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Thursday, 27 December 2012

In The Lake Of The Woods, By Jim O'Brien

There is a small second-hand bookshop on Scott Street in Blenheim. I visit it more than any other place in town. They have two, sometimes three wheelbarrows outside the front doors that I am unable to pass by without at least a quick check - they're full of cheap books.

On Saturday I picked up a copy of Tim O'Brien's In The Lake Of The Woods. I seldom read the back cover of fiction books before reading them, prefering to choose a book based on the author or merely judge the book by its cover or name - I don't want to know any details about the story I'm about to read. I had a quick glance at the back of this one, though, and "... in a remote lakeside cabin deep in the Minnesota forests," combined with a brief look inside and getting a good feel from the book was enough to convince me $2.50 was a small price to pay to have this book.

The front cover stated 'BOOK OF THE YEAR' TIME MAGAZINE, so I'm hardly the first to discover it. Apparently they selected it as the Best Work Of Fiction in 1994.

The brief look inside before buying had revealed, amongst the 'normal' prose, a section (there are actually a few) titled 'Evidence', that had small quotes and excerpts with footnotes. It had a feeling of a non-fiction book, and I was keen to read it, as lately I have been pondering the idea of helping with the suspension of disbelief that makes all fiction work by presenting the fiction in as 'real' a format as possible.

The style worked well. The prose is simple and reminiscent of Hemingway a lot of the time. The following is from the first chapter, and feels very much like Hemingway dialogue to me:

---

Later, Kathy pushed back the blankets and moved off toward the railing at the far end of the porch. She seemed to vanish into the heavy dark, the fog curling around her, and when she spoke, her voice came from somewhere far away, as if lifted from her body, unattached and not quite authentic.

"I'm not crying," she said.

"Of course you're not."

"Its just a rotten time, that's all. This stupid thing we have to get through."

"Stupid," he said.

"I didn't mean -"

"No, you're right. Damned stupid."

Things went silent. Just the waves and woods, a delicate in-and-out breathing. The night seemed to wrap itself around them.

"John, listen, I can't always come up with the right words. All I meant was - you know - I meant there's this wonderful man I love and I want him to be happy and thats all I care about. Not elections."

"Fine, then."

"And not newspapers."

"Fine," he said.

Kathy made a sound in the dark, which wasn't crying. "You do love me?"

"More than anything."

"Lots, I mean?"

"Lots," he said. "A whole busful. Come here now."

Kathy crossed the porch, knelt down beside him, pressed the palm of her hand against his forehead. There was the steady hum of lake and woods. In the days afterward, when she was gone, he would remember this with perfect clarity, as if it were still happening. He would remember a breathing sound inside the fog. He would remember the feel of her hand against his forehead, its warmth, how purely alive it was.

"Happy," she said. "Nothing else."

---

Some parts later reminded me of Hemingway's posthumously published Islands In The Stream, although I would have prefered more passages like this, set amongst the wilderness:

---

She was in a wide, gently curving channel flanked by four little islands, and for a few seconds she idled there, not sure about direction. She opened the red gas can, refueled, then turned the boat in a slow semicircle and took aim at a stand of pines a mile or so back down the channel. The breeze had picked up now. Not quite a wind, but the waves stood higher on the lake, and the air was taking sharp bites at her neck and shoulders. There was no sound except for the rusty old Evinrude.

Kathy buttoned up her sweater. No problem, she thought. Connect the dots.

And then for well ever an hour she held a line toward the southeast. lt was thick, gorgeous country, everything painted in blues and greens, and the engine gave off a steady burbling noise that reassured her. A good story for dinner. Danger and high adventure. It might give John a few things to think about. Like the priorities in his life, and where his marriage ranked, and how he was in jeopardy of losing something more than an election. You could get lost in all sorts of ways - ways he'd never considered - and she’d tell him that.

Humming to herself, Kathy adjusted the tiller and began planning a dinner menu, two big steaks and salad and cold beer, imagining how she’d describe everything that was happening out here. Get some sympathy for herself. Get his attention for a change.

The idea gave her comfort. She could almost picture a happy ending.

After twenty minutes the channel forked around a large rocky island, narrowing for a mile, then breaking off into three smaller channels that curled away into the trees. The place struck her as both familiar and foreign. On whim, she took the center channel and followed it through a funnel of pine and brush for what seemed far too long. Occasionally the channel widened out, opening into pretty little bays and then closing up tight again. Like a river, she thought, except it didn’t flow. The water beneath her had the feel of something static and purposeless, like her marriage, with no reality beyond its own vague alliance with everything else.

...
Ahead, the channel widened out into a stretch of open water, deep blue and icy looking. She squinted up at the sun to calculate the remaining daylight. Maybe five hours until dark. Angle Inlet had to he somewhere off to the south, probably a shade to the west.

