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Expect The Unexpected When Fishing

As a quote, it just about sums up my attitude to fishing; "The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but obtainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope."

I pay more than lip service to the notion that any time spent on the water fishing, catching or not, is quality time. But while fishing is good, catching fish is better.

Most, probably all, fishermen spend most of their fishing time pursuing their fishing dream. Much of the time, catch results are less than dream-time sublime. Truly stand out days are by definition few and far between. When they come around, I treat them as rare treasure.

Most of my stand-out days mixed an extraordinarily fortunate conjunction of time, place and people, with fish. Dream fishing.

There have been the trips to the legendary, unusual, and exotic. But these trips have rarely yielded up an extraordinary mix.

Anticipation kept me sleepless for several nights prior. Finally there, the fishing ranged from very good, to, well, ho-hum. Perhaps the book, web, and video fed preconceptions overfilled the imagination.

Possibly the lack of truly stand out days, at dream locations, was simply that the dream was too far from any chance of turning into reality.

Looking back, most of my stand out fishing days kind of snuck up on me. Like this one.

I was playing truant; a mid-week sortie into the Horomanga River, south of Rotorua, central North Island, New Zealand. All the drive down from Auckland, my head was full of the 12, nah 15, nah 20 pound fish, sulking in the pools, waiting for me to arrive. They had been there.

Not any more, they were not.

In a two hour walk up the river, I saw more fishermen than fish. In the three hour, very tired, many sit-downs, walk out, I saw less fishermen, and less fish.

I actually cast to only three or four fish in the whole slog. I came to believe these fish had seen many more flies than I have, and I saw hundreds every day in my shop.

It was a very tired tackle-shop owner that crawled into one of Graeme and Joan Ryder's bunks at the Aniwhenua Lodge. Tired, but not now too disappointed.

Over Joan's dinner, Graeme mentioned that a guided trip he had booked for the following day had fallen through. Quickly it was arranged that Graeme and I would fill in the time very productively, thank you very much, by jet-boat fishing the Rangitikei River below the Aniwhenua Dam.

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Sleep came quickly. The combination of Joan's dinner giving me a bigger, rounder, happy tummy, extreme tiredness, and no over-promising by Graeme, soon saw the Sandman's magic sleep-potion in action.

This bit about over-promising may require some explanation.

Usually before a fishing trip, sleep comes slowly. The fish of tomorrow keep the brain in high gear, holding sleep at bay.

Not this night. Graeme had done his best not to build too much expectation.

He had explained, there were plenty of fish in the section of the river we were to fish, but they were not usually big. Three to four pound fish would be considered good size. A good day could see five or six fish caught. Five or six weight gear should maximise the sport.

We hit the river next morning, not too early.

The first thing that struck me about this section of the river was it's size. My mind's eye picture was of a smaller river, not the willow-lined almost lower-Tongariro River sized reality.

Fishing here, involved driving the jet boat up to a bank, dismounting, and casting out heavy nymphs into the current joins. Simple enough stuff, if you can cast heavy nymphs on a five weight.

My heavy-nymph casting ability even on heavy gear is not the best. In fact if I am not the world's worst heavy-nymph caster I am running a very close second. My heavy-nymph casting turns the immediate vicinity into a hard hat area. Too many of my casts were going in quite the wrong place to have any chance of producing fish.

Maybe it was this, that decided me to rig up a sinking shooting-head. It may also have been the marked similarity to the lower reaches of the Tongariro, one of my favourite haunts with a sinking line, that helped me reach the re-rig decision.

I tied on one of John Milner's 'Paradise Wriggler' flies, and fired out a cast. The first.

The line swung down below me, stopped, and shot sideways. A fish bolted from the water in the first of many jumps. I meantime doing the dance of the line around my feet fisherman, trying to play the fish on the line, not the reel. I had discovered about the same time the fish took the lure, that the spool was the wrong size for the reel and was in total, backlash threatening free spool.

Despite my best efforts otherwise, the fish came to the net, was photographed and released. Ignoring the wrong sized spool problem I decided to persist.

A few more casts, a couple more fish, a couple and more lost, then on up the river to more pools and runs.

New pools, more casts, more fish, some landed and released, more lost. Sometimes on the wet line, less often on the nymph. We caught fish.

Brave, strong fish these Rangitikei fish. They pulled and jumped like fish I had not encountered before. Their strength and stamina disguising their size.

We reached the point, later in the afternoon, when we had to turn back for home. On the way we came across a wide stretch of river, intersected by a long, just underwater, shingle bank.

We anchored the boat in the knee deep water, in the middle of the bank. I waded out to fish the left side of the bank, Graeme waded out to the right, now rigged with a sinking line. Both of us casting from the middle of the river toward our respective banks.

The fishing had been good, very good, up till this point, but now a truly stand out day was going to be cemented into the memory banks.

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On his first cast, as the line swung into the area where the river rejoined itself, Graeme hooked up. A few casts later so did I. So it continued. At any one time either Graeme or I was hooked up.

We released all the fish that we managed to land, but many fish made the release decision for us.

My enduring memory of this particular session will not be the number of fish hooked, played and sometimes landed, and there were plenty, but of the fighting quality of each fish.

At one point Graeme was onto a fish that just would not stop jumping. He was holding the rod in one hand, his camera in the other, trying to capture a jump shot. Graeme's efforts were fruitless, but he had an incredible number of opportunities.

Diminishing time finally bought the session, and the day, to an end.

I was utterly rapt. I had landed and released over a dozen fish, I had played many more. Graeme was rapt. He at least equaled my catch efforts. He was also rapt about fishing this stretch of the river with a wet line. His fishing here was dominated to the point of exclusion by nymphing. The change of method, not only produced fish, but a change that was as good as a rest.

This was a truly stand-out day. A day that reinforced my growing belief that truly stand-out days happen along when expectation is not at it's highest.

Cadillac nymph

Article written by Tony Bishop


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