Two big sea-trout on together!

August 21st, 2014 No comments

Day 1. I arrived at the water just after the tide started to flow. I’d have liked to have been earlier but with the Haast Pass still undergoing road works after a major slip a year ago, it was the best I could do. I was the first vehicle over the pass in the morning. I read the water, formed a quick plan and then put it into action. I fished the sand bar near the river outflow and picked up two 1lbers. Then I fished the beach all the way to the surf. In doing this I realised yet another variable in coastal river mouth fishing. The water current from the river does not change direction at the same time as the tide turns to come in. The water level rises but the flow remains the same until the tide eventually overpowers the river into reverse. It took three hours into the flowing tide on Saturday and a bit less on Sunday for the current to change direction. I’m sure this varies due to all sort of things such as wind direction, moon phase, river height, the list goes on..

By the time I got to the end of the beach affected by the river, the tide had started to push a wall of coloured salt water against the river current. I walked with it fishing in it, in front of it and in the mix. I had some follows but all was quiet. I knew a chance would come sooner or later. Then, unexpectedly spotted a big trout cruising the edge. It’s unusual to spot them. I put my 2 fly rig (one tied to the bend of the other) in front of him and waited as my di5 pulled the flies into the zone. Strip, strip, strike, fish on. A solid 5lb seatrout ran repeatedly and jumped often. This was the type of fish I come to the West Coast to see. Those perfect specimens. Pure silver, fat, strong, well marked… Suddenly another fish came charging in and ate the other fly. “Player 2 has entered the arena” sprang to mind (I watched “Shaun of the Dead” recently) Player 2 promptly pulled the fly out of player 1 and then ran for the salt. Early on the first run the fly left him too. Also about 5lbs. I went from 1 fish to 2  to 1 to zero all in about two seconds. Fuck. That said I didn’t really mind because it was a pretty cool experience and I believe my first double hook up in NZ! I hoped that that was not my only chance of the day. On the coast opportunities don’t come often so you need to make the most of the ones you get. I hooked one more that day but it too got away. Also a good fish by the feel of it but I never saw it.

Day 2. I woke up where I wanted to fish. After checking around the remains of my beach beech fire for any rubbish or belongings, I rigged up. This day I had a chance to fish the bottom of the ebbing tide. It was a cold, breezy morning. I had a good feeling as I approached the beach. First cast, nothing,  second cast…solid take, very solid in fact. Then a slow, steady run…. on and on.. sometimes coming near the surface where he’d shift lots of water without breaking it, a sign of a heavy fish.  I got some line on the reel. I had another one of those reasons for coming here on the end of my line. The fight went on for a while and I had my 7wt tcx well bent in him the whole time. I recovered some line, then more.. almost to shore and ready to beach. I caught a glimpse of her, I saw the silver head of a hen fish as it made one more head shake which broke the tippet.. I put my head in my hands. I wanted to see that fish.

I’ve been fishing for almost 24 years and I’ve caught many trout. At this stage I don’t worry about losing a fish, not usually anyway. But occasionally I lose a fish that hurts a bit.. this was one. It was a large, perfect trout.. I have no doubt.

Once again I hoped that was not going to be my only chance of the day. It was early after all, I had hours to catch a fish. I was reluctant to stop for lunch in case I missed that potentially fleeting chance. I ate as I walked between locations. There was the river mouth, the rip-rap, the beach and the surf all within about 300m, so enough distance between the top and bottom of the beat to eat on the move.

I worked the spots.. I had a follow from yet another big fish from the river mouth, a yellow eyed mullet from the rip-rap, a 2lber from the beach, nothing from the surf. As the tide pushed in and changed the clear river water to tea coloured salt,  I found myself back at the river mouth. I was hoping that big follower might still be there and my luck might change.. I had a lot of casts, every one as far as I’m able. Let it down deep into the channel.. strip strip strip.. Sometimes I’d try varying the retrieve. Sometimes stripping at twice the speed with that retrieve Peter Hayes showed me in Tassie.. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9_n10L0Dxo) … Then a strong take, It worked! A big fish by the feel of things. A heavy, dogged fight. No big runs, just deep and slow. Over and back in front of me for quite a while. I didn’t want to push him too hard after my break off in the morning and I definitely did not want to lose another big trout. Eventually I could see my tapered leader so I was gaining on the fish. I still could not see him. I kept the pressure on. Then a flash of silver, then some colour.. Is it? Fuck. It is.. A Kahawai! Not all bad though, They are great fish to catch and to eat. Just a little disappointing when expecting a big sea-trout.

