Fly Fishing New Zealand - The early season run down 2020/2021
It's about 3 and a bit weeks into the 20/21 season and she's had a little bit of everything so far. I'm sitting at the dining table at Enty's place in Richmond, 8am Friday morning with the second mug of coffee about to go down, plunger coffee at Tony's place, Fin the 10 week old Labrador pup is snoring in the corner and Entwistle is on the phone to a local angler who has just called for some advice on his dry fly fishing as it sounds like yesterday there were a few missed chances.
My season kicked off with Neil from Sporting Life in Turangi, the weather played a big part in our plans, effectively equalizing plans A, B, C & D and any chance of overnighting it somewhere so we hit the upper end of one of the locals and got into some hard hitting rainbows.
We nymphed below a small indicator on the way up and fishing was good but not what has come to be expected from the stream we were on so as we neared the final few stretches off the day I switched reels to the Euro setup and instantly went bang, bang, bang, 3 on the Trot then on the return walk home hit some of the pools we had fished up and smacked a few more beautiful rainbows before heading home.
Kit of the trip:
Rod: Sage X, 5 weight
Reel: Redington I.D 5/6 Reel
The next morning I packed up Sage Van and headed for the far North of New Zealand on the 10 hour journey from Turangi to catch up with Salt Fly Fishing Maestro Paul Mills and to check out the beautiful Hells Bay Boatworks Marquesa Skiff all the way from the glades of Florida.
To say the area was beautiful is an understatement, an amazingly feel at home kind of pace of life for me in superb company with Millsy and Sarah, set around incredible beaches nd a swag of fishy looking water.
Millsy has been at the forefront of fly fishing for Kingfish on the fly around the Manakau Harbour for a number of years now and a couple of years ago made the move North to take on some new waterways and I was fortunate enough to be getting to be part of the research and development process on this journey and it was a beauty.
We set off early each morning to hit the incoming tide, eyes scanning the horizon looking for the intense bursts of surface action as baitfish fled for their lives, sprayed across the gin clear glassy water like machine gun strafe. It was mesmerizing carnage.
Millsy's boat was purpose built for what we wanted to achieve on this trip, being able to glide over the flats silently, poled from high by the skipper allowed us to get close to shallow feeding fish.
The highlight of this trip was Paul spotting a big pink Tail from a distance, head down munching away, Millsy edged the skiff in closer to the danger zone, the tail had disappeared from sight for a brief moment before breaking through again to give itself away as it fed, "He's at 2 o'clock AB, make the cast, lead him a bit AB" I make the cast which thankfully rolled out perfectly, "Ok, let it settle AB.......wait......wait......ok twitch it, twitch it, yup, he's seen it, he's coming........ he's got it, STRIP STRIKE".... I make the strike and the hellish weight explosion comes on...... Millsy looks back "You got him AB?......You fucking got him AB?" "Yeah mate he's been liberated"
As this beautiful pink predator peeled line in an attempt for freedom, it was bro hugs all around as line screamed off the reel. This was a good time and one I will hope to repeat many times over this summer and beyond. Cheers Paul.
Kit of the trip:
On the journey home I received a call from Emilie, "Are you home? I need some fly fishing" "I'll be home tomorrow, see you in Turangi"
After a stop over in Auckland to catch up with family, I arrived home. The next morning Emilie arrived having slept the night in her camper somewhere between Auckland and Turangi having made half the journey after work. before the eyelids could take no more.
After a quick freshen up we loaded up the truck and set off to get Emilie back in to the swing of things. She'd had a bit of a layoff after leaving the crew at Fishermans Loft in Christchurch and heading North.
A bit of casting rust was worked off and Emilie broke in her new rod on vicious Central Plateau rainbow who was hell bent on launching itself into the bank on the far side to bust her off but Emilie played it like a boss and the first fish after her extended hiatus was to the net and banked.
We picked off several more through the day before heading in to town to catch up with a good crew and tell lies and partake in some liquid grape therapy.
