With the regular trout season coming quickly to an end, coupled with me having had a guts full of house projects, I made the executive decision to go for a decent, final fish with my mate Chester in Southland. So I packed up Gertie my 1975 Series III Land Rover & toddled South…and I mean toddled, as it was a long 9 hour road trip. After a delicious Sunday night feast & a decent catchup, we headed for bed to get a good night’s sleep so we could do battle with the Southland trout.
We awoke to a day that, weather-wise, could not have been any better – no clouds, blue skies, decently warm temps and NO WIND. So we hustled our bums out the door as New Zealand weather can change in a, well, New York minute.
Looking at the water flow charts & post a quick river inspection as we left Mossburn, we decided to fish the Upper Oreti to start the week off – hopefully with a bang. All kitted up, we fished our way up stream with modest success – a 6+ pounder to the net, but very few fish spotted in what were perfect conditions. Chester & I both thought something was definitely amiss, as our usual fish count was more in the 30-40 fish range in that amount of fishing time.
The Oreti had a wee bit of excess water in it & it had a smidgen of colour, but not enough to put fish down or off their feed. A week or so before it had had a bit of a fresh, so we decided to explore a different section of slightly calmer water on the idea that they may have migrated there to escape the rough waters.
As right decisions go, we could not have been any more righter. We found stable pools with decent water flows (not any sign of flooding like the Oreti) & best of all – trout! Working our way up the these series of perfect pools with deep cut banks was a joy – first fish took a blowfly from the surface & set off on a leaping frenzy & looked to be about 8 pounds. A beautiful take it was too — as happens with many good things as well as bad, it all seemed to happen in super slow motion. I saw him rise from the bottom, silver head shining as he opened his jaws to gulp the fly & turn & return to his post. The day finished out with 4 more fish in the 6-7 pound range – now that’s a start with a bang!
We awoke Tuesday to yet another stunner of a day (the rest of the week would be ditto) & decided to hit the Upper Oreti again, but work upstream from where we’d finished the day on Monday. And as good as Monday was, Tuesday & the rest of the week was as dead as a door nail. And we could not figure or sort out why…we postulated that since it was spawning season for the browns that maybe they’d gone off the feed & were just looking for sex. Or maybe the previous week’s decent flooding had pushed them to other parts of the river. We saw no fresh footprints on either day, so we could not put it down to other anglers thrashing the water before us.
Given Tuesday’s blank trout day, we opted to make the Mararoa River our designated destination as it holds a decent population of rainbows who were not ready to spawn until May, and therefore might offer us a better chance of a hookup. But we’d misread the water flow charts & it was a raging torrent when we pulled up to its banks. Oh well…we had already come this far, so we drove on to the headwaters of the Oreti in hopes we might have access to some decent water which we did, but we were also buffeted by almost gale force winds. So we retreated to another Oreti access point & Chester saved us from another blank day with a 4+ pounder to the net.
On Thursday we decided to attack a couple sections of the middle Oreti (we had done an inspection the day before & water was crystal clear) but it proved to be as devoid of trout as our 2 previous outings. Always a bit of a puzzle – perfect weather, stunning water with loads of character but no trout. I did spot one – a weird one @ that – sitting on his belly in about ankle deep water with his dorsal fin in the air.
For our final day we decided that rainbows needed to be found so the Waiau River was the pick of the day. Our first section of the river was a dude, with neither one of us, despite fishing hard, touching a trout. After a great fish & chip lunch, Chester said we were going to a spot where some rainbows were guaranteed – a section of the river where a backwater joined the main river flow making it an excellent spot for rainbows to hold…positioned in the slow, zero current back water but poised to make a quick dash into the main flow for any passing comestible. And Chester fished it hard for half an hour with a streamer, throwing his entire fly line down to the backing out into the main current & letting it drift, and then swing round before stripping it back. Zilch…zero…nada. I guess that is why it’s called fishing…
P.S. – I know I ended this post by saying I guess that is why it’s called fishing, but I wanted to comment on the tragedy of the state of our waterways. In just a short 10 years our freshwater waterways (and salt water too I imagine) have witnessed severe & serious declines to the extent that many waterways are unfishable, unswimmable and certainly undrinkable. And in my opinion & I think many scientific opinions & evidence state that it is primarily because of dairy, intensive agriculture and forestry. Federated Farmers & Fonterra will scream they are not to blame for much of it, but methinks doth protest too much as the reports show, 40% of our waterways flow through rural agricultural & dairy land while only 1% flow through urban areas. I see photos almost daily of cows standing in rivers, streams or lakes having a big piss & poo fest, algae blooms in waterways from low water levels (over irrigation extraction) & massive fertiliser & chemical runoffs and massive sediment clouds in waterways from poorly planned developments & outright idiotic forestry works. And it boggles the mind that New Zealand could have and still does treat its most precious resource – fresh, drinkable water – so tragically bad and to add insult to injury, even sells it to the Chinese for pennies on the dollar to be exported. How much dumber than a fence post do you have to be to not only permit that, but promote it? They say water is the new oil & I think they are right. New Zealanders have a history of passivity but I can only hope the average punter in New Zealand is finally getting mad & will not take it anymore and gets up off their arse and does something…even if it is just to write an email or letter & let the morons in charge know that you care and want things to change.