Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing’ Category

Yes the lack of bears and snakes are a big bonus when pushing through the bush along the many rivers in the world while searching out an elusive fish to throw a fly at. I don’t know about others, but snakes and crocs I can handle, BUT bears scare the c$%# out of me. As such New Zealand not only plays great Rugby Union, it is a Fly Fishing dream.

My dream came true earlier in November, when my wife and I took a well deserved break. We hadn’t been to NZ for a long time, with the last being 2002 and the trip where I told myself I need to learn how to Fly Fish. As you can see from earlier post, I have now learnt (although you never stop learning) and I can now cross an NZ Brown Trout of my Fly Fishing Bucket List. TICK!!

We flew into Christchurch on the South Island, and we didn’t have any firm plans other than we had to be back at the airport 12 days later. As my wife isn’t a fisher-person, and we both have a common love for sightseeing and sampling a nice wine, we also wanted to include these types of activities. So we headed to the west coast to Fansz Josef and spent a few days hiking to the ever decreasing Glacier, had some great local food, but also managed to do some fishing whilst sightseeing. Yes a local tour has a covered  boat that will take tourists out on the lake, and at the same time you can troll for a few fish. Not on Fly, but is wet my apertite for the NZ fishing ahead, which resulted in a few nice Lake Brown Trout.

Nice little Brown Trout

After spending a few wet days on the west, we high tailed it to the Nelson region in the North of the South Island. This area is bloody beautiful, with great natural and man made attractions. The area has some great small towns with a vibrant viticulture (wine!!) industry. The wine growing area is no where near as big as the Marlborough area to the east, but makes up for size in the great wine and food. There is also the Abel Tasman National Park, which is a must visit for the nature lover. After spending a few days here, we left to head about 2 hrs drive south-east, to have a real good crack at catching one of the wild Brown Trout of New Zealand. 

The day of driving to our accommodation was non stop rain, and I was getting nervous that the next day of fishing was going to be a wash out. My guide, John Gendall, was a lot more positive though and was confident tomorrow would be better weather. Well true to Johns word, I woke to the sun blaring in through the window of our Bach (NZ for small self contained room or granny flat)

I took with me all the gear I thought I needed, like waders and my 6 and 4 wt Orvis rods. I even managed to make sure I had olive coloured fly line. However in my eagerness to get to NZ, I clear forgot to pack my reels!!! Oh well, lucky that John being the true professional guide he is, had a reel I could borrow.

We headed out to a river somewhere, (John asked not to name it) and the first view was very daunting as all I could see was a large wide river, with a very rocky bed. Anyway we headed off and John soon had us trekking across the rocks to this magnificent river. After giving me directions on how the day would pan out, i.e. How he wanted me to stay back about 15metres, and not to make sudden movements, it wasn’t long before John had sighted our first target. I must say that straight up, I could not see the fish he had spotted, even though I had a very good set of polarized sun glasses. I learnt from the rest of the day, that’s why you pay for a guide in a place where you know nothing about local conditions.

Anyway after getting into position down stream of said target, I launched into what was nothing more than what probably looked like a mad man waving a stick above his head!! As I hadn’t had a fly rod in my hand for a while, John politely asked me to stop, breath, slowdown and to think about what I was doing. He advised that we didn’t need to rush, but if I didn’t get the cast correct, the fish would be spooked. False cast all day he advised, but the only time the fly hits the water is when you present it to the fish. Good advise, beacause as soon as I dropped the dry Parachute Adams about 1/2 a metre upstream of the fish, it was a very short time before my first ever NZ Trout launched up to grab that fly. And man were we in for a ride!!! With the fast flowing river, boulders under feet and the thrill of trying to land this magnificent fish, all I could do was hang on and listen to Johns encouragement and advise. 

I’m not sure how long, but I did land that first Brown, which was about 4o minutes from arriving at the river. Luck I’m sure played a big part, as I think some people spend a life time to get the same thrill I had just experienced.

My first NZ Brown Trout on fly

 After taking a quick photo and releasing the fish back into the river, the rest of the day was spent zig zagging up the river, with John well ahead of me (no problems with me staying back as I couldn’t keep up!!) spotting fish along the way. As mentioned above, a good guide is worth their weight in gold, and John is one of those guides. Without him, I wouldn’t of even seen the fish, let alone catch them. I’m sure I would of went away very disappointed if it wasn’t for having a guide. 