She nodded to herself and said, "All right, fine," and fixed the boat on a southerly course, or what she took to be south, now and then checking her direction against the sun. The day was bright and windy, a string of filmy white clouds scudding eastward. She eased back on the throttle and for more than two hours moved through a chain of silvery bays and lakes that unfolded without stop to the horizon. There were no cabins, no other boats. Along the shoreline, thick growths of cattails bent sideways in the wind, and there were occaisonal flights of ducks and loons, but mostly it was a dull succession of woods and water. After a time she felt a detached laziness come over her, a sitting-down sensation. At one point she found herself singing old nursery songs; later on she laughed at the memory of one of Harmon's filthy jokes - a chipmunk, a deaf rhinoceros. A spasm of guilt went through her. Not that she'd ever loved the man, not even close, but there was still the shame of what had happened back then. She pictured his bare white chest, the fingers so thick and stubby for someone who made a living at dentistry. Hard to believe she'd felt things for him.

Enough, she thought. Leave it alone.

---

It's not all slow dialogue and nice scenery, though - there are also quite a lot of gruesome war scenes.

A well-written book that starts off with some mystery, adds a bit more as it goes a long, and, quite frankly, ends mysteriously.

View the book on amazon.com or fishpond.co.nz.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Archive: Over one hundred years (Part 5, final part)

From Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen; pages 15, 16. Originally published 1980. Scans of the pages are at the bottom of this article. This article shows the text from the original that relates to fishing, with some editing to help with flow.

< Read Part 1
< Read Part 2
< Read Part 3
< Read Part 4

Over one hundred years (Part 5, final part)

Good trout were still being taken and in 1953 a 12.25 pound trout from the Wairau River, caught by Ron Nelson, won the trophy.

Liberations of trout continued with emphasis on rainbow trout from the Internal Affairs hatcheries. The rainbow trout were liberated in the Wakamarina, Taylor, and Spring Creek.

After stormy sessions of votes of no confidence in 1952, the Council settled back into its domestic duties by 1955. Nevertheless, the Council was vigilant with its ranging, opposition to pollution, and active with management such as using vibert boxes for planting trout ova in streams.

Marlborough’s rivers continued to provide some good trophy fish. In 1961 the fishing trophy was won by Doug Herd with a l4.5 pound trout.

In 1965 the Society instituted winter trout fishing on an experimental basis, with the Wairau River being opened from the mouth to the Wash Bridge.

Recognition of the quality of the trout fishing in the Upper Wairau River took the form of a four fish bag limit. The vexed question of introducing large mouth bass to New Zealand was opposed by the Council who made representations to the Internal Affairs Department.

Nationally, several matters began to occupy the Society’s thoughts. The Tongariro Power scheme was opposed and a fish farming conference was to be a prelude to the strong opposition of anglers to trout farming. Rainbow trout liberations were made in the Pelorus system. The Hunn Commission of Enquiry on wildlife management was being discussed, and Acclimatisation Societies were once again fighting for survival under the threat of State Control, which had been successfully resisted on many previous occasions.

The Taylor Dam (Blenheim Borough water supply) was now in existence and fish salvaged from the Taylor River during summer drought were liberated in the lake.

The issue of commercial pond rearing of trout appeared again and the Marlborough Society Council bluntly stated "this Society has always been opposed to the commercialising of fishing and shooting".

In 1969 a meeting in the Bohally Intermediate School hall was attended by over 70 licence holders. The subject was Encroachment by Commercialisation Into Outdoor Sports. Guest speakers were Mr J. B. Henderson, of the Wellington Society and Mr M. A. J. Adam, of the Hawkes Bay Society.

In 1969 more rainbow trout fingerlings were procured and liberated in the Wairau, Kaituna and Pelorus Rivers. The Vernon Lagoons were being threatened by proposed salt work extensions. The Save Manapouri Campaign came to Blenheim and the Council supported the meeting and   to the raising of the Lake.

Proposals for salt works on the Vernon Lagoons began to cause consternation among sportsman and bird lovers, and considerable research work resulted in the Lagoons being rated as an invaluable and priceless wildlife and fishery area, both as habitat for adults and a nursery for breeding.

Fishery management faced a problem with a proposal for a hydro-electricity station on a Marlborough River. The eventual choice was the Branch River.

Research revealed a number of hitherto unsuspected trout, often of large size, abundant fingerlings from natural spawning, and a successful plea was made for full consideration of public fisheries in the design of the scheme. The result was a fish pass incorporated and a minimum guaranteed flow.

By 1979, three Wildlife Management areas had been created. They were Lake Rotorua (Kaikoura), Para Swamp and 5 hectares of swampland at Top Valley, Wairau Valley. Representations were made for the Vernon Lagoons, in part, to become a Wildlife Management Reserve also.

The formation of a Sportsmen’s Rod and Gun Club in Blenheim resulted in increased interest in the Society by licence holders.

As the Acclimatisation Society entered the 1980s, rod and gun sport was in a healthy state. Rivers were yielding good trout and ducks, swans and quail were abundant.

Over one hundred years of fish and game management by the Acclimatisation Society had resulted in firstly fish and game populations being established by acclimatisation and then cared for with management.

Page 15 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.
Page 16 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

At least three lessons learnt

The Wairau River was high and brown from the rain. I didn't hold much hope of catching a fish, but went out anyway, with the intention of at least taking some photographs of the river.

