What all this means is that the fish are incredibly spooky (I’ve even heard that some refuse to eat in daylight hours) and I’ve quickly realised you just about get a maximum of two casts to a fish before something in the wind lets it know you’re there. It then either darts off up river or bunkers down and ceases to feed. I guess you could say New Zealand has become a victim of its exceptional fishing reputation and the size of the fish. In the end you just have to adapt and be prepared to walk long distances to get away from the easy access points. Even then there’s no guarantee that you will find fish in the most pristine and trout suitable water you will ever see. Just yesterday I walked a total of 21km with Takahiro, a Japanese student I met at my camp site, and we spotted four fish. Even worse, the dreaded helicopter (I have seen or heard them every day here since I arrived) could deposit a wealthy angler ahead of you after you’ve trudged into the wilderness.
I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. Indeed there’s just something about seeing large fish and the promise of catching a 10lb’er that makes it all worthwhile. This has to be the most challenging and rewarding place on the planet to fish for trout (I’m yet to be fully rewarded mind you). Hopefully the above will help anyone intending to come out here for the first time by getting expectations in the right place. Get fit and be prepared to walk! Improve the accuracy of your casting and work on spotting fish. You will in all likelihood cast to fewer than five fish a day (especially if you are fishing with a partner) so make your casts count!
On Monday Takahiro and I fished Larry’s Creek, one of the more well known rivers here and easy to access from a gravel road and walking track. We spotted good numbers of large fish (about eight in all) but all were ultra spooky and we had no success. Two anglers who came up behind us suggested 6x tippet is the way to go but I don’t know, 6x tippet on a 8 or 10lb trout would probably last just as long as if you were using cooked spaghetti.
|Takahiro on the Haupiri, casting to a large fish just visible at the right of the image|
Yesterday we fished the Haupiri. As I mentioned earlier, we only spotted four fish (in about 7 km of river - with the walk in and out we covered 21km). Takahiro had his chance on the largest, a fish of about 7 or 8lbs, which came up and took his yellow Humpy. He struck too soon and pulled the fly out of the fish’s mouth. That was his only chance all day. I got to cast to a fish spotted in a deep pool. I tied on a heavy nymph 8 feet under my dry and after several casts through the swirling eddy the dry fly dipped and I lifted into one very surprised brown trout. This was someway up a tributary called Cone Creek, a series of tumbling rapids between pools, and the fish used the rapids to its full advantage by heading downstream. I’m not sure I would have been able to net that fish on my own. It weighed 5lbs. That’s two fish in five days of fishing - you really learn to savour them!
Today is a rest/provisioning day and tomorrow we will hike out to fish a really remote river. The only way to get to it is to walk (it’s in a declared wilderness area so helicopters are not allowed in). We’ll take our tents with and spend 3 nights out there and hopefully get a chance or two at large fish a little less accustomed to humans. The weather forecast looks good and I’m excited! Until next time.