I focused more on the fast water, holding the fly in the heavier current, and was rewarded with several nice fish.

I called it at 3pm, feeling quite chilled in the legs. Leech fly - tested and approved.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Half a year

26 August. 6 months of rehab has come and gone. I'd actually cheated a bit and attended Sporting Life’s annual Fly Fest in Turangi, using the excuse to jump in the river for a few hours on the Saturday with old mate Milo. A hole in my waders combined with a complete lack of terrain fitness (exercise had been daily stationary cycling for 15 - 20km) saw me back at base mid afternoon for a rest while my wader glue set. The following day I set out for a swing and can’t really remember how I went. I know that later I’d told the lads I felt more like I was filling time than fishing effectively. Time away does that. But it was simply so nice to be back in the water that the pain that followed was soon forgotten. And, as always it was great to catch up with a bunch of fellow anglers at the Fest. It’s a great event. I found myself after months of not doing much, planning a weekend trip. I let Pete know I was heading down, and he grabbed the new Sage Trout Spey HD 3110 that I’d asked to be set aside for me. Rather than push too hard getting down on the Friday evening, I packed the car, got a good sleep in and loaded the dog aboard early the next morning for the trip down. We made good time and it was before 9 when I arrived at Pete’s for coffee. He was dressed for fishing, so we got our shit together and headed up to the Blue for a swing. The rod is simply i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. Armed with a 275g Rio Trout Spey head and 10 t-8 MOW tip it just fires out decently weighted streamers with ease. The wind was howling from the mountains and I couldn’t have cared less; I pulled my woolly hat lower, zipped my puffer up and cast offhand. We swung that pool tip to tail for not even a hit. I’m officially in love with that fly rod. Even so, I handed it over to Pete and soon he was grinning ear to ear. We skipped back to town where I dropped Pete off, he was recovering from a cold and it was best for him to escape the freezing wind. On a whim I headed down to the top of the braids and found no one home, with wind like that the nymphers stay away in droves. It was in the top branch that I landed my first fish on the rod, a  little hen who decided to stay upright for her photo. 

Further down after a dicey crossing I swung out a nice gut that tailed out into sweet looking run water and smack in the middle a fat healthy hen ate and headed skyward. The fight was torrid but I soon beached her. Later in the Lodge Braid I hit a beautiful fish that shredded the surface and threw the hook.  After a tough morning, at least I was finding fish now.

 Returning to the truck I drove around to the reserve car park and wandered down to the Stumpy. The sun was lowering. The pool has changed somewhat since last season, with the main flow entering slightly higher, exposing additional stumps and debris. Its magic swinging water, the heavy flow broken up by the debris leaving broken mid-thigh deep water on the TLB, fish holding water. It invariably coughs a fish or at least a hit and this time it did both. In the twilight a fish bumped the fly without taking so I jigged the rod and was rewarded with a savage hit. A sweet little fresh hen was beached. Soon after and nearing the bottom of the tail out, another fat little freshie ate and fought with great heart. She was returned. 

The sun was past set by the time I booked into the motel. Layla was dried, fed and wrapped in blankets, she’d stay the night in the truck. I slept well and it was an early start for us. By the light of head lamp we arrived at the Mill Race. I had great hopes that the additional flow (the big boulder was only just showing) would see fish lying in the edge water. I swung it from top to bottom (including swinging the juiciest part twice) for one grab and one coloured fish landed. 

