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Monday, 30 July 2018

Fiji 2018 - Trevally in Nasomo Bay

I caught the Sea Bus boat out to the Northern Yasawas, 4 hours and about 80km North of the mainland. On the journey I was enjoying the deep blue water and calm seas. The skipper said that this was the season for trolling for tuna.

When we were almost there I could see the separate islands, and excitedly checked the names of each one against my map.

Deep channels like this one lie between these resort islands. On one of the first nights that I was there a yachtie went out to a channel marker in his small boat, and using a Rapala casting lure, caught a large GT, right out front of the Nayula Resort, at the famous 'Blue Lagoon'. This was very inspiring to hear, as the mighty GT were at the top of my list to target.

Transferring to a long boat I rode to my home-stay with a local family, full of anticipation.

The Location

I stayed at Waitui Basecamp, which has a lovely tidal bay right out in front. This is sheltered by arms of land on two sides, but open to the prevailing trade winds from the East.

The sheltered bay at low tide, showing the turtle grass on both sides of the channel.

View of the bay at mid tide, from my diggs.

High tide in Nasolo Bay

The Fishing

I fished on two days in Nasomo Bay. The Blue-fin Trevally are strong, aggressive fish. The average length of the ones I caught was around 14 inches. They come in with the tide, and Henry Murray from Fly Fish Fiji recommended fishing from low tide on the pushing tide. I found them around the turtle grass beds, just like Henry said I would.

When you’ve got it dialled in, you realise that there’s a definite bite time, and it's not necessary or productive to fish all day. Then this kind of fishing can be quite a civilised affair. You tackle up and wander down to the flats at dead low tide, fish for two or three hours, catch a fish or three, and then walk back for a cold drink at the bar. The typical session begins at the furthest out point that you can walk to, casting as close as you dare to the coral ledge, retrieving over the turtle grass, and waiting for the fish to swim past on the incoming tide. About an hour and a half, or two hours later, they turn up, and you get some hits until you too get pushed along with the rising tide.

This kind of fishing reminded me for all the world of casting over the weed-beds on my favourite New Zealand alpine lake. The sun shone, and sparkled on the water. The fresh South-Easterly trade wind blew over my right shoulder, so I put my back to the wind and directed my back-cast to the fish. The cast did not need to be long. I was standing on the turtle grass patch, and the drop-off into the channel was only 20 feet away. So I'd cast into the channel, let the small clouser minnow sink on a 15 foot level leader for 30 seconds or so, and then retrieve it back up the shelf, and onto the weed-beds with short strips. The fish would hit just as the fly was 'escaping' up out of the deeper water, and over the edge into the cover of the turtle grass shallows. 

This meant that they were hitting only a rod-length or two from me. The exciting fishing occurred when the predatory fish would chase bait-fish around over the grass bed. The little 2-3 inch bait-fish would leap out of the water as the Trevally moved up onto the flat, sprinkling the surface, and showing the direction of movement of the fish. A quick cast 10-20 feet ahead of the disturbance would land my lure in the fishes path, and then a few strips, as fast as I could would often result in a hard grab. These fish were not big, often around 14 inches, and would have been great sport on a 6 weight fly-rod. However, the heavy clouser minnow I was casting, which was the smallest in my collection, needed the 9 weight set-up to get it out there comfortably. And there was no way I was going to hook a large strong fish casting into the channel, especially with GTs around, and then loose it through being outgunned. So I stuck with the 9 weight, and backed off the drag on the superb Sage reel.  

Often the fish hit as one was walking and stripping, and always on the fast strip, never on the drop, or a slow strip. This suggested to me that the faster the retrieve the better. To be honest, many times I wished for a 5 Kg spinning rod to cover the water more efficiently, and retrieve faster. This would have also enabled me to cast far out into the channel, let the lure sink down 20m, and then retrieve it at speed, and near the bottom. Perhaps with a large soft plastic lure. The concentrations of fish down in that sandy channel would have been much less per cubic meter of water than here on the grass. So the spinning method would have again been more suited to covering a lot of water quickly. But I'm a fly-fisherman, and I wanted big fish. I don't own a medium weight spinning outfit, only a small telescopic one, so I'd left that rod at home as being too light weight. Next time I might through it in.

The fringe of the coral reef which you're fishing next to. DON'T STAND ON IT!! As this kills the coral.

Turtle grass flats in shallow water

Once it gets about waist deep it’s time to walk back towards camp, casting as you go. It took half an hour to wade back to shore. I kept a large knife on my belt in case of sharks attracted by my dead fish, but the only hazard I saw was stingrays. Unfortunately they swum into very shallow water and there were no Trevally riding on them at this low point in the tide.

In this photo you can see the water between me and the land. 

There’s a second patch of turtle grass that you’ll discover now, overlooked in the rush to reach the deep water, and a chance of another fish here.

