Friday, April 17, 2009

Fishing today

Went out with my uncle today on his boat. Rough seas but we putted around the sheltered sides of the islands and found loads of willing kahwai. I think I got 7-8 on the fly casting into the boils. My uncle worked the bottom picking off the bottom scavenging snapper. What turned an awesome day into an epic day was when we spotted kingfish/yellowtail holding at the surface to a bit of structure. My uncle moved me into position and I made cast after cast and just couldn't get them to take. They would follow it, even fight over it, yet they didn't take. My uncle had an idea, he would cast out his rod rigged with a bit of gulp (a synthetic soft bait that's sorta blown up down here) and I'd swing the boat around the structure while he reeled in as fast as he could. Second cast he got nailed, and landed this beauty.


I was up again. Switched flies to this yellow guy my buddy Justin tied for me. Second cast I landed right near the structure as a kingfish was moving around it. He turned around and straight nailed it right in front of our eyes. Seeing the take is what fly fishing is all about. It was flippin' AWESOME. Within seconds I was down to my backing. We chased the fish down and I reckon just under ten minutes later we had it to the boat.

Auckland Harbor
6wt fly rod


The Tools


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Hey blog, it's been a while since I've updated you last. The foremost reason for such neglect being that I've been on the road for a monthish and really haven't had reliable internet. That and the fact that there is an overwhelming number of photographs (thousands, mind you) that I've yet to sort through. Rather than a marathon of a narrative, I think I'll just throw down some random ramblings of some of the highlights of my last month or so.

My mom came down for a visit. This is us after riding the chairlift up the mountain overlooking Queenstown.


Queenstown was cool, but terribly touristy. Walking the streets felt sorta like flipping through a North Face catalog (or catalogue, as a Kiwi would type). Everyone was certainly dressed to impress, showing off all of their newly purchased outdoor gear they've stocked up on to embark on their assorted weekend warrior type adventures. But hey, at least they're getting outside, which is more than I can say for many a folks.

Being a bustling little tourist town, Queenstown was a bit of a melting pot restaurant wise. Turkish Kebab shops, Indian cuisine, Thai, Pub food, Japanese, you name it. It was one of those places that didn't really have an identity of its own.


Long story short (though I might add more ramblings later), mum and I toured lots, seeing most of the South Island, a fair portion of the North, and walked lots of miles around Sydney.

Let's talk about fishing, shall we? We shall. Here's where I would post a photo of a trophy, fish-of-a-lifetime type, world class South Island New Zealand brown trout, but alas, I was blanked on any browns of reasonable size. Though my lack of success does not feel like failure. In fact I suppose it's only fair that I get blanked on my first South Island fly fishing mission. But I do have a story...

(non-fisher person readers might as well skip this bit as you'd probably think I'm nuts)

We arrived in the quaint mountain town of Murchinson an hour or so before dusk one evening. Booked a room in a little cottage and I was off to the river. Which one, I didn't know yet, as this awesome little town is nestled in one heck of a river valley. Four tributaries, each a world class fishing destination in its own right, meet the might Buller river. I decided I would find a large pool in which to hopefully fish the evening rise. After checking a few spots along the way, I came to a tributary where I spotted a rather large, perhaps five pound, brown trout feeding off the surface. He was sort of in a tricky spot that I couldn't quite cast to from behind with out wet wading waist+ depths. I opted to hide in the tall grass and hopefully land a perpendicular cast without spooking him. I wasn't so lucky. Oh well, I reckoned. I crossed the road and went to the next pool, where to my delight I spied two fish of similar proportions feeding off the surface of a rather shallow, slow moving pool where the river had forked. I had on a size 16 Royal Wulff, a true champion when it comes to dry flies. Tossed it out to the closest trout to me, who gave it a nose yet rejected it. I decided I'd better add a bit of length of my already twelve foot leader in order to cast to the second fish without spooking the first. I did, and got the nose again. Here's where I get sloppy! I tied on a size 20 elk hair caddis, tossed it about five feet in front of the first fish, and he took! Unfortunately while I was staring down that five feet of drift, which always seems to take forever in such situations, I forgot to collect the line as it drifted downstream. Needless to say, I was a tad late on the hook set. After figuring out that they weren't eating dry flies, but emergers, I ended up missing two more takes for one reason or another and after about an hour I spooked both of the trout as they drifted downstream to my feet. I was completely jazzed up though. I got back to the room and my heart was still pounding and hands were still shaking. I might have not hooked the fish, but they certainly had me hooked.