Nobody was fishing at the river mouth at the Wairau Bar except some whitebaiters. I had a few casts with the jigging lure I've been using lately. No strikes.

After taking photos from various spots up-river, I came to one of the spots I've fished more than any other on the Wairau (with the possible exception of the river mouth - last summer saw a fair amount of time being spent catching kahawai there).

The area is quite different to when I first started fishing there a couple of years earlier. Flooding has changed the river - what was once quite a long stretch of river, out of the main current and also fed by a small creek, is now mostly part of the main flow, but there is still an area that gets only some of the main river's water, and the rest is from the small creek.

This setup meant that while the main river was brown, this small area was quite clear.

The main river continues left, the clear pool to the right.

When I first arrived, some casts into the immediate area where this part meets the main river yielded nothing. I decided to take a look through some nearby trees to get to a different part that I haven't fished before. The trees always looked quite thick and impenetrable.

It turned out to be easier to get through the trees than originally thought, and when I slowly came out towards the water, I soon saw a trout. Then another! I think there were a few tolerating each other's company in this small area to keep out of the muddy river.

Slowly approaching the water from the cover of the trees.
It was a nice day and I was in no hurry, so spent some time casting different lures out to the trout, being careful to try not to spook them. I had some trout follow my lures, but no strikes.

Ahead and to the right is where the small creek feeds in.
 Nearing the time when I figured nothing was going to happen and I should consider leaving - and probably getting bolder with my general fishing technique because of that - I mistakenly cast a lure right at one of the trout. It turned and aggressively attacked the lure and was hooked instantly.

The trout put up a nice fight, but was eventually landed.

At least three lessons learnt on the day:
  1. Don't let a river swollen by rain be a deterrent - just find the best places to fish in the circumstances. It might even be a help if it pushes more trout into one area.
  2. Explore more areas that look hard to access. They may be easier than they look, and the challenge might also be putting off other people, so you may find areas nobody else fishes.
  3. Before finishing fishing for the day, try to hit a trout on the head with a lure.
This has been my only effort to catch a trout so far this season, so I've technically got a 100% success rate for the season. I possibly should advertise myself as a guide before I try again...

Friday, 2 November 2012

Photo Report: Lower Wairau River and Diversion

Photos taken yesterday. The water is getting quite clear now.

Looking down-stream from above the Ferry Bridge.

Looking down-stream from the Diversion Bridge.

Looking up-stream from the Diversion Bridge.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Photo Report: Wairau River

Both photos taken today from the Ferry Bridge near the Spring Creek township.

The river is a lot clearer than my photos from here ten days ago, but the river is still quite green and high.

Looking up-stream.

Looking down-stream.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Photo Report: Wairau River Diversion

The water has cleared somewhat since my last photo review, but the Diversion still has some colour in it (the main river also, but only the Diversion shown here). I've tried to keep foreground and surrounding area in the photos to help keep the colour of the water true.

All photos taken today, from the Neal Road bridge and further down-stream.

Standing on the bridge, looking up-stream.

Approx. 200 metres below the bridge.

Looking towards the mouth.

Down near the mouth.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Photo Report: Lower Wairau River and Diversion


A weekend of rain has left the Wairau River brown and high, with some debri still floating down.

All photos taken on the same day as posted.


Wairau Bar/Wairau Rivermouth
Looking out from the jetty near the Wairau Bar boat ramp.
Looking up-river from the jetty near the Wairau Bar boat ramp.
Looking down-river from the map location marked at the bottom of this post.
Looking up-river from the map location marked at the bottom of this post.

Looking down-river from Ferry Bridge, near the Spring Creek township.
Looking further down-river from Ferry Bridge, near the Spring Creek township.
Looking up-river from Ferry Bridge, near the Spring Creek township.

Looking down-river from standing below the Diversion Bridge.

Looking up-river from standing on the Diversion Bridge.

Looking further up-river from standing on the Diversion Bridge.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

My new favourite lures

Blue Fox 18 gram 'Trophy' jigging lures.

Blue Fox 18 gram 'Trophy' jigging lures

Fished with small swivel/clip combos as shown above seems to work well. They didn't yield results at first, but I was quite sure they would, so continued using them. I also tried bigger swivel/clips, but they seemed to change the action of the lure too much.

The green and yellow lure was my first purchase, which eventually brought in a nice medium/small kahawai.


The green and yellow lure was my first purchase, which eventually brought in a nice medium/small kahawai.
Today the other lure landed four kahawai, and I managed to lose at least the same amount after having them hooked for maybe 20 seconds. I have a hard time remembering accurately the length of time a fish takes to bring in.

The fish were lost mainly due to my fault, rather than any fault with the lure - I let one get into the kelp nearby (which I'd learnt when I first started fishing near the kelp to make sure I kept the fish away from), and another I tried to pull up onto the rocks with a flick of the rod, but put a bit much effort into it, and essentially threw him behind me into the water on the other side of the rocks I was standing on, the lure coming free in the process.

