A Heavenly Day of Fly Fishing…

The Glorious Clarence River…

My New Zealand trout fishing season got off to a VERY slow start even though I had returned to New Zealand from Spain in early October (the start of the season in NZ). With numerous hiccups to sort out (Billie the Jack Russell, house & landslip, 1975 Series III Land Rover, etc…) I could not muster much traction for fly fishing. I managed to grab myself by the shoulders, give myself a decently hard shake & then headed South to catchup with mate Chester to thrash some treaured waters. So the fly fishing pump had been primed…

But if I thought my season was slow to get a burn on, my mate Craig was far worse – he had not been out ONCE this season and it was rapidly coming to a close (30th of April). So we hatched a reasonable plan to head out for Hanmer Springs on a Saturday arvo, crash in a campground cabin to enable a 6AM start and cross over Jack’s Pass to the Molesworth Station. Together we have fished much of the Clarence River and bits of the Acheron, but Craig had been up this way at the end of the last season and said there was some damn new sweet water to be fished – not too small, not too big & loaded with character (i.e., lots of pools, drop offs, banks, etc…) and there be trouts.

Molesworth Station Rivers…

When the alarm buzzer buzzed @ 6AM we awoke to a 100% perfect autumn day with a good chill on, but blue skies and no sign of rain or wind – yet. It was a 1.5 hour drive from Hanmer to our desired destination so after a quick coffee fuel stop, we were on our way. The Moleworth Road is, relatively speaking, in fine shape as it had appeared a grader had recently done its job making the road smooth as for much of the journey. And the weather only got better – with a super shiny sun hanging low in the morning sky it was warming up quickly…and still no wind.

Sweet Water on the Molesworth Station

Having arrived @ our fly fishing jump off point, we quickly kitted up to attack the first pool. Craig was being his usual courteous self and offered me the first crack as he said there had been a few fish in there last season. I promptly tied on a blowfly dry with bead head nymph dropper & flicked my line up to the head of the pool & watched the drift…nada. A quick roll cast back up stream and a metre or more to the right – BANG!!!! A good 2-3 pounder on the nymph. But the pool still had potential, so I moved up stream a rod length & cast again – BANG!!!! Bigger fish this time, with a tad more spunk & bluster and again on the barbless nymph. I am always a wee bit superstitious & nervous when a fishing day starts out so good & so quickly as it often times more than nought turns to custard for the rest of the day.

Valley of the Sweet Water Panorama…

But my supertitions were rapidly put to rest as we continued our march up river & continued to hook & spot fish. After connecting with 4 browns, I started to fish a stunning stretch of water and after methodically working several casts from left to right across the pool I saw my dry fly indicator vanish & set the nymph hook & it felt like I’d hooked an anchor or a cinder block. A BIG boy that methodically, with no rush or panic, moved to the other side of the river where there was a decent bank where he proceeded to go up & down in a 25 foot circular beat, all the while I could feel the rubbing vibrations of the tippet through my fly line but no amount of pressure could budge him. He never came to the surface but after about 2 minutes the nymph hook popped free…damn barbless hooks. Last pool of the day we spotted 2 feeding at the very top of the pool so I flicked the blowfly again, about a metre above them & watched the drift…when suddenly, spotter mate Jack yelled “he’s turned!” and sure enough, a fish face & gaping mouth appeared 2 rod lengths in front of me.  But my English/Spanish fly fishing reflexes kicked in (got to be quick on the draw there) & I lifted my rod way too soon & pulled the fly right out of his mouth :-(….

One of the Brownies To The Net…

It was as perfect a day of fly fishing as I have had in a long time – muchas gracias Craig & Jack…so very glad to be home & back in the New Zealand river groove.

Goodbye Sweet Water…We Mos Def Be Back.

 

 

 

Lyttelton Community-Grown Dinner…

The Invite…

If Lyttelton is anything it is a community…and that is community with a capital ‘C’. I have lived here now for over 16 years and I dove right in to the community spirit in 2005 by helping to start the Lyttelton Farmers Market with Project Lyttelton. Project Lyttelton works their community ‘magic’ on a variety of levels from small (e.g., Lyttelton Library of Tools & Things) to very big (e.g., Festival of Lights) so when we received the invite to the Community-Grown Dinner, there was not a nano-second of hesitation.

Top Left: Chef Sturla Talks; First Course – Salad…and Vino!

The Community-Grown Dinner is a collaboration of Project Lyttelton, Chef Guilio Sturla (Roots Restaurant) and of course, the community. The ticket price of admission was 800 grams of food that you have either grown (we donated home grown potatoes & pears from one of our pear trees) and/or foraged locally, which were then dropped off a couple of days before for Chef Sturla to work his culinary magic.