One thing I’d like to mention.. Two actually. I realised one reason not to tie a fly on to your cast by tying directly to the bend of the hook. Two fish on together can’t work! The point fly is bound to pull the other fly free. Had I tied my second fly on a dropper I may have landed both those fish. But then, if your aunt had balls she’d be your Uncle. The other thing, Umpqua 10.7lb co-polymer really let me down. When I tested it after the break off I realised it was weak. Terrible knot strength. I wont be under gunned when I’m back at the coast again very soon..

Ronan..

Ps.. The sand-flies were brutal and I forgot my repellent..

Back to the West Coast…

August 6th, 2014 No comments

The west coast river mouths are not an easy location to catch a fish. Time of tide is critical but it can be any time during the rise or fall. A weekend over there is simply never enough. Just when I start to get an idea of the right time of the tide to fish and where, it’s time to go home again.. Every time I go there I have to start the learning curve again. Time of year, tide, trout food and weather will be very different and most importantly, the mouths themselves change after every flood. All these variables keep it interesting, that’s for sure.

Iza and I hit the coast recently. On day 1 of our weekend we fished the hour to high tide, the entire fall of the tide and the turn. I had one little sea-trout and a decent Yellow Eyed Mullet. Iza had a little trout too. I was hoping for that magic hour but it never came. I assured Iza that her soft plastic would be even more lethal than my di7 if we could just find a few fish. She heard my trying to keep her enthusiastic many times before and I think it was wearing a little thin. She fished hard all day none the less!

On day 2 we went to a different river mouth. It was completely different to every other time I’d been there. The sand had shifted to the far side of the lagoon and all the current and depth was on the near side. I looked at it and my first thought was that its not worth fishing. The flowing tide was raging in and it was very coloured. After a coffee I had a better look and started noticing some holding water, the best of which was off the rocks right in front of the truck. I advised Iza to fish into an eye that had formed as the flowing tide passed by a rip-rap groyne. As she made her way down I had a quick cast with her spinning rod (I could not help myself) and immediately hooked a 1lber. I felt guilty for taking Iza’s fish but not for too long. Iza got one almost right away, a 4lber, then another, 5.5lbs; then another 4lber; then a 1lber. That was the magic hour! I did not get a single touch for the day and neither did Iza after landing the fourth one..

That’s how it goes. On the next visit we’ll learn it all again!

By the way, you have 4 weekends to get over there before the place is mobbed with whitebaiters for 6 weeks!

Ronan..

Dunstan is Firing!!

July 28th, 2014 No comments

I’m just back from a weekend on the coast where Iza caught all the fish. Before I talk about that I better mention the action on Lake Dunstan from the previous weekend. I was thinking about going back up to the central lakes but the road was closed to towing vehicles due to ice. That made it easy to make up my mind and fish Dunstan. To my surprise the fishing was excellent! Good action all day long each day. I was blind fishing with buggers around the weed beds from the Wakatipu Anglers Club boat. When the sun came out I had opportunities to jump out of the boat a sight fish the flats. There weren’t many cruisers, but I got 2 or 3 over the 2 days. Blind buggering with the intermediate was the way to go. If you’re in the area get out there!

The West Coast mission will be up later in the week… Its starting to fire over there too… sort of!

Ronan..

Categories: Expedition Tags: ,

This is Winter Fishing…..

July 18th, 2014 No comments

I drove the boat through coloured water and thick, freezing fog to get to where we wanted to go. Visibility was down to as little as 20 meters, but it was usually about 100. I know the lake well but the fog was very disorienting. I was searching for a specific area but not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I stopped the boat at the first sight of some weed beds. I knew where I wanted to be, but I had no idea if we were there or not!  Mark quickly drew first blood with a big 5.5lb rainbow. Before long he had another and then we drifted off the hot spot.  Trying to back track to the hotspot just didn’t work. I could not find it even though were we very close to it. Fog will do that. The drift was minimal due to little or no breeze; usually none, but there was some moving water from flooded rivers entering the lake. We haphazardly cruised along looking for more weeds while trying to keep land in sight. Without a visual it would be all too easy to get very lost. As tough as it was to find good water in the fog and murk, finding it was the only way to succeed. Therefore it was that persistence in searching that made the difference. The fog didn’t lift until well into the afternoon and then everything became clear. Our combined effort for day 0ne was 9 rainbows between 4 and 5.5lbs. We had no browns.