I'm always annoyed with myself when I let a fish get away after being hooked. I fish this lure (and most other lures) with the tension on the reel just tight enough to bring in the lure without slipping. That way, when a fish hits it, I don't accidentally pull the lure out of its mouth. Once hooked, I'll tighten the tension a few clicks to allow me to bring it in.

Today the other lure landed four kahawai, and I managed to lose at least the same amount after having them hooked for maybe 20 seconds.

The smaller kahawai would also have a go at the lure. The fish below was landed and released.

The smaller kahawai would also have a go at the lure.

The first fish was brought in using a jerky retrieve method, and I continued using that technique until today. After noticing the lure was often taken by fish as soon as it hit the water, or while it was sinking, I started using it in more of a jigging style, with the jerky retrieves in between pauses allowing it to sink.

Being able to use it in a traditional spinning manner or more of a jigging style adds to the appeal for me. The classic hexagonal 'ticer' lures that are so popular with kahawai fishing don't really work so well as jigs in my mind. Although, that may just be because I haven't really tried it.

I have a 13 gram version of the lure that I'm now eager to try.

I have a 13 gram version of the lure that I'm now eager to try.

Monday, 17 September 2012

In which I consider taking off my pants

I had been told that Robin Hood Bay wasn’t the best option if we weren’t sure of the outboard for our first run of our newly-purchased 14-footer. We felt fairly confident, so chose to ignore that advice.

We arrived at Robin Hood Bay soon after noon. There were some waves breaking and a swell coming in, but it didn’t look bad. The weather forecast was good.

Three nice old chaps in a camper van were having a tea break near the top of the small dirt road to the beach in the north of the bay. One spoke to Paul when we arrived.

~ Too rough?
~ Nah, we’ll be right.

We got the boat ready, and Paul put on his waders.

Paul walked down the track, while I started to back the trailer down. The dirt track is steep and essentially consists of one corner – 90 degrees. I felt fairly confident, though – thinking back to the trailer-backing I did with our 22-footer in Waikawa Marina a couple of years earlier.

My confidence turned out to be unfounded, but I managed to get it backed down eventually.

The beach was littered with many bigger-than-rugby-ball-sized rocks.

The plan was to get the boat to the water’s edge, I’ll hop in, Paul will walk us out as far as he can in his waders, he’ll climb up, then I’ll row until we’re out enough to get the motor started.

We unhooked the trailer after I’d backed down as far as I could without going too far onto the sand, and we pushed it up the beach to where there were less rocks.

We struggled getting the boat off the trailer, while the odd wave splashed over the back and the wheels started to sink into the sand. My plans of stepping prince-like onto the boat went out the window, and I threw my boots into the boat and my jeans got fairly wet. The boat didn’t seem to have been taken off the trailer for quite some time before we bought it, and felt reluctant to do so now.

Eventually we got it into the water, and I left Paul holding the boat in the waves, and ran the trailer back to the Pajero and drove it up the track.

I got back down to the beach to see a wave hit the boat and push it sideways. Paul got it back in line, though. The swell seemed to have picked up. I pulled myself into the boat, and Paul took us out further into the waves. I start trying to row, and we took an oar each after he got in.

Paul was keen to get the motor going at this point, but I was somewhat concerned (read: scared) about the waves and said we should row out more, which we did.

The motor started easily, and I took the wheel, pushing us slowly out of the bay though the mounting swell and cold breeze. The motor sounded like it was dying at one point, but that was luckily just the breather on the petrol cap needing to be loosened.

The boat felt safe. We traveled north and came to Ocean Bay, which was calm and pleasant. We fished in a couple of spots without any luck. I couldn’t figure out whether it was more comfortable standing up and getting hit by the cold breeze or sitting in my wet jeans on the metal seat.

The northern point of Ocean Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand.
We decided that rather than try to get back into Robin Hood Bay, I should walk back from Ocean Bay and pick up the vehicle instead. Paul took the helm and sped us over to Robertson Point for a fish before we went in to shore. His reel fell apart after a few casts. I got a couple of snags, but managed to get my lure back both times.

Back in Ocean Bay, Paul nudged the boat toward the shore. I pulled the motor up and he jumped over the side and asked if I wanted to hop on his back. Stupidly, I shrugged my shoulders and said “ok”.

At the edge of the boat, I started to climb on his back, then he yelled something about a pop, and I try to clamber back on to the boat – my feet still on the boat while I’m almost horizontal, holding on to Paul’s shoulders like something out of a cartoon. By the time I got back on-board, the boat was in shallow water, so I walked to shore in my gumboots.

I started walking up the hill on the winding dirt road that heads back south, planning on sticking my thumb out for a lift if any vehicle approaches from behind. I laughed out loud thinking about the scenario of me climbing onto Paul’s back.

The birds were singing in the trees, and walking up the road felt good. My jeans were still quite damp and I briefly considered taking them off, but realised a guy with no pants on laughing to himself on the side of the road is unlikely to get a lift. Not that it would have mattered – it was about 7.5 kms back to the car, and nobody passed me going in the same direction.

