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Archive for Oktober, 2013

Taranaki wonderland

We decided to spend winter in Turangi and take advantage of the year round fishing available in Lake Taupo and some of the local rivers; the mighty Tongariro being the most famous of them all. New PlymouthAlthough the number of fish and their size and condition had been in decline for several years, the fish already caught by anglers this winter season seemed to indicate a remarkable recovery and we were looking forward to being back.

First climbse of Mt TaranakiBut before heading to Turangi, the west coast of the North Island with Mount Taranaki and Egmont National Park stood high on our bucket list. On all the previous trips to New Zealand, we missed out on this spectacular region and it was time to change that. We had seen Mt Taranaki from the top of its eastern neighbour, Mt Tongariro, but from up close it looked even more impressive. 2’518m high Mt Taranaki/Mt Egmont is flanked by two smaller volcanoes and dominates the landscape with its distinctive shape. With the summit being just over 20km from the coast, the mountain offers unparalleled views out to sea and over fertile farmland. The slopes of Mt Taranaki display a unique mosaic of many different types of vegetation, from lush rainforests to tussock lands and alpine swamps. As early as 1900 Egmont National Park was established, covering around 33’500 hectares. Today, the mountain features a visitor centre, several access roads and a great network of walking tracks. Taranaki is also an important dairy farming region and has attracted an unusually high number of settlers from Switzerland. May be the area reminds them of their home country?

Mt Taranaki is an active volcano, research shows that the last major eruption took place in the middle of the 17th century; statistically Mt Taranaki has a major eruption every 500 years.

Mountain Cabbage TreesDawson Falls_Egmont National ParkWe based ourselves in New Plymouth, the major city of the region and with a population of just over 50’000 a very lively place. The area features some of New Zealand’s best surfing spots and if one is keen enough, it is possible to go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. We decided to take it easy and explored the costal walkway with its great beaches. New Plymouth has upgraded its waterfront remarkably and pedestrians and cyclists have an excellent choice of designated tracks. The city is also home to many beautiful parks and even with winter still in full swing, many plants were already blooming thanks to warm weather and a generally mild climate. And we walked some of the great tracks up the mountain of course, enjoying the stunning scenery and the unique flora.

Te Rewa Rewa bridge_Coastal WalkwayCoastal WalkwayNew Plymouth Coastal WalkwayAfter 10 very pleasant and relaxing days, we left New Plymouth and headed east. The Forgotten World Highway from Stratford to Taumarunui proved to be a very picturesque route indeed and we enjoyed the relaxed drive through steep hill country with small settlements and many historical features.

Hinemaiaia catchAlthough the Taranaki region has some amazing fishing for trout on offer, the rods stayed put over there and we were as keen as mustard to give it a go in Turangi. When we arrived, the rivers were running low and clear, usually not the best conditions for good runs of fish. But despite the lack of rain, the fishing improved a week or so after our arrival and the number and size of fish caught were remarkable. We have said it before, if one is seeking solitude and tranquility, fishing the Tongariro in winter is probably not going to be a good idea. Taupo RainbowToo many anglers are keen to catch one of the famous Taupo rainbow or brown trout and the river can get really crowded. The smaller rivers north of Turangi are usually less frequented and we found a new favorite of ours. More of a stream than a river, it was an absolute pleasure to fish. We spent many days along its banks and only twice did we encounter other anglers.

Trout paradiseDuring the first weeks of our stay, the Taurango Taupo River and the Hinemaiaia River, two other personal favourites, did not hold a lot of fish due to a lack of rain. But after a spell of wet weather, the fish started to run up from the lake and we had exciting fishing. Both rivers are a trout’s paradise with deep pools, shallow riffles, long glides and heaps of drift wood and some impressive log jams.

Casting clinic with HerbMany years ago in one of the fishing magazines, we read an article about a special cast, called the Tongariro Roll Cast. The article was written by Herb Spannagl, a passionate fly fisher with an intimate knowledge of the Tongariro River. When we heard that Herb was going to hold a casting clinic, we did not have to think twice and registered for the event straight away. Herb and two of his friends did a great job indeed teaching the cast to about 15 people with Béatrice being the only woman in the group. The Tongariro Roll Cast, like many other casts, seems easy to learn when performed by an expert, but things were looking a bit different when we tried to master it ourselves. Herb was an excellent teacher though and everyone made progress during the day. The two of us will have to practice a lot more to get it right, but mastering this cast is worth all the effort; the Tongariro Roll Cast is such an amazing tool when using heavy nymphs. It is a lot less tiring then a regular overhead cast, it’s faster and it eliminates any danger of the heavy flies hitting the caster. And, like any other roll cast, it requires very little room behind the caster.

