Thursday, February 28, 2013

Put in an equation: "10 + 1 + sun = fun"

Our plan was a little bit risky, going to a semi remote river on the weekend. 

We arrived there after accomplishing the more or less rough 4x4 track without getting the car stuck or destroying anything. Some sections were really boggy and every now and then the trailer hitch made noises from ground contact. I would not like to do that track with high water or rain combined with my current 4x4-experience. We arrived early afternoon at the designated camp spot and set up our fabric-home. Oh an by the way we had fish that night: self bought Salmon.

There was just one other couple: a Danish writer and his German girlfriend. They intended to stay just for the night and intended to have a few casts that afternoon on the lower river section.

The night to Sunday was a cold starry night, perfect to take some shots of the illuminated hut (camp light inside, short flashlight burst from the outside to the hut or manually fluttered moon; timing around 10-20 seconds, medium to high ISO, 10mm), the Orion (the sword points upwards on the southern hemisphere) and the Milky Way. A time-lapse did not work out because the dew was so much that in the morning the whole cam was wet. But that doesn’t do any harm as it is clean water and not applied with pressure. Taking one shot of Orions’ belt, that was only timed around 4-8 seconds, a falling star appeared just in that small section of the hemisphere. What an incidence! I did not even see it before looking at the picture afterwards.

The White Hut - Twinpeaks ....

Sunday was exactly that: a sunny day. We headed up to the base of the river and started to walk and fish it up. It seemed like we had the river just for us! Lucky we! The first fish, a Rainbow of around 4,5lbs with some badly old jaw-injury, came just minutes later to the net. A good start. More or less leisurely, sometimes with high focus, sometimes low focus we went upstream. Catching fish by fish, most of them on cicada patterns or other dries, only few on the nymph. Pretty much all fish showed at least some interest and with the high and clear sun, the visibility was perfect. Absolutely fascinating when a cicada pattern hits the water, the fish recognizes the sound of the impact, even two meters away, thinking, remembering, turning around, following the fly, inspecting it, hesitating and finally gulping it and then – if everything goes right – the strike comes in the right moment. Not to early! I was improving on that day on the cicada-timing a lot. 

We were heading up the river. Ines and Tobias sometimes close, sometimes sitting in the grass and making breaks of having a snack. 

It was Ines turn. It did not take long on that day till I found a fish in very shallow water close to the bank and in perfect casting position for a quick try for Ines. But after several casts in the target area we came to the conclusion that it was a sleeping brown. And that was the case. Sometimes it is possible to wake them up by casts and get them in feeding mood. But most of the time, they wake up, ignore you for a while, just slightly change their body movement (an advanced fisherman can recognize that), ignore you sometime longer and once of a sudden swim away, to avoid this annoying human tossing flies with a clearly visible leader in their field of vision. That was the case with Ines fish. So I had to find a fresh one. Not too difficult on that day, but one that was in real feeding mood and reachable by a good cast. I succeeded on that and it was Ines turn. The brown refused or did only look for the offered cicada, so I as the guide in that situation had the proposal of an Adams and attached it to the leader. One of the first casts in the target zone and the fish came, took the fly and Ines succeeded on the strike (Florian: “wait, wait, now!”). She fought it very well, giving me the opportunity to do a few shots and holding the net to land it. It was a nice brown of around 4,5lbs! Pictures and release.

In the meantime I was around fish seven to the net or something around, eight came and nine came. Ines recognized that I would strive for the ten. She left to walk the hour to the camp ahead of me. It took me quite a while to spot another fish that I did not spook. And finally caught it. Number 10. All where between 3,5 and 6lbs and nice rainbows or most of them browns. Did it matter to catch 10? A little bit. Before that, I had it only once in NZ. Double digit in terms of quantity at least and in terms of fun during the day. In the future this will be just a “add” to this nice day of “10+1”. I packed my gear and started the five quarters of an hour walk to the camp. A rather boring way with fast pace but some neat pictures in the evening light.