I jogged in my gumboots down the 3 km or so descent to Robin Hood Bay. The muscles in my legs started to feel it halfway down, but slowing back down to a walk seemed wrong.

As if to reinforce the unsuitability of Robin Hood Bay for launching a boat, I noticed a surfer paddling out when I got to the vehicle. The waves seemed even bigger than before.

Driving back to pick up Paul and the boat, I passed four vehicles coming from Ocean Bay.

We got the boat back on the trailer without a fuss. The boat and motor ran well all day. Paul had been down to Oyster Bay while he was waiting for me, and he said he was very happy with the way the boat had performed.

I think we’ll make the effort to drive to Ocean Bay rather than launch in Robin Hood next time, if there’s a swell coming in.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Archive: Over one hundred years (Part 4)

From Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen; pages 13, 14. Originally published 1980. Scans of the pages are at the bottom of this article. This article shows the text from the original that relates to fishing, with some editing to help with flow.

< Read Part 1
< Read Part 2
< Read Part 3
    Read Part 5 >

Over one hundred years (Part 4)

In 1930, fishing licences had shown a decrease in sales despite local fisheries being reported as healthy.

The Annual Report of 1933 revealed new problems. Pollution of the Omaka was being caused by rubbish dumping, and heavy flooding and excessive weed growth also hampered fishing. The Society expressed concern that "authorities" seemed disappointed in the proliferation of weed in waterways.

The Depression of the 1930s was having its effect on fish and game management. The quinnat salmon hatchery at Te Rou was closed by the Government in 1934. Quinnat salmon were taken by anglers from the Wairau and one hole up the Wairau River was reported to contain "15 large salmon spawning".

The 1939 report showed finances to be shaky, no doubt due to those involved in World War 2. Fishing licences increased slightly but shooting licence sales decreased much to the mystification of Council. New problems arose to add to the usual woes and one unusual case was a proposal for a practice air bombing range at Lake Grassmere.

Things were obviously at a low ebb through the war years and the 1943 report declared, "owing to war conditions the work of the Society in general and the sport generally has been heavily curtailed". However, the Society did maintain enthusiasm and interest, and fishing was "exceptionally good". Fishermen were restricted in their sport by “benzine restrictions”.

Weather conditions had hampered fishing, although an 11 pound trout was taken from a Kaikoura stream.

The 1945 report shows the Society full of energy and enthusiasm. A fish trap on the Waikakaho and a count of ascending trout showed 1017 trout passed upstream to spawn.

Trout fishing was becoming a popular sport. A championship for the biggest trout was set up and in 1947-48, Mr A. Gibson won it with a 12.25 pound trout from the Opawa River.

ln 1950 the Society endeavoured to get automatic membership for all licence holders in fish and game sports. By legislation of the Wildlife Act, a licence holder has to signify that he wishes to join. The Marlborough Society’s efforts were clearly rejected by the Department, for membership of Acclimatisation Societies by licence holders is still not automatic on purchasing a licence.

Interest appeared high among licence holders but clearly some were unhappy on points of detail of their local sport. In 1951 a special meeting was called by a group of licence holders in an endeavour to have all "fly fishing only" restrictions removed from Marlborough’s trout streams. Seventy-five members attended and after heated discussion the motion was defeated. However, pressure was also exerted to have a new full council elected at each Annual Meeting and this was carried.

The Society was procuring rainbow trout for release into the Pelorus River system.


Page 13 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.
Page 14 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Still need to get Dad a gift for Father's Day?


Last year I read Hemingway on Fishing and enjoyed it, even though I'd already read most of the excerpts in their originally-published form. A nice collection of some of Ernest Hemingway's fishing-related writing, including what must be my favourite short story of all time - Big Two-Hearted River.



Another enjoyable read, with a New Zealand flavour, is Derek Grzelewski's The Trout Diaries. Kennedy Warne (founding editor of New Zealand Geographic, amongst other things), states on the back of the book that it will "satisfy angler, adventurer and philosopher alike." - I couldn't agree more!



I also recommend Mark Kurlansky's Cod - A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World - it's a great book. I'd like to write something like that one day...



Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Archive: Over one hundred years (Part 3)

From Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen; pages 11, 12. Originally published 1980. Scans of the pages are at the bottom of this article. This article shows the text from the original that relates to fishing, with some editing to help with flow.

< Read Part 1
< Read Part 2
    Read Part 4 >
    Read Part 5 >

Over one hundred years (Part 3)

More salmon were received in 1893 and liberated in the Pelorus, Wairau, Waihopai, Omaka and Opawa Rivers. A 26 pound brown trout was taken from the Wairau and it was said “there were more in the river.”

In 1898, trout fishing was described as attracting an increased number of anglers and grey and paradise ducks were increasing in number, but the "evil" of poaching had reached its climax, with out-of—season slaughter and netting of trout.

94,000 brown trout were liberated and good reports of fish stocks were to hand. Rainbow trout had been liberated in the Omaka River and the Society viewed the trout fishing sphere with optimism.

