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...