Archive

Posts Tagged ‘NZ Trout fishing’

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.

North again

All things come to an end, even the good ones. After having spent almost a year in New Zealand already, it’s time to travel north again; we have to catch a flight from Auckland in a couple of weeks. On the way up along the West coast the weather is deteriorating and we miss the breathtaking views along the coast.
Just after Haast, passing one of the many road works, an oncoming car is speeding and the stones from the rough surface are flying all over the place, giving us quite a fright and smashing our windscreen with a loud bang. In Nelson, we have the windscreen replaced and our car serviced.

Just before we leave the South Island, we get the exciting news that our car and our boat will both be waiting when we arrive in Sydney. In January, we started looking for a car and a small boat for our Australia trip. Thanks to our friends at Travel Car Centre in Sydney we came across a Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier and, after a bit of negotiation by phone and e-mail with Pius, its very friendly owner, we bought the car without having seen it. Getting a small boat without being in the country wasn’t much of a deal either. After having read many reviews in different fishing magazines, the two boats in our favor were the aluminum Quintrex Hornet Trophy and the composite 4.1 Steve Starling Signature CrossXCountry. The light yet strong construction of the CXC boat, the quiet ride it provides and the possibility of having many features customized to ones needs made us go for the rig from Brisbane. The slightly lower price and the fact, that the boat is built by a small company, being as important for our decision. Bill from CXC was great and thanks to his help and efforts everything worked out very well indeed.

Crossing Cook Strait on a brilliant day is always a pleasure and we enjoy the ferry trip very much, but not without a little bit of sadness in our hearts. But now is not the time to be sad; we are looking forward to meeting friends in Taihape and to doing some amazing fishing in the surrounding rivers. Martin, our friend, is guiding us and we enjoy two great days in the most beautiful country. We will definitely be back and explore the area much more.

The next day, a Saturday, Taihape is busy with people. The gumboot festival attracts a colorful crowd and gumboots throwing, dog barking, whip cracking, a wearable art contest and many other attractions entertain young and old.

Time is running fast now and we head for Auckland. Thanks to dear friends we have a safe place to store our car until we return to New Zealand and then it is time to say good bye. We had the most wonderful time in Aotearoa once more and hope to be back very soon. Many, many thanks to all our friends, we miss you a hell of a lot.

Australia, we are coming!

 

Brown trout territory

Mossburn, close to some of the best known brown trout rivers in New Zealand like the Oreti and the Mataura, is our next destination. The cottage we found trough the AA guide proves to be even cosier then expected and we fall in love with it at first sight; a perfect base for our trips to the surrounding rivers.

As avid readers of Flylife magazine, we noticed Stu Tripney years ago, a Scotsman who made NZ and Athol his new home. He seemed to be a bit crazy, a very good and passionate fly fisher and fly tier and a pretty decent bloke. Stu’s fly patterns are already well known in NZ and Australia and the choice is impressive.  www.stusflyshop.com

When meeting Stu in person at his well stocked tackle shop in Athol, we are greeted by a friendly guy with a smile and a great sense of humor. Stu and his dad George are a real handful and we have sore tummy muscles from all the good laughs we have in their company. Later in the week Stu is guiding us on the Mataura. The water has just cleared enough to be fishable with a dry fly and despite the poor visibility our guide points out many fish; to our embarrassment we miss most of them. But, as Stu assures us, we have not broken the record for missed fish – we are very close though. We have an unforgettable day in great company and learn a lot and yes, some of us get wet balls as well.  Thanks for all Stu and George, we hope to see you again happy and healthy!

When travelling in New Zealand, one will come across possums sooner or later; the most likely encounter being road kill. The Australian brush tailed possum was introduced into NZ in the early 19th century to establish a fur trade. A lack of natural predators and bush fires and the abundance of food resulted in an explosion of the population and possums became a serious threat for many native plants and animals. The cute marsupial from OZ proofs to be a real nuisance and the Department of Conservation is doing everything possible to reduce its numbers and the impact possums have on the environment.

A trip to New Zealand is not complete without having been in Fiordland. We do not have to travel far from Mossburn and our next choice of accommodation proves to be a true winner. Finding a place to stay in Te Anau in high season is difficult and the only options are very expensive. After searching the internet for a while, we come across Mt Prospect Station, a mere 20 minutes from town. As it turnes out, it is the best thing that could have happened. We spend the next two weeks in the stations shearers’ quarters just a stone’s throw from the Whitestone River and with impressive Mt Prospect right behind the house. The quarters provide all we need for a very enjoyable stay indeed. Mt Prospect website

The fishing in the Whitestone River is outstanding and we have a ball catching Brown and Rainbow trout on dry flies. Lacking the pressure of Stu’s presence or more likely his positive impact, we get the timing right and hook-ups become common again. As always, we fish barbless and notice once more that very few fish are lost as a result of a missing barb. We spend many days on the Whitestone and neighboring rivers, enjoy our riverside lunches in the most scenic places and love the great feeling of being tired after a long day out on the water.

