Well, opening day here in Otago was a traditional Southern opening, fresh snow the night before and Southerly fronts hitting throughout the day.
It was quite an eventful day for me, and I shall tell the story.
Of course I'd been looking forwards to this day for a while, and looking forwards to getting back to my beloved Mataura which I hadn't fished since February 2010.
I got a txt about a week before opening day, inviting me to go fishing with a local expert angler and his mate. Would I like to tag along on an opening day trip, they "know all the spots"? Hell yes I do, who wouldn't! :D Especially as I'm new to the district...
Well a coupla days before the 1st of October I txted to confirm we were still on, but there was a little shadow of a doubt about the trip due to the poor weather forecast. That was almost the last I heard from those guys, and the night before the trip was still supposed to be on, but still not organised with a confirmed pick-up time and what not. I couldn't get hold of my guides and drivers the night before or the next morning, and believe me I tried! Mysteriously AWOL, maybe they know some spots that are just too good to share?! :D
Anyways I was working preparing for the trip for days before hand, and still sealing my waders and Goretex jacket the night before as my online delivery of wader sealant had been delayed by NZ Courier Post somehow :( . From about 6pm-2am I glued and prepared, and then got off to bed. Woke at 7am, 5 hours sleep later, (which aint enough!) and got ready. Rung the guys heaps more, but still no answer so by 9am had resigned that it wasn't happening with them today.
Went down to Lake Wakatipu as she was looking glassy and maybe good for a late midge hatch - just as I hit the water the Northerly gusted down the lake and there was no more spotting left. Shit, bloody Murphey's law.
So, I resolved to go to the Mataura by myself as had been the plan, even if I had to hitchhike as it's too far for me to drive and also too expensive. I packed a day bag, and jumped in my van, just back from an expensive trip to the Mechanics the night before. It wouldn't start! A new problem, never encountered before, she sounded very sick. Shit. OK, I was determined. The weather was clagging in bad, but nothing stops a real fisherman on opening day right?
So I started to hitch!
Things were going slowly, it was about 10.30am by now, and far from the early start to be on the water at 8am that I'd been expecting. I had waited perhaps 10 mins, but it seemed like an eternity with the opening day fever coursing through my veins. Drivers were looking politely away from me. I tried to smile harder, without looking maniacal. Perhaps I was a manic angler?
This lady didn't think so. She is an artist travelling around NZ, and I was the first hitcher she'd picked up all the way from Raglan. Miranda Jane Caird. She's a landscape painter and really good! Her work is for sale in Queenstown Gallery, and sells out very fast. Tell her I put you onto her if you buy one of her works! She posed for a pic before she dropped me off at the River...
Go to https://www.facebook.com/JCairdArtist?fref=ts
to see heaps more of her beautiful pics.
So, OK, at last, here I was, at the water! It was about 11.30am by now I reckon, after getting up at 7am to fish!!
I stashed the heavy packpack with lunch etc, and headed upstream, no sign of Angler's vehicles parked here, so that's a stroke of luck! This wasn't my ideal spot, but I figured that anywhere sans anglers on opening day on the Mataura is a good spot!
I only saw 6 fish in the whole 6 hour day, and 4 were in one pool. I cunningly hooked all four of them. Having learnt from the Mataura pools last time, I went for the most upstream and therefore biggest fish first! Rather than trying to pick them off one at a time starting at the downstream end. This first top fish was a solid Jack, pushing 6lbs on the scales! :D
|Released to thrill another angler...|
That's a very wide arbour fly reel, 100mm. And the fish is still much bigger than that, as you can see! Perhaps I should use a tiny reel, so that it doesn't make my fish look smaller? ;-)
I was able to really haul this guy in, as I used 8lb maxima and this new Grey's reel with a really great, solid drag. Therefore, although he still managed to smash his way downstream through the other 3 avidly feeding trout, I got him out of the water before he could totally put them off their lunch. You can tell this as he still has the power to stand up on shore in the first pic.
I was really happy with my improved casting, in the less than calm conditons, I still put the leader in the correct area. Get a casting lesson from Chris Dore - www.chrisdore.com like I did, and then practice heaps, and you too can reap these rewards! :D
The trout were 3-6lbs, probably 3,4,5 and 6lb. Fish #2 took the nymph parallel to me and a little downstream, once again I pressured him to turn him from the snags on far bank, and remove him from the pod, then the hook tore out. It wasn't so well set as the first one, I will try and strike a little slower and more downstream next time. Fish #3 came tail on to hit a swinging nymph even further below me, and I didn't even feel him as I struck way too fast for this kind of take. It was just too exciting watching this large brown trout track and inhale the swinging nymph! The fish still spooked though. The last trout #4 took in the tail of the pool on the swinging nymph blind. It was an acrobatic awesome shiny little fat trout, of around 3lb, jumping several times on a short 18' total of line, and still the new reel gave line nicely, even on a very firm drag setting and it was to hand in under 60 seconds, like the rest I'd say.