Not quite the reward I was looking for! I thought of the nice looking stretch above Admirals, Jase and I had walked to it once before. It really looks the goods. Layla and I crossed the Major Jones swing bridge and headed upstream. The walk was a good 30 minutes, which I wasn’t used to after the layoff. None the less we arrived at the Admirals on the TRB and moved up to the run. Well, as good as it looks, its actually horrible to fish with confused currents not really conducive to swinging. I fished it through while Layla perched on a rock mid current. A flying visit to Kamahi Pool gave me a coloured up jack in the tail and not much else. A brisk walk back to the bridge punctuated with a quick swing through the water below the Hydro and above the Breakfast. Nothing. There’d been 6 guys in the Hydro when I’d set off upstream, only 1 remained now. I set off to the reserve and wandered down to the Stumpy, where a guy was nymphing. Walking back up to the Cnut I asked the nympher opposite if he’d mind me fishing my side, and with his blessing I jumped in the top. He soon vacated carrying a very nice fish and I began (hopefully!) methodically combing the water. Layla stood atop the high bank, keeping guard 😊. Nearing the tail I got a hell of a fright when a fish hit in the faster water and ripped line. I’m not sure why he stopped but he turned and ran up stream while I reeled like mad. Opposite me he lugged out into the current, time after time returning to the heavy flow as I tried to coax him out. By my watch the fight was about 15 minutes in duration during which – Layla engaged in a play fight with another dog, Pete phoned, 2 guys pulled a car up to the bank to watch, Pete phoned again, the dog’s owner engaged me in conversation for several minutes before realising I had a fish on, the fish changed tactics and doggedly pushed under the bank and then finally… I beached a large jack who carried his river darkness like a shadow over his silvered flanks. He had the final say too, spraying me with water as he kicked powerfully out of my hands. Down at the coffee cart, Pete gave me his rundown. He’d taken the Trout Spey HD 4116 out for a shot and man, we yapped like excited kids about the rods. Pete’s an observer of speaking only when words need speaking, and he had a few. We parted company and I decide that my final fling would be in the Stump. It was vacant when I arrived. The first fish hit and shot skywards throwing the hook.

In the slacker water the line tightened and I hit a solid resistance that simply accelerated screaming line off the reel.  She skittered across the surface in a series of hook dislodging cartwheels, that fortunately for me failed, the hook remaining solidly in her jaw. As I beached her I thought it would be nice to take one for eating, so delivered the coup de gras. I swung the middle of the pool again and was landing a small dark fish when a dog and angler appeared. We spoke for a while then I gave him the pool and bade farewell to him, his dog and the river.

Day tripping
Jase was back from his annual pacific holiday. I needed another fix. He’d headed down Friday night. Doggo and I were on the road at 04.15. Jase and I met at the coffee cart, caffeinated and got going. Destination: The Pest Pit. I’d anticipated hitting this water since Pesty had taken Jase there and they’d done fairly well. We walked the track with anticipation, crossed the river with relative ease (dog was swept downstream and made the far bank in a back water) and Jase directed me to the upper lie. Hard against the left bank a bush overhung a deep gut which got the treatment. Nothing. The reach is punctuated with a fallen tree that forms a natural break in the current which fans wide before sweeping from right to left. A good cast to the far bank provides a great searching swing through the slackening water without any need to mend. The first bump didn’t connect, and although I jigged the fly to see if the fish would chase and eat it didn’t. I carefully covered the same cast a couple more times to see if I could tempt the fish, but no. A few paces downstream and the line tightened. The fish when landed was slightly dark and was soon on the way. The next hit was powerful and the fish charged upstream. I thought I had some control before the hook pulled. Jase soon joined me from where he’d been combing the lower run while I fished the tail of the run. Above us, old friend Chris Freer entered the tail of the next pool up and soon hooked up, his Sage Method glowing like a light sabre in the sun. Jase followed suit and landed a chrome bright hen which escaped his grasp before I could snap a photo. I moved into the lower run and Jase headed downstream. Over the next while I fished hard for a hit that didn’t hook up, then crossed and headed down to fish behind Jase. He’d done well landing several ‘bows and a grumpy looking brownie. We’d killed a few hours so back to the coffee cart... post caffeination we decided to head up and fish the Pig Pen and Whitikau. I grabbed Layla and crossed the river while Jase headed up. At the vantage point we’d spotted a number of fish in the ‘Pen’ but I hit nothing. Jase called and had landed 5 from the Whitikau. He said he’d cross and come down to fish behind me. I went through the Pen again, with a T-10 tip on to see if the faster sinking tip would make a difference. It didn’t to the fish but my casting went all to shit!
Jase appeared, soaked as he’d tumbled over on the crossing. He swung the Pen while I messed around, changed the tip, played with Layla and then wandered back upstream. At the truck we decided to hit the town pools as a final stanza before I got on the road. Jase hopped in the Cnut while I wandered up to the Lodge Run. The top bucket didn’t produce at all. Hopping in at the mid run point, I began to fish across the current back into the slacker water downstream. The fish that ate both did so midstream and both times I was forced to step backwards upstream to bring them to hand. 

One day my lack of a landing net will cost me a big fish I suspect. At the trucks I fed the hound who crashed in the back seat. I downed the obligatory V energy drink. Home time.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Into Autumn

The month of May. 