The next day – Monday – we got the ticket for the Sunday. It was covered and the clouds needed lots of sun to disappear. Walking up to the point I stopped the day before. I took Tobias on my back for the walk in and set a fast pace to arrive as soon as possible as we already started very late. And the worst thing happened. We run into a party of a retired guide and his long year client. We talked to them for a while to exchange plans and the guide offered us – as their fishing was slow – to start just after the next bent. Looking close he and we only then realized that there was already another fisherman ahead – some explanation for their slow fishing. We continued our walk upstream and made contact with the other fisherman, that was waving like mad as we came close to indicate that he was already there and fishing. I offered him to walk further up, and we agreed that we would walk up to a hut around 45 minutes further up. He – I hope he had a really bad day – did not even say ‘thank you!’, knowing that we already had walked an hour. We accelerated and arrived at the agreed point – no we did not start to fish after the next corner out of this fellow’s sight. But the first we did was taking a bath in the cold river.

To make a long story short: Monday was the ticket for Sunday blast. Fish where much spookier, close to paranoid, the river up here was more like a creek in some sections and the fish really nervous. It was a hard day’s work for me to get three to the net. Ines turned around and walked back well ahead of me. I followed here and it took close to two tiring hours. The river up there was nevertheless beautiful but fish just not in the mood, the day was hot and fishing was more like work.

Ines was following with Tobias, sometimes close sometimes further away. Making breaks on the shingle beeches or the grass. One of these stops, it was already after lunch break, they were on a shingle bench and Tobias about to get a bath in the fresh but not cold river. He was so keen in crawling over the shingles in the low water, he showed absolute no fear of the water, just crawling in. I made videos with the DSLR from the tripod of this action, once placing it a couple of meters in the river to make him approach me and thus the camera – he followed without hesitation and a big smile in his face. Not before the water reached his chin he became afraid and cried. This no fear attitude is definitely related to the numerous baby-swim lessons Ines went for with Tobias. Might be he starts early to think as a fish and thus be a good fisherman. (I might add later on some frame shots of that footage, but that is already saved redundant on the two external hard discs, the build in 250GB SSD of the MacBook is to small...)

At the camp both of us made use of the camp shower we bought some weeks ago. A black 20 liter plastic sack that heated the water to a very comfortable temperature during the sunny day. It worked pretty fine, only some limitations in comfort as we only could place it on the spare wheel so we had to crouch while taking a shower.

Another night in paradise. We broke camp in the morning to go back on the nice rough 4x4 track. Just before we wanted to leave, a party with three 4WDs and six (!) fishermen arrived. Lucky we! We accomplished the rough track with a little more confidence, knowing that it would be possible and the car unlikely to skip. 

Our plan was to drive to Te Anau and to stay there for a couple of nights, to give me the opportunity to go to a distant river again and possibly to meet our new friends Karen and Rob again.

But before that we made a detour and I fished for around exactly 80 minutes (I had to be back after two hours) a river that was said to have suffered considerably from the flood in January. Nevertheless I was curios and wanted to fish it. I found a very low river, more like a creek, some fish, a curious eel, impressive gorges and two rainbows of around 2lbs to the net. And off we were to Te Anau and Fjordland once more!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Do we need to fish such a river? Let’s go to a pristine river instead! Or: 112 km/h on paved roads seems to be too fast.

Lavender FarmThe drive to the next stream – that was recommended to us – went via a long winding unpaved road over the Danseys Pass. Barren Otago country. Passing the Danseys Pass Hotel we briefly considered to book two nights to fish from there, but we made a good decisions not to ask as it turned out later. We went over the rather long drive over the pass, made a short stop at the lavender farm there, had some yummy lavender ice-cream and continued to the holiday park / campground close to our fishing.
The campground was nicely located on the – on first distant sight – nicely looking river. As it was still early afternoon we packed our gear and went up to check the river in the lowest section of a 8km no exit gorge thing stretch of that river. Arriving there: rather strong didymo infection and frequently used tracks on each side of the shore. After an hour Ines made the right decision: she turned around. I only saw the first fish just minutes later in fast turbid water from very short distance as I spooked them. The river became even more gorgy, some scrambling of rocks was required. The third and the fourth fish I spotted deep down in a gorge pool where I decided to turn around and to call that river a river, as I already walked 2,5km as the crow flies of that 8km stretch. Do we really need to fish a river like that, if we have several other alternatives? Definitely not. Disappointed we decided to leave the next day back to QT. 


