So I took my one fly, met up with a friend who had never saltwater flyfished before (Jim Curry a fellow AAPGAI flyfishing instructor) and took to the road. The AAPGAI World Tour of New Zealand (South Island) as we affectionately described ourselves.
Our first location will remain nameless. Not because it was so, nor because it's a secret, rather simply because I can't recall the name.
It was an estuary somewhere half way up the West Coast. It looked fishy – if that counts for anything (which it doesn't) - and by all accounts there should have been sea-trout, kahawai and mullet there (all of which are fish). There may even have been so.
We did meet this dude when we first arrived, who was netting the place - which alarmed us greatly, until he took great pains to point out, that if he ever catches a sea-trout, which of course he never does, he immediately returns it unharmed and doesn't knock it on the head and eat it. He obviously thought we were officials (a mistake anyone can make - especially with our hats on).
This chap, I'd like to point out, single-handedly removed all of the mullet from the estuary.
After he had raped the estuary and gone home, both Jim and I flyfished into the darkness. The tide was high and rising. Neither or us had a take. A couple of things did happen though:
Firstly, I nearly got washed away (much to Jim's amusement) and, just after darkness had fallen, Jim whispered:
"Paul; do they have seals in New Zealand?"
To which I whispered back, "Yes Jim, they have seals everywhere… why?"
"Just shine your torch down there for a moment."
And I did and right beside him was a large black rock.
Later that night, around the campfire, Jim and I got to discuss where we had gone wrong. At some point during the proceedings, we came to the conclusion that none of these fish were worth catching anyway and that we would much rather catch a fish of our own… The Mugwai.
From this point onwards our saltwater quest took on new dimensions and although we presented a large Deceiver to a plastic bag eating trout, our saltwater flies remained largely untouched.
Until, that is, our tour took in Dunedin Harbour.
We had a brief try in the basin itself. I looked for a feature of course and found a jetty off which we caught nothing (as expected) and so we drove to the nearest tackle shop for some local expert advice.
Apparently there are salmon, barracuda and mackerel in the harbour and we were directed to the place where, "if this was America boys, they'd be lined up shoulder-to-shoulder it's so damned good."
Out of this nirvana, Jim foul hooked a baby fish and tried to claim some degree of success. Other than this nothing notable happened. It was evening and the tide was on the flood.
Lastly our tour took in the estuary of the Mataura River. "Full of sea trout and possibly mugwai." The tide was out and so were all the fish.
Now look, both Jim and I are professionals, especially Jim, and we both make a handsome living out of teaching flycasting and trout fishing. We understand fish behaviour and we know the signs to look for when fish are feeding.
I have never seen any sort of intense saltwater activity and I have been doing this on and off for seven years. Occasionally I've seen the odd baitfish leap out of the water followed by a chase of a trevally in the Noosa estuary. But that's about it and on the AAPGAI World Tour, neither of us saw any activity and came to the conclusion that there just weren't any fish anywhere.
So I've asked The Panel some pretty awkward questions:
I'd like to get specific with these questions. I'm going to concentrate on estuaries for now and would welcome some advice here. There are kahawai and seatrout in the estuaries.
- "when should I be fishing these places in relation to time of day and time of tide? Does it matter?"
- "how do you cope with waves? and...
- any mugwai flyfishing tips?"
I felt that the mugwai in particular was a splendid question. The last questions seemed to have them all in agreement apart from Gary, of course, who suggested I fished Canada - which I am now seriously considering btw…