For us in the southern hemisphere it marks the final month of autumn, a month that normally signals the first blasts of cold weather that turn the leaves brown and send one reaching for coats and parkas. 

Autumn is generally a wet season but this year we’ve had an abnormally dry summer and Autumn, leading to a general shortage of water. Lumbered with my dodgy hip I’d been unable to partake in the usual pre duck season traditions and maintenance. But by hook or by crook I’d be there for opening day, that unmissable tradition, that highlight of the year. With much assistance from good mate Matt, I was there in the maimai pre-dawn on opening with dad. We were ensconced in The Park, a fine pond with a view across the clearing where our ponds are located. Early on we made a call to take drakes only which is a fine notion if ducks are plentiful. 

But they weren’t. 

Fog shrouded the ponds which is a death-knell for hunting as the birds skim above it. The first pair that sailed in came from above the fog bank and dropped with feet extended. Having missed the entire early goose season laid up recuperating, I wasn’t expecting much from my shooting but I put them both down with a shot each. The hen bird lay dead but the drake took a bearing and headed out of the pond fast. Layla was released and quickly returned with the hen. I sent her back after the drake and for some reason dad decided to go for a walk. The next few minutes involved dad tipping over and I looked up to find him trying to crawl out of the pond on all fours (while Layla returned with the drake)… I grabbed the pole I’d cut as a walking aid and waded out to grab dad. Together we shuffled back to the maimai, old fart and cripple… we would have made a sight to behold I’m sure. I gave dad my down filled wading jacket and as the weather was fine he was able to stay warm. We shot ok, taking our 2 limits with an acceptable number of shots expended. It was a neat little hunt made all the better by challenging conditions and good company. Topped off by Layla retrieving like a champ. We lost no birds at all.

Knowing that I had no options to chase pheasants this year I’d accepted an invitation to go with a group of mates to fish Hinchinbrook, Queensland. The core group of Darren, Dion, Steve, Jase and I had gone on a number of adventures together. Dion’s mate Gary rounded out the angler contingent. We were booked to fish with Dave Bradley and his team from Australian Flyfishing Outfitters. Dave, Jon Snell (“Snelly”) and Amos (“Famous”) Appleston made up the guiding crew, and man, those boys knew their shit. We were hoping to find permit and golden trevally on the flats and assorted target species (notably barramundi) in the extensive mangrove creek systems behind Hinchinbrook Island. The week passed quickly. We really had only one flats day and ol mate Steve managed in his first 2 casts of the trip a permit and then a golden trev! I saw one permit but he was moving away from us fast so no shot was available. Fishing the tidal creeks is a game of local knowledge, serial casting (utterly relentless coverage of every snag, overhanging bush, pounding of mangrove root systems and harassing of gutters), and the species inhabiting the area are stunning in both number and quantity. Over the week we caught barramundi, cod, jacks, grunters, GTs, bluefin salmon, and a host of other species. The range of target species available makes kiwi stand back and admire what’s on offer. Evenings were social involving rum and gin drinking, pumping the guides for stories and intel and generally figuring out the way of things. As with these trips it was with sadness that Steve, Jase and I departed to Townsville in our rented truck while the other boys headed to Cairns for their departure. Hope we all get together again soon.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Day 47

I thought it was about time to get back on the airwaves. Today represents 47 of the 181 days that are my prescribed  rehabilitation program. Today is day 5 off crutches.

I honestly can say that I feel lucky. This is a 6 month period of low activity that means that for the rest of my life if I maintain a level of fitness, I'll be able to chase fish and birds. And that in anyone's terms, is a bargain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Big bones, stings, & other mishaps

On this year’s trip to the islands, Andy would come along in Karl’s place – Karl having used his brownie points up on his recent trip to Brazil. Andy, the unofficial mayor of Turangi, fly fishes 300+ days per year and consequently was able to get up to speed pretty quickly. We’d booked the same accommodation as the previous year, the house on the hill with the deadly slippery driveway – quite lethal when wet which seemed to be 100% of the time last year…

We met in the airport lounge early on day one, caught up, grabbed some rums and got stuck in. I was food mule this year, using my extra baggage allowance to carry a poly box full of food. Jase used his to bring along an inflatable SUP. Our main bags were crammed with fishing boots, rods, reels, flies and leaders. We were ready.

