I have just returned from a week long fishing trip in the central North Island of New Zealand. The fishing was not easy, the river I was concentrated on, the Tauranga-Taupo, was very low and clear. The weather was sunny and mid-Summer hot.
Despite that I managed to keep myself busy catching fish in and around the old and current size limit, 45 & 40cm (18” & 16”).
But last Thursday night, preceded by a torrential rain warning from the met office, the rain duly came down, every bit as heavy as forecast. It rained all night stopping at dawn. The river rose by 4 to 5 feet, and spread itself out as it saw fit.
But by late morning the river dropped 3 feet as fast as it rose, and even though the water was still muddy I decided to try a technique I had used years ago in the same type of situation. I wandered down the bank swinging a Black Woolly Bugger into any little backwater, or under banks, big enough to shelter a fish from the torrent. And I hooked an awful lot of fish. I lost most, if the trout got out into the flood it was all over. Thing was, many of the fish landed were considerably bigger than those I had caught or seen in the preceding days.
Towards the end of the day I ended up at the Cliff Pool armed at last with a camera. Here the river pours straight down, hits the cliff and does a right turn. It is a big pool, in the flood, very big. The force of the flood hitting the cliff produced a big eddy.
I was not expecting much, but dropped a couple of little Caddis nymphs into the eddy, which when they reached the bottom were snaffled. That fish made it into the main current and left me behind.
It seemed that every time I dropped the flies into the correct drift a trout grabbed it. Some I landed – some taught me me who was boss. There must have been many fish stacked up in that backwater. Finally it had to end, darkness and mosquitoes sent me back to my cabin.
The photos show two fish, one around 58cm(23”) & 52cm(21”).
I have just one question to ask myself about this episode – where in hell do all these bigger fish hide when the river is low and clear?
For a new article on fishing after the flood go here.
In a word, ‘stunning’, is the best way to describe this new book of photographs on fly-fishing in New Zealand.
In his introduction, Bob South, award-winning editor of Fish & Game New Zealand magazine, makes a case that Zane Mirfin’s superb photography confirms that New Zealand, head-and-shoulders above anywhere else, warrants the tag The Last Best Place for fly-fishing. South maintains that Mirfin’s uncanny camerawork allows us all, even the most cynical, to know that, in terms of fly-fishing, we’ve certainly come nowhere near the stage where all is lost here, either in the pollution-susceptible lowland systems, in didymo-invaded mountain streams, or deep in the fragile backcountry. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Zane Mirfin – fishing guide, author, and award-winning photographer, has captured the essence of what makes fly-fishing in New Zealand unique and special. Over 100 remarkable images reveal the drama, splendour, and excitement that is fly-fishing in New Zealand. The images stand alone as a feast for the eye of any angler – each worth more than a thousand words. Each telling its own story.
In place of the usual narrative, editor Bob South has selected quotations from angling icons, writers, and celebrities to complement each of these stunning photos of The Last Best Place.
A New Zealand woman’s claim to a world fishing record has came with a twist in the tale. Earlier this week, Sue Tindale of Auckland caught a bluefin tuna weighing 219 kg’s (483#), setting an unofficial world women’s record.
But she may have only held it for a matter of minutes, as another Kiwi woman also caught a whopper the very same day. Lyn Salvidge’s bluefin tuna weighed in at 223 kg’s (491#) – an astonishingly four kilos more.
"To sort of have two ladies weighing in a fish together was amazing," Ms Salvidge says. "So they put Sue’s fish up at 219 and I was looking at mine thinking oh, so I was really quite nervous."
Despite losing the record, Ms Tindale was not at the very least envious of Ms Salvidge’s four extra kilos.
"I just did the fish for myself and Scott anyway," she says. "And I just wouldn’t swap the adventure. And good on her if she beats me, it doesn’t worry me at all."
The two tuna very nearly beat both keen game fishers.
"I’d never felt anything so powerful," Ms Salvidge says. "I mean, I’ve caught marlin and stuff before, but never anything like this. This was like a horse."
"The bait got cast and just about instantly we were hooked up, and I thought ‘oh no.’" Ms Salvidge says. "This fish just about pulled me out of the chair and then the fight was on and it took three and a half hours."
The Tindales say it will be tuna for dinner every third night from now on. Of the 219 kilograms of tuna, 180 kilograms was cut off for eating.
It will be a few months before the US-based IGFA world record scrutineers verify both catches.
(Footnote: It can only be guessed at how many thousand dollars these two fish might have fetched on the Japanese market – but it is highly illegal for non-commercial fishers to sell fish in New Zealand.)
It was a great idea – head down to Taupo for an extended week-end of early Winter fishing before the really bad weather kicked in. Even better was the fact that my middle son Jason, could join me for the Saturday and Sunday. Well that was the plan, Stan, but the dirty digit of destiny stuck one finger in the air, skewing the plot.