Day 2 started with a hard frost but there was no fog. We decided to go back to the same place. We hoped that the rivers would have dropped and cleared a bit over night and that the lake would be cleaner as a result. No such luck! Rain in the headwaters did the opposite. With the water even dirtier than the previous day, it was hard to find weed beds and the fishing started out very difficult. Mark managed 2 fast fish as per day 1 and that was it for quite a while. We used the same gear as day 1, Intermediate lines and buggers fished very slowly to match the extremely slow and delicate takes. After a while we realised the best fishing was in shallower, weedless extra dirty water. Weird. Once we cracked onto this we did well. Fewer big fish but similar numbers. At about 2pm the forecast SE change came in with a vengeance. The waves got big and messy. We braved it for an hour or so and caught a couple more fish, then moved to the shelter of a willow lined shore. I had seen some big browns under those willows while bank fishing a few weeks prior but did not catch any. I had a good feeling. Within a few minutes of starting the drift I was into a heavy, yellow bellied brown. He picked up the bugger with a tiny bit more haste than all the other fish from the weekend, but it would still be regarded as a gentle take. I don’t think I’ve ever observed such consistent delicate takes in my life; the same in both species. Every fish we hooked bar none.

Mark and I had one more each before the end of the drift and the end of the weekend. Our combined effort was 12 to about 4.5lbs. 7 rainbows and 5 browns. A total of 21 for the weekend. (11 for Mark… fucker!)

I might go back tomorrow!!

Ronan..

Categories: Expedition Tags:

The Tekapo Canals…

July 9th, 2014 No comments

15000 escaped salmon certainly attracts anglers! Iza and I went to fish the Tekapo canals near the salmon farms recently. The weather was perfect and there were anglers everywhere. We found our spot in the picket fence on Saturday morning but the fish did not come easy! Bait fishermen were catching a few. Iza’s softbait was not getting much attention and I had to pick my cast with the fly. We walked some of the the canal and got away from the masses. There were clearly a few hot-spots but we chose to have a bit of room to fish freely instead of fighting for position. Just up-stream of the cages there was not an angler to be seen. I walked and stalked from time to time and always saw a few fish, including some of the monsters up to 20lbs but these were never too far from their main food source . The smaller browns, the ones not thriving on fish-farm pellets,  were the ones I most enjoyed targeting. They were tough. Bright sun, glass calm and uniform canal edges meant anything out of the ordinary was noticed by my quarry. There were decent numbers of these 2to 4 lb browns and I have a feeling that this is a virtually unused NZ fishery. I know people fish near the cages for escapees and the pigs of trout that eat pellets, but who walks the edges to sight fish? I’m sure a few do. I will again that’s for sure.

The highlight of the trip was  hearing a loud call from Iza, I turned around thinking (and hoping!) that it was a “I have a fish” call and not a “I’m snagged” call. She was hooked up alright. I ran to her side to help her land whatever she was hooked into. The 5.5 lb salmon jumped repeatedly and fought hard but Iza kept the pressure on and before too long the fish was safely in my net. She has caught a few little fish and lost a big brown at her feet on the Waiau, but this was her first big fish hooked and landed by herself. A great and memorable moment for any angler. Its also some pressure off me!

It needs to be mentioned that these salmon farms are different to those in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and BC. They are contained in inland, man made waterways and do not appear to have any negative impact on wild trout at all. Quite the opposite in fact. Can a lesson be learned here?

Ronan..

Sight Fishing During the Winter Solstice…

June 24th, 2014 2 comments

The shortest day of the year had a gale in tow but the second shortest brought with it ideal sight fishing conditions. I was on Benmore. After a hard frost in the morning the sun rose over the mountain and heated things up. No cloud, no wind, perfect. There were good numbers of fish about. Some appeared to be feeding but more seemed to be cruising by default. These were very tough to catch and exceptionally spooky. The fly and method I had most success with was a size 14 lightly weighted spider, cast to a moving fish and then moved with the figure of 8. Most fish that I hooked took after following which is a little unusual. Normally a follow does not result in a take. There were a few that charged the fly and missed (or I missed!) and a couple that connected. It was a magic day on the water and I’m going back very soon!!
Ronan..

Categories: Expedition Tags:

A Hover of Trout!

