Sunday, 27 December 2015

Serenity Regained

Boxing Day: After we'd spent a couple of nights with my parents for Christmas, I took a detour on the way home on my motorbike - a spot I'd been meaning to explore for quite a long time.

I only saw one trout, but I think I'd rather see only one trout and no other people fishing any day. Must get back there soon.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Serenity (or the lack of it)

Despite the road to the south of the Wairau Diversion being open during the whitebaiting season, I only went down there once. There's just too many people around during that time for it to be enjoyable for me now. Possibly getting grumpier with age.

I popped down to the mouth a couple of times about a week ago to see how things were looking. The whitebaiting season was over, so I figured it should be reasonably quiet during the day while most people would still be at work.

The first day I caught (and released) four young kahawai. Nothing great, but a bit of fun - better than hooking nothing. I saw someone had a decent-sized kahawai, so they must've been around.

Next ride down there, there were only a few older guys around. A couple of them were leaving not long after I got there. I asked whether they'd had any luck. One of them called back, he'd caught four medium-sized kahawai, destined for his 'jars'. Preserving them, I assume.

I overheard them discussing arthritis pills and home-brew whisky while I started to fish.

~ The Irish whisky is a nice change, easy to drink. Too easy to drink! It sneaks up on you!

Eventually everyone left and I had the mouth to fish on my own. It's a good feeling to have a nice spot like that to yourself. Normally the fact that nobody else is around means there's also probably not many fish to be caught, but there's always the chance.

There wasn't much happening, but I cast lures and changed them a couple of times in case it made a difference (I pretty much always use the Blue Fox jigging lure in such situations these days).

Before too long a car pulled up on the other side of the mouth. A couple got out with their young child. They cranked up the car stereo and started fishing.

I left.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

It's not the same without you

I've come to realise fishing isn't the same without one of my companions. A recent forced break made me really appreciate the relationship.

It's my motorbike.

The last time I took her out for a fish about a month ago, the first corner didn't feel quite right... after another couple of corners I pulled over and confirmed that the rear tyre was fairly flat.

I slowly rode back home and went for a fish in the Pajero. Enjoyable enough, but something was missing. I realised that the motorbike is now a vital companion for an enjoyable fishing excursion.

Rear tyre has now been replaced (was getting quite worn), tube seems fine. As soon as this dry gusty westerly stops blowing across the Marlborough Plains, we're heading out.

Update (2015 Nov 30) : Perfect conditions this morning. Checked the tyre after I rode out the gate. Flat again. Took back to workshop. Tube replaced with no labour charge (I'd requested the tube replaced with the tyre originally, but that must've been forgotten while we were discussing the tyre). Anyway, bike is now road-ready again...

Thursday, 29 October 2015

A new spot to explore

I've always loved 'exploring'.

I grew up on a farm, and started venturing into the nearby gullies when I was young, and as I grew older, going further afield around the coast and the hills behind us.

Being amongst nature and not knowing what was around the next corner or over the next rise was about as happy as I could be. I recall often thinking I had almost reached the peak of a hill, then realising there was another above it that I couldn't see before - and then usually more after that. The wilderness felt endless.

That love of exploring hasn't changed, but if it includes fishing spots, it adds a cherry on the top these days. Bonus points, of course, if I get there via motorbike.

I wrote about a perfect morning a while ago, with these ideas in mind.

More recently, a 'tip-off' from a friend led me to a new fishing spot nearby.

First visit there, I went upstream with my fly rod - saw three trout, scared them away quite successfully.

Second visit, I had a look downstream with my spin setup, again seeing three browns, hooking and landing the third.

I've been back and explored downstream as far as I can easily go with a rod, and still have more upstream for my next visit.

This area isn't too far from a highway, but nonetheless at least ticked most of my boxes for the ideal fishing trip:
   explore a new area
   ride the motorbike (or a boat)
   have a walk
   see some fish, ideally catch at least one
   not hear traffic while exploring

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Grand Cayman Tarpon

My first go at snorkelling on my own on Grand Cayman was the first time I saw a tarpon. I was standing on the beach, about to put my mask on, when I saw two long fishy shapes show in a swell before the wave broke.