I left Auckland for the usually 3.5 hour drive to Te Rangiatia, south of Taupo at 4am, but halfway down to Taupo a bout of food poisoning erupted, literally, slowing progress to a stop-start crawl – the 3.5 hours turned into 7 hours till I finally arrived and crawled into bed, heaving and moaning like a beached whale. Not pretty!
But next day, Sunday, I sprung from my cot full of the joys of living and Jason and I headed off to the Tongariro. We fished hard for most of the morning with only a reasonable fresh run fish to me. Jason decided to head up-river to a piece of water he spotted on the way down.
I laboured on for a while, fishless, till I decided to follow upstream, just in time to find him attached to a good jack which dragged him downstream. While he was engaged landing his fish I tossed a few casts into the lie, to no avail. Jason returned, I let him back in, and on his first or second cast he hooked up again and danced downstream on the boulders chasing the fish.
This same sequence repeated once again once he let his latest fish go. I could not buy a fish so Jason took pity on me, and gave me a Cadillac nymph, the fly he was getting his fish on. Made no difference – Jason would return from landing his latest fish, take over from where I was fruitlessly casting and hook up again. I think this happened 5 or 6 times – I lost count – probably did not want to count.
But I did not waste my time completely, I did some thinking. The Cadillac Pheasant Tail fly certainly did the business for Jason. It was not a fly I had come across before – and really it it is not that revolutionary – a standard pheasant-tail with fine legs. A bit of foraging around the net later revealed the pattern is not new and comes in a variety of guises.
Some are your basic pheasant tail nymph, with thin rubber legs. Others have a dubbed body and a moose hair wing case using the surplus moose hair tied back to form legs.
The nymph represents a mayfly or perhaps a stone-fly, and in the particular piece of water Jason fished so successfully, a boulder bottom with swift water over the top, my guess the fly was being seen as a stone-fly.
Either way, the next time my fly-tying bench beckons, Cadillacs are top of the fly-tying project list.
The number of quotes, with a bunch of new ones (8) just added, brings the total to 648.
My favourite of the new additions:
“Far away Tongariro! Green – white thundering Athabasca river of New Zealand! I vowed I would come again down across the Pacific to fish in the swift cold waters of this most beautiful and famous of trout streams. It is something to have striven. It is much to have kept your word.” – Zane Grey 1927
My choice has nothing to do with where I live of course!
Had three days on the very same beast of a river, the Tongariro, a week or two back. Got lots of fish, got tested and beaten time and again, got eaten by little black beasties, got fish by chucking and ducking tiny nymphs behind a kilo of split shot, got fish on tiny dry flies, got fish on heavy Prince Nymphs, got leg-sore, arm sore and exhausted, got to have a hell of a great time. It is a great river!
The New Zealand Government has announced a complete ban on catching or selling of parts of Great Whites. This is great news for a fish that is coming under increasing pressure throughout its wide range.
Now if we can only organize some kind of world boycott of fishing fleets (mainly Asian) that are involved with the truly barbaric shark finning industry. Millions of sharks are being killed every year, in horrific fashion. The sharks are hauled on board, their fins cut off, and then dumped still alive back in the water.
Too sad, especially when you know that most Asians don’t like shark’s fin ssoup. It is primarily eaten at banquets for special occasions. Originally serving shark’s fin soup endowed great prestige on the host because shark’s fin was hard to obtain.
But now, supplies are such that hopefully the diminishing prestige gained because of ready supplies will kill the whole damned industry off.
The kahawai is a truly wonderful sportfish found only in New Zealand and Australia (where it is often called ‘salmon’ for no obvious reason.)
I have over the last few weeks spent some time chasing kahawai on fly fishing and light spinning gear and re-igniting my respect for the fighting qualities of this fish. (Between dodging the almost never ending run of strong winds that have dogged our Spring and Summer.)
I have finally got my new book to the publisher to be prepped for printing, and on retailers shelves before Xmas.
Here is what the Publisher is saying about ‘Fishing Even Smarter’:
“Tony Bishop’s first book, Fishing Smarter was first published in 1997, and has been reprinted at least once a year since. Now Tony has completely rewritten the original book and added over 50% more content.
Some changes are simply updates brought about by changes in the technology and equipment. Other changes are in the way the original ideas are presented. Tony admits to many “I wish I had written that better” feelings moments after his first book hit retailer’s shelves.
There is plenty of new material too – new stuff that pops up continually in the fishing world as fishermen share their knowledge. He has tried to separate the current ‘fads’ from the things that will have longer-term benefits in increasing catch rates, and separate marketing hype from the truly useful, (much easier now he is no longer in the tackle business!). All the many illustrations are new, drawn by Tony using computer graphics software.
Some things stay the same, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. “