Turtle grass after the tide has come in

The Trevs, or Sanga as the locals call them, are a beautiful fish. Freshly caught they’re silver, to blue on the flanks, with green backs, and rainbow iridescence on their bellies. Well camouflaged with their dark backs and scythe like pectoral fins, you seldom spot them until they’re on the line, and even then, in the water they look a lot smaller than they really are. What they lack in size they make up for in power, and the largest Trev, no bigger than a trout of six pounds, had my nine weight bent deeply and it was a real grunt to wrestle it in.This fish was particularly memorable, and not just because it was the biggest one. 

I was prospecting the shelf edge on the pushing tide, about half-way through a 3 hours session on the 24th of July. As my fly came up over the edge and over the weed-beds there was a swirl, and I saw a dark-backed fish following and harassing my fly. After the pause, I gave a couple more short sharp strips as the fly approached my rod tip, and the fish took! I set the hook with a firm strip-strike, rod kept low, and it took off into the channel. After a very satisfying battle, which went on for 5-10 minutes, I had the fish worn out, and was able to drag it onto the flat, and over the weed beds. I walked it a good ways towards the beach, until it shallowed out, and it got bigger all the way. Dealing with it in knee deep water was difficult, and I was glad for my gloves and knife. Photography was very difficult without an angling buddy to be the photographer.

All up that day I had 6 hits, and landed 3 game fish, as well as the usual handful of 8 inch reef fish with no fight in them. 

I was pleased with the two nice eating Trevally, and also a small Queenfish, which was my first on fly. After the long walk back to base, I got a decent photo taken, with the two Blue-finned Trevally.

And with my host Jerry, who is an angler experienced in the local methods. I asked Jerry if these Sanga were, small, medium or large fish. He thought quietly considered this question. I was hoping that he would say that it was a big one. Then he answered with a quiet confidence, that this was a medium size fish. I guess this is good news, as it means that there are much bigger ones out there.

They’re tasty too, and your hosts will happily fry them up for your dinner. They put on this great BBQ for us that night.

My smallest Trevally at bottom right

The villagers love sea food. I contributed half a dozen fish during my stay which were much appreciated. I've included a couple of images from this daily life of mahinga kai - gathering the food.

A girl takes an octopus from the boat to the kitchen for young chef Duncan to cook up. Delicious!

Tomorrow’s the last day, and I want to try something different, in the hope of a bigger fish. What, that something is, I’m not quite sure yet. We’re heading into the full moon, so the low tide may be extra low, and you never know what species or size of fish that could bring onto the flats.

The alternative would be to switch to the seven weight, counting on wading close to the shelf, and fish the same spot as I did today and yesterday. This can be a good option when one can’t get onto the big GTs and Queen fish that you came for. Simply adjust the tackle down to suit the size of the fish, and enjoy every tug and run. 

I'd also like to try one of my crab flies. These were recommended as being deadly for Trevally by Captain JP Samuelson, who is a South African who guides in Fiji. The fish I gutted had the remains of a very small crab in it, so I know they're eating them. The other advantage of the crab flies, is that unlike the bait-fish imitations, they could be realistically presented with a very slow figure eight retrieve across the sandy bottom. This may not sound important reading this in the comfort of your home, but blind casting for hours with a heavy weight fly-rod, stripping a weighted lure back fast, and then casting again is hard work. If I could get the fish to hit on a slow retrieve then this would make the fishing even more enjoyable, require less casting, and keep the fly in the strike zone for much longer. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Saltwater fly-fishing in NZ

95 cm Kingfish on a #7 trout outfit and cassette reel

I've been salt water fly-fishing for years for Kahawai - Arripis trutta - aka Australian Salmon. I use a 5-7 weight. Last Summer I got on the Kingfish chasing bandwagon. These are the next size class up of salt water predator. Fly-fishing for them them is getting very popular in NZ since Anton Donaldson started writing about them, and guiding for them in the South Island.

I won an 8 weight fly-rod as part of the prize for taking out the heaviest fish category at the Lake Coleridge Opening Weekend competition in 2016, so I took this rod on a week long trip to Northland at the top of the North Island on my Christmas holidays. Unfortunately, the rod, which shall remain nameless, broke on one of the first days I fished with it. Luckily I had my #7 weight outfit along with me as a back-up rod, and so I was able to keep chasing the Trevally and Kingfish on the flats.

Conditions were tough, with no-one catching much. I camped out at one renowned location for 3 nights, and despite constant angling pressure from many fishermen,  no Kingfish were caught. All along the East coast and the top of North Island the reports were the same; hot, still conditions, and very little fish activity.

On the last day of my fishing week, I was passing through Whangarei, after visiting my cousins Cameron and Nathan Adams, who are renowned sea fishermen. Nathan Adams specialises in swordfish and marlin, and also holds the all tackle IGFA World Record for the heaviest Bluefin Tuna! For a job he hand makes Red Gill brand trolling lures which sell for up to $300 each! Check out his Bluefin tuna here;
Cameron told me about some spots around Whangarei, so off I went with about 2 hours left in the trip.

