Archive for January, 2011

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.

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.


The Cobb

There is no shortage of magnificent rivers of every kind in the Nelson/Tasman District, in fact it’s a brown trout paradise.  And we are on our way to one of those rivers, the Cobb. A blue, cloudless sky promises a great day and when we meet the couple joining us, everyone’s expectations are high. The drive over Takaka Hill and up the Takaka Valley is very scenic and soon after leaving the main road we enter Kahurangi National Park. Signs along the unsealed, narrow road lead to remnants of early settlement and mining activities and the beauty of the surrounding native forest is stunning. After an hour and a half we arrive at the saddle above the Cobb reservoir. In a distance we can see the Cobb River entering the head of the lake, surrounded by an impressive backdrop of high mountain peaks covered in fresh snow. Half an hour later we arrive at the road end and are surprised to find several cars already parked there. We try not to be too disappointed, but are prepared to find the river already occupied by other anglers.

A basic walking track leads up the valley and, following the advice of another fly fisherman, we decide to walk for at least an hour before we start looking for fish. The valley floor is covered in patches of native beech forest, scrub and grass land and everyone is enjoying the scenery. After a little more than an hour we can’t help ourselves any longer and walk down to the river and start searching for fish. Not long and the first big Brown trout is spotted. Getting it to take one of our flies is another story though and after many fly changes we move on. A ripple further up looks promising and is fished blind with a nymph. A chunky little rainbow cannot resist and is quickly released. Despite the river looking very promising we can only spot a couple more fish that day and don’t manage to catch much. Good company, a yummy riverside lunch and the sheer beauty of the place make more than up for the slow fishing and we can’t wait to be back. Not just because we see some very big fish on the way back to the car!

Tasman Bay

There are so many things to see and do in the north western corner of the South Island that we could spend months here.

Most of our time was spent doing some of the great walks and fishing the pristine rivers of the area. One of our all-time favorites is the Abel Tasman coastal walk. The scenery changes constantly and secluded golden beaches, bubbling streams and native forest with Nikau palms and tall tree ferns make the Abel Tasman a very unique experience. The entire walk takes several days to complete, with numerous camp sites along the way and the possibility of getting back to the starting point by water taxi. An option we choose when walking the track on a previous trip. We only did a one day walk this time and spent most of our day sunbathing and watching the abundance of different seabirds.

A couple of days later we drove into Canaan on Takaka Hill and to Harwood’s Hole. Harwood’s Hole is a huge sinkhole washed out of limestone rock over millions of years. It’s 50 meters wide and 180 meters deep and abseiling into the dark abyss is an adventure enjoyed by cavers and thrill seekers. Close to the hole is a rocky outcrop with a great view down into the Takaka valley and the mountains beyond. On the way back to the car we came across several Powelliphanta snails, an ancient, carnivore snail species with a beautifully marked shell.

Harwood’s Hole is part of an underground system providing water for the largest spring in Australasia, Waikoropupu Springs, with an average discharge of 14’000 litres a second. A viewing platform with an underwater mirror allows an insight into a magical world, looking like an underwater garden. Water plants in all shades of green and red, native eels, trout and many other creatures share a special eco system with a constant water temperature all year round.

Many of the rivers flowing into the bay attract marine live, especially at high tide and the fishing for Kahawai and other species can be nothing short of outstanding. We picked what turned out to be a good day on one of our last visits to the Motueka river mouth. Flocks of Seagulls were diving into the water and small baitfish were jumping out of the water all around us when we arrived. We got into fish within minutes and the action was red hot for about an hour. Kahawai of up to six pound took our shiny lures with vigor and put up a spirited fight on light spinning gear. Many fish attacked the lure several times before eventually hooking up solid. Our aim to catch them on fly was not successful that day though, with the fish staying in the middle of the river, just out of casting range. Bled properly, Kahawai make very good table fare indeed and we enjoyed a delicious feast of fresh fish that night.

Mount Arthur and the surrounding peaks in the Hinterland of Tasman Bay offer many more hiking opportunities. So one day we drove up to Flora Saddle and walked to Mount Arthur hut. The track from the saddle up to the hut leads through magnificent beech forest. A late spell of snow and heavy wind caused a lot of damage just weeks ago and the forest floor was littered with branches and the odd big tree. With an increase in altitude the plant species changed and more and more Mountain Nainai appeared.

The sound of numerous birds filled the air and inquisitive South Island Robins and a cheeky Weka joined us while we had our lunch at the hut. On the western side of the ridge the vegetation changed again and scrubs rather than tall trees dominated for a while. Further down the track beech forest took over again and we even saw a Morepork or NewZealand owl, an unusual sight in bright daylight. Back at the car park at Flora Saddle, two American tourists arrived in their camper van, looking pretty shattered. The steep and narrow gravel road was obviously too much for them and they turned around after a quick cup of tea without enjoying the breathtaking view.

We spent another exciting day on a trip to Farewell Spit in Golden Bay. This sand spit, about 1 km wide and extending into the sea for more than 20 km, is of great significance as roosting place for countless seabirds. Black swans can be seen in huge numbers and there is a breeding colony of seals. The spit forms the northern boundary of Golden Bay and its very shallow inner beach proves fatal for stranding whales from time to time. We walked along the sheltered bay side of the spit and crossed the desert like dunes to reach the rougher, exposed outer beach facing the Tasman Sea. The wind was howling and we got sand blasted and backpacks and cameras got filled with fine dark sand all the way back. Walking along a beach and looking out for all the weird and wonderful things the sea has spit out is one of our favorite pastimes. Shells, driftwood of all shapes, pieces of rope, fish skeletons, beautifully marked jellyfish and even a lounge chair were just some of the treasures we came across.