June 12th, 2014 1 comment

The weekend before last, Chris Dore and I fished the Frankton Arm. Last year I learned that bright sun is not ideal on the Frankton Arm in winter and that stands true this year. The fishing was slow for most of the day apart from the hour between 2.30 and 3.30. We had 4 in that time slot.

Good old friendly rivalry was alive and well in the boat, 1-0 to Chris, a few hours later 1-1, Then I got a couple (I may have been dragging the line behind the boat as I slowly motored to the next drift, not trolling of course because it was…. an accident, yea.) Some dirty tactics from Chris as he snagged my fly-line almost scuppered my roll to victory. Then another, 4-1. The end score was 4-2 but we weren’t keeping score of course.

I had some good fishing to reasonable numbers of cruising fish at the head of Lake Dunstan last Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of fish about. On Sunday, Kevin and I went on a firewood mission on the Kawarau Arm on Dunstan. We found a hover of trout instead. (My brother with his vast knowledge of all things trout just informed me that a group of trout is known as a hover. Thanks Conor!) I ended up having 2 hours of really good but tough sight fishing. The dull day didn’t matter because the hill on the opposite side was high enough to cut out the glare and spot against. I’m pretty sure they were eating tiny snails, some floating. Another pleasant surprise to get good sight fishing during the worst fishing month of the year only a kilometre from the house! I remember watching Bernard Venables on the telly years ago. He spoke of “a swagger of perch”. Maybe many species have their own specific word for a school.

No fishing this weekend! Iza and I are off to watch the the All-Blacks v England in Dunedin. We’ll also be catching up with some friends. Looking forward to it!

Ronan..

Come Hail, Rain or Snow…

May 28th, 2014 No comments

After a very wet week the river options for the weekend were virtually non-existent. It had to be a lake. There are lots to choose from but Mark and I decided on the Frankton arm on Lake Wakatipu. The forecast was for wind, rain (lots of rain) and snow. The Frankton arm is sheltered and even if it does blow up you’re never far from the shore, so with the forecast, it seemed like a safe bet. We picked up the Wakatipu Anglers Club boat and set off for a weekend afloat..

There are 3 main types of water to fish on Lake Wakatipu near Frankton.

1. Shallows, 3 to 6 foot of water.

2. Deeper water, about 6 to 10 foot.

3. Holes, gutters and drop-offs. 10foot plus..

For the first, I set up a rod with a clear intermediate line with a small possum streamer on it. For the 2nd and 3rd I set up the di7 with 11lb flouro and a Glister. The reason for the heavy tippet is the big fly (The Dore’s Mr Glister is quite big, I used a slender size 6), The reason for the big fly is simply to be noticed! A big fly will be seen by more fish in deep water. It may be the case that we got lots of refusals we don’t even know about using this method but I believe the law of averages will prevail and a good number of fish will attack / eat the fly.

As it turned out on day 1, the intermediate line was not used. I started catching fish on the first drift way out on the drop-off and reasonable action continued with the di7. Mark chose the di5 but didn’t get much action. It’s valuable to know that fast sinking lines are not just for fishing deep water. They fish shallower water very efficiently. There is no need to waste any time counting it down, just start stripping. This makes it an extremely versatile line, in that you can effectively fish 5 to 25 foot down without changing lines.

Mark had no luck on day 1 with the di5. He only had a few touches. Partly because he was not comfortable with his chosen rod but mainly because he was not getting down quick enough. I boated 7 with the di7. On day 2 Mark put on the di7 and changed to rod that suited him. We had 4 each. This proves the value of the right rod and line!

The next time I’m out there I have a method in mind to try out. I noticed lots of small smelt / fry in some of the fish. I’d like to tie a few weighted imitations and fish them on a floater or intermediate line. Figure of eight them very slowly over the weeds and wait for the takes. It has to work! I tried a similar method briefly on Sunday afternoon and I got one or 2. Also, there were lots of light brown caddis on the water over the weekend. There were a few fish moving on them on Sunday afternoon but not many. I know my father would have picked up a few with his double nymph rig!

Mark and myself had 2 excellent days afloat. The weather only made it better. The spray from the waves while motoring, the gusts, the cold, the rain, the snow, whatever! It did not matter because we had the clothing for it. It’s that simple!

I was hoping to fish some rivers during this month of May, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen, besides a fruitless few hours on the Clutha. This Saturday is my last chance to fish a river before the river season ends. We’ll see what happens! Wakatipu is calling me back too..