The next day I set out on the same river again. I started by visiting the two pools I had fished the night before, only to find them empty. Brown trout are tricky like. Often times when you spook a rainbow trout, he's back in the same lie perhaps an hour or less later. One time I even caught the same rainbow trout twice in the same day, with the same fly. Bloody stupid fish! Brown trout, however, are a million times cleverer (FireFox spell check didn't red underline the adjective cleverer, so I'm sticking with it). Once spooked, or hooked, they might not reappear for days. So I figured no worries, and carried on. I didn't spot another fish for quite sometime. And when I did, it was in a run that might have been six inches deep and completely, and tragically, covered in Didymo. Fast forward about 30 minutes and 5-6 flies later and I decided to see if I could stalk right up the the trout and touch him. Nearly successful in this regard, but he spooked as my fingers were inches away.

Spotted a couple more fish here and there, but none seemed to be feeding and none weren't quite the South Island monster I was looking for. And then I spotted him. A trout of world class proportions. Long. Fat. Undoubtedly the biggest river living brown trout I'd ever seen. I estimate him to be in 8-9 pound range, but could be every bit of 10. A true fish of a lifetime for 99.9% of trout fishermen (including this one). The pool was set up nicely. It wasn't deep, but not shallow. The banks were tree laden, but the approach from behind was very reasonable. The water was still, which required the stalk to be quite slow and steady. There was a tad bit of wind to help disguise the concentric rings sent off by my legs moving through the water. And then I felt it. I was about to fish for a world class fish, in a world class destination, in a world class backdrop. I was truly in a state of nirvana at this point. I was both excited and terrified. I trembled, my heart pounded, and my mind raced. At this moment, nothing else mattered. The rest of the world was put on hold. This, my friends, was man versus trout.

And the trout was the victor. For the next three hours I fished for this glorious beast. I threw everything I had at him and he didn't seem to care. I dragged a six inch streamer right in front of his face, and he didn't even flinch. Like he knew. I was in one state of consciousness, while he was on an entirely different level. He knew what was going on. This fish, who could perhaps be a decade or more old, knew, be it instincts, experience or what have you, that it was not time to eat. I decided to put this battle on hold, and go have lunch with Mum.

That evening I planned another attack. I hiked back up to the pool a couple hours before dusk. I crept into the water and waited. I couldn't see the fish with the evening glare, but I had full vision of the length of the pool. So I waited. I was waiting for the sight which causes fly fishermen the world around to shake at their knees: the sight of a rising trout. To a fly fishermen, when a trout rises, it's like a kid awakening to a Christmas tree engulfed in presents. It's truly glorious, and, like Christmas, the wait is half the fun. So I waited. I covered my face with a bandanna, put a beanie on to cover my ears, and sunglasses to shield my eyes. Not from the sun, but from the sand flies. Sand flies so numerous they'd eat you alive if you let them. The only thing I didn't have protected was my hands. Every few minutes I moved just enough to brush them off the backs of my hands. The clever ones were able to find the rip on my knee. Nothin I could do about those guys. Others found their way under my sunglasses and were dancing around my eyes. Over the next couple hours I would master the act of crushing them with my eyelids. All the while intensely watching the pool for signs of life. About a half hour before the sun went down, it began to happen. Small concentric rings were erupting throughout the pool. They weren't caused by trout, however. The pool was so still that you could see where mayflies arose from the depths and escaped to the air. I witnessed dozens, then perhaps hundreds, of these beautiful little trout foods hatch from the water. I expected it to totally go off any second now. I pictured a half dozen rising trout around the pool straight exploding on these emergers. Just absolutely gorging on this keystone food source. Surely no trout could resist, right? I waited. Nearly dark, I continued to wait. Perhaps they're not hungry? No, that doesn't make sense, they didn't eat all day. Perhaps they moved down, or up? Perhaps. Or maybe they sensed my presence? Whatever the reason may be, I didn't see a single rise. I knew that fish was there, just meters in front of me somewhere, but he wasn't eating. Something wasn't right in his mind, so he didn't eat. It was as simple as that, yet exceedingly baffling at the same time. Covered in darkness at this point, there was nothing I could do except negotiate my way back to the car. I thanked God for a truly amazing day.

I'm all writed out, more... tomorrow? Going fishing (surprise) so maybe in the evening.