I went down to the beach at the mouth of the harbour and after some exciting sight-fishing on the flats caught this beauty on the #7 trout outfit. The reel was an inexpensive casette type, and I had to apply a lot of the drag by palming the reel!
After that experience I was hooked on chasing Kingfish on the fly.

Since then me and my mates have caught a bunch of other large Kingfish.

My First Golden Bay Kingfish, early 2018

103cm Kingfish

In July 2018 I am off to Fiji to try my hand at GT's - Giant Trevally, and other species of Trevally which inhabit clear tropical waters there. 

I've got a new Sage 8010 Pro saltwater reel, one of their biggest, top of the range ones. It's got 5 different gears, and I can choose the setting that I am after by just turning a dial to a certain number. This will enable me to instantly go from a light drag setting suitable for pulling line off the reel, to a precisely set heavy fighting drag. 

After my experience palming the cassette trout reel, and using various borrowed reels this summer, and losing fish through fiddling with the drag knob mid-fight, I've realised that you need the best reel you can afford for the salt. 

I don't want to go all that way to be messing around with unsuitable equipment. I did a test week salt water fly-fishing with the new reel, at the end of the season, and was very happy with it. Even the Kingfish guru Anton Donaldson was impressed with it.

Thank you again to Tore at Fly Tackle NZ for the support with this top quality Sage and Rio tackle.

I'll be travelling the mainland on my touring bicycle too, which should be really fun.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Interviewed for a River conservation film: "Seven Rivers Walking"

Through my river conservation work I was interviewed for this New Zealand River Conservation Film in 2017. 

I also did an extended feature about industrial pollution of the Heathcote River, which is available in the bonus features section of the DVD of the film.

It is a film about Canterbury Rivers, now showing in Christchurch, and on tour around New Zealand.

For you keen salmon anglers, it features interviews with Fish & Game New Zealand and Salmon Anglers on the Rakaia.

It was a privilege to appear in this documentary talking about Heathcote River protection, which is what I do for a day job as a freshwater advocate.

My focus is Haytons Stream in the upper Heathcote River, near my home in Christchurch.

Haytons Stream was once so clean that wild salmon ran up the Heathcote River to breed in it, but these days I have never seen anything living in it. I am working on that though, and hope to enable fish to return to it one day!

Click here to watch the trailer:

Seven Rivers Walking

I'm going to go watch it at the Tannery theatre tomorrow!

One of the sponsors of this film was my employer, The Canterbury Regional Council.

P.S. remember to enrol to vote in the central AND local Government elections, and make your vote count for clean water for fishing!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Filming Fly-fishing in NZ with the BBC Natural History Unit

In 2016 I was privileged  to fly-fish for the BBC's Natural History Unit in New Zealand.

We flew into a wilderness NZ river with the BBC cameramen and worked hard for a week to capture the footage of the trout taking a mouse fly. Perhaps 80 hours of fishing and work to capture just a couple of minutes worth of the perfect footage. 

They did an amazing job with their cameras and drone, and I'm very pleased with the end result.

Thank you to Tore at for the excellent Sage rod and fishpond waist pack used in the filming.

In June 2017 the BBC posted an extended version of just the fishing footage on YouTube, and my good mate Svend Jensen recently sent me a link to it. I am stoked to see that it has received almost 100,000 views in the year since it was posted.

Check it out: 

The video is called "Huge Trout Eats Mice".

Click here for Youtube video 

The series showed to an audience of 120 Million people around the world. In different counties the 3 part documentary series went by different names, and in New Zealand it's called Wild New Zealand. 

If you were in NZ you could watch the full Wild New Zealand documentary online at

If you're outside NZ, then it can be accessed through the BBC's website.

The BBC documentary makers were real professionals, and it was a privilege to have this opportunity to work with film makers at the top of their game. They had amazing stories from their previous locations, such as the elephants of India. 

They were also surprised to discover that New Zealand is rapidly being transformed into one giant dairy farm. Where ever they went they found paddocks, grass, stock, and lost forests - this is the untold story of NZ which lurks behind the 100% pure marketing campaign.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Winning the Lake Coleridge Fishing Competition in 2016

Around 1,000 anglers, over 200 fish weighed in, the biggest trout wins, and I won!!

My 8.2 pound wild brown trout on fly rod.

This is a great annual competition run by Fish and Game North Canterbury, and sponsored by the Hunting and Fishing NZ retail company.

This was the first time I had entered the competition. I entered to win it, as I needed some new fishing equipment.

There is a great story behind this fish, which was the last fish entered at the weigh-in, just before the time deadline. I will write this story up in future, for a magazine or my book.

This image appeared in numerous newspapers thanks to publicity from Richard Cosgrove at Fish and Game, and also earned me the cover of the Fishing Newspaper, which is distributed throughout New Zealand.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Early February 2015 Co-incided with Buller Aniversary Day & Labour Weekend

I had a lovely trip, deep in snow, huts, freezing cold, long hikes, and a day of cicada sweetness. No other anglers, and heaps of trout, perfect.

When I saw cicadas I was glad I had the right fly from Stu's Fly Shop.

7lb, mad fight!

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