Rainbow trout were being increasingly liberated in an effort to match the fine brown trout fishing with rainbow sport. Some 18,000 yearling rainbow trout were liberated in the streams near Blenheim, and one two-and-a-half year old rainbow trout caught in the Opawa was weighed at between 4.5 and 5.5 pounds.

By 1906 the Society appeared to be in good heart but fish and game populations were being attacked by "rife poaching". The Society was determined to stop the poaching and the selling of game and said the wholesale slaughter for selling purposes had to be stopped. Ducks were being exploited by poachers and black market selling.

The number of licences issued was; deer, 18; game, 49; trout fishing, 76.

The trout hatchery functioned well and trout, among them "sea-run brown" trout from South Canterbury, were released.

Flooding in July, 1909, interfered with the operation of the Springlands trout hatchery and work there temporarily ceased. Game, both native and imported, was said to be on the decrease and a lack of finance made it difficult to import stock for liberation. A closed season for both imported and native game was decided upon for the next season.

The Society continued its energetic efforts with the hatchery. A "magnificent gift", Waterlea Park, was made by the Society’s president, Mr W. Pollard, to the Blenheim Borough, and provision for the continuation of the hatchery pleased the Society. Encouragement to the Society was generally poor however, and the Annual Report of 1915 deplored “the lack of interest" by members of the Society.

In 1916, the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society received a visit from Mr Ayson, the Government’s Fisheries Director. He praised the operation of the Springlands hatchery and the potential of the Wairau River for salmon.

The First World War (1914-18) caused the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society to ponder whether a drop in fishing licence sales was because of the number of “young fellows that have left the district to fight for the Empire". Mr Ayson, Government Fisheries Director, made an exhaustive survey of the Wairau River to assess its suitability for quinnat salmon, with the consequence a hatchery for quinnat salmon was built at Timms Creek, a North Bank tributary of the Wairau.

Finances were also restricting the operation of the Springlands hatchery, but the Timms Creek salmon hatchery functioned well with Government assistance.

Subsequent reports indicated that the Society made efforts to obtain Atlantic salmon for fishermen, and stubble quail for shotgun sport.

The Te Rou salmon hatchery had not paid dividends, and in the 1929 report the Council expressed disappointment that no runs of salmon had eventuated.

The 1930 report noted a "small run" of salmon had taken place in the Clarence River and expressed optimism that the runs might extend to the Awatere and Wairau Rivers.

Page 11 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.
Page 12 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A walk after rain

The Marlborough rivers are high and muddy from the rain.

A trip into town yesterday showed the Taylor River almost covering the arched walk-bridge near Raupo Cafe.

 A trip into Blenheim yesterday showed the Taylor River almost covering the arched walk-bridge near Raupo Cafe.

The walkway that runs beside the Taylor River was flooded and unuseable.
The walkway that runs beside the river was flooded and unusable.

Today the wind was coming from the sou'east, bringing dampness from the sea and cold from the mountains further south.

Tee Tee had been curled up shivering by the fire earlier in the day, but was now skipping amongst the newly landed driftwood oblivious to the cold, intent on what she might find.

 Tee Tee had been curled up shivering by the fire earlier in the day, but was now skipping amongst the newly landed driftwood oblivious to the cold, intent on what she might find.

There were some dead fish amongst the driftwood.

 There were some dead fish amongst the driftwood.

Trawlers had been working the area a couple of weeks earlier - the dead fish were probably from them.

Trawlers had been working the area a couple of weeks earlier - the dead fish were probably from them.

A dead young seal was also seen soon after I noticed the trawlers, but I don't know if they were responsible.

I have a love/hate relationship with the trawlers; I like to see some boat traffic in Cloudy Bay, but I don't like to see them so close to the coast, taking the recreational fishers' catch – especially with the regulations so much in their favour.

(Update: although trawlers are frequently seen in Cloudy Bay, I believe the vessel shown above is dredging for clams.)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Archive: Over one hundred years (Part 2)

From Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen; pages 9, 10. Originally published 1980. Scans of the pages are at the bottom of this article. This article shows the text from the original that relates to fishing, with some editing to help with flow.

< Read Part 1
    Read Part 3 >
    Read Part 4 >
    Read Part 5 >

Over one hundred years (Part 2)

1880 saw reports of good sized trout in rivers such as at Taylor's Pass and the Waihopai and one was estimated to weigh 5 pounds.

The Annual Meeting of 1881 reported that "all the principal streams and headwaters" had been stocked with brown trout procured from Otago and Nelson.

Salmon from Tasmania were procured and liberated also. Confusion seems to have been evident as to the exact nature of the fish and the Society "was unable to say whether these fish are the English salmon or sea trout."

"We have now in the rivers of Marlborough, American salmon, English salmon or sea trout and brown trout."

The Annual General Meeting of 1882 reported that a shipment of salmon from England had perished and was "an utter failure". Finances of the Society were "in a fairly healthy position".

The 1883 Annual Meeting reported starlings had increased and trout liberation had continued with private individuals also releasing fish. Rivers such as the Flaxbourne and Mahakipawa received trout, although today they are unsuitable for trout.

