Friday, March 29, 2013

One week in Reefton… fishing?

Ex post the days in Reefton could be described in brief, I have to try hard to get it right. First day fishing a river very close by with some 4WD access. By 6th sense I stopped just a kilometer before a real awkward part of the track, parked the car, fished up, saw just a couple of fish and landed two. One of them needed some surgery as it had an old fly in its mouth. I release the fish with two flies less. For the stretch fished the fish number was low. Nice river tough. Next time: further up

Around 10meters high bank on Larry's Creek - reminder of the last floodsNext day: Larry’s Creek – I mention that here as anybody traveling NZ will come over that river. This one got two massive landslides in the last two years in the upper part that got washed in thoroughly by the January floods. Now it was running low as a small creek. Larry’s is said to still produce but is pretty much dug over. It might need some years to develop structure again. I fished the lowest 5km with only one lost fish to the fly. Several good sized sawn but in total only a dozen (not much for the stretch and the perfect visibility on this at that time tiny creek…). Remarkable: a massive clear cut on the true left bank (they do the same shit as in BC and Vancouver Island here…) and some gold drenching just meters from the river on the true right side
Gold drenching on Larry's Creek

Third day (Friday) there was the idea to fish a smaller creek close by. Arriving on the turn to the access I had a look under the car. I had a bad feeling as I discovered some oil spill from the rear diff (differential gear box) the day before and the funny noise around 100km/h was now pretty much between 90 and 120km/h and even louder than before. Looking under the car I saw oil dripping out of the diff’s housing and it was warm to the touch. It was Friday around noon (most of the fishing days in the last weeks did not start before noon) and with sad feelings I immediately turned around to drive back to Reefton to get the car to the service station as soon as possible. It later turned out that it was not just the rear diff piston sealing – this has gone long before we got the car – but the whole rear diff (differential) was done. The seal must have been defect month ago, allowing dirt to come in the bearing, destroying the bearing and thus the whole unit. From the very first meters with this car middle of January it had some wired noise going around 100km/h (that is why I got the speeding ticket to avoid that noise), a clear indication that this problem already existed as we got the car. Why this was not discovered and taken care of? I do not know. To make a long story short: at the car service they were very friendly, but did not order the right part right away, they babbled something of work on Saturday to take care of, but they did not, we did not get and exchange car from Christchurch, they did not order the right part before Monday, but – I would have bet 1.000NZ$ on that – received the wrong diff on Tuesday, so ordering the really right part on Tuesday to get it on Wednesday. Luckily it arrived very early on Wednesday and we were mobile again around noon. I was really pissed. Next time: might buy my own car and then I know whom to blame. Three facts made this whole procedure acceptable (I might otherwise have immediately bought another car): we had a perfect cottage, everything was in walking distance and the weather was rainy and wet for some of the waiting days.

In these days Ines and Tobias went for various walks around Reefton, went to the 30m swimming pool pretty much every day, where invited to the baby group, asked if they relocated to Reefton and enjoyed the nice cottage. Renting a mountain bike was not an option as the bike the friendly lady from the ‘Reefton Sports Shop’ (Fishing, bikes, guns) had for rent was more like the bike I would like to avoid to go to the train station. I did some blogging, fly tying, picture and video editing. We did some cooking and drinking, groceries, buying and eating cake. And finally we watched the movie ‘Only the river knows’ about the soul of some fictional or real past and present trout bums. A real enjoyable and very well done fly fishing movie. Not fish porn but better. 

And in Reefton I slowly discovered that I do not stand the plunger coffee...

On Saturday, asking the owners of the cottage, if they might have an idea where to get a car, they offered me their own second car. Wow! Can you belief that to happen in good old G. where the car is the most sacred possession? Thanks to that generosity I was able to head towards a river in a nearby valley where I started to fish the more remote stretch of water a little bit away from the street. Right from the start I could entice some fish and the idea to walk in first for some kilometers did not materialize. The river was very low and still it was not a small stream, don’t want to imagine to ford the gorge with higher water. Caught a couple of fish and lost some. All around 4 to 5 lbs. Part of the way back was via a track that was more re-naturalized than indicated on the map: the last time there it was used by a vehicle was some 30 years ago.