By late afternoon we’d landed, been picked up by our hostess, grabbed our transport for the week (scooters) and headed out on the nearest flat. We’d be fishing on our own for the first 3 days followed by 5 days of guided fishing. I headed out to he right to give the other guys space. It was cloudy which combined with bonefish camo was going to make spotting really really difficult. That afternoon  I spotted 2 fish but both had made me first and got their asses into gear and boosted out. As we left the flat, Andy began casting into the deep hole beside the fishing club and soon hooked and landed the first bone of our trip, a respectable 4lb fish. 

Over the next few days we each fished either with Jason, using Gareth The Crab (The SUP) to access a flat across a shipping channel, or around the various accessible flats. On day 3 I travelled across the channel with Jase on GTC and it was there that I caught my first bone for the trip, having bust one on the strike a bit earlier. And it was a really good fish that ran long and wide into the backing, ripping out at least 250m on the first run before dogging. The second run burned the backing knot through the tip again and then the fish circled wide before Jase was able to tail him, a bright 26” fish estimated @ ~8lb. 

Other adventures included catching a Brassy Trevally that I’d initially called a small GT. Turned out to be a really good specimen too.

The days seemed to blur together and so did the happenings; one day as Andy and I drove the dreaded driveway I heard a noise, turned around and saw him tipped downhill with the scooter almost atop him. Somehow his rod had caught an overhanging tree and flipped him. Luckily there were no broken bones, although he did retire from the fray with a stiff neck and shoulder. On the first Saturday evening, our pursuit of nightlife led us to the Golf Club, which was like a shack in the back blocks. We navigated by fluorescent red light across the course; Tim and I narrowly avoiding driving across the 18th green while Andy and Jase were unable to avoid driving on the hallowed grass. We got bollocked! 

Later in he week, Andy who is terribly allergic to bee stings, was attacked and bitten twice by a hornet. Soon he was swelling (which persisted all week) and vomiting, and without his epi pen was in a degree of trouble. However after hydration he was able to continue to fish, although the after effects of the stings bothered him for the rest of the trip.

Our first guided day saw Andy and I teamed up and we had a ripper day. By lunch we had gone fish for fish with 3 bones landed each. At times, schools of large bones accessed the flat we stalked with Ty and Varu poling the skiff, and their 2 sets of eyes gave us so much opportunity to position our flies. With a more or less constant breeze getting a pinpoint cast in was difficult, but we managed on most occasions to make our shots count. 

At lunch we caught up with Tim and Jase, who had both hooked and lost GTs in hand to hand combat in the coral. After their early GT excursion, they’d fished nearby but were yet to hook a bone. They related that as they were fishing deeper water, they struggled to sink their flies fast enough to get them in harm’s way. That afternoon, Andy and I caught a few more to finish the day with 10 bones landed, quite simply and epic and unusual day numbers wise.

cruising pet GT
We’d hatched a GT plan so the following day Andy and I teamed again. We walked a reef section over the lowering tide. The current was fierce, and I was nervous as we approached gutters that emptied the lagoon over the reef into pretty much the open ocean. We stalked through rough broken and live coral patches. With difficult overhead conditions, I just wasn’t seeing anything. We got back on the boat and spent the day poling for bones with some success.

Over the next couple of days we mixed the teams up and I fished with Jason and Tim respectively. Fishing with Jase and Tia our day began with a session casting not bommies in the lagoon, while waiting for rainstorms over the outer reef to clear. I managed a stroppy small blue trev. 

On our reef walk I spotted and cast to a large GT but stuffed up my cast and spooked him. I stood atop a small bommie and watched the fish randomly cruise towards me while my fly was hung up in the coral. The fish passed a rod length away, a large blue knee knocking finger trembling moment indeed! We lunched onboard and spent the rest of the day searching for GTs (no luck) before heading for a flat to find bones. With my last opportunity of the day I managed a large bone, identical in length to my previous large fish @ 26”, roughly 8lb of bone.

On what turned out to be our final guided day, Tim and I headed out with Varu. Again the day started with a reef walk for GTs, with nothing seen. Tim pulled a couple f blues from a gutter and then we spent some time working trigger fish. Little did we know that on Jason and Andy’s boat, there was a huge amount of excitement that Andy had rigged appropriately, cast for and landed a large trigger, a first for E2’s operation! Tim and I were privileged to be taken hunting crabs that afternoon and the boys soon secured us our dinner. We ate crab and parrot fish with veges for dinner and it was food fit for kings.