There was a certain amount of criticism on the fisheries management work by the Acclimatisation Society but in the Marlborough Express of January 30th, 1884, a "magnificent trout" weighing 10.25 pounds was reported as being captured in Spring Creek. The "New Zealand Gazette" of November 4th, 1884 stipulated the conditions for trout fishing in Marlborough. The licence fee was ten shillings and the season ran from 15th October to 31st March.

Marlborough's trout were undoubtedly thriving. A 12 pound brown trout was captured in 1885 from Spring Creek by Mr E. Paul. "Trout of fine size and condition" were reported in tributaries of the Wairau River. Five trout fishing licences were taken out in 1885.
The 1885 Annual General Meeting reported that "the Society has taken no active steps in the introduction of either game or fish." Obviously it was considered both fish and game were well established.

"Brown trout, salmo fario" were "considered thoroughly established in the Counties of Marlborough and the Sounds, by a judicious system of netting spawning fish and once more utilising the hatching boxes at the Messrs Redwoods' weir on Spring Creek."

The Waitohi Stream at Picton was reported as giving "good fishing". The Society's secretary reported that in an hour he had killed half a dozen good trout from the Waitohi. Good sized trout up to 11 pounds in weight were reported as being taken. The committee regretted that "no trace of a salmon, whether salar or quinnat, liberated prior to 1878 and in 1880, has been seen."

In 1886, dry weather was reported to be killing trout in the Waitohi Stream. However, an inspection of the stream by Society staff showed it to be "abounding with trout of all sizes from a couple of pound fish down to small, fry-like minnows".

The Waitohi Stream was described as "now one of the best streams in the colony."

In 1886, 3,000 young salmon were liberated in the Pelorus "without the loss of a single fish".

In December, 1886, the Marlborough Express reported that "Mr Clouston caught this morning in the Opawa at St. Andrews, an enormous Californian trout, the largest ever taken in Marlborough and probably one of the biggest yet caught in the Colony." The trout weighed 24.5 pounds and was 35 inches in length.

Poaching was becoming common and the 1887 Annual General Meeting expressed concern at "those unprincipled individuals who make a practice of taking fish and game out of season".

The Nelson Society had successfully liberated young salmon in the Tinline Stream, a tributary of the Pelorus River.

In 1888, pheasants were reported as still scarce and nothing had been seen of the young salmon liberated in the Pelorus River.

Brown trout and Loch Leven fry were imported in 1889. More evidence of the successful establishment of trout was seen by the capture of a 14 pound brown trout from the Opawa River. It was reason for celebration, for several Acclimatisation Society and press representatives met at the Criterion Hotel to consume the monster, which was served in "capital style with a delicious salad and a bottle of choice sauterne." The meal was described as reminiscent of "the balmiest days of the Roman Empire."

Depression times made finances difficult but the Society managed to import brown trout, Loch Leven trout and American brook char for release. The brook trout were liberated in the Waitohi, Avondale, Branch Creek, Omaka, Spring Creek, Okaramio and other streams.

Big trout continued to be caught. A net fisherman at the Wairau Bar caught two large trout of 21 and 26.75 pounds. They were described as "brown trout, salmo fario". The Waitohi Stream at Picton continued to draw praise as a fine trout stream.


Page 9 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.

Page 10 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Archive: Over one hundred years (Part 1)

From Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen; pages 7, 8. Originally published 1980. Scans of the pages are at the bottom of this article. This article shows the text from the original that relates to fishing, with some editing to help with flow.

Read Part 2 >
Read Part 3 >
Read Part 4 >
Read Part 5 >

Over one hundred years (Part 1)

In September, 1873, Mr Henry Redwood supervised the transportation of 1,000 young trout from Christchurch, but they failed to survive despite the extreme care taken. They were to be liberated in Spring Creek and the Omaka River.

Undoubtedly trout were liberated soon after this initial failure and in February, 1878, 500 salmon were liberated in the Opawa River, by Mr Charles Goulter of Hawkesbury. The salmon were a gift from the Wellington Acclimatisation Society.

Details of the administrative side of the Acclimatisation Society are not always clear. Meetings undoubtedly took place - but in the words of the Marlborough Express, the Society went about its work "quietly". So unobtrusive was the work that in December 1873, one enthusiast wrote in a letter to the Editor:
"Mr Editor, can you inform me what is doing with respect to the above Society. I think they are in funds and according to the Auckland papers, fish are cheap in that province. Why not buy some and make a start? Our worthy secretary seems more inclined to pheasants than fish. I wish you would give a little time to the importation of the latter and leave the pheasants alone, as they will do very well by themselves."

It would seem that in 1876, 1,000 young trout were placed in the Omaka and Spring Creeks. However a shipment of 12,000 young trout failed to survive the coastal steamer journey to Marlborough, "notwithstanding the great care taken by Mr H. Redwood in trying to preserve them."

Salmon were liberated about this time and a Marlborough Express item in March 1878 stated, "A person who went up to the Omaka yesterday discovered a quantity of salmon, alive and healthy, close to the spot where they were turned out nearly a fortnight ago."