Sunday was announced to be wet. Being not mobile I was pretty much Reefton-bound. Writing, Tying, … Ines went for the pool, shopping some cake for the coffee. The rain did not make its way all the way to Reefton. It might have been this night. The cottage was right opposite of the local fire department. We were warned by the cottage owner that the alarm might be very loud. This night the alarm went off and it was very very loud! It took just seconds till the first fire fighters did arrive to get the truck ready and head off to the place where they would be needed.

Finally on Monday they disassembled the car and ordered the part. And in the afternoon the drizzle developed to a real rain shower. Within minutes we had a pond, even a small lake before our cottage. Even wading it half naked I could not spot any trout in. 

In the supermarket I found a red on sale for and unbelievable low price: Longride – Hawke’s Bay – Merlot, CabSauv – 2011. This tasted fine, for the price very fine. The typical Parker style wine (rich, full bodied, good to drink, dark red, vanilla kind of). On the back there was one sentence that explained it all “…fruit tones and gentle oak handling has added complexity…”- wtf is ‘oak handling’ – it can only mean sever use of oak chips. Why did they not mention the use of SCC, chocolate and fruit aromas and some other gimmicks? Never mind, the next day I bought three more bottles.

Tuesday… Lucky that we had this cottage and not a wet tent in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday around breakfast time our car drove by our cottage! They were doing a test run. Unbelievable! I picked it up, paid the bill, loaded the trunk and went off to fish again. A river with a somewhat exposed but ok access to its lower part. I just briefly described the access to Ines so she knew where I am about. It was a river that we choppered two years ago to its middle reaches with mixed results. This time I pretty much immediately started to spot fish. I missed and spooked some in long runs and in obvious water, very well camouflaged fish, they blended well with the color of stones and water and I was walking to fast and not expecting fish in these places... but I got some good (I at least thought so, not the fish) shots on some fish. I hooked a nice one of 7lbs and landed it. Just one. 

Heading upriver to the next and the next pool, driven by trout, hunted by fresh, mystic water, pools and runs. Into the bush leaving the pastoral land behind me. The fish where there but not willing to take my offerings (or might be I was not fishing focused enough). I had to return. It was six pm, rushing out of the bush, scrambling over the rocks, rushing down the paddocks, crossing over, finding the exit, climbing up the steep bank-cliff in the woods, back to the car, 4WD track out and rushed back to Reefton. I arrived there close to eight – with Ines in deep worries as I was later than defined, already close to dark and she remembered some bits of information about the exposed access. So sorry! I just tried to catch another fish… ; ) This river is definitely worth some effort. To be continued on the next trip.

Oh and by the way: the car – it was silent! No more vibration around 100km/h! This will be hard for Tobias to fall asleep.

Reefton Broadway

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Spring Creeks and the Village of Light

The hang over from Wildfoods Festival was not too bad due to the beer restrictions. Before leaving the camp for fishing, I remembered that I had a white/yellow courier parcel in the car. I totally forgot to mention that I picked that parcel at the Post-Shop in Ross as we were there a few days ago. At the Post-Shop, actually the ‘supermarket’ (as on many rural supermarkets there was a sing on that ‘for sale’) of the village. The lady was a little bit irritated by this ‘general delivery parcel’ that she did receive. It would have been better to call them in advance and prepare them. With happy expectations to unpack that parcel I was sitting in the grass (or what was left over from the dry summer). Inside the parcel was the long awaited second lens that had some technical issues. The beloved Canon 17-55 / 2,8 unfortunately it is not of the sturdy L-series, though being close to that price range. Yea - the set of lenses was complete again! The two lenses that had to be replace up to now (I hope no more follow!) were ordered via Smifu I can just say: one of the best mail order services I had in the last years. Very competitive price, fast and reliable shipping to wired addresses and friendly conversation - just perfect!