On the way towards QT we passed Naseby, a small village with some serious addiction to Curling and old houses tourists make pictures of. Making some pictures, thinking about what it is about to make pictures of semi old rotten buildings. I did not figure it out, so I stopped. During that stopover I took care of some surprise for Ines: another night in QT with a dinner again at Gantleys (the close date of 14th February was more a fake-excuse for that plan than the real reason). We had to book another Hotel, right on the lake (Novotel – decent, look for low prices by booking in advance!), made a reservation at Gantleys and hit the road. Wondering when Kiwis overtake and whom and if and whom not. No pattern found.

Driving up the Kawaru River valley we realized that we had only one wine tasting. As we passed Peregrine we set the indicator and turned right. Peregrine is one of the smaller 'boutique' wineries with a modern architecture cellar and tasting room (but lucky they do not call them 'boutique'). We tried the Pinot Noirs – of them only the Karearea 2009 at 75$ was promising, but the mentioned Wild Earth Pinot 2009 offers much much better value for money! But we bought there a bottle of our first white wine of the trip – a 2009 Gewürztraminer – very fine, in case you like that special kind of wine. In the cellar we met a friendly couple Americans on honeymoon, she immediately fell in love with Tobias.


(The order of the above pictures is totally unintended, but I wanted to have two in one line and the Blogger does this totally randomly, after a while of trying I gave up and left it as it is)

At the Gantleys
The evening at Gantleys started with a long awaited surprise: Jessica was happy to see us again and handed me over an DHL Express envelope. The charger for the Ericsson R290 Globalstar Satellite Phone. Thank you Markus so much, that it finally showed up and did arrive quiet quickly in Queenstown! Testing it the days before with the other charger I ordered in Germany it showed, that it most of the time does not get a Satellite connection and if, it just does not dial the number. The idea was to use the phone in distant (fly/boat in) locations in case of emergency, if e.g. Tobias would be in sever danger. 

Travelers’ advice: forget about the Globalstar phones, they seem not to work in NZ and if you lay with a bloody leg fracture in a tight valley in the middle of the forest: a phone would not help either. The bailout is to chew up 1500mg of ibuprofen pain killer and make your way with arms and the remaining leg to the defined pick up point. Keep fingers crossed you have some time for this way. And Tobias would just have to stay healthy. I checked out all the other solutions such as Spot, New Spot and DeLorme Inreach – all did not persuade as too complicated or only one way communication. Might be the IsatPhone (Inmarsat) might have been the right way to go. Now I am absolutely serious: if you do some solo fishing excursions you “wander” most of the time – unless you are right at the river or ON the trap line tracks – in quiet rough forest or slopes or rocks where you can pass another person only few meters away without realizing it. So if something happens, the rescue will be funny. This implicates maximum caution to avoid slipping, dropping or any other kind of self-injury. Concerning the last: there will be a story on that issue two posts later. Always take great care and only invest what you are willing to risk for a fish!

Back to Gantleys. Both of us went for three courses with the main and the (shared) desert the same: The main was absolutely delicious venison. The wine consideration was in favor of the PegBay Cab/Merlot 2009 again. Yummy! Tobias was lovely (most of the time he is in that mode) and woke up halfway through. Thank you for the second nice evening at this place to the crew Jessice and Lauren and the chef!

To end this post, two more nice anecdotes. All the way from QT towards the south end of the lake Wakatipu we had to follow some young tourist driver that went 60 in curves you could do easily with 90 and still he did brake at the sight of the curve and after the curve. Finally safely overtaking it at Kingston (south end of the lake), driving on for some miles with the normal traveling speed to avoid the vibrating noise that our car develops around 105km/h. I got the impression that one passing car was flashing its headlights once. But I was not sure of it and limited the driving speed a little. And bingo, just before the last bend before Garston there was a white car on the left side and friendly blue capped man waved. Police. You went to fast! 112km/h! Do you know the speed limit? Yes. Waiting for a few minutes, considering this was not the Swiss and not Norway, we probably would be able to drive on and Tobias would have his father not sentenced to prison. Answering to Ines question how much I would expect as a fine: around 100NZ$. After a while the officer came back and showed a detailed ticket of 80NZ$. Online payment possible. Ok. Cool. Thank you! Don’t drive so fast with the child on board! (And without?). To sum it up, that was as good as it could get, I was not really fast, all were friendly and we meet that policemen after a coffee break and some miles more on another street where I actually expected him again. This time passing him I was very slow. In the end I was only pissed that I did not see him, as I am more or less always slamming the brake seeing a white car (yes I know there are some other police cars around).