After landing 4-5 good sized Brown Trout, and missing 2 or 3 due to either me pulling to early and not setting the hook or just bad luck, it was getting late in the day. After walking what felt like about 300km, but was probably more like 7km, John suggested we try one more spot further down river. So off we go in his very comfortable Landcruiser for what turned out to be a stroke of genius. We arrived at an area close to a dairy farm, and which was probably used at times by local fisherman. Although it was the same river, same boulders etc, it didn’t look “fishy”, hey but who am I to judge? Within 5 minutes of walking along the water way, John had spotted another local Brown lurking between 2 large rock. I mention these 2 rocks as that’s all I could see. Again, for the life of me, I struggled to see the fish. But with guidance and direction from John, I soon had an almighty battle on my hands which turned out to be not only the biggest fish of the day, but my biggest Trout on Fly. After 15-20 minutes, we had the big sucker in the net, photo taken and released back to his home.

A lot of people I know still cannot understand why I release the fish I catch on fly. But after releasing this 4kg or 8.5lb creature, I had more joy than anything. Especially more than taking that fish and eating it. Swim again my friend. 

This smile is worth more than anything. To release a great creature is a fantastic feeling.

So after releasing the “big fella”, that was it for me. I just said to John, we can go home now, our work is done. Thank you sir.

Having spent the day with John revitalized me and what ever worries you have disappear. I for one will be back to NZ to try my arm and luck again. NZ, you are a fantastic country, and Australians are close neighbours and friends. Thanks for the time we spent, we’ll be back.

As mentioned earlier, my first trip to NZ many years before wet my appetite for fly fishing, and a few years ago when I had the opportunity to live in Houston, I bit the bullet and learnt. I would like to thank Chris the manager from the Houston Orvis store for introducing me to the sport and for hooking me up with Dan Cone (see earlier post) who both fostered my eagerness in the sport.

Anyway all the best everyone, and tight lines as they say. Cheers Grego

POST NOTE: Only 2 days after we drove back to the airport, Northern South Island suffered a major earthquake. We reach our and wish everyone the best in the recovery. 

Links:

John Gendall, champion guide

Glacier Country Lake Tours – see Dale and Bronwyn

Mapua accommodation – lovely little town to relax 

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Seeing is Belizing

Posted: February 18, 2015 in Belize, Caye Caulker, Fly Fishing

Sitting back here in Perth a week or so after being to Belize, seems like it was a year ago. Yes we finally got back to Belize for 10 days of fishing, relaxing and a few thousand Belikin Beers!!!

I had a significant birthday late last year (50th), so while I was traveling to the US for work, we took a side trip to beautiful Belize, and in particular, the little coral atoll of Caye Caulker.

I had been here before but with limited to no success, with only one or two Bonefish landed, and hooking up on a Permit – not landed. It was also as windy as hell last time, so I promised myself that I would try and fish whenever I could, depending on weather and the gaps in between beers!!

Prior to arriving on Caye Caulker, I purchased a new 10wt Fly Rod, a new Orvis Recon. Chris the Manager from the Houston Store once again fitted me out fully for the trip. Thanks to Chris and his team. I also own a 8wt Orvis Hydros, and I think now with the Recon, I’m pretty set for saltwater unless I want to go after the really big stuff – Tarpon etc. That’s what I told my wife anyway.

We (my wife Vanessa and I) arrived on Caye Caulker after a fairly un-eventful flight from H-Town to Belize City and a short boat/ferry ride to Caye Caulker. The only downer is the absolute crap service from United Airlines in what they call their First Class seating. Nothing but a disgrace. But I won’t let that spoil a great trip. Getting through customs etc on arrival was very quick and easy. For those that want a few cocktails while in Belize, you can buy all of this on arrival at the Belize City Airport. Great selection and prices. Although beer is very cheap at bars, spirits and wine is expensive. We stayed at Caye Reef apartments on Caye Caulker, and the manager Bobby arranged for Jason, a local driver to pick us up from the Airport and drop us off at the Ferry Terminal. We had an hour or so to wait at the ferry. Terminal, so what else to do but have our first ice cold Belikins!!! 

