New Zealand 2017-18 – North Island stillwaters – Part 2

There had been little in the way of rain coming down on New Zealand for quite some time, but now a lot of it was on its way, accompanied by very strong winds. I thought it might be a good idea to hunker down for some days, but my friend Andrew, who had just escaped his family’s poolside holiday in Australia, was on his way in his campervan, without any intention of letting a storm stop him from going fishing. I was afraid everything would be “blown out”, but according to Andrew this weather could lead to some fantastic fishing. I decided that Andrew, a local kiwi fly fishing hero, probably knew what he was talking about. And, after fishing on my own for a while and having started to give names to the odd fish, I was looking forward to, and probably needed some human company. So, we braved the windy downpours and headed out to a nearby lake that we knew had some big fish in it. The water level in the lake was rising steadily and the winds made the weeds dislodge and move about, disrupting the delicate balance for fishermen, bugs and fish. This meant that there now was a lot of food for the fish suddenly floating about, and the fish knew about it! Trout could be seen hunting in water that would be considered dry land only days before. It did not take long before we started to hook up to rainbows in the 5-6-pound range. We fished from the shore for the rest of the day, hooking up to a good number of fish, with quite a few lost in the weeds as well. It was on this day I changed the fly setup that had worked so since my arrival, consisting of a big dry with two nymphs below. With all the weed now floating about, I had lost more flies in a couple of hours than in the whole previous week. So, I changed to a single fly, either a damsel fly nymph or a small wolly bugger. It would also prove to be a highly effective method.

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© Andrew Harding
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The following morning the weather was looking much better and patches of blue skies could be seen on the horizon. The water levels had increased even more during the night, but was now on the way down again. It was time to launch the fabled Takacat inflatable rubber boat that Andrew had recently enquired. It would transport us to new parts of the lake that was inaccessible from the shore. The high water levels had submerged swampy areas that was now teeming with insect life. As the sun broke through the clouds the damsel flies started to hatch in great numbers, and the trout started to rise and boil all over the place. We both waded from the shore, on new and exciting flats, often casting towards the shore at passing cruising brownies. It was in this way we both caught a nice brownie each. We also fished from the boat, one casting while the other maneuvered the boat, drifting along the weed bed edges. Both proved to be highly effective and exciting methods. Before the day was over we had both landed a substantial number of fish, mostly of the feisty rainbow kind. After a long day we ate some food and tied some flies before turning in, dreaming of what the next day would bring.

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On the 3rd day we started off the same way and I immediately hooked on to a nice 3 kg brownie. We then headed off to a corner of the lake later to be dubbed “Andrews point”. While I had gotten off to a great start, it was now Andrew who suddenly seemed to haul in fish at every cast. It did not take long before he was approaching double figures, while I had “only” caught the 3 kg brownie. When he suddenly hooked on to yet another fish I must admit I was starting to get a little bit frustrated. But when I saw the giant freight train of a trout that he had hooked jump out towards the middle of the lake, I was excited like a little child once again. We both screamed and yelled, “It must be over 8 pounds!” etc. There were some other boats out on the lake and the scene did not go unnoticed… After a rather hefty fight the monster was netted and weighed in at a whopping 5 kg / 11 pounds! A new rainbow personal best for Andrew, congratulations! I don’t remember much else from that day, but I think Andrew caught some more and hit double figures also on number of fish, while I hooked on to some “tiny” sized 5 pound fish.

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It was the last day of fishing with Andrew, at least for now, and he could only fish until lunch before having to head back to work in the city. It was a complete stunner of a day, with little wind and clear skies. Andrew let me take point, and as I was fishing my way up along the shore line, I suddenly heard the distinctive sounds of a drone behind me. Andrew had recognized the favorable conditions for some cool drone shots and would also use it to spot fish for me. It didn’t take long before I heard him yell: “A little to the left André… NO, go right… NO… one at 10 o’clock… watch it!… hang on, there’s 12 of ’em!… F**k it… just cast anywhere…”

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© Andrew Harding

I did see some of them, and even foul hooked one. But it was kind of difficult under these circumstances. The fish knew I was there and would not be tricked easily. Andrew got some spectacular shots with his drone, revealing a truly staggering number of fish prowling about in the shallow water. After landing his drone Andrew caught a stunning little chunky 6 pounder of a brownie, before we both started hooking into more of the 5 pound rainbows. We even got our first double with said 5 pound rainbows. Andrew had to return to the city and decided to fish his was back to where we had started. On his way he managed to hook and loose 2 giant brownies, one emptied his backing before breaking off. A nice way to end some mind-blowing days of stillwater fly fishing! Fishing with Andrew had been a total blast, but now I was left to me own devices again.

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As luck would have it I finally got an almost cloudless night and tried to do some astrophotography for the first time with my new GH5. Let’s just say I need more practice, but some of the shots came out rather cool. When waking up the following day my mind was kind of reeling after all the magnificent fly fishing experiences. Under normal circumstances, such things would have taken months to process. But here I was up in fly fishing paradise, with rising giant trout all around, so no time for that sort of stuff! On this day I would have some of the most amazing fishing yet, landing a total of 7 fish. The smallest was 2,7 kg and the largest was my best rainbow ever, weighing in at 3,5 kg! Some of them also took big dry flies, including a couple of 3 kg + rainbows. Later in the evening I reported back to Andrew and not long after I got a message that he was on his way up again the day after!

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So, we were back at it once again and Andrew totally slayed it this time around. He hooked on to 7 fish, several on big dry flies, and not a single one below 3 kg! For me it was one of those off days with lots of spooks, failed casts and wind knots galore. Still nailed a few though, but they looked like minnows compared to the ones caught by Andrew.

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© Andrew Harding

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After all this insane stillwater fly fishing, I was completely battered, both physically and mentally. I needed some variation, and dreamt about tiny jungle creeks, with cute little trout in it, that I could sit and observe for a while, before having a go.  It would turn out that my dream would come true and exceed my wildest expectations. Next day in paradise, coming up soon.

 

 

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