They looked rather shark-like to me, but I hopped in the water anyway, feeling wary. After swimming around for a while, I saw them again, looming towards me, and decided it was time to exit the water. I hadn't seen anything like it. They were big fish (the adults will often grow to over two metres long.)

Afterwards, I was informed that they were probably tarpon.

I was only visiting the Cayman Islands at the time, and ended up coming back about a year later after landing a job there.

Some of my favourite memories from my time on Grand Cayman are of fishing for young tarpon in the mangrove canals (man-made canals and roads through mangrove swamps.)

I assume the adult tarpon must come inland into these areas to spawn, and the young slowly move out to the sea as they mature, although Wikipedia says otherwise: "Tarpons breed offshore in warm, isolated areas," so I'm not really sure whether it's something specific to Cayman or there's an in-between inland stage that's not very well documented. Wikipedia also states, "Since tarpons are not commercially valuable as a food fish, very little has been documented concerning their geographical distribution and migrations."

I was informed of a pool where the young tarpon should be found, and started fishing there with a 10 cm. paddle-tail lure. I hadn't used anything similar before, and was impressed with the realistic action of the lure, and the success I had with it.

The youngest tarpon were quite easy to land, but once they started getting bigger - around the 40 cm. mark - they were very strong and would leap high in the air and consistently throw the lure.

I found that I had more success just winding them in as fast as possible when they got to this size - you couldn't play them, as they'd always jump and seldom stay on the hook.

I used that one lure for a long time. It lost the tail quite early on, and eventually was just a weighted hook with no 'body', which seemed to work even better than the proper lure did.

As they tarpon grew, they slowly moved out from the pool to the sea. I was fishing the pool a few times without hooking anything before I realised they must be on the move. It was then a matter of hunting around 'downstream' until I started getting hits on the lure again.

A Facebook 'memory' (where you're shown some old post from the past by Facebook and offered to share it again) reminded me of my time fishing for tarpon on Grand Cayman. It was from seven years ago to the day. I tried to locate the spot on Google Earth, but it appears a highway now runs through my old fishing pool.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Don't forget what you know

There were kahawai around, and they were curious, but I couldn't get one to grab my lure.

I was using the lure I normally use when targeting kahawai these days - a Blue Fox jigging lure. I like the look of them, the way the move in the water, and the fact that most people seem to use the tried-and-true hex lures for kahawai, so I assume that using something different will often give me the edge (one can always live in hope).

After fishing in the river mouth for a while, I shifted slightly more up-river, inside the mouth where it's a bit deeper, and was almost ready to call it a day when I remembered how I usually fish these lures (I tend to hibernate over winter and haven't been fishing much at all).

Back when I first discovered the lures, I found a jerky retrieve of three or so turns of the reel handle followed by a brief pause to let the lure drop seemed to yield the best results, with the kahawai often grabbing it during that pause.

Soon after changing my technique I hooked and landed a nice kahawai that ended up smoked and in a fish pie the next day.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


I wouldn't call myself superstitious, but I do often talk of luck in fishing, and I often ask someone fishing if they've had any luck.

Over summer I thanked Jim for a landing net he'd passed on to me, and told him of the trout I had landed with it. He said he was pleased that the net had proven lucky for me, as it had had for him in the past.

At least half-hearted superstition seems ingrained in most fishers. Denis Pain has a chapter titled 'Always Appease the River Gods,' in his book ... The Hours Spent in Fishing, where he tells of one season where he went against his usual rule of releasing the first trout of the season - keeping it to feed friends - and the bad luck that he had for the rest of the season.

