Eight most deeply etched memories of the season past

Why eight? Well I tried to keep it down to seven to remain in keeping with the other “Magnificent Seven” post, but couldn’t bring myself to leave out the tale of brutality that is number eight, as I felt his plight needed to be heard (as does my confession). Anyway, without further ado, here they are….

 

8. The unfortunate flying fish

There he was, a reasonable specimen of 3-4lbs in the gorge down below, my last chance on what had so far been a trying one fish day. He was in a tough spot just in front of a large boulder in deep water. As he rose (nearly two metres) to take my cicada, I struck hard and continued to apply force in the hope of bossing him across to my side of the boulder. This resulted in him maintaining momentum and being launched—oh the horror!—a good three metres out of the water, gliding past my face where we our eyes briefly met, before hitting the rocks below with a cringe-inducing slap! To make things worse, the impact freed the hook and he drifted off downriver. It was something of a redemption to see an identical fish back in the exact same spot a couple of days later, so possibly he survived. No, I didn’t make a cast, I kept on walking.

541Taken minutes before “lift off”

 

7. Stygian gear failure

Well yes, I’ve lost plenty of fish this season, but this one was particularly traumatic. There he was, a leader length away, rising to the surface—near spent. The best specimen I’d hooked into in weeks, but then ping! Hook busted, fish swept away down into an unnavigable mess of white water. Wilsonnnn!!!!!!! But unlike Tom Hanks’ character, I managed exercise just enough restraint to stop myself diving in after him. Perhaps if I’d had a raft….

082A confidence-robbing failure

 

6. Frantic exit of a trackless valley with a rising river

Moments after I’d just fed an ungrateful Weka the remainder of my oats, it dawned on me that I may to prevented from exiting the valley, due to the swelling river. An immense, energy-sapping duel with a 9lb’er, punctuated by a frantic pack up and manic hike out, made this an unforgettable way to end a trip!

981Uh-oh… a couple of hours away from the safety of the track

 

5. Late uncle’s fly does the business

After multiple rejections on a tough river, I turned to my late uncle’s old metal fly box—a relic of yesteryear. The hooks sporting a light dusting of rust didn’t spur confidence, but these were the only sparsely dressed nymphs I possessed. Rust or not, they fooled the trout and got the job done. They don’t make ’em like they used to—cheers uncle!

861Average specimen, yet memorable moment

 

4. Hooked up to a new PB as chopper that jumped me flies overhead

Having an agreement backfire, and watching a chopper land exactly where it’d been agreed you were to start fishing from (after a significant walk) is rather demoralising! And so, to hook up on a new PB in fished-over water, while said-chopper is flying off overhead is a very satisfying thing! Instant karma?

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3.Piglet Blitzkreig

Screeech screeech… turning around my eyes met with the strangest sight they’ve ever witnessed on a river. A jet-black piglet charging—well swimming—right at me. Brave little guy he was, attempting to ford this immense west coast river!

 

2. Busted rod, vengeance had

Setting the hook on a fish to the alarming CRACK! of carbon  fibre shattering is a fairly traumatising experience, especially with a good fish on the end of the line! With rod hinged over at the middle join the only thing left to do was run around his pool in a comical attempt to play him, top half of the rod held high in the air, bottom half stowed under arm. Needless to say, all was lost when he got downriver of me. What made this all the more memorable was that I returned to the scene of the crime the next day—new rod in hand—and bagged him, after an epic 350m duel through perilous pocket-water. And on the exact same fly to boot!

480 - Copy123Success on take two

 

1. There’s a storm comin’….

‘Twas day two of my first trip of the season, and I was naively slogging it into the teeth of an early-season nor’west storm. “It’s all yours” was the call from the two fishermen heading back out of the valley, and I’d later learn why! Thankfully the hut—where I sat out the storm for two full days—was found at the eleventh hour, and come daybreak the blinding glare of white met the eye. Top of the valley, 30-odd km from the road with only a  couple of layers of polypropylene and a nylon shirt to serve as insulation from the cold. Note to self: buy a decent jacket before next season!

129Any port in a storm? Felt like Rotterdam, compared to the tent!

Well that’s it. Plenty of good memories acquired during the season past. The fishing may’ve generally been tougher than in other years, but I certainly have had more unforgettable experiences.

The magnificent seven!

Okay so this one’s a  little  self-gratifying. In an attempt to preserve some of the season’s highlights for posterity, I’ve decided to do a little summary of the seven most memorable fish I’ve caught this season. Why seven? No, it’s not the total number of fish caught all season, not too far off though! It just allowed for a catchy title. The order was not necessarily determined by size, although that usually helped. Without further ado….

 

7. Beautifully coloured “eleventh-hour” fish

This guy was a real sweet note to end a trip on. After losing some seriously good fish I finally got a couple on the board. And then on the way back out of the valley, caught this beautifully coloured fish. Definitely felt like I earned this one!

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6. Mutant from the deep

At the time, this guy was another PB. Walking into an obvious storm, tired, and nearing the end of a tough fishless day, I prised this fellow from the  depths of his aquatic abode. He’s the first fish I’ve caught that possessed one of those Franksteinian “shoulder” things.

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5. Long walk for a fish!

Nearing the end of a six day trip, with 50-odd kilometres racked up, and only one miserable fish on the board, I hooked into this guy. Beautifully conditioned fish, with a lovely clean appearance. Perhaps the best looking fish of the season. He sure made the remaining few kilometres back to the car a lot more enjoyable!