One memorable morning Béatrice spots a fish minutes after we have reached the river; the big Brown sitting in knee deep water in front of a rock. Her first cast is spot on, the fish does not hesitate and slowly pushes its large head with the jaws wide open out of the water and over the fly. And then all hell breakes loose! Feeling the sting of the hook, the trout zigzagges up and down the pool and jumpes high into the clear morning air several times. Bugger! The fish looks huge out of the water and I doubt that Béatrice will be able to land it. But after several minutes of good rod work the fish gives in and she lands a beauty of a Brown trout jack, the scales of the weight net showing just over 7lbs.

And we visit Milford Sound again of course. The drive to the sound alone is well worth doing, such diverse are the landscape and the natural features along the way. Watch out for Keas, when waiting for the green light in front of Homer tunnel. The cheeky mountain parrots seem to love the attention of people and they definitely love to play.

Rachel, Grant and Ellie, the young couple and their daughter owning the farm and our very friendly hosts, give us an interesting insight into a working back country station and make our stay become home away from home indeed. Many thanks to Peter and Sandy as well! We miss you, guys.

While staying on Mt Prospect Station, the second earthquake occurred in Christchurch; we were shocked and very sad when we heard the terrible news. Knowing the city and the places we saw in the news very well, we felt close with all the people affected by the catastrophe. Let’s just hope the worst is over now.

Wild, wild West

Falling in love with the West Coast of the South Island is easy. The remote beaches are wild and beautiful, the vast forests appear almost untouched and glaciers and magnificent rivers take your breath away.

We reached the coast in Westport, after an interesting drive with great views up the Wairau and down the Buller valley. Cape Foulwind, named by Captain Cook due to difficult conditions when sailing and situated just south of Westport, is an important breeding colony of NZ fur seals. The cape lives up to its name in a different way when the rather unpleasant smell of rotten fish greets the
approaching visitor. At the time of our visit the seals were having their pups and the entire colony seemed to be busy and nervous. Seagulls were looking for a feed of seal pup and cheeky wekas tried to get their share when we had our cliff top lunch.

Next stop Punakaiki. The pancake rocks at Punakaiki are a feature not to be missed when driving along the coast. Despite being a very busy place, the pancake rocks are well worth a visit. Layers of hard limestone and softer sandstone have been eroded over thousands of years, forming an impressive maze of what looks like fossilized stacks of pancakes. In some places, erosion has created vertical shafts and at high tide water gets pressed up through these narrow blow holes and shoots up high into the air, sounding like a blowing whale.

After travelling another 40 km further south, we made Greymouth our base for the next two weeks. Fishing was on the schedule again and we spent memorable days on some of our favorite rivers.

Leaving early one morning, a beautiful sunrise is greeting us while we are driving up the Grey valley. Mist is hovering just off the ground and turning the landscape into a land of fairies.  We leave the car on the stop bank along the river and have to fight off the sand flies while putting on our fishing gear. The water is running low and clear and after about ¾ of an hour we spot the first fish of the day in the shallows of a long pool. The big brown is slowly patrolling its territory and disappears into the depths every few minutes. We wait till the fish is out of sight and I sneak up to where it used to reappear. After several minutes kneeling in the shallow water and keeping a low profile, the fish comes back and takes station again. The first cast works out well and the dry fly lands slightly above the fish.  A close look is the only response though before the trout starts cruising along again. Another pattern is tied on and the same procedure repeats itself 3 times.

After more than half an hour my knees are getting numb in the cold water and I am getting desperate. One more try! I tie on a size 12 Royal PMX and place the fly in front of the fish once again.  And this time my fly gets nailed immediately. After a strong battle up and down the pool, Béatrice is able to net a beautiful 7lbs Brown trout. What a start! We get several more fish that day and when we return to the car late in the afternoon, we come across two wild deer drinking water out of the river.

