NZ Fish & Game - - Editor’s Diary | Letters - bob south

AS TO TOR­REN­TIAL RAIN PELTED down, the boat was backed dow down the ramp at Iveay Bay

o on Lake Brun­ner, ready to be slid gen­tly off the trailer. As Chris and I leant down to un­hook the boat, a four pound brown swam lazily un­der the tow bar inches from our hands and not four feet out from the shore­line.

As it con­tin­ued on its beat, I said to Chris: “That fish is ei­ther giv­ing us the fin­gers, or invit­ing us out for a spe­cial day.”

We laughed then, but six hours later, and not a sin­gle fish to the net, we un­der­stood that first trout had in­deed been giv­ing us the fish fin­gers.

Not all fly­fish­ing trips go well, de­spite im­pec­ca­ble plan­ning. I un­der­took this ‘old boy’s trip’ at least par­tially on the in­spi­ra­tion of an Is­sue 88 fea­ture by Zane Mirfin (Golden Beasts Among The Kahikateas). How­ever, this week­long ad­ven­ture un­for­tu­nately co­in­cided with a weather bomb that hit the West­port/Brun­ner area with all the fe­roc­ity of a typhoon. A re­gion that an­nu­ally can get up to seven feet of rain copped just un­der five inches in one night.

At one stage I con­tem­plated round­ing up a pair of weka, a pair of swans, a pair of mal­lards, a cou­ple of wood pi­geons, a ram and ewe, and a Moana maiden, and make like Rus­sell Crowe (aka Noah in the block­buster Noah) and start build­ing an ark.

Lake Brun­ner is renowned for its sum­mer ci­cada fish­ing to sighted trout along lengthy shore­lines, the back­drop of which is a thick, primeval podocarp for­est of rimu, kahikatea, miro, matai, and to­tara. When it’s on, the ci­cadas hatch that is, trout slash and hit im­i­ta­tions with a ven­gence. Four­teen to 20 fish days are not un­com­mon. When it is off – as dur­ing our trip – the lake edges are usu­ally too warm for the fish and they head to deeper wa­ter. Even our best ef­forts at spin­ning soft­baits and quick re­triev­ing Woolly Bug­gers proved fruit­less. To be fair, Chris did hook and lose a fish on his spin­ning gear, and I played a brown for a minute be­fore it dug deep into wind­fall and broke off. But that was it – for three days.

So why is this trip so mem­o­rable, so wor­thy of men­tion here. The RAIN. Man did it rain. Rivers, that a day ear­lier were run­ning des­per­ately low, were sud­denly in rag­ing flood ev­ery­where. The Arnold rose sev­eral me­tres. The Crooked was up and filthy. Nearby Moana town­ship was drenched. Fur­ther away in West­port, whole streets were sub­merged fol­low­ing the worst flood­ing in 20 years, with ex­cited kids kayak­ing in over­flow­ing gut­ters. Roads were closed to slips. It was flip­pin’ WET.

This was not pleas­ant news for me, a staunch fair weather fish­er­man. But we did have a re­prieve for part of one day, gave the lake a miss, and headed to nearby Bruce Creek, a spring-fed gem not far from Inch­bon­nie that re­mained rel­a­tively un­af­fected by the buck­et­ing mon­soon bar the di­luted cow shit that trick­led into the stream. And as is the case of­ten, out of bad weather and bad for­tune came enough good fish­ing to al­low three fish to be hooked, two landed, one a 4+lb West Coast beauty.

The irony of the de­ba­cle did not es­cape me. Last is­sue Hamish Car­nachan wrote about fish­ing the big dry in Wairarapa. The West Coast, while not in the midst of a sim­i­lar se­ri­ous ‘big dry’ be­fore our rainy ex­pe­ri­ence, was still more than dry by its own stan­dards. Not for long though. Overnight that changed. And while the trout may have bur­rowed deep in the lake when the heav­ens opened, the Coast’s blue pheas­ant (pukeko) and ducks came out in force, feed­ing on the idle wa­ter that flooded pad­docks. And the mal­lards, un­like my ‘trout’, weren’t giv­ing any­one the fin­gers. Loaf­ing hap­pily on sod­den farm­land, they were obliv­i­ous to any­thing else around them and their pres­ence was a heav­enly re­minder of the West Coast’s wing shoot­ing po­ten­tial. With the fish­ing wiped out, it was com­fort­ing to know that on the Coast, if the trout are down and the land drowned, the ducks can brighten your spirit when a game bird sea­son is just around the cor­ner.

Mean­while, I have taken the de­ci­sion, made in late Fe­bru­ary, to re­tire this year, on Au­gust 1 to be ex­act. Af­ter 22 glo­ri­ous years at the helm of this pub­li­ca­tion, af­ter putting to bed 130 is­sues, another 14 is­sues of Fish & Game Kids, and three Fish & Game how-to books, it’s time to pass on the ba­ton. I am proud to an­nounce that one of our most val­ued con­trib­u­tors, Hamish Car­nachan, will as­sume the editor’s role af­ter I sign off this is­sue and Spe­cial Is­sue 41. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of my de­par­ture, may I sin­cerely thank you read­ers, one and all, for your de­voted fol­low­ing. I hope it’s been as en­joy­able for you as it has been for moi.

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