Kit of the trip:
Reel: Sage Trout Reel 5/6
The next morning we were invited on a mission with Pat Nepia who had recently returned to live in Turangi after an extended stay in Australia and Garth Oakden of Tongariro River Rafting to swing the lower Tongariro. It was mostly a mission of exploring time frames of the trip and how much fishy water there was for the Spey enthusiast to work through.
The weather had cooled dramatically overnight and the cloud cover had set in with misty drizzle with us all day but when the day includes dirt tracks, rafts and side by side CAN-AM's you know it's going to be a good day.
The fishing was fantastic. I went with the single hand spey setup which for me is my Sage X, 9 foot 5 weight. This rod I have fished pretty much on everything to start the season and with any technique, Dry, Dry Dropper, Indicator Nymphing, Czech Nymphing, Single Hand Spey and Wet Lining. It's my first rod packed every and any time without fail and no hesitation in saying if I had to have only one rod, Sage X, 5 weight, but there should never be a time in your life when you only want one. :)
So I rolled with the #2/3 Rio Trout Spey Line (Yellow) which is like a Scandi styled line and a Rio Versileader tip to match with a fairly short leader as I wanted to fish deep, I'm pretty sure my tip was a 5 inch per second tip and a flesh fly which in my mind I thought was a a good smelt style pattern that the new to the river fish would have no issues with having a go at and the plan worked perfectly, I hit most of the fish late into the swing which justified my plans of getting deep and the fish to the net were quality, silver and angry. The trip was a success and Pat and Garth got a run on the swing and fished it extremely well, exciting times ahead.
Kit of the day:
Reel: Redington Rise III Reel
The next leg of the journey was 5 and a bit hour journey to Gisborne, to talk at the Gisborne anglers club, I was intending to catch up with Cory Scott but work plans saw him head south and the chance to have a go at some big South Island Browns was something he couldn't turn down so he linked me up with super good bugger Paul Badger who arranged a few nights away in the camper on some of the incredible waterways.
After the club night we set off in the Camper, the weather forecast was looking a bit grim but it looked like we should have a good chance of getting some fishing in on the first 2 days.
Paul knows his rivers and we pulled over to fish a beat for a few hours before we would head further up stream to make camp. There was a bit of colour to the water stillh from previous rains but the Badger put us in a good spot for a spot of Euro Nymphing and it wasn't long till the rods were bent and hard and I truly mean hard fighting fish were flying out of the water, refusing to come to net without a fuss.
After an intense session we set up camp for the night, Paul got to work on one of his legendary curries which went down a treat before we popped out for an evening rise which saw a good number of fish hitting the top water and I was hooked up with a night acrobat flailing away in the dark on the end of my line.
Overnight the rains came in heavy, we awoke to a river that was still very fishable but changing colour, we set off from the camper to fish as far as we could before it seemed like a safer idea not to be fishing.
Day 1 was all rainbows but the start of day 2 was all about Brown Town, I had 2 stunning browns in quick succession in the pocket water then Paul went to work on a nice stretch that Cory had told him he should pull 7 from there, he did and it was super to watch him go at it. We hiked for about another kilometer upstream and I had some really good rainbows again out of some remarkable pocket water before mother nature hinted that it was probably time to call it a day and we did. Not long after the river started to really push up and we decided that it was time to pack up camp and make trails back to Gisborne. It was a very good call as the river had completely changed by the time we were halfway out. It was a brilliant trip nd thanks to Paul and Cory and the Gisborne Anglers for amazing hospitality.
Kit of the trip:
Reel: Redington I.D 5/6 Reel
Line: Rio Euro Nymph Line
I was home from Gisborne for a couple of days before I had to start my journey south to the Ferry, heading to Nelson for a Demo day with the Nelson Trout anglers club.