House mateWhile in Turangi, we were looking after the house of friends who spent 4 weeks overseas. It was quite a change to have a big house all to ourselves with a beautiful garden full of spring flowers and even our very own cat. Although it was for a limited time only, we thoroughly enjoyed the feeling. Time went by far too quickly and we had to think about the last two months of our stay – after almost four years of travelling, our plane back to Switzerland was going to leave at the beginning of December. After some serious thinking and debating we came to the conclusion, that we should travel south again and spend most of October and November on the South Island before heading back up north.

Leaving WELWe left Turangi and caught a ferry across Cook Strait the next day. The weather forecast predicted strong winds and we feared the worst, but the crossing was calm and no one got sea sick. Our intention was to travel down the West Coast and over Haast Pass to Mossburn in Southland as soon as possible with just 3 nights stopover along the way. While in Reefton, we checked the road conditions to make sure everything was fine. Unfortunately, the highway over Haast Pass was closed again, due to a massive landslide and rock slips caused by heavy rain about two weeks earlier. A camper van got caught up in the mayhem at the time and a young couple from overseas got killed. Because of the size of the slip, it was only possible to open the road temporarily and especially after rain, the road had to be closed again.

Otira Gorge_Arthurs PassKea_Arthurs PassArthurs PassNot knowing how long the closure would last this time, we decided to drive over
Arthur’s pass and down the East Coast.

Sweet fibreglass

Duff Epic S2 Nude 480After many years as passionate fly fishers, we thought there is not much that can surprise us anymore in regard of fly fishing equipment. As it turned out, we could not have been further from the truth.

Friends of ours had been raving about their modern fiberglass rods for quite a while, but as dedicated fast action rod junkies, we didn’t really care. When we came across Carl McNeil’s already legendary NZ made Epic fiberglass blanks a while ago though, we decided to give it a go. All that was needed was a rod builder. Then we remembered having seen Steve Duff’s Kustom Fishing Tools add in Flylife magazine many times. www.duffrods.com.au And we had also noticed that he uses EVA grips on his high end custom made fly rods, a feature the new rod just had to have. Having put together a list with the hardware and the finish we wanted on our rod, we sent Steve an e-mail and he got started. We couldn’t wait to receiving the finished rod, to cast it and to fish it of course. And when it finally arrived, it was like Christmas and Queen’s Birthday on the same day.

And the verdict: Woow! There is life before death after all.

Duff Epic S2 Nude 480_close upOur Duff Epic #4 rod is an absolute dream. The semi transparent white blank, the hardware and the master rod building skills that brought it all together make up for an awesome fly fishing tool. As passionate fast action addicts, we were a bit nervous, but the Duff Epic #4 is a joy to cast. We knew it would be nothing like the old wobbly glass rods and yet the light overall weight, the very smooth, responsive feel and especially the fast blank recovery surprised us nevertheless. Have a look at the stunning range of Epic blanks and other great stuff on Carl McNeil’s website. www.swiftflyfishing.com

We have not caught many fish on our Duff Epic yet, but with the weather getting warmer, it should only be a matter of time until its fish fighting abilities are seriously put to the test. Will keep you posted!

Duff Epic IDuff Epic IIDuff Epic IIIDuff Epic IVDuff Epic VDuff Epic VI

Swift FlyfishingDuffrods

Still going strong

It has been a long time without any news; we sincerely apologize to everyone and promise to do better. So, let’s get cracking, we have some catching up to do.

Oreti RiverMararoa RiverAparima RiverPrevious memorable stays and the love for the far south of New Zealand made us want to go back to Te Anau. And once more we stayed in the shearer’s quarter on Mt Prospect Station, about 25km out of town. We had been looking forward to catching up with our hosts, Rachel and Grant and their 10 year old daughter Ellie for quite a while. Being with them always makes for an interesting time and we take part in the daily station life. Rachel and Grant had an exchange student, a young woman from Thailand, living with them for a year. NZ falconTo our surprise, Luksanaree, the 17 year old student, fell in love with the area and everything else. We expected her to be homesick, being on her own, surrounded by a very different culture, unfamiliar food and a much cooler climate. While we stayed there, Luksanaree had just 6 more weeks to go and was very unhappy that her time in New Zealand had come to an end already.

Brown trout_MossburnEven around Te Anau, usually blessed with a very high annual rain fall, the summer 2012/2013 was exceptionally dry and many rivers were running dangerously low. The fishing proofed to be very good though and we explored a lot of new waters. The weather was good and reasonably warm most of the time, although in early March, we had the odd frosty night already. Big dry fly patterns were still working a treat apart from a few occasions, when fish were being very particular and refusing to eat anything but very small flies. After 3 weeks in Te Anau, we travelled just 60km to the East and stayed in Mossburn for another 9 weeks.

