I've had a pretty good week in terms of the actual amount of fishing done, which may happen to explain a few things, but hey this is a flyfishing site and the owner's got to fish sometime :-)
Owen River Lodge
For the first half of the week I based myself in the up and coming Owen River Lodge with the important task of assisting in the local fishing research and trying to catch Roger (Roger being the uncatchable fish 100 meters from the backdoor). The lodge hasn't actually been completed. Its owners are a nice, young couple: Nick and Maree. There is a little puppy there that eats whole chicken legs, his name is Mr Fish, and the Owen River itself is a fairly renowned river. I'll definitely pop back again and catch Roger when the lodge is finished.
In fact I'm popping back Monday to fish with Nix anyway.
So how do you catch uncatchable fish? Well firstly you come back at night when it's dark and you take your biggest dry fly out of your box. It's very important that your first cast hooks a tree on the backcast. This is an essential requirement. You then proceed to put down all the fish between you and the uncatchable fish. Then once you have reached "Roger", somehow you manage to present the fly correctly and the fish will take at once, much to your total surprise. Once hooked you start to question whether you have indeed caught Roger or a much smaller fish out of an identical lie. At this point your fishing buddy, Jim, manages to flash you with the camera, successfully both blinding you and failing to capture the moment.
I'm still teamed up with Jim Curry from the UK on a bit of a mission. Last week we met a couple of Tassie dudes whom we had both bumped into separately before, and not one to let life's co-incidences slip past, we decided to hook up together and do some serious fishing. One of the Tassie dudes is a guide (Garry Castles) and so he really knows his stuff, the other dude is his son, Aaron, and he really knows his stuff too. So when we all blanked on the Buller River it came as no surprise to anyone involved.
It was quite a fun day actually; I teamed up with Garry. He's just done the bungy jump and has lost all fear entirely. How we managed to cross the river exactly I can't say for sure, but we did. It was too high, too swift and too slippery. That's too much of everything, maybe in some obscure that was why we made it there and back.
Determined to actually catch some fish together we subsequently went on a combined fishing trip up the Wairau valley into the back of beyond. It's a private road you pay twenty bucks to drive and the drive itself is more than worth the money. It reminded me a bit of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, if you've been there.
The first really large fishy hole we came across held some really large fishy looking things. "Doubles" we conservatively estimated, as you do, and we decided to set about them. So Jim and Aaron attempted crossing the river in order to put theory into practice. However the river was too swift and they both very nearly got washed away. I was ready with the camera.
Something very interesting happened however and the fish spooked. I have never before seen fish spooked by anglers crossing upstream of them (not out of sight anyway), but this is the only explanation and is one reason that you should bring your waders and not wet wade, especially if you happen to be Jim Curry.
From the high cliff we sat down and watched the fish. Not all the fish were spooked and there were a few left milling about the pool. There were five fish between ten and fifteen pounds, one of which, I am not kidding, was eating a plastic bag.
At first Jim and I got excited and thought that we had encountered our first mugwai. Surely trout don't eat plastic bags? This is something we would naturally only associate with mugwai; mugwai will eat anything. But after close and intense inspection the fish did indeed reveal himself to be Salmo Trutta.
So we took out our largest saltwater fly, the one that looked most like a carrier bag, and flinged it out to the fish. Now in retrospect this seems like a rather strange thing to do, but hey this is flyfishing and I'm sure that if I ever get old enough to smoke a pipe again, I'll sit around some table joined by Jim and some other AAPGAI dudes and we'll talk about when we tried to catch trout by imitating plastic bags, and all the other chaps will nod approvingly and one of the younger blood will even ask why we didn't hook up a Woolworth's bag and set about them with that, and Jim will say "what and bait fish?"
Had it not been for the complex drag situation, and Jim's smelly polyprops, I think that one of us would have caught those fish. One of them even moved over 20 feet to look at the 2/0 deceiver. Haven't seen that before either.
I feel extremely fortunate at the time of writing this. Life's a pretty amazing thing even when you are not flyfishing. We camped out at an elevation of over 1000 meters. Normally there's not much in the way of colour at these dizzy heights, apart from green and brown. However this was certainly one of my most memorable experiences and I get heaps believe me. There were flowers everywhere. In the past I haven't been much of a flower man myself (although I am growing my hair – not true actually; I'm just not cutting it), but these flowers sure were pretty. Little white, yellow and orange flowers all looking up (at the clouds). Even the moss was flowering.
I caught a couple of fish of course – back to flyfishing. Had rather a nice 5-pound(ish) brown out of the Wairau on a large dry fly and pinged a beaut on the Rainbow and then in the evening we all descended upon a small hill lake. Unusually for NZ there was a spectacular rise and not one of us caught fish. We tried everything. They appeared to be on sedge, but it could have been buzzer, in fact for all it mattered it could have been plastic. We all got skunked :-)
The AAPGAI cap
It is true; the AAPGAI cap does indeed appear to be cursed. Although it has now caught one fish, I don't feel that the curse has been broken and partly because of this and partly because I look like a dickhead in a baseball cap (doesn't everyone?) I'm returning it to Jim.
I've asked the Panel how to deal with estuaries, kahawai and mugwai and I've had some interesting answers and, curiously, questions. One thing is for certain unless my pursuit of mugwai takes on the chopstick angle they are all going to be of no help to me in this regard whatsoever.
I'm shortly going to be heading back down to that place of wondrous beauty, Invercargill, so that I can go catch some salty species out of the Bluff Harbour.
Arden's Underpant Coffee
Following the highly successful launch of Arden's Underpant Coffee last week I have made the movie so you can try this at home. It's quite a large file but I think you'll find it worth the download time :-)