Trout liberations were still hampered by deaths in transit. Salmon were again liberated in the Opawa and Omaka Rivers, as well as the Pelorus River.

Liberations are difficult to assess accurately. It appears individuals were liberating fish and game, and a letter to the Editor of the Marlborough Express on May 8th, 1878, placed on record the introduction of salmon in the Clarence River by Mr Walter Gibson of Waipapa. "Some 300 - 400 young salmon were successfully turned out on Good Friday, 1878, into a most suitable stream situated on the Waipapa Run emptying itself into the Clarence."

In June the Society again met to authorise a sub-committee to act to obtain a lease of land from Mr Hilcy for the purpose of constructing "store and breeding ponds".

Trout liberations continued and use was made of the hatchery facilities.

32,000 ova in "a very advanced condition" had arrived and losses were minimal. Hatching of the trout was successful and in December a meeting was held to discuss liberation points.

Trout were liberated in Spring Creek and the Waihopai River. An editorial in the Marlborough Express showed admiration for the liberations of trout as "a very important work" and for the way the Society went about the task in "a quiet, unobtrusive and selfless manner".

In 1879 complaints were made that North Bank residents were guilty of dynamiting the Wairau River for native grayling, which today are extinct. Trout, and to a lesser extent, salmon, continued to be imported into Marlborough and eventually liberated in streams ranging from the Awatere area to the Avon Valley.

Page 7 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.
Page 8 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Archive: Old Maori Calendar - Fishing by phases of the moon

From Saltwater Angling in New Zealand, by R. B. Doogue, page 58. Originally published 1957.

(I have been considering combining whatever sources of 'best fishing' that are currently around, and producing a compiled result from them all. After my fairly minimal analysis today, I'm wondering whether the result will just end up with every day being 'average fishing'...

Comparing the table below against the Angler's Almanac and Bill Hohepa's calendar (although Bill's don't seem to be consistent with moon phases anyway), the only thing that they all appear to 'agree' upon, is that the day after a new moon should be very good fishing.)




Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wairau Hydro Scheme on hold

We've just received some good news from Fish & Game - the Wairau River hydro scheme is currently on hold! The following is to appear in their Nelson/Marlborough regional supplement.

Wairau Given a Stay of Execution

Due to the economic downturn, the Christchurch earthquakes and less demand for electricity than predicted, it has recently been announced that many of the South Island Hydro Scheme proposals have been given a stay of execution – at least for now.

Unfortunately most of these schemes have only been put on hold until the economic climate is more conducive for building them. Even so this is good news for anglers, the wildlife and others who utilise the resource.

We can only hope that by the time the economic climate and electricity demand picks up again, more environmentally friendly alternatives will be viable for meeting New Zealand’s energy demands.

In the meantime get out and make the most of the Wairau while you can enjoy it!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Archive: Looking Back

From Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen; pages 19, 20. Originally published 1980. Scans of the pages are at the bottom of this article. This article shows the text from the original that relates to fishing.

Looking Back
by Frank Mogridge





Frank Mogridge, 95 years young in 1980 and a life member, recalls...

I can recall the Society’s first hatchery at Springlands where Mr S. Tapp had a wool scouring works. The introduction of trout to our waters was very successful and some fine big trout were taken at the turn of the century. From the Taylor River at a spot not far from the present Criterion Hotel a twenty-six pound trout was taken in 1901. About the same time one of thirty pounds was taken from the Opawa River.

The Springlands trout hatchery was eventually abandoned, due I think to a lack of finance and the Marlborough Society turned to a policy of purchasing fry for liberation. The Fisheries Department endeavoured to establish quinnat salmon in the Wairau River and built a hatchery at Maori Creek near Te Rou on the North Bank. This operated for quite some time but the poor results with salmon forced the eventual closure of the complex.

The failure of salmon to colonise the Wairau in substantial numbers is the result of unfavourable ocean conditions with temperatures being too warm. As a result the colder waters the Clarence, Waiau and Hurunui Rivers further south probably gained more benefit than the Wairau.

One of Marlborough’s best rivers in those early years was the Opawa. It originally formed from a breakthrough of its banks by the Wairau River.  It came down across the plains and formed numerous small streams which joined just below Renwick to form the Opawa River proper.

The Taylor also was a fine trout river and held quite good fish from the High Street bridge to the junction at the Opawa gas works. About 1937 a property owner planted some water lilies in the stream and in a short time the water lilies had filled the whole of the river. All sorts of efforts were made to remove the lilies but without success. Enquiries by the Society were made worldwide in an effort to save the Taylor River and a machine for weed cutting was obtained from America. It cost £l5O, but the Society had just £lO to spare. However, grants were obtained from the Blenheim Borough Council and the River Board and a shipping company, Eckford's, who used the Opawa wharf, and the machine was landed and presented to the River Board. It was a big success and constant cutting eventually completed the destruction of the masses of lilies.

Page 19 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.
Page 20 of Hunting and Fishing in Marlborough – A history of the Marlborough Acclimatisation Society and a guide for present day sportsmen.