For the first 3-4 days I waded the flats right in front of our apartment, picking up the odd reef fish in the channel between the two islands. The tide was perfect in the mornings, just on sun up, and fishing this area is fairly productive but also very scenic and relaxing. I must thank a local expat for A) giving me a few tips on the tide etc, and B) for giving me a few flys he uses. Local knowledge is everything. So thanks Jack.

Veiw of the flats from Caye Reef apartments

My good mate from New York arrived one day late due to snow storms, but Rick soon got into the swing of things with the local beverages and food. Rick and myself actually share the same birthday, just he’s still a year younger so I have to take him under my wing!!!

Our first guided trip we organized was with a well renowed local Fly specialist. Ken from Chasin’ Tail. Armed with Fly Rods and the odd beverage, we boarded Kens boat and headed out to chase us some Bones, Permit and maybe a baby Tarpon. Pretty much for the whole day, Ken had us on fish the whole time. In the end we landed 4 Bonefish, and 3 Permit, using both the 8wt and 10wt, as well as a spinning reel baited with a small crab.

Ken and myself with my first Permit

We did try for a baby Tarpon, but the creek where Ken like to try was full of offshore weed. The Bonefish and Permit did however give us more than enough entertainment  for the day, with them taking my flyline very much into the backing and Rick losing more metres of braid then he retrieved.

A nice size Bonefish



Rick and his monster Permit

Our second organised trip was delayed for a few days due to bad weather, but we finally got out onto the reef and deep sea to try our luck “Bottom bouncing” with some bait. We hooked up with another well know local, Esley Usher. The day wasn’t totally successful, but we did get a few small reef snapper which we did start to use for bait (whole), which I caught my biggest ever Barracuda on. After a few beers, and a nice leisurely ride back, Rick grabbed the left over “bait” (10-12 inch snapper) and put his Chef skills to work turning it into Sashimi.

Nice Barracuda

Like all good things they must come to an end, but not until after a very quick visit from Rick’s wife Tina  who could only come down from NYC for the weekend. As such, not much more fishing was undertaken, but we did ccatch up for a few more beers, polished off the duty free, told a few more fishing stories, and reminded ourselves of what we would do if (when) we came back to Belize. We all agreed it would be for longer. Although Vaness and I had a full 10 days, another 4 or 5 would have been great. But then again, after 14 days, we’d probably say 21 days………. Take out the fishing, and there’s  still heaps to do and see, or not. Just chillax.

I fully appreciate Belize is a long way from Australia (just south of the eastern side of Mexico), but if you can, do yourself a favour and get down here before it gets spoiled.

GO SLOW CAYE CAULKER.  Thanks again

It’s all about Accessorising!!!
As the title eludes to, after my first guided trip I was hooked better than a Cut Throat on a Wooly bugger. My next stop was my very first of many trips the my local Orvis Store. Yes I know some of you don’t like or won’t use Orvis for what ever reason, well I like their gear and service, so I won’t bag Sage, TFO or other brands as they are also great products.
Anyway, my very first visit to my Orvis Store was probably the reason I have been back many times and spent many hard earned dollars. Everything from my first Rod and Reel outfit to all of the accessories all of you Fly Fisherpeople know you just have to have.
As with any business, good service costs nothing and the service, info and support I have had from Chris at the Houston Orvis store has been nothing but excellent. So for those of you just discovering fly fishing, once you find a good shop, stick with them.

And once I found my shop, that’s when I just had to have this item, that nick nack, every little thing that may just give me that extra edge over the fish. Also I had to have about a million different flies, plus buying others where ever I went fishing, just to ensure I had what was hot at the time. So it wasn’t long before my wife was telling me never to comment when she buys a new handbag or pair of shoes!!!

I look at it this way. As my Rugby coach once said, “you may not be the best player, but at least go out there looking like one, so pull your socks up”. Fly fishing seems a bit like that. I may not catch many fish, but at least I look the part!!
Tight lines everyone.

This has been a long time coming, as up to now I hadn’t taken my camera out when I had been in my Kayak. A few people have been asking for some pics and my thoughts, so a few weeks ago I managed to get a day out on the Guadalupe River in Texas with my new Jackson Cuda, and here is a very brief note with pics.