Celebrations that night went into the wee small hours…. And as we talked and celebrated so did the weather change. Wind blew in and he roofing iron on the house began to lift and flap.
The following morning we received the call we had expected, guiding was off. We took it easy preparing breakfast. Jase and Tim would take GTC across the channel and I decided to fish one of the iconic flats, involving a wade/swim, across a channel. I duly arrived. The wind howled and the only viable cast was a back cast off the flat into the depths. I felt it was the only option in the circumstances and was surprised to land 6 bones from 7 hooked. So while not classic bone fishing, it was my best day numbers-wise in this location.
So ended the fishing part of the trip… the socialising continued a while longer...

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Scouting, learning....

As I sit at my office desk I can't help but observe the flags on the harbour bridge drooping flaccidly.  Its calm and oppressively hot. Its the day after the holiday weekend. I'd spent Sunday morning on the land's largest harbour - and oh how different the weather had been then. The tides on neither coast had been ideal for me, so I'd chosen this mission as the preferable of 2 options. It hadn't started all that well with both batteries canning out before I'd left the river (despite meticulously charging them. Seems they both reached their life expectancy simultaneously), and continued to be less than ideal. Running this harbour with extensive flats and banks without a nav system (there are no channel markers) is ok on high water but it was halfway through a waning tidal flow so when I saw a ruffle ahead I realised that I was heading into a bank at ~20 kts. I had to lift the motor to float over the lip into the channel. I'd rounded the small headland at the river mouth to encounter a fresh Westerly right on the nose. This wasn't a 3 kt zephyr predicted; it was a fresh 15 kts at least. And... clouds obscured the sun from time to time.

Still, I got to the flat and rigged. I'd changed out the SA Sonar tip line which I find pretty dumpy for the Rio Flats Pro (overall a nice enough line but I find he running line to be diabolical to manage) int tip. A few practice shots showed it as quick to pick up and shoot on the Salt HD. Cool. The breeze continued. Over the next couple hours I scanned, ate my sandwiches, applied sun screen, scanned, drank water copiously, scanned... to no avail. Occasionally a mullet would broach. A group of dipping, screaming terns worked  deeper channel. I moved the boat over but the birds dispersed. A few casts. Not with much confidence. When the line shot through my fingers I missed the set. The fish was gone. Needing respite from the constant breeze I anchored in a few inches of water and lay on the deck listening to waves slapping the hull.

The logical option now was to follow the flooding tide up the harbour. In the distance I spied a jet black object - black ray surely? Bearing down with line laid out and fly ready the black object revealed itself as a mussel or oyster buoy. Stand down. At least I was now bothering the occasional eagle ray. Why aren't the big black kingi holding rays in this harbour?

But still. It would be churlish to complain; time on the water is infinitely preferable to being stuck indoors. And I took away some affirmations:

  • Refresh the battery supply at least once every 2 years (one of those batteries had given 10 years service)
  • Any wind with West in it sucks on this harbour; vis is effectively killed
  • No forecasting service is 100% trustworthy
Not sure if I'll be back on the local flats this season. With an impending GT/bonefish trip and then debilitating surgery following that, I may be done for this season.

Monday, January 21, 2019

2 coasts, precious resources & the matter of discretion

Imagine that you're an avid shallow water angler and for most of your life you've persisted to learn the habits of your prey. You work hard, you suss it out. You treat the area and fish with respect. Then one day, a social media post lifts the lid on your spot. Overnight, its inundated with anglers local and foreign, some wanting to make a name, some with commercial interests, most just taking advantage of NZ's free access to resources... and your spot is standing room only. Freedom campers dot the landscape. The idea of solitude is just that, an idea. The fishery is hammered. That's the power of social media.

This has happened. Recently my mate Jase was in our local fly sore when some Australians walked in and bemoaned the sheer hectic and frantic nature of the Collingwood fishery. There're 2 sides to the  arguments here, one is covered above - what was a hard discovered kingfish phenomenon was made very public and overnight everything changed forever, much to the chagrin of the locals who worked had to figure the fish out. The other argument is that it has improved the economy of a sleepy South Island town, and that economic betterment of rural NZ is a good thing. I don't buy that. I'd bet that most of the anglers who get in there live in old vans and survive on a can of beans a day, and that's hardly putting anything back into the economy. I could go on about value propositions and pricing for value, licenses etc but that's not really my concern. It would be fair to say that I've seen and heard enough to know that place isn't for me.