A Dictionary of Superstitions, edited by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem, tells of some old beliefs using trout, including:

  • Administer an ailing cow a live trout. (1852)
  • Put a trout's head into the mouth of a child with whooping cough and let the trout breathe into the child's mouth. (1866)
  • Put a live trout on the stomach of a child with worms as a cure. (1866)
  • Bind a trout with bandages around the bowels of a child with worms and leave overnight as a cure. (1879 - The writer remembers this being done to a boy about seven years old, circa 1830)
  • Let a trout swim in cow's milk and then drink the milk as an infallible cure for whooping cough. (1922)
  • Take a pie dish full of cider to the River Rea and catch a decent sized trout and drown him in the cider. Fry the trout and make the patient eat the fish and drink the cider to cure whopping cough. (1932)

... and another cure for whooping cough - drink beer in which a live fish has been drowned. (1883)

The same book tells of cod fishermen believing that if a ling was the first fish pulled up after a boat has reached the fishing-ground it must be thrown overboard immediately to avoid bad luck (1886). During herring fishing, the scales of the fish must not be washed off the boat, neither must they be cleaned off the fishermen's sea-boots. If this is done good luck flees away (1885). The first hook baited is spit upon, and then laid in the scull (1886).

The Concise Maori Handbook, by A. W. Reed with A. E Brougham, informs us that the first fish caught with a new hook or line was dedicated to the ancestors of the fisherman, and that mauri were often used to help with the luck of a fishing voyage.

'Mauri' is essentially the life element of, for example, a forest or a lake, and assures the abundance of life abiding within. The name is also given to a talisman that represents the given life element. The talismen (often stones) were jealously guarded and secreted in a forest, near the banks of a river, and by the sea shore. If they were removed, the life principles departed and the food supplies could no longer be obtained.

I haven't had Jim's net with me for a while, and also haven't caught a fish for a while. I think I'll start taking his net out with me again and see what happens.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Monkey Bay Revisited... with surf

Continuing with the Monkey Bay theme, I popped over there yesterday to check out the massive surf that was coming in to Rarangi Beach.

From the lookout point you could see the waves pounding into Monkey Bay, so I walked down the track to have a closer look at the cave that runs through to the other side and opens out towards Whites Bay (I didn't go through the cave - the waves were coming all the way through to the entrance on this side).

The sound coming through the cave was deep and thunderous, so I tried to record it with a video on my phone.

I could see that the waves coming in to Monkey Bay had come right up and then down into the cave, but they seemed to stay at a safe distance after getting to the bottom of the track. Until I started recording some video.

Turns out the mic on my phone didn't pick up any of the bass sounds coming out of the cave anyway.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Monkey Bay

While browsing some Marlborough Museum archive photos online recently, I noticed the photo below and instantly recognised the view as Monkey Bay, just to the north of Rarangi Beach.

Copyright Marlborough Museum - Marlborough Historical Society Inc.
Here's my photo today of the same scene.

Looking south from Monkey Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand.

The people in the old photograph are listed as:
  • Guard, Edward (Junior)
  • Baldick, Darcy
  • Baldick, Herman

It's hard to be exact on a date for the old photo, but I also found this one that gives the year as "about 1887."

Copyright Marlborough Museum - Marlborough Historical Society Inc.

This one lists "Guard, Edward (Senior)" as the man on the right-hand side of the photo. If it is Edward Guard Junior standing beside him (no name provided), looking around ten years old, then the Monkey Bay photo might be 20 years later, where he looks around 30 years old (give or take ten years!).

A lot of speculation involved, but by my estimation the old Monkey Bay photo must have been taken approximately 110 years ago - circa 1905.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The mystery of the salt

The river will provide you with trout and possibly the odd sought-after salmon (I've only ever caught one - that was before I even knew salmon came into the Wairau, and I ended up catching a salmon before I ever caught a trout); maybe a kokopu, which Jim mentioned a while ago he used to hook every now and then back in the day, but I've never even seen an adult kokopu, possibly due to the mass-slaughter of their young which make up most of the 'whitebait' numbers.

But the saltwater systems, they have many different kinds of fish as part of their ecosystems. A recent outing with my five year-old son made me appreciate something that I think I forgot - saltwater offers that variety and mystery that you don't have in the river.

We were out having a sail, planning on stopping for a fish. We ended up anchoring a stone's throw off Karaka Point. We both had kahawai on our hooks for bait.