We went to fish a spring creek close by. Just by luck it seemed I did choose the best of three alternatives, best suited to fish together. The old farmer we asked for permission and access was a real character, the years of hard work had left clear signs. Thanks to him were soon at the creeks mouth. As it turned out a real beauty of a creek. After a while we came to some stretch of many spooky fish. This was again a good place to study trout’s reaction on the ESPT nymph and again it was very interesting as most of the trout did pretty much charge for the fly on the first cast in the hot point of the trout’s vision. Even semi-spooked fish could be attracted and hooked. Most of the fish were taken by this or the other magic nymph, the wee black one. All fish were around 4lbs.

In some places the going was tough due to long lines of thick blackberries. Too bad that they were not yet ripe. Ines tried a few casts but the fish where not cooperative and Tobias did pretty much hate the kraxe on that day. After some hours we split and Ines and Tobias went back to a pool from the start, I fished some more meters upstream. Nice structure, very good water but tough fishing. I did not fish precisely and patently enough for that creek. Going back to the lower pool we realized that pretty much all fish were totally spooked being fished over by me before. No surprise though.

The next day all of us had a bad hangover, it was less the bottle of red and the very long writing session till early in the next day, but the very bad sleep Tobias had. He was pretty much crying all over the campground and more or less constantly every hour. His chewing devices are currently installed and that causes him some pain. At least after that night pretty much the whole campground new us.

Ines preferred a relaxed day at the campground and I headed off to two other creeks. The first was pretty much floating cow poo. Still there were catchable fish in, but it was not nice. Caught some and missed some. In some parts the creek was close to standing in others with nice structure and flow. I finished it after around two hours to give the other creek a try. Access was granted from a retired farmer that had an awful beautiful house, garden and a daughter of the same kind. His argument to keep everything pretty: then my children come often and visit. I went to the creek, all the way down to the mouth at the main river of that area. The lowest kilometer without any sign of life, but after less than two hundred meters of stable creek structure I saw the first decent trout. It gave a good fight tucking hard for the undercut banks, fit and healthy, but I was lucky as it came to the net. A real 5,75 lbs. beauty of brown trout. And what happens if you use the watertight Patagonia back pack as a floating tripod (!) with the 10-22 lens and do not set the lens to 10mm due to the excitement of the moment can be seen on the picture: only the fish is on the picture and the fisherman is not. Luckily the unstable floating tripod did not capsize...

The interesting fact was that this was the single relevant fish of the whole stretch of around 2 kilometers I walked or fished. It is so overwhelming rewarding to accomplish the catch of the only fish in such a creek! (The last sentence is ironical and just mimics what sometimes could be read in the net) Back out I gave the friendly farmer a feedback, as his brother used to fish that creek (no, the intention was just that not to see the daughter again).

West Coast spring creek fishing can be quiet good and challenging. A nice change from the medium sized rainforest rivers that are the essence of NZ fishing. More compact backyard stile fishing. Sometimes matching the hatch, sometimes attracting fish by various different flies. Stealth, precise fishing, a good first cast are the keys. The selection of creeks of that trip was oriented more or less on the main stream creeks that are pretty much well known and on accessibility for us three. No real exploration was done based on maps, only one less known creek was identified by reading the landscape and the map. I did experience the difference between fishing behind somebody (as mentioned this was by intention) and fishing fresh water for cooperative fish. This trip provided the first spring creeks I ever fished in NZ (one exception a pretty hammered creek close to QT).

This night we had some salmon with a nice white, to give us power for the next days leg towards Greymouth. Greymouth: too hot Café that made Tobias cry, some totally over-cooked pasta lunch, a parking ticket of 21$ that I paid right after that at the council, groceries and the village sign leaving Greymouth. We drove up the Grey Valley towards Reefton. Still in Greymouth I fixed a cottage that I found in the net and that was available.