On the way I stopped off in Wellington to catch up with Braedan De Lange who was able to head out with me for a morning on his local. Wellington sure had turned in it's Windy Wellington persona, there were some solid gusts accompanied by stinging rain.
It was awesome that our schedules finally aligned to do so. Braedan has been doing big things lately and is now a part of the Semperfli Fly Tying Products Pro Team and he had been on an early morning conference call with other tiers from around the world that morning so was able to give me a full information download on some of the cool new fly tying products due our way soon.
I had one of the strangest experiences I've had for a while with a fly rod in hand but the probably more appropriate term for it is a right fuck up of going ons with a solid brown taking the tiny nymph below the dry and off the bend of the beaded nymph on a well placed cast. The dry went under, I struck, everything was tight and as it should be, but no movement, everything stayed calm, there was no fish thrashing about, no reel screaming just calmness, apart from the roaring Wellington winds.
I turned to Braedan and asked "Do you think I've snafooed that rock edge just in front of him?" "Don't know mate, it looked pretty good" I gave the rod a couple of little get the hell off that snag flicks and turned to chat to Braedan, line still taught, rod still bent when mid conversation the rod handle began to turn in my hand and old Brownie slinked past me, eye balling me as if to say "Fuck you A.B" fly in the top lip and he slinked down stream still hooked up but in no panic.
I kinda just eye balled him back,, doing nothing, a little bit stunned before he finally came to life and made a rocket like bee line to the scrub and busted off.
The only thing I can figure is that we were using a Fiberglass rod and as i set the hook the rod and light tippet just flexed so much that it absorbed everything and there was very little pressure on the fish. But that's just a guess.
It was agreat time with Braedan but unfortunately only a short time so I'll make sure I get back on the return leg home.
That afternoon I caught up with the crew at Hutt Valley Hunting & Fishing where they had been pumping out the gear from the Semperfli wall then I hit the Ferry for Picton which was my hairiest ferry ride to date with some lovely winds doing their best to try and topple old SAGE Van as we boarded.
I arrived in Picton and decided to settle in for the night before heading to Blenheim for a stop off with the Hendersons crew then over to meet up with Tony and head to the park for a casting demonstration with the Nelson Trout Anglers Club. It was an awesome turnout for the casting night and the next night for the club gear auction.
The morning after the casting club, Tony and I set off for my first session on the South Island since plans were delayed earlier in the year and it was a good re introduction to South Island fishing on a beautiful small stream and it was so good to be wet wading again. Tony kicked off the campaign with a lovely brown rising to an Adams on the edge of a fast riffle and coming to the net.
It was a tough early first day on the day water with a fair number of fish not interested in feeding, dry flies and nymphs not even inducing a flutter of interest before the afternoon got a bit of action underway and some bends in the rod.
Kit of the day:
Rod: Sage X 9 foot , 5 weight
Reel: Sage Spectrum LT 5/6
Day 2 and Tony had puppy training so Cameron Reid and Zane Mirfin picked me up and we shot off for what was a fantastic dry fly session, hungry browns sitting high. Again an Adams dry accounting for everything. We fished dry or dry and dropper for the fish that wouldn't come up and most of them through the day wanted to play ball but not all of them stuck :)
For the first time this season I had the Sage LL Rod out, this is my dry fly and really light nymph specific rod and it is world class, incredible fun to cast and play a fish. It's a lot softer than the rest of the Sage range and very light.
I had a new Rio Elite Technical Trout Line waiting to get it's first shot at presenting a dry and holy shit it was incredible, hitting the water softly abd on point.
Between laying out line at distance we had a run at some of the less fished water with the Euro Nymph setup, we got into some stunning browns in the deep water, Zane landed a beauty on a technical bit of water and he did it with style.
It's now early afternoon as I finish this blog and it's time to get ready for a Trout Spey Session showing some of the crew how to get around the 2 handed rods before we pack up the van and head further south for the weekend.
Kit of the day:
Rod: Sage LL Rod
Reel: Sage Spectrum LT 5/6b