Jeff and I hit for the coast early on Saturday morning. There had been a deluge of rain on the coast for a few days so there were no guarantees the rivers or their mouths would be fishable. The weekend forecast was good so we decided to chance it. As expected, the rivers were high and coloured but some were fishable. There were so many whitebaiters about that the coastal fishing looked like it would be pretty annoying with us tripping over them and vice-versa. They have always been very friendly with me and never put out the notion that they own the place so, with respect, we left them to the river mouths and we chose a river.
It was a big, intimidating river; still bulging after the rain but dropping and clearing. There is only one thing to do when faced with such a river and that’s take it on. Don’t waste much time talking about it, just do it.
We took it on with 2 set-ups. Jeff with a streamer, me with a dry-double nymph rig. Before long we spotted one which we did not get. It’s always good just to see a fish in a high, unfamiliar river. It boosts confidence. Not long after I spotted one in tough light, I only just saw the sweep of a tail. I got that fish. Jeff got one in the next pool on a streamer so we were both off the mark. The rest of the day went well. We had a few more fish on all methods, blind and sighted. When we got to a very tough gorge we decided to get out since we simply didn’t know what lay ahead and it was late in the day. We had an hour or 2 on the coast before nightfall after most of the whitebaiters had had enough. Jeff got one bright fish.
One of the my favourite things about the coast is camping with the roar of the ocean and having a raging fire from the abundant driftwood. We drove out to Haast Spit which is just such a location. I have camped here a few times without incident and I expected this time to be the same. On the way to the spot I knew, the track suddenly disappeared. I tried to feel my way around all the debris on the sand but then sank into it! “Bollocks” I said. The sand was grey, damp and in the tidal zone. With the tide rising there was no time waste. With Jeff pushing, and some tactical driving (at least I like to think so!) we got out relatively easily but we were lucky.. It could have been a disaster. A foot to the left and I think we’d have been air-locked into the sand. After that bit of excitement we made it to the camp spot. The sea was roaring and then a full moon broke from the clouds.. I had a moment where I though we should leave. With a spring tide approaching (which I did not notice when I checked the tide times) and the strong on shore wind, something didn’t feel right. I’ve learned something about myself over the years. The reason I take an odd risk is to see if I’ll get caught, and if I do, what will the consequences be?.. this is sort of in my subconscious and I’ve only recently learned it. It’s like something else takes control, giggling as it does so. I put my hesitation aside as I got the fire going and Jeff pitched his tent.
The rain came in hard and the wind blew, but the fire was hot and the beer was cold so we were happy. We were relaxed, chatting about the day and life in general when a wave broke a little close for comfort.. I shone the lights of the car which was facing out to sea. “Fuck” I said. The tide was close and the waves were big and messy. By my reckoning the tide was still an hour from full. Should we flee now? No, We’ll wait a while anyway (giggling inside). I got up to photograph a wave which skirted our camp but instead I ran and jumped onto the spare wheel on the back of the truck as a wave crashed through our camp. It hit the truck, the tent and almost put the fire out. Okay, now I was worried, we were worried. Looking behind us the tide was on the other side of the spit. we were almost surrounded by water. There was probably a route out through the driftwood but we decided to stay. We were on a relatively high point. We’d see it out. Many more waves crashed near camp. We sat on the bonnet facing the sea and watched on high alert, and waited. “I think were out of the woods now” was said many times but the truth was that we weren’t. The tide was high and very close to camp for hours. It seemed like forever. We weren’t out of the woods. Another wave went through the camp about an hour after the first and another after that. If we were parked farther down the beach things would have been worse.. I might have had to try to get out. Our saving grace was the fact that I knew roughly when high tide was, but it all could not have been any closer! We were lucky too..
Finally the tide receded, the rain stopped and the wind died. We polished of the box of beer, high on adrenaline and life with a cranking fire and a bright moon..
Day 2 on the river was much like day 1.