Arriving in Reefton we were pretty much overwhelmed by the cottage: large dining/living are, real fully equipped kitchen, two bedrooms and perfectly situated just steps away from the village center. At that point we did not yet know how long we would be bound to Reefton. Reefton the village of light!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

West Coast Spring Creeks – The 10 minutes Hatch

We drove up from nice dead end Okarito to not so nice through traffic Hari Hari. No the name is not a joke. But driving there we found a person right to the village sign being photographed by his partner – might be he was German and his name Hari – har har har. And there was a pile of filled plastic bags with a sign saying “My pony’s poos – 50cent a bag” – selling horse shit as fertilizer. In Europe they sell horse meat as beef. Unfortunately I always wanted but did not take a picture of that pile.

We found a not so perfect but ok motel accommodation (Flax Bush – not much choice in Double Hari) with some cats and a confiding neighbors cat (here are the cats in case you wondered about the hint in the last post). Part of the cleaning ceremony of the room – we waited for that – was to use some awfully smelling room deodorant. It smelled like in a catholic church after a real heavy incense ceremony. I immediately felt being beamed to a church in Bavaria and was about ready to go to the Biergarten.

Double Hari is located just right on one of these rather large West Coast diary plains. In a couple of these landscapes there are nice spring creeks. Rather famous and except the best known – La Fontaine – rather short, thus most of them take one fisherman every few days. But most of them get fished more frequently. And exactly that was the bad and the good in our case. The plan was to fish one of the smaller creeks north of Double Hari. We drove there and on the access track we passed a fisherman that obviously had finished to fish exactly the stretch we wanted to fish. Communication with him (!) we figured out he was a fly fishing enthusiast from France traveling around the world to fish. We shared information and he mentioned that he had good fishing on the two km of fishable water on that particular creek. Still I decided to fish behind him – some curiosity how his fishing would have affected the fish. He mentioned a specific nymph – a nymph I normally would never have fished, as it is far from anything real. I call it the ESPT. He showed me this fly – I never had one of these and never fished it before.
Further down the track we parked the car, had a lunch snack and prepared our gear. The 3F (fly fishing French aka Ludovic) arrived and after a while he came to me and asked if we would have a GoPro as he saw a fixture for it on the side mirror. He needed some help with it to get his data of two weeks fishing to an external storage. I proposed he should come over at night to our motel and we could take care of that. After a while he came back again with two of his ESPT nymphs – wow cool!

Fishing behind the 3F was tough. Saw several fish but rather spooky (no surprise). I ended up catching one and after around two hours I quit, Ines had turned around a little while before and came towards me with the Prado. Fishing behind somebody is definitely a challenge or just idiotic. Later that evening I tried to fish a small creek on top of the well known. But the water level was very low and the creek pretty much grown over by water plants.

This night we took care of the GoPro issue, Ludovic could for the first time watch his filmed 17+ minutes fight with a brown trout that I would assume was around double figure or even well in the doubles – he estimated it less. In my opinion the use of a landing net might have shortened the fight considerably. We sat long outside, drinking beer (Thanks!), being eaten by the mosquitos (Tobias was sleeping inside) and chatting about fishing. A nice fly heads evening. Besides his fishing success stories he had another interesting story to tell. As mentioned in a post some weeks ago there is a highly visible small fly shop some 50km south of QT close to Garston, I mentioned the lady there doing her job. Ludovic had an even stranger encounter with her. She treated him rather impolite and pretty much booted him out. Might be she was afraid of him because he was unshaved and not freshly showered and dressed? I guess every third trout bum entering that shop looks like that. I just mention that here because we thought she might have had a bad day as we were there, but it seems she had a bad month. Travelers’ advice: stock up on fly gear in QT and just pass by the hut in Athol. Or if you want to experience something special: go there and ask a few questions.

