And so begins the Tale of Two Halves; although strictly speaking this is not a tale of two halves but rather a tale of three halves or three thirds for those a bit more pedantic about the mathematical situation!
The opening of the New Zealand trout season came and went on Friday 1st October, and whilst I had caught numerous 8lbers that day I felt I couldn’t really count these in my books as I had dreamt them all. Opening day saw me indoors, unable to get out on the rivers which just so happens not to have been a terrible situation given a lot of rivers were still high and carrying a bit of colour from previous rainfall. However the following day was my ticket to explore, to set myself free and finally target some trout again!
Saturday morning saw a casual start; a long lie, a slow process of putting my gear in the car, an hour or two spent reading guides and maps which finally resulted in a destination being chosen and a departure being made around midday. Upon arriving at the river things looked promising, lovely sunny day, crystal clear water and a nice looking river valley. I met a local guy just starting also and spent the rest of the day fishing with him. Unfortunately neither of us managed a fish that day and in fact not a single trout was spotted given perfect conditions. Every inch of that river could be seen and not a fish was spotted – I’m not sure if there simply wasn’t any fish around, the floods from earlier in the year washed some out or any other possible reason! Not a successful start to the season but it was so great to be back out in a tshirt, armed with a fly rod, hunting trout in the wilderness!
The second half of this tale took place a few days later in a location further North where once again a nice low river running crystal clear was found. I left base around 1.30 with Isaac (a kiwi fishing buddy I’ve met here) and arrived on the banks of the river once again greeted by fantastic warm, sunny weather. We soon tackled up and were off up the river in search of some trout. It wasn’t long before we came across our first of the day, a nice fish around a couple of pounds cruising in circles in a shallow long glide. Isaac acting as spotter guided me in towards him but he wasn’t for staying put long; cruising in what can only be described as a hap hazard, random pattern. By the time I’d gotten into a position whereby I could get a cast to him, a howling wind had picked up and totally killed off the superb visability we had. The best I could do was fish the water blind but in such shallow water with a cruising, now unsighted, fish I don’t think I ever stood a chance!
The rest of the day was a similar story with only a further two fish being spotted, one spooked lying in water barely covering its back and the other spooked by a totally mince cast of mine! The river seemed to be lacking in serious fish numbers and the ones that were there seemed to be of a generally large size. The banks did show massive flood damage (more than I’ve ever seen) so that could be the reason for reduced numbers…
The evening bought the biggest surprise of the day as this time we explored downstream of where we started. Upon coming to what looked to be a nice pool we were greeted by the greatest sight for a fly fisherman – snouts slurping all over the pool and medium sized upwings hatching off in fair numbers! The temperature now had dropped significantly, to “way too cold for a hatch” kind of level! Suffice to say after covering a rise or two I had my first trout of the season, a fiesty brown of a pound. Not a large fish by any matter of means in terms of kiwi fish but possibly my most satisfying to date. First fish of the season in lovely surroundings and on a dry fly in amongst a dense hatch – does that happen back home?!
The third half (just checking you are still paying attention!) came today (Thursday 7th Oct) as my flatmate Dave and I decided to catch some trout from the Leith. No, not the one flowing over in Edinburgh but the one that flows right through the heart of the university campus here in Dunedin roughly 3 minutes from my door! We had watched a couple feeding in a furious frenzy so were confident but there was one issue – the river is around 4 or 5 metres below ground level with steep storm wall sides. If you think that’s going to stop us you must be kidding! A quick cast over the edge with plenty of slack resulted in a trout about 3/4lb maybe just touching the pound grabbing hold of the nymph! It’s quite a different experience being able to see into the water and see the fish open/close its mouth over your nymph! I reckon the angle of pull was to blame but it slipped the hook after a couple seconds – I’ll be back to him though!
Further downstream the same story took place and this time I got the trout to stick! A nice trout about half a pound – feels just like home! Another great adventure, this time taking the idea of urban fly fishing to the extreme!
The feeding frenzy was inspired by quite an impressive hatch of upwings. I’m not sure of the exact sub-species but quite a large, dark coloured fly was the culprit. The fish were mainly hoovering up the nymphs but the odd adult was getting taken. Here’s a picture of one; please leave a comment if you can identify this for me!
And so brings my tale to an end, a grand opening to the season encompassing lovely rural fishing and even hardcore urban fishing! What a great way to remind myself how much I love fly fishing!