I had hoped to get on the San Marcos River and try for a few Bass, however with recent rains in the area, the San Marcos was a little high and the banks very slippery and muddy. Yer I know, a bit of a girls blouse but I’m over having 3 kg of mud and grass on my shoes and then that being transferred from one end of the yak to the other! As such, I drove the extra 30 minutes and launched at the Rio Raft RV Park on the Guadalupe. I must say, $8 to allow you to launch and park your car for the day is pretty good value, BUT can’t they have a smooth ramp? They have gone to all the trouble of laying concrete, but it has more steps and drops than the bloody Great Wall of China. Rant over.

The Cuda ready to go

Once I had navigated the Cuda done the “boat ramp” off I went upstream to see what lay ahead for me in that stretch of the river. I have previously fished the Guadalupe, but only with a guide, and downstream of the Rio Raft. Downstream there are one or two small barrages etc but some good holes with nice Trout. Going upstream I found to be fairly easy paddling with only a few small rapids that you need to drag the yak around or through.

On my way up the first traffic was actually a few fishing guides, one of which I had been on the San Marcos with for a very successful day Bass fishing. (I will do a post on that day even though it was 10 months ago) It wasn’t long before I knew why the guides were out so early. About a mile further on, I came across the first group of “Tubers”. For my Australian friends, tubing in Texas, and other parts of the US, is a very popular “sport” or past time starting in Spring and going for the next 6-7 months. People in their hundreds (and possibly thousands) grab a car or truck tire for themselves, grab another to fit their esky (Australian for cooler) into it, load it with beer and other assorted drinks, and float down the river for the day. Great fun, and most of the people doing it are just having a great time, but as with anything, add alcohol, hot sun, and hotter chicks in small bikini’s, and the brain does not engage with some lads!!! This time of the year, I only passed about 40 people for the day, and they were all good spirited, polite, and gave you more than enough room so as not to piss you off. So all was good and everyone had a great day.

My setup at present. A little more organising to do!!

As mentioned, even with all the traffic in the water, I still managed to get some fishing in, throwing a few flies here are there. There being the odd tree occasionally!! And one of the things I like about the Jackson Cuda is how stable it is when fly fishing. I am yet to master the art of standing up, which I have done for short periods, but after ending up in the drink, I’m a little gun-shy. So having the seat at the high level, sitting, I can very easily throw flies (and lures) to my heart’s content. The other thing I like about the Cuda, is the side pockets to stow you flies/lures and other gear you need at hand quickly. Yes I know other yaks have this also, but I have a Cuda and that’s what I’m writing about. For me (and only me) I love the Jackson as it just looks like it was made for and designed for the fisherman. Heaps of storage for gear including rods, nice to paddle, and light enough for even me to throw on the car. Some claim you can carry 6 or more rods. Theoretically yes you can, but comfortably for me and my size, 2 or 3 is good. With the seat positions, I have the seat in the lower position when paddling as its more stable, but then jump out and put the seat up when I know I’m going to be fishing in one or two spots for a while. I am yet to take it out on an extended outing or overnight, so that will probably test the storage etc. There’s a challenge, just how many beers can you get in a Jackson Cuda?

Once I reached as far as I could, I slowly paddled downstream over the next 2-3 hours, pulling up and fishing in the deeper holes and snags, and just enjoying the day watching life and the tubers go by. Overall the day was successful for me, as I got the yak wet, I saw a section of the river I hadn’t before, I did some fishing, but unfortunately did not catch anything worth taking pics of. One small little Bass that was it!!! On arrival back at the Rio Raft, I then had the pleasure of using the Great Wall Construction Companies “boat ramp”. Lugging the Cuda up there with my level of fitness, is close to having to call the Paramedic!! But I did get the yak safe and sound up to the car park, and still had some energy to lift it onto the Charger. Yes I put roof racks on “Chazzy” to my wifes horror. And funnily enough, by that time of the day with a short drive back to my cabin, it was yet again BEER O’CLOCK. Yet again another successful day on a river somewhere. Cheers.

Chazzy the Charger with Jacko the Cuda attached

Day one on the Collon Cura River seemed surreal as this trip had been a long time coming with a lot of effort, research and planning for what I hoped was going to be a Fly Fishing trip to be remembered. Within the first hour, I would in fact be able to confirm that Patagonia was a Fly Fisherman’s “Holy Grail”.