If you’re new to this and you like what you see and read, please subscribe at the top right of this page. If you have any friends who might find it useful or interesting please let them know too. I’ve been writing this for 3.5 years now so there is a tonne of reading and info in the archives and I’d love for people to use it. If there’s something specific you want to look up, The Mataura, buzzer fishing or Irish pike for example, just type it in the search box and see what you get!

Later folks..   Ronan..

The Mataura.

May 6th, 2014 6 comments

I realised during my recent 10 day fishing stint that there are 2 distinctly different types of angling which I indulge in here in NZ. One is fishing for fish; the pursuit of incredible looking, usually large, rare specimens. The challenge is in the hunt and the first cast, possibly the only cast of the day. Or it’s in slinging an 8wt di7 from morning till night over a drop-off at a west coast river mouth. The other is fishing for fishing; the pursuit of any feeding fish of almost any size, usually in medium to large numbers. The challenge is in having your fundamentals absolutely right and adapting to keep them right without wasting any time.  It’s easy to get lost in one and forget about the other. I did last season, I got lost in big fish hunting, but if you look at the archives from last March It’s easy see why. I did this season too, but not as much. Probably because there were fewer big fish about. Before my break I realised I was craving some fishing, not hunting, so my 6 days on the Mataura were exactly what I needed… after a quick big fish fix!

The Mataura.

After catching a few fish in a riffle I was happy to stand in the river, watch and wait. 12 noon. An odd fish is moving but I’m not bothering with them. I expect the fish to move properly at about 2. I wait. I stand up on a log to allow my feet to warm up. Waders are essential here, once I walk a few paces from this log there is no place to stand out of the cold river. 1pm. Nothing moving. I’m not moving far, a few paces then back to the relative warmth standing out of the river onto a wobbly log can give. Watching, waiting. Some fish are trying to move but it stops again. 2pm. Nothing moving.. I’m too far from the comfort log now to go back. 2.15pm, a few fish move… lots of fish move. It’s on. Now every cast is to at least one rising fish. I’m casting almost constantly. I resist the urge to walk up passed rising fish to get to more rising fish. I’ll move very slowly and try to have a decent attempt at as many as I possibly can. I’m catching fish. My emerger (or whatever it is) is working well. As many fish as there are moving, each cast needs to be placed in front of a feeding fish. A few inches left or right and my fly will not be seen. I keep casting, keep fishing, keep catching, stay focused… I stop and take a deep breath, a quick glance around, a smirk and back to it. Loving it, utterly engrossed, there is nothing else. This is as good as it gets..

I’ve fished the Mataura from the source almost to the sea. It’s a fabulous river which offers virtually every facet of NZ river fishing. My favourite one of these facets is “the mad Mataura rise”. I’m not the only one!

It was great 10 days off. I fished with 2 great friends, Robbie Mcphee and Mark Adamson. I made a few new friends too at the holiday park in Gore. Russell and John, Great to meet and have the craic with you two. And great to meet and briefly fish with Pat Kennedy on the river. We have some mutual friends. Sometimes the fly fishing world is a small one! Hopefully we’ll cross paths again.

The season is not over yet!

Ronan..

Lake Dunstan at the moment..

April 12th, 2014 4 comments

The browns on Dunstan have all but left the top flats. I was there last Saturday. For a while, a large section of the lake was dead calm. In about 2 hours fishing it, I saw only a few rises. I caught one on one of Dad’s buzzers and then went exploring the Clutha River through the various delta channels. I saw a few fish in deep, fast water but could do little with them. I had some nice action in the lee of a willow island to a few rising fish. All up though, the fishing was slow and the rainbows have not arrived on the top flat just yet.. not many anyway.

On Sunday, Kevin and I went out for a few hours, We decided to fish down the lake towards Clyde. There’s lots of fishy water down the road shore. One section in particular had my attention from regularly driving passed it. We went there. We did a number of drifts covering deep to shallow water, weedy to sandy and some rocky edges. Almost every drift resulted in a fish event. We landed 5, The best fish was a 4lb plus rainbow on a nymph David Lambroughton gave me. I was also fishing one of Stu Tripney’s damsel flies, which also picked up a fish or 2!

So that’s it.. If you’re keen on a day on Dunstan, maybe try down the lake. This time last year the top was very slow. By May, the fishing on the top flat was pretty good again for rainbows. Until then I’ll be exploring between here (Cromwell) and the Clyde dam. Hopefully it will produce the goods.

No fishing this weekend.. I picked up a stomach bug and it has me fucked.

Ronan..