It's an interesting question how I feel about having caught stream trout on a reel with a proper drag for the first time in my life today. They couldn't really run, and it certainly made the fight less dramatic. But on the other hand, this technology will make it possible to land bigger fish in tighter water than before using my '99 Loop graphite reel with zero drag system.
It will require new tactics. Like I am learning to wind in the excess line at my feet so that there is only just enough for the cast stripped off the reel, and no more. That means that the fish is onto the reel and it's superior drag system ASAP. The reel can cushion the trout's surges more smoothly that I can with my fingers, especially on a short line like I had today (maybe 23' of line from reel to fish). In fact if I had done this with trout #2, then perhaps that large fish would not of been able to tear the hook out and escape, as I was attempting to hold it on a short leash just after hook-up...
Certainly I was able to release these trout in better condition than usual, as they were on the bank in under 60secs I'd say, still full of life. That's got to be good for the trout.
Some trout are not so lucky. Later in the day I was back fishing this pool again, having walked up stream and seen zero trout in any of the other pools. I noticed a large fish's head tumbling downstream in the current on the bottom of the pool. It was very big. And quite black. Must be an eel's head I thought. But it didn't look quite right... I waded in and scooped it up with my excellent NZ made McLean's telescopic net - http://www.mcleanangling.co.nz/.
It was a sad sight. The head of a beautiful jack brown, recently killed, although not too recently... by the looks of the beginning of the hump on its shoulder, it would have been a really big fish, bigger than any of the living ones that I saw or caught here today. Wish my friends could have been more organised so I could have got here on time to catch and release this one this morning!
That's a LARGE, 1.2m long landing net I've got there, and the head dwarfs it. Obviously I've got no problem with killing trout, I eat plenty, fish are food. But you'd have to be an idiot or very uneducated/inexperienced an angler to kill a trout of this large size and condition.
For those readers who don't know, these large trout in prime condition are our best breeders. They carry the best DNA in the whole trout population, as they have grown large and fast. Just look at that relatively small head, with the massive shoulder hump. These are the fish that we really want to breed to continue to produce a population of massive hard fighting trout. If we kill these big trout, then over time the selective angling pressure is pushing the trout population in the river to develop a small, stunted runt race. Trout which grow slowly, and don't get big at all. Trout that can breed when they are small, and stay small and breed many times successfully, without being killed by anglers for getting too big. This has already happened on many waterways in the world.
Observe the beef farmer. His prize Hereford bull is the biggest meanest heaviest animal in the herd. Does he kill it for its meat? No, of course not. He protects it to live a long life and procreate many times and pass on its superior genes. Ditto the large trout, both male and female.
If one looks at the population of a healthy trout fishery, it is a pyramid. At the base are a large number of baby trout. At the narrow top of the pyramid are a very small number of large or if the waterway is suitable - even trophy trout. There are many many times greater numbers of the smaller adult trout. These are easily replaced. If you want food kill a small trout, under 3 pounds preferably. There are plenty of these in most waterways, and 3 more will be waiting to take the lie of the one that you removed. Not so for a large trout, which has survived many eels, shags, floods and fishermen for years, demonstrating superior genetics. Until an angler ignorant of population dynamics comes along that is...
Anyway, now I knew why I wasn't seeing any fish upstream.
Also, when was this fish caught? The pectoral fins are quite faded and the skin and flesh old looking. This was at midday on opening day. At dawn? Or perhaps even at the stroke of midnight? But who guts and beheads trout in the middle of the night? Mysteries of the Angle.
A few other snaps from the day...
|Sun in the Storm|
|Lunch in some shelter from the Storms|
|Evening on the Mataura|
I found new vehicle Fishing access spots and filed them away in my memory.
Hitched back to the van in the rain. Gotta ride from a farmer who has trout fishing access on his farm.
Drove back to Franktown. Took a tiny 800m detour to Elements to show off the fish pics to Kris Thomas there. Noted a cop had pulled someone over on the main road. Came back thru the road-about and down to my house on Lake Ave. 1km. Got pulled over by the cop 500m from home in the illegal vehicle. Bugger. Jumped out of the van in my waders. Got talking to the officer about the days fishing. Diverted him away from the windscreen to the boot where I had the camera and pics of the fishes. He was just doing "are you carrying your driver's license checks". Managed to talk about waders and fishing and show photos enough that he forgot that he wanted to check my windscreen stickers. Drove away quickly, feeling very lucky. Parked the old van up in the driveway and hope not to have to drive it again too soon!
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