Personally I'd rather put in the hard yards, chase down leads, pore over Google Earth, talk to locals and figure out angles. Success is so much sweeter that way. And that's why I'll crop the hell out of photos to obfuscate backdrops where I think its necessary. Despite living in a city of 1.6 M people with ~150,000 registered boats of which a huge number are dedicated to fishing pursuits, there are still spots that are simply mind blowing. They probably wont stay that way in the long term, but I'm not willing to accelerate degradation via social media.

Rant over, cropped photos to come...

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go on a voyage of discovery. I'd hunted pheasants and deer on the heads of this harbour and studied the flats and banks that I could see from high ground.... the place oozed potential. Google Earth showed some of the largest flats that you could hope to find and I am willing to bet that very few fly fishermen had spent much time here. I'd been thinking about this place for a long time and with both settled weather and a morning building tide, the time felt right. The trip north is always nice, before the crowds rise and block the roads. At the ramp only one other boat trailer was in residence. The tide was at its lowest ebb which is a really good way to get the feel of new waters, because banks and channels are obvious on low water. We ran out to near the harbour entrance, where the tide would flood onto exposed banks bringing in prey and predators alike... it felt fishy from the get go. What became obvious early was the extreme current, best described as a torrent. The Minn Kota quietly thrummed and we traversed a large flat between 2 banks... it looked an obvious place for a patrolling kingi.

As it happened we saw 3 fish over the next couple of hours, but none in casting range; they seemed to be motoring across the flat as opposed to cruising for food. As the banks flooded we were able to cruise vast flats which we did, getting right among the mangrove fringe.

Eventually a splash and massive wake alerted us to a nearby skirmish, which after a stalk revealed a nice king smashing a mullet. The mullet was stunned and the kingi circled, allowing us a few fly shots to no avail, as the beast was set on his dinner which he swallowed and cruised off, leaving a sizable wake. Soon after, we called it a day. I'll be back - there's still too much to discover in this spot.

The weekend gone, the boys all had plans. Tim was going out on Rene Vaz's new boat , Karl was heading out on a West Coast harbour and Jase was off after big browns. I had no real plans except at some stage to get out on the boat. Jase eventually changed his mind so would join me on a flats mission.

I picked him up at 05.30 from the ramp where Tim and Rene were launching and we headed off on our different courses. First stop for us would be a marker to get some 'blood letting' out of our systems... just a term for getting runs on the board before the more intense flats fishing that would follow. Its no secret around here that small kings hang around channel markers and consequently they receive their fair share of attention from stick baiters, jiggers, fly fishos and even divers. Even as we pulled in under electric motor power, another boat approached the marker. We quickly dealt to 3 fish before moving on, the other boat taking our place. I doubted they'd get much attention on their stick baits, rumbling around with outboard on puts kingis down pretty quickly. I headed to another marker where I'd seen a large fish last time around, but nothing was doing. The pole was decorated with a double gang hook and a desiccated piper ... a sure sign of a kingi haunt.

Leaving that spot we arrived at the outer rim of the flat we wanted to hunt, and set up. It was a good while before he first wake was spotted, and set a course to intercept the cruising fish. My first shot was met with a chase and eat, but I... trout struck. Bluddy hell, after all this time I still do it now and again.

Kingi wake

Jase made no mistake with his first cast to a cruiser which inhaled his piper fly. The fight was torrid in the shallows, culminating with the fish sitting tight under the boat. After a few minutes of to and fro I got the net under a fine specimen.

Over the next quarter tide we chased wakes made casts, had multiple refusals and all in all had a ball.

As the tide receded, the fish began to leave, and soon there was no sign of activity.

I retrieved the boat at the lowest of the tide's ebb, creating the need to wade through mud for the final few metres. The sun blazed overhead. I wandered along to the car park, town was drowsily busy, in a relaxed sort of way, and I wondered if back when the Florida quays were being discovered as fisheries if the ports had the same sleepy feel? Coming down after the intensity of flats concentration is a nice feeling, and fully relaxed I pulled the boat and headed home.