Friday, April 5, 2013

The Lodge that closes and a wired project – plus heaps of trout

Karamea is a rather remote village on the end of a 100km no exit road. In that way it resembles Ammarnäs in Lappland pretty much, a small village that I visited first time back in ’99 and unfortunately last time 2000 with Ines. In both cases there is good fishing close by and a long distance track. Here it is the Heaphy Track, there in Sweden it is the Kungsleden. The first could be done by Mountain Bike in the offseason (Mai! It is on the list for future plans) the last is not so much fun on the bike.

In Karamea we were absolutely happy to have a warm welcome at the fabulous non-fancy down to earth, still cool Karamea Lodge. Before I make you to bookmark their page, I have to disappoint you. It seems after eight years in business the owners consider time is right for a change and close the lodge business in a few weeks. In case, you want to invest, give me a call and we might join forces. We discovered that lodge three years ago and unfortunately did not make it two years ago. But now it was the perfect home base for Ines and Tobias for a couple of days as I wanted to chopper into the bush again from Karamea.

The plan was to luxury-solo fish a remote river system that we did not fish before. It is a highly regarded system and provides a variety of options and branches. But there was one problem as the pilot was not available on the preferred fly in date. So I had to rearrange plans and to fly right on that evening. Doing groceries for the bush (butter chicken, wine, beer and muesli), packing and charging batteries. It is always chaos, even if you are not limited by weight. I took the huge tent, a chilly bin, a box of food and tools, a big bag and a small back back. Don’t do that if you travel with other friends / passengers. This volume would be way to much! Unless you have some larger chopper on hand.

During my stay in the bush Ines and Tobias would stay at the Lodge and around Karamea, getting some time off from me and doing excursions. They had a very good home base to do that.

Due to the busy schedule of the pilot the fly out time was pretty much undefined but “late”. Around 6pm the chopper passed the lodge towards the hanger so the pilot was back from his assignments and ready to fly me. The clouds where hanging low, just right on the peaks and ridges of the coastal line, but the pilot found a window of less than 50meters in high between the ridge and the clouds to sneak through and access the valley that lead us towards the destination. Arriving there he pretty much urged me to stay in the close by hut. Thanks to that I had a very convenient accommodation up there. 

This late arrival actually was not a bad setup, as I was arriving close to dark, I head plenty of time to arrive in the hut and set everything up for the next day. The hut was a little surprise. It was redone just recently but was equipped with items normally not found on a DOC hut.

WekaNew Zealand Robin

The next day I went to the – let’s call it so – alpha branch of the system. This branch, as all the others, were quiet low, but this was not a surprise at all after this dry summer. Interesting was that the branches in some places where more like creeks and in others they were medium sized rivers. Part of the water flows in some sections in the shingle and thus subsurface. On this semi covered day I pretty soon started to catch fish. Around lunch time I was already out of the river flats close to the more gorgy section and the bush line was close to the water. After a brief lunch of a big sandwich and some sweat cookies I continued upstream Some of the fish caught on that day where cruisers and some feeding fish in faster moving water. All of them on nymphs. Around afternoon I observed some increasing feeding activity. Trout seemed to be more vary. None of the trout was particular crazy because of the low water. The river got more narrow, I entered the gorgy section late afternoon and as usual in this situations it was pretty much a exploration pool by pool upstream, driven by curiosity and the question when I might come back to that pristine place again. Caught some, lost some, spooked some. I wanted to catch the very last trout of that day to make the magic one digit number of fish caught so I went to the next and the next pool, till I finally pretty much run into a cruising trout and caught it. A nice closure of that terrific day! I turned around and had a walk of close to two hours to the hut. Tired and hungry I made a brake somewhere. Not over pacing it as a single misjudged step on a boulder here can cause some trouble. Two hours from the hut and four days from the fly out a injured capsule should be avoided.

BrownAnd another brown

I had a last look on the “hut pool” without seeing any big fish there and was back at the hut.

Just this single first day was amazing! It could not get better. A beer, tortellini and a solid sleep ended the day. The sleep was just interrupted by four times call of the wild… to much tea and water late. Once I nearly stumbled over the Weka bird that was searching for food in the moonlight close to the hut.