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4. My first trophy

Not the most memorable battle of the season, but the moment it rose to the surface and I copped my first glance at it’s hefty flank will not soon fade from my mind. A beast he was, and a failed netting attempt spurred me into lunging at him in order to ensure procuring him. Purists, have your cringe.

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3. Rod break, take two

Having broken a rod mid-strike and subsequently losing this fish, it made for sweet revenge to go back the next day and bag him on the exact same pattern—early season perks! An epic duel was required to bag this guy, as he possessed the endurance of a Kenyan track team, the power of a 100m sprinter. The battle raged for hours—well a good twenty minutes—with offensives, and counteroffensives being made, and even the occasional attempted flanking—audacious stuff! And all of this played out through a 350m stretch of very awkward pocket water.

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2. Emerging after the storm. A fish plucked from possibly the last pool, at the tip-top of the valley

After sitting out a snow-storm at the head of the valley for two entire days, the sun emerged, and a glorious fishing session was had. Only a solitary pool was located and a solitary fish caught, but it was a magical, unforgettable one.

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1. The Juggernaut—victim to my last cast of the season

Yeah fairly predictable… the biggest fish makes the top of the list. But honestly, it was the exceptional circumstances which sealed it pole position. Caught late on the fourth day of a four day trip—the first three of which I was skunked/blanked on! It also happened to be the last trip of the season, which made it all the more awesome. After enduring four of the most electric runs from a fish I’ve ever seen, he finally beached himself, making for an easy netting and an ecstatic angler!

519-NEWamushroomsdone1cowsTHEBEST1123MOOOOO1234567789999newest12345text123456oil1 - Copy (2)3456shadedown1nearlydone1234567 - CopyLocation concealment required, hence the psychedellic background. The cows and trout are to scale though 😉

 

Well that wraps up the seven most memorable fish of the season. It’s been interesting to observe the variance in colours these fish adorn, as I’ve fished a much wider variety of rivers this season than I normally would. And considering all of these fish trumped my former long-standing PB of the previous seven or eight years I’ve been fly fishing, it’s been my best season to date. I can only hope the next isn’t too much of a step down from this one.

The Pursuit of Poundage

We probably all know an angler who prioritises chasing the big fish—so much so, that they put it above all else. For me, fly fishing has always been about the place, the experience, and the people you meet. Sure, I guess I’ve always had the hope somewhere in the recesses of my mind that I may be fortunate enough to stumble onto a monster trout occasionally, but it’s not something I’d ever plan my trip around.

Due to the fact that most of the rivers I’ve fished in the past aren’t renowned for “bug fush” (that’s “big fish” for you non-natives), I hadn’t ever encountered one of these angling “size queens”, not until this season at least. I met him on the track while on my way out of a valley, and he’d enquired how my fishing had been. Rather pleased with myself, I recalled my conquest of a seven-and-a-half pounder, to which he replied with a despairing Geez, I may as well have stayed at the last river. After recouping from the robbery of my afterglow, I began to feel a bit sorry for the chap as I resumed my hike along the track. With such high expectations he must surely be left disappointed more often than not.

Thanks to a freakish recent event—the catching of a “trophy” trout—I’ve now acquired a new-found insight as to what makes these guys tick. The catching of this fish was something of a double-edged sword for me; obviously a terrific and memorable experience, but I suspect it may prove difficult to reach those heights of euphoria again. I fear that it may leave me taking above-average fish for granted, as on the last trip to my local river I found myself somewhat under-awed after catching a couple of fish that went six and seven pounds. Usually I would have been ecstatic with such fish, but the experience with the “trophy” fish seems to have significantly raised my own bar of expectation. And so I can now see how—not dissimilar to a drug fiend—some anglers trips are reduced to chasing an ever larger dose of brown trout in order to get their fix. And it is always the browns we pursue, as if they’re the equivalent of uncut “product”.

322Possibly the moment that spawned an angling “size queen”. Time will tell….

212A happy, easily-pleased angler from a few seasons back.

064 (2)A flock of “Poundage Hunters” progressing to the headwaters. Going by the bottleneck-inducing traffic it must be a “mouse year”.

I’ve no idea how my angling perception or formula for enjoyment will change in the foreseeable future. Whether I will gradually return to being satisfied with average sized fish, or whether I’m now destined to join the ranks of these tunnel-visioned angling size-queens. Destined to forever obsess over, and chase maximum poundage; destined to resort to lurking only in valleys where the big fish—sorry “bug fush!”—reside. Let’s hope not.

One thing is certain though, come next season, after this “mouse year” is said and done, it will be one hell of crash back to reality for those chasers of maximum poundage, as the fish inevitably return to normal size. It has me wondering how they will cope, with their levels of expectation having been at an all-time high the past season. Quite possibly we may see the emergence of a new niche for the shrinks, rehab for the size-obsessed angler! The pharmaceutical companies had best get to work inventing a new pill, as this ailment is certainly more real than some of the others dreamed up in recent times!

As for me, all hope is not yet lost. I have faith that my video-come-short film projects will steer me away from the clutches of big-brown addiction and toward a more well-rounded style of angling, and an appreciation for all the other facets of a fishing trip. I guess time will tell, so stay tuned. And as an outsider with a less skewed perspective, feel free to step in and call an intervention if you see me sliding down the slippery slope that is the Pursuit of Poundage!