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