I thought I heard my line peel off in a quick run, but there was nothing on there. I took the rod out of the rod holder, wound in a little line and held on to the rod. Then he was back! I set the hook and spent a few minutes trying to get whatever was on the end of my line to the surface, and that's the beauty of it - you don't know what's down there!

The rod and reel were part of a cheap setup that I leave on the boat, and I didn't know how strong the line was any more, so didn't bother tightening the tension up too much to force the fish to the surface.

After some good runs, a decent-sized barracouta appeared. I would've brought him aboard to take as crayfish bait, but was convinced to let him go, so managed to get my hook (a weighted softbait hook that I discovered a while ago gives that extra 'feel' when fishing with bait) dislodged with pliers while the fish was in the water. The other line had been severed, so must have had the same or another barracouta at the end of it. The longer shank on the softbait hook probably helped keep the line safe on my setup.

I won't be giving up on fishing the river, but think I'll start focusing on saltwater again for a while - seek out a bit more mystery.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Ferry Bridge

The southern side of the Wairau River, around Ferry Bridge, near the Spring Creek township - it's not an area I've explored until recently. I have had a look for trout a couple of times upstream on the northern side, and had some success the first time I tried fishing at night for trout downstream on the same side, but have haven't ventured nearby on the southern side other than up nearer where it joins Spring Creek.

I saw a couple of trout cruising along the southern edge from the bridge, slowly feeding their way up and down the river under the willows; one of them was quite large. When I first saw them, I had been down at the mouth fishing with my saltwater setup earlier, which wasn't really suitable for what would've been needed here, so I checked out the area with a mind on returning.

I took a few photos, and at one point, the larger trout appeared.

I didn't try fishing, but did come away with quite a few nice cape gooseberries from under the bridge, so didn't return home empty-handed.


Upon returning on the bike a few days later with my freshwater setup, I went back down to the water's edge and tried a lure, then some flies. The nice-sized trout was still lazily feeding up and down the edge of the river, but ignoring anything I threw out.

I returned home with only a bottle of wine from the nearby shop that day.


I went back to the same spot on the motorbike a couple of days ago, again trying a lure and a few flies with no success. The trout still coming in close to the edge, casually feeding upstream, then returning, always feeding from the surface.

He didn't seem worried by my appearance, or didn't see me. Seems unlikely he couldn't see me, though - I was right on the edge... I could've almost touched him as he passed.

I changed the fly to a blue-bottle fly imitation, and decided that as it didn't look like I'd catch the trout, I'd try to take a photo instead, so had my phone in my hand, ready to take a snap as he passed - the water was very clear and calm.

I almost put the phone away after waiting a while - the breeze picked up and I hadn't seen the trout. Then the breeze died down and the trout was right below me. I dipped the fly into the water, careful not to let any line touch the water this time, and the trout approached it.

Time stood still, as it tends to in such situations. Then the fly disappeared into the trout's mouth. I set the hook, and (stupidly) took half a second to try to snap a photo as I raised my rod and the trout sped out into the current - the photo merely getting some waves from the departure.

By the time I had put my phone away and realised I needed to work to keep him away from the underwater branches nearby downstream, I could see by the line moving in the water that he was already heading into them. I couldn't do anything in the end. Winding in the line, severed - I assume from his teeth.

I stared at the water for a minute or two. It's tough losing a fish that has been hooked.

Still, a new technique learnt, which I should have cottoned on to a while ago after reading about dapping.

I mentioned the episode to a friend yesterday - he said if I wasn't wasn't going to cast, I might as well just turn up with a 20 foot rod. He might be on to something there...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Wairau River Salmon Fishing Rules for 2015

The rules have changed for fishing for salmon in the Wairau River. In the 2011-2012 Fish & Game regulations, the salmon season wasn't clearly defined. I found out it was all year, after confirming with Fish & Game.

The latest (2014-2015) salmon season as defined by the regulations booklet sees the season now limited to be in line with the standard trout season that covers most rivers, 1 October - 30 April.