MossburnInitially, our plan was to be in Mossburn for only 3 weeks, but the abundance of rivers on offer close by made us stay till the beginning of May. In the second half of March, it got a lot cooler and the fishing changed remarkably. We still used mainly dry flies, but more and more often the fish would refuse any pattern that did not match the naturals available on that particular day. Especially in the afternoon of overcast days, we experienced prolific mayfly hatches on the Mataura and the Aparima rivers. It took us a while to get it right, but in the end, #16 and 18 Dad’s Favorite, Adam’s and similar patterns did the trick.

Stu's foam willow grubFor several weeks until about mid of April, the fish – mostly brown trout – were at times voraciously feeding on willow grubs in the heavily willow lined parts of the upper Mataura. Big fish could be seen cruising in the long slow glides, gorging themselves on those tiny morsels and ignoring all our offerings. It was amazing to witness how far from its spot a trout would move to get a grub, its eyesight obviously excellent indeed. We only started catching fish on a regular basis again, after we had bought a couple of foam willow grub imitations from Stu’s fly shop in Athol.

These very small flies float in the surface film, are incredibly hard to see and we missed many takes. We loved the challenging fishing though and had a great time.

Mataura River IMataura River IIMataura River IIIApril was much colder than March with many frosty nights and cold, clear days. The poplar and willow leaves turned a striking yellow and started to fall of the trees. We loved the little cottage we stayed in very much and had the open fireplace running every night.

The trout fishing season closed end of April and we finally left Mossburn at the beginning of May.

Lindis PassWe drove back up north through Queenstown and Cromwell and over Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Basin, Twizel becoming our base camp for the next 10 days. The mountains all around had just received a decent dusting of snow and looked amazing. The Mackenzie country – being very dry and showing a unique flora and fauna – has always been another favorite of ours. It has changed quite a bit since our last visit more than 10 years ago though and more and more huge irrigation systems are littering the landscape, dotting the otherwise brown and grey scenery with alien looking, indecent lush green freckles.

Twizel canalsAfter two weeks without fishing, we had our first spell of light withdrawal symptoms and decided to give it a go and fish the man made canals around Twizel. Not a pretty sight by any means, but home to brown and rainbow trout and also to salmon of gigantic proportions, the latter escapees from several salmon farms. Some of the fish grow very big indeed and every year trout and salmon over 20 lb get caught. Those monsters live under the salmon cages, feeding on the pellets that fall through the mesh. We did not get such a giant, but we managed to catch some good fish stalking the edges and casting to cruising brown trout. We also fished with lures and hooked many salmon. Despite the fact, that most of them had damaged tails due to having lived in a cage at some stage, they had beautiful orange flesh and tasted great.

Mt Cook National ParkAlong the way_Mt Cook National ParkMt CookSeveral months without being in a major city had us looking forward to visiting a museum or an art gallery and may be go to the movies. This and the need for a computer technician made us choose Christchurch as our next destination. We have been to the largest city on the South Island several times before, but this was going to be our first visit after the big earthquake more than two years ago. 185 people died when the magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit on Tuesday, the 22nd of February 2011 at 12:51pm. More than 10’000 homes became uninhabitable and by April 2013, the total estimated costs of damage had reached NZ$ 40 billion.

CH-CH rebuild ICH-CH rebuild IIWe had watched the news at the time and saw the devastation caused by the disaster, but seeing the city ourselves two years later, the damage seemed even worse. Just after the quake, many buildings were still standing. Now, with most of the unsafe and damaged structures removed, the Christchurch CBD looked very deserted and alien indeed. And there were still more buildings to come down. Although a lot of machinery was on site, no new buildings had been erected yet. Many of the streets were closed and we walked a lot instead of taking the car. CH-CH_Container-CityOn previous trips, we loved to visit the arts centre, housed in the old university and the Saturday arts and crafts market. But this time, a huge fenced off building site was all we came across. The stone buildings of the old university have been severely damaged, but they will all be repaired and rebuilt within the next two years.

With our hunger for culture satisfied, we left Christchurch and travelled west to Reefton, where we stayed a couple of days and then on to Motueka in Tasman Bay, just west of Nelson. It was raining cats and dogs while we were driving to Motueka and we had to take a detour, because some of the roads in the Tasman District were closed due to flooding and landslides. The weather improved during our stay though and we had a great time catching up with our friends, doing some great walks and a bit of sightseeing as well.