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.
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.
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.
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 :-(….
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.