While taking care of this not value generating payment and having some coffee at the Lazybones Café in Athol (again there…) I noticed a rather simple bike with very few luggage for its obviously long distance rider with a sign on the back saying something like “NZ North to South – Frank Burns – Donations for children in Syria”, I memorized the URL mentioned and after the first payment I made another (shame on me) lower payment to his project. Only then I turned around and said “I just made a donation.” And an interesting and friendly conversation about his project, traveling and so on started. You can read that on his page and if you go there please make a donation for his project. Even if it is just 10XY it helps! Thank you!

After that refreshing incidence we continued our way to a remote location we have been twice before (part of it on metaled / dirt roads close to the legal driving speed of NZ). But this time we wanted to go beyond and accomplish a 4WD track that would lead to a paradise unknown for us up to that moment… 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Stream of Dreams that got infected

THE ultimate goulashArriving around dawn on the stream of dreams, finding a camp a few miles from the paved road, setting up camp. It was the evening of the third beef filet course. This time we had to take care of the tail end. After two days cut in slices, I cut it in now in one inch pieces and setup a simple goulash with onions, paprika, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, separately fried beef added later, Huntaway red and heat for not even an hour plus real rice. Wow that was good even at 10:30pm – might be, due to the circumstances, the fine and soft texture of the meat without cooking it for hours, one of the best goulashes’ I had up to date.

Stars behind clouds
The night was cold with some clouds and stars. We started fishing – after placing Tobias in the car seat – right from the camp, so we repacked and started without moving the car. At the river, the first impression was disappointing, as this once pristine river (we fished it three years ago and took great care to enter it with clean gear) was infected more or less severe by didymo. Nevertheless, the water was low, clear, cold – just perfect. Typical dry Otago landscape, far from any civilization except the few fencelines on the hills around us. 

It was good to be here again. Three years ago we fished that river with Bruce as a guide and Chico (friend of Bruce) as the driver of the 4WD, thus there was no need to walk back at night. We had a nice camp-dinner together (the legendary lamb chops), tried to toss some mouse streamers at pitch dark more or less drunk (at least I was) and crawled over exposed cliffs (at least at night they were).
This morning we followed the water upstream, in a known pool I spooked the first good sized fish after a few casts. It took some time till I got a chance for a fish to the net. Most of them nice Rainbows around 4lbs. There was one fish that took my fly and immediately was on full speed up the large pool only 5meters of my flyline on the reel were left, I was already expecting to hear the backing knot going through the rodrings (a familiar sound for every saltwater fly fisher), but I could stop and turn the trout. Over the course of the day I caught my fair share of fish, lost some, most caught on dries such as Cicada, Blow or Royal Wulff. We had lunch in the sun that came out after an overcast morning. Ines tried a few casts on some promising pools but nobody was at home. I fished a little longer than Ines and Tobias followed, they turned around late afternoon. The way back of an hour was boring and inevitable as no bike was on hand.

Next day we addressed the part upstream from the last days end. We drove the 4WD-track up the valley some more or less easy stream crossings. The day went much slower than the first. I could very well understand that Ines was board by this day compared to the more active day before. Thanks to her patience!

Hard efforts to get two fish to the net. I found only few fish and several good pools where without any movement. Point of return was the same spot we turned three years ago. A good pool where one fish gave me even two chances but I could not score. Overall I had severe problems to get the hook set with these big cicada patterns right – either too late or to early and some fish seemed to even do some magic tricks to avoid the hook. Besides my disability, the impression remained that there were even fewer fish than before, this might have been caused by didymo.

We spend another night at the camp spot to break camp in the morning. Tobias again had great fun as we packed the tent. 

After a traditional stopover in a nearby old Hotel/Bar, we were on the road to a not too far away stream in Otago. But that story will follow later as I still have to do some preparation for a solo-trip in Fjordland...

High Five!