After having had such a great time, we decide to return to the same river a week later. We are lucky and pick a great day with brilliant blue skies again. We start fishing further up then on our previous visit and spot a good fish after may be half an hour of walking. It’s pretty windy by now and we have to wait several minutes until we can make a decent cast. The fly lands spot on, the fish is approaching its prey, but refusing our offering. The next cast brings the same result. What about a fly change? We decide to try it one more time. No reaction!? But hold on. The big Brown is turning, follows the drifting fly very slowly and inhales what’s supposed to be a tasty morsel in slow motion. As slowly and relaxed as it took the fly, the fish turns again and wants to swim back to its spot. Suddenly feeling the weight of the tightening line, the fish becomes very much alive and with an outburst of speed heads for the opposite bank which is full of driftwood and tree roots. I desperately try to stop the rampaging fish, but it is only when I start applying serious side pressure that the fish slows down. But it is not over now! The Brown suddenly turns around and starts swimming downstream.

Not down the rapids please! My knees are trembling and I apply as much pressure as I dare. To no avail! There is no holding back now and with the rod held high I try to follow the fish. Crossing the river in a hurry, I am more than close to falling in several times. The trout has reached the pool below the rapids by now and, because I am that much higher up, the leader is pulled over the rocks. And within seconds the inevitable happens: the line goes slack! For a couple of seconds a terrible feeling of total emptiness takes over and I have to sit down on the nearest rock. After pulling myself together I reel in the fly line. My remaining leader looks utterly shredded and I am able to pull the butt section apart without much effort.

We land 6 fish that day, all of them Brown trout between 4 and 7lbs. On the way back to the car we get another surge of adrenalin. A herd of water buffalos is feeding right along the river; we got to know the aggressive bull on our last visit and are very scared indeed. The water is too deep to cross to the other side and we sneak along the bank in the water, keeping a low profile all the time. The farmer gives us a smile as we recount our ordeal and tells us that the bull took down three fences and killed another buffalo not long ago.

Reefton Gold

While in Tasman Bay, we fished wonderful rivers like the Motueka, Riwaka, Cobb, Baton, Pears and the Wangapeka and had lots of fun and many hours of sheer pleasure.

In the beginning it wasn’t easy going though. We had to fight our frustration when spooking several fish in a row and had to hone our stalking and presentation skills after several months of very different winter fishing on the North Island. A very careful approach, sometimes on our knees or even on our tummy, and leaders up to 18’ in length made all the difference. Even the heavy butt section of a leader, when landing with the slightest splash close to a fish was often enough to see it heading for cover. A long tippet and shorter casts with the fly landing close to the fish proofed to be best. After having managed the basics again, we couldn’t wait to get to Reefton, one of the favorite fishing grounds of a good friend of ours.

Reefton and the surrounding countryside are rich in history. The area has been extensively mined for gold and coal for almost 150 years and fascinating remnants of mining activities can be found almost everywhere. In its hay days Reefton was a bustling town, being the first in the Southern Hemisphere to have its streets lit by electric lights. Mining is still a major source of income for many today and the Pike river mine disaster end of last year has again reminded us of how difficult and dangerous the work of a miner is even in our modern world.

And then there are numerous rivers and creeks, most of them running through native forest and home to Brown and Rainbow trout. Larrys Creek, Stoney river, Waitahu, Montgomery, the Upper Grey, the Little Grey, the Rough and many, many more provide more fishing opportunities than one can explore in a lifetime. It’s not all easy going though and sometimes a couple of hours of fishing have to be earned by twice as long a hike in and out again.

The weather was sunny and warm and we enjoyed some great fishing. With high temperatures in spring and a warm start of the summer, the cicadas were around much earlier than usual and we had some exciting fishing with big dry flies by the end of December already.

Many of the fish we came across proved to be quite particular and we had to keep changing patterns and try many different dry flies to be successful. One of the patterns that has been working best by far for the last 3 months is a fly shown to us by a friendly guy in the Hunting & Fishing shop in Nelson: the Royal Parachute Madam X or RPMX. This pattern in sizes 12 and 14 has become our most successful dry fly.

When in Reefton, we like to stay at the Bellbird Motel, a laid back place run by Malcolm and Alison, friendly hosts who like to have a chat. Alison is a very talented and passionate artist and visiting her gallery in High Street is always fascinating; we hope to have a piece of her work in our home one day. www.alisonhaleartist.vc.net.nz

The mine disaster showed once more the spirited nature of the people on the West Coast; Reefton was no exception and the local Dawson Hotel organized a speed shearing competition to support the families of the miners. Some of the world’s best sheep shearers including several world champs showed their skills on a Saturday night and it took the winner of the day less than 16 seconds to shear a sheep. The crowd was in a very good mood and the event a great success with thousands of dollars going to the Pike River Trust.