Chef Guilio Sturla of Roots Restaurant Fame Dishes Up Dinner for the Folks…

The meal was awesome, but I’d have to say the community spirit was even better – a wonderous opportunity to meet & chat with old mates & meet and greet some new ones. We hope to get a return invite for next year when the garden (under Hound #2’s superb guidance) will reap even more edible bounty…

Fly Fishing Southland New Zealand….Nice To Be Home.

The Stunning Upper Oreti River, Southland, New Zealand

It’s nice to be ‘back in the saddle’ again after many months of a motionless fly rod. I last wet my fly line in León, Spain back in July 2017 but our move back to New Zealand quickly took on a tsunami life of its own, wiping out most available free time. Returning to New Zealand in October/November 2017 our daily lives became dominated (and still are) by various issues related to our house, Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover, our super dog Billie the Jack Russell and many other hiccups to sort out. 

We have not reached ‘peak chaos’ yet as a friend of ours so accurately described our status, a space where we will begin to feel the gentle (or still bumpy) descent into some form of normality.  But it most definitely felt like I needed a break to thrash some decent trout waters. And I am blessed with a marvellous fly fishing mate Chester (and wife Gillian) who reside in Southland and on their property they have an estupendo granny cottage which is about as perfect a fly fishing crash pad as you could ever want…and they are grand hosts to boot.

After a good night of catchup chat (and a few too many vinos as you do), we arose to our first day of fishing to absolute shite. An ugly Southerly was raging about the place, pissing rain combined with freezing temperatures – an environment which under more normal circumstances we’d have hung home. But we were keen (Chester had not been out this season either) and modestly hungover, so off we plundered into the grey mists, stupidity reigned.

The Oreti was first in the queue and the weather actually worsened the closer we got…we decided on our ‘usual’ beat & plunged into the whipping winds, horizontal rains and numbing temps. Mate Chester had wandered around his kitchen prior to our departure continually repeating the phrase “Do not forget your boots, do not forget your boots” which did the trick – but he forgot his rain jacket. So periodically throughout the day he made a hasty retreat to the truck to get a blast from the heater. I reached peak cold a few hours later when I could no longer tie a fly on due to my violently shaking hands. And the fishing was just like the weather – shite. I raised a fish on the first pool, on my second or third cast & that was the day. Chester irritated a decent brown with a streamer but the day’s fish count (not catch) was a total of 4. Very strange for this Oreti section as a more normal number is closer to 40 or more…could it just be the weather?

Equally Awesome Mararoa River, Southland, New Zealand

Day 2 saw us back @ the Oreti with a chalk & cheese kind of day compared to the first – sun, blue skies, little wind and almost warm temperatures. We fished the next section up & with near perfect conditions for spotting, we were hoping to see & of course catch more fish. But the river gods were not so kind – though the weather was totally different the fishing was still shite – I raised & hooked one on a blowfly which quickly achieved long distance release and Chester did not do much better. And again, with perfect conditions, we saw a total of 4 fish. Our working theory was that the previous week’s floods had possibly pushed the trout down river to other sections…

Too Crowded Oreti Beach…

As we wound up our second day of water thrashing, the back of my casting hand had developed quite a swollen muscle lump as it has been 4 or more years since I had last cast a 6 weight rod for 5-6 hours (mostly 2 or  3 or 4 weights in England & Spain). So we opted to have a rest day and dose myself with some anti-inflammatories in the hopes all would come right to finish the week out on the Mararoa River. We busied ourselves with Chester’s weekly supply runs to Invercargill, a drive along the oh so crowded Oreti Beach (not) & a damn decent fish & chips lunch.

Top Left: Southland Humour with Mircowave Mailbox; View up the Mararoa Valley; Fish On!; Kitted Up & Ready for Action!

For our last day on the water, all had come right as my hand was sort of back to normal and the weather had stuck on the nice side of the spectrum with sun, decent temps but just a wee bit of gusty winds. On our previous 2 days fishing on the Oreti we saw no other anglers, just cyclists on the new cycle trail. But the Mararoa was another kettle of fish – first 2 access points had been snatched by anglers and what looked like a guide prepared to climb the Himalayas.

We snagged the next access point & we hit the water quick snap & were very happy to see that the didymo levels were amazingly tolerable as after a decent flooding you can find it coming down in sheets. But once again, the fish numbers were depressingly low – I managed to hook & land one decent 4-5 pound brown on a blowfly and Chester hooked a 4 pound rainbow on a streamer. But other than a few tiddlers (Chester also landed a 1 pounder & I had aggressive smacks by wee ones) that was the day. I guess that’s why it is called fishing…

Hoping for some more piscatorial adventures before this season wraps up in April…