Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM
Location: Wangapeka River a mile or two upstream from our Sunday outing: Graham River (tributary of the Motueka River)
I was preparing for a second day of guided fishing on Tuesday morning, when John knocked on the motel door and announced that he had a bad night and was seeking a doctor. This left me in a one on one situation with my guide, Steve, for a second day of guided fly fishing in New Zealand.
Steve arrived and picked me up a bit after 8AM, and we proceeded with the nearly one hour drive to the Wangapeka River. We visited the same river as Sunday, however, we stopped and prepared to fish a mile or two upstream from our previous location. Prior to the start of our fishing outing, however, Steve drove down a dirt lane to a farmhouse across from the river, and here he popped out of the SUV and knocked on the door. A young woman greeted Steve, and he asked for permission to fish. The daughter of the landowners of the farm called her parents and obtained clearance for us to spend the day on their property.
We proceeded to a farm lane and passed through three rope gates, until we parked in the shade next to a fence. I decided to wade wet on Tuesday with high temperatures projected in the low 80’s F. The weather forecast was accurate, and I was pleased to feel the coolness of the river throughout the day. Steve set up my rod, while I tugged on my wading socks and boots, and then we ambled along the fence line for quite a distance and then climbed to the other side and stumbled through an opening in the brush, until we reached the river. The river in this upper area seemed wider and more shallow than Monday, and consequently in my opinion it offered fewer quality holding spots.
Between 10AM and 2:30PM we worked back and forth and covered mostly the water along the banks. Two sections of moderate riffles and pockets offered me the opportunity to blind cast a cicada, and I managed to hook two brown trout for a brief moment, before they escaped. Needless to say, I was frustrated by this turn of events, and I chastised my penchant for setting the hook too quickly. The prospecting involved long casts with a heavy spun deer hair cicada on a fifteen foot leader, and turning over this set up was a challenging experience.
I prospected the riffles by spraying long casts in an ever expanding arc, and then I made three steps forward and repeated the cycle. After missing the first two fish, Steve spotted a pair, and I dropped some decent casts near their position, but the fish displayed a lack of interest. My cast to a third sighted fish was short, but the brown trout heard the plop and moved three or four feet downstream to engulf the large terrestrial, at which point I set the hook and played the aggressive feeder for twenty seconds, before my fly pulled free.
A bit farther upstream along the left bank, I plopped the cicada three feet above and three feet to the right of a sighted fish, and just as Steve expected, it glided to the right and crunched the fly, and for the fourth time the hook sprung free after a brief connection. As one would expect, I was very upset with my fish hooking capability, but Steve reminded me that landing fish on a cicada is quite difficult.
At 1PM Steve climbed a high bank and spotted a trout holding in a depression. He swapped the cicada for a size sixteen nymph with long dangly legs, and I placed six or seven casts above the fish. Twice the indicator dipped, but I was now too slow on the set. Steve swapped the nymph for a different version, and on the eighth cast the indicator paused. I lifted quickly and felt myself connected to a bulldog of a brown trout. This brown loved to dive to the bottom and shake its head, and it immediately hugged a spot on the far side of a rock. This move aroused my fears that the hooked fighter wrapped me around a rock or ledge, and that yet another trophy was about to escape. I applied pressure and eventually coaxed my combatant out of its lair and then followed it downstream for sixty feet. The brown trout continued to dive and roll in short spurts, until I finally pressured it into Steve’s net. What a beautiful fish! There before me was a fat twenty-four inch brown with glistening light yellow sides and a dense array of dark black spots.
With this success behind me, we took a forty-five minute lunch break. After lunch we crossed to the side of the river where the car was parked, and we approached a nice section with numerous large white bedrocks on the bottom. Steve loved this place, because the white-tan bottom aided his efforts to sight fish. It was not long before he spotted a beauty hovering along the edge of a long white-tan bottom, and I waded into position quite a distance below. Before doing so Steve advised me to pick a landmark along the bank, so I could reorient my position relative to the fish, once I was in casting position. I began angling casts above and to the right of the sighted fish, and on the third drift after one fly change, the indicator dipped, and Steve shouted, “yep”. I lifted my rod and set the hook on another splendid Wangapeka brown.
This trout was a bit longer than the first, and I repeatedly exerted side pressure and moved it halfway to the bank, before it thrashed and moved back toward the center of the river. Eventually I pressured it across some shallow but faster moving water until it was fifteen feet below me, and at this point the fly popped free. It was so close that I could actually see the fly tucked in the edge of its lower lip. I made a perfect cast, set on a timely basis, and battled the trout for ten minutes; and I decided that this earned it a tick on my fish count. I was mildly disappointed with not landing the fish, but I was also quite pumped by the fish fighting diversion.
After this thrilling action we found a gap in the brush and straddled three fences before returning to the SUV. It was 2:30 by now. Once we maneuvered through the rope gates again, we drove back to the Motueka River and headed north until we turned left and navigated a dirt road along the Graham River. This stream was much smaller than the Wangapeka, and it presented a higher gradient. I liked the idea of sampling a smaller more intimate New Zealand river.
We parked and walked downstream along the road to a bridge and encountered a mother, daughter and two grandchildren swimming in the stream. Steve greeted the foursome and asked permission to pass upstream on the bank above the bridge. The mother and grandmother agreed, after Steve mentioned the owner’s name and cited previous permissions granted.
We hiked upstream until we reached a nice run, and here Steve spotted three fish…two on the left and one on the right. I targeted the closest on the left side, and after two fly changes and two misses, I connected with a fine chunky eighteen inch brown trout. I was fortunate to contain the muscular thrasher in the small pool, and Steve scooped it into his net to prevent any chance of escape.
We moved on and bypassed quite a bit of fast high gradient water, before Steve sighted two more trout. Unfortunately I was unable to interest these two in my flies, and we once again climbed through an open area in the bushes to reach the road.
After hiking to Steve’s car we returned to a pullout closer to the Motueka confluence, and Steve hopped out to check a quality pool. After a few minutes he reappeared and asked if I was game for a steep descent and a shot at a nice fish. I could not refuse, so I cautiously followed him down a very steep bank. Sure enough a gorgeous pool appeared and after a bit of observation, I spotted a cruising brown trout. It hovered above some dangling branches that barely brushed the surface of the stream, and it periodically glided three feet to the right to heavier current and then returned to the slack water to the left.
Steve replaced the nymph that remained on my line with a size twelve parachute Adams. The scene was set, and I was admittedly feeling quite a bit of self imposed pressure. I carefully flicked a cast to the left edge of the current, but I could not see my fly, so I carefully picked up the fly and made another attempt to go above the dangling sticks and came up short of my intended target. Incredibly on the pick up I snagged the Adams to the tip of the lower branch. I handed my rod to Steve, and he yanked and snapped off the fly and replaced it with a size 14 parachute Adams. I was feeling about as low as I could and rued my ineptitude.
I mustered my concentration and flicked two side arm casts to the left and above the sticks. Nothing. I was certain that I blew this last opportunity to land a sizeable brown trout in a small stream. On the third cast I dropped the fly on the left current seam and amazingly the target moved and sipped the Adams! Steve shouted “yep”, I set the hook, and immediately I enjoyed a huge bend in my five weight. This fish was another dive, shake, and dog it brown trout, but eventually I guided it into the net. Whew! What a way to end my day. I reminded Steve of the broken off fly on the bare branch, and he waded over and recovered it.
On Tuesday evening our traveling group walked to Cheekdon Thai Restaurant in Motueka for dinner. I savored the Thai basil and recalled my day of fly fishing. Goodbye Motueka.
Fish Landed: 4