The next morning I set the alarm clock to 6am to get to the river (the major spring creek close by) before dusk to fish the morning rise to be able to fish to some active fish – at least that was the plan. I was at the river well before the sun. I watched a nice sun climbing over the horizon, mist being evaporated by the increasing strength of the sun, a hurdle cows relocating from one paddock to the other as driven by a magic hand, but what I did not even see was trout at all, not to speak about active feeding trout. There was nothing on the river! Nothing! Might be some body used some 1080 the night before. A nice early morning on the water that totally destroyed my sleep-balance. It was funny to stay and wait for three hours on a river that was supposed to be full of fish without seeing any animal besides bees doing their work and farting cows.

I was back with Ines and Tobias close to 11am. What to do with this day? A drive to the small village Ross. There we found a cafe and a gallery with an original etching of Pauline Bellamy that I was close to buy but did hesitate. She seems to be a relevant NZ artist – what finally made me hesitate to buy that non cheap print was here overall wired oeuvre. On the way back we passed a small creek that I wanted to give a few casts. Ines and Tobias drove to the nearby ocean and I was given two hours to fish. I did pretty well ; ) and caught 4 nice trout and lost another two or three. All on: Blow Fly! I was warned about this river ‘if fish are too spooky leave the place’ – I found them very cooperative. All around 4 to +5 lbs. I saved some of the relevant water to give it a chance the day after with Ines, so I had to walk a longer stretch via the road and a farm track to the designated meeting point upriver to avoid spooking the fish. 

We went back to Double Hari, had a decent fish burger at the local hangout (I cannot call that restaurant) and I was off again to fish the creek from the morning for the evening hatch. Third time fishing on that day! The evening hatch was much longer than the non-existing morning rise: exactly 10 minutes and about five fish made use of the surface feeding option. I made use of this time slot and caught one. Strange creek – I must have fished on the wrong day.

After and other night in Double Haris Hilton we drove towards one of three larger villages on the West Coast: Hokitika. Before that we gave the saved upper part of yesterday’s afternoon creek a go. I tried to guide Ines. But I saw only two fish at all which were a little bit unforgiving to Ines. Seems like that creek is really less interesting further up above the bridge.

In Hokitika: Greenstone on every corner – three years ago these pieces where cheaper or? Right at that weekend there was the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika. A Festival more of wild people and music than of wild food.

Just after we did our groceries before going to the festival, we were right outside on the parking lot packing the goods to the car, an acrobatics show started on the blue sky. Five yellow painted stunt planes did some fascinating figures. That was the perfect target for the Canon 70-200mm, 2,8 IS II! What we saw was the “The Red Checkers -  RNZAF Aerobatics Team”.

 See the heart the two planes painted in the sky!

The real wild food such as beef tactical sausages, worms or cicada was not available or we did not find it due to not looking intensively for such tastes (as Ines announced it a few days ago I was already looking very forward to some exotic gourmet thing …). So we went for the sold burger option: ciabatta instead of a bun and as desert strawberries with ice. Picking some beer I thought the beer selling person wanted to make fun of me has he said he could only sell me one mug of beer at a time. So I had to go a couple of times. In Munich you can order 10 liters at once on that specific big Touristparty in late September. Here you would have to go 30 times to get 10 liters – the Kiwis care more about your health! 

Most of the people at the festival were dressed in some more or less funny costumes. Most of them having fun and about to get drunk. We did our part of irritating the people by letting Tobias freely push his stroller over the area, so even some semi drunk guests and the Police asked us if the happy smiling adorable baby would be ours. Fun afternoon – even if there was no fishing involved!

Our campsite for the night was DOC at Lake Mahinapua – a nice site that got really busy that night, but everybody was quiet. We were lucky as we pitched our tent at early afternoon before going to the festival. Among all the guests we finished cooking latest (delicious lamb chops) – we made it just before the official quiet hour on that campground at 10 pm.