Allergic to wasps I always carry two emergency pens in the bush

Next day head down the beta branch, again a semi covered day. I knew that this branch was fished by a guide two days before, I saw their footprints. The fishing was little harder with less fish to the net. Around late 2-3pm again the fish where feeding on some – in the meantime I figured it out – medium sized brown mayfly emerger. Before and after they could be fouled with other nymphs, during the hatch they were pretty much locked it. The most curios take I got from a fish that I pretty much saw to late – I was already upstream from it (!) – around 5-6meters and from its position around 1:30-2pm on the clock (12 would be just upstream) so I was to his right. Seeing it I just freest and went slowly down on my knees. Most likely the fish did not realize me as it was in rather fast broken water. I tried with some conventional nymphs at first and then got an immediate take on the ESPT. It scored again! A totally ridiculous take. The fish taken this day where either cruising trout that interestingly liked the blob a 2,8 mm tungsten beat head fly makes when dropped on the water two meters away or more or less feeding fish in the faster currents. 

Due to the progressed time I was forced to end the fishing day around 6km as the crow flies from the hut. I knew I would at least walk for two hours, might be even into dark. There was supposed to be a track paralleling the river. So I bush bashed too find they track – after 300m distance from the river I was in doubt and rushed back to the river. A wise decision, as later on I got the information that there is nowhere a track at that location only further down… 

For now the task was to gain ground towards the hut as fast as possible. I knew it would be around 8:30pm to arrive the hut and thus dark. I hoped for the light of the bright moon, because by intention I did not take a headlamp with me to be back at the hut before dark. Obviously that plan did not work out. Crossing the river to take the shortest way a several times. The last half an hour and finding the hut was funny. The GPS helped a lot to find the most direct way through the wide shingle banks of the river and at least to find the hut at all (vision with my Smith prescription polarized sunglasses was still better than without). Just arriving at the hut the rain started heavily. Wow that was close – I was already thinking of how to build a camp from one emergency blanked, fern and six meters of cord. The beer, the butter chicken and the Longride red at the hut tasted very well this night and the fire provided a very cozy atmosphere.

The third day I went to the alpha branch again. Same water different weather and totally different fish behavior. It was pretty much blue skies and warm and most likely the weather and not my fishing two days ago might have changed the fish behavior. The first 3-4 km I did hardly ever see a fish. Nothing. All were hiding somewhere in the faster sections. I had no urge to blind cast. It took very long to catch the first fish, just after some kind of afternoon nap. I got one other from a pool further up, well in the gorge where several good sized fish where feeding on the emerger mentioned above just below the surface. I took only one because I was too greedy and to inpatient. It was already around 6pm and this feeding fancy did not again recover due to my disturbance to that specific pool. Poor fish I interrupted their snack. And again a long two hour walk out to the hut. 

Food for the dayBack at the hut I was not sure if the lack of energy but I had the impression there was some dim light in the hut. It was not only the impression there where two trampers and one project related man. (Sorry I cannot provide more information as everything else would lead right away to the conclusion about which river I am writing. This is also valid for part of the title of this post) The night was horrible. Due to the cooking and the three people that were sleeping, smelling and snoring in the hut and the peer group pressure to dim the light around 3 hours before my usual sleeping time I did not find sleep till well in the next day. And the man showed up as announced at 6am to have breakfast … I should have better pitched my tent for that night alone. But this idea just now came to my mind.

The fourth and last day was assigned to the gamma branch of the river. I was surprised to find a decent sized river and not just a tiny creek as it looked down at its junction to the main river. A good half day with four or five fish up to around 6lbs. Unfortunately the three fish spotted in typical NZ locations and hides could not be fouled, might be due to my spoiled and careless fishing. 

I ended this last day well before 3pm to be the hut early enough to do the final packing, give the hut a sweep and have a last bucket-bush-shower before the chopper approached. It came just minutes after the defined time with a surprise! Ines and Tobias where sitting right to the pilot! They did not want to miss this opportunity of half an hour scenic flight over native forests and untouched mountains. 


This trip got 8 of 10 points – it was close to as good as it could get. And the two points missing where more or less caused by my style of careless leisure fishing.

What Ines did with Tobias in the meantime, what we did with the bonus day in Karamea and some fine dining at the roads end … to be continued.

Please have a look on Save Fiordland about the crazy idea to link Qt with Milford sound right through one of the largest pristine untouched landscapes of New Zealand: 
There click on get involved and sing up the two petitions against the tunnel and against the mono rail. Both ideas are as stupid as to build an elevator to the top of Montblanc.