Getting to Patagonia
Having planned this trip for more than a year, doing hours of research, and sending countless emails to guides etc, finally my wife and I were checked in for the first leg of our three leg flight from Houston, Texas, to Bariloche, Argentina in the heart or Patagonia. Our three legs took us from Houston, to Lima Peru for one overnight hotel stay, then onto Buenos Aires, Argentina for another overnight stay, then a 4am wake up for our final leg to Bariloche. Once in Bariloche, we picked up our trusty Ford Eco-sport hire car, and headed north to the small town of San Martin de Los Andes, where we would base ourselves for the next 10 days

Day 1

Up at a reasonably hour, as my Outfitter, Carlos from Patagonian Fly Fishing was picking me up at 8am. After loading my gear, Carlos and I headed to his home town a short drive away to pick up the Float Boat and my Guide for the day, who just happened to be his son Charly. Charly is your typical keen as mustard 23-year-old Fly Fishing Guide, and fit as a Mallee (or should I say, Argentinean) Bull. For day 1 I choose to play it safe and take just my Orvis 6wt outfit to get the lay of the land so to speak.

We were on the river by 9-30, and casting my line into the wide clear waters of the Collon Cura River. The river lies in a very dry valley area, with the water coming from the lakes and the nearby Andes Mountains. Either side is covered with lush overhanging trees, which hide calm pools and deep holes which the trout of this river love so much.

Within the first 3 or 4 casts, I had my first Patagonian Rainbow hooked, but alias, it was not to be, and this was my first lesson from Charly and the trout of Patagonia. In other words, these fish know how to fight!! This first fish was one of 3 I would lose in the next hour, until I learnt that I need to let them run, and to take my time. After having fished several Rivers in Montana and Wyoming, the trout in Patagonia would knock out their North American brothers in the first round. Prior to coming to Argentina, no trout had taken my reel to the backing, and yet I was to find that this was going to be a common occurrence while down here.

My first Patagonian Rainbow

 After being told for the third time by Charly, to “let it run” and “take your time”, I finally landed my first of many Rainbows. This first fish was 22 inches, but fought like a 30 incher, and the day was only early!! With the first one landed, and released to fight another day, we continued floating the river catching several more before lunch time.

We broke for lunch under a nice big shade tree on the river bank, and as my wife commented, you get spoiled when fishing with a top rate fishing guide. Charly proceeded to set up a linen covered table and chairs, along with a spread prepared by his mum, fit for a king, or at least a big hungry Aussie fisherman!! Nibbles along with grilled chicken and salad, were complimented by my choice of an Argentinean white or red wine.

Lunch fit for a king

 Lunch digested, we were back on the river, throwing hoppers with nymph droppers at any and every back eddy, slow current or drop off the river had to offer. The day was very hot, and after drinking about 2 gallons of water, we called it quits around 7-30 in the evening, by which time I had landed around 27 Rainbows ranging in size from 18 to 26 inches. Overall for me it was a great day, and a great introduction to Patagonia and what it had to offer. Long hot day, and after a well-earned beer, it was an early bed for me.

Day 2

Well after such a great start, I was ready to take on anything Patagonia had to offer, so day 2 had me take along my brand new 4wt rod that was built by Matthews Custom Fly Rods of Spring Branch, Texas. Although the Rainbows of Patagonia give me a great fight on my Orvis 6wt, Charly assured me the 4wt would add to the fun and fight on another great river, the Chimehuin. This river, although narrower, had the same unmistakable overhanging willow like trees, with the same great back eddy’s and drop offs.

Within the first hour of fishing, we knew the fishing was not going to be as good as day 1, but I had a fly rod in my hand that I did not want to put down. The only word I can use to describe this work of art is sensational. Load the rod, point the tip and BAM, the fly line along with the fly shoots out like a bullet from a gun, and hits the target with the same accuracy.

As mentioned above, the fishing of day 2 didn’t turn out to be the best as far as size went, but as for numbers, I must have landed or hooked close to 40 Rainbows that were from a measly 4 inches to 12 inches in size. This goes to show that the rivers down here will be a health breeding ground for many years to come.

Lots of small stuff on Day 2

 We once again had the now “standard” Patagonian spread for lunch, only with a different choice of Argentinean wine, and cold beer!!

Day 3 – final fishing day

After the success of my new 4wt on day 2, I took my now new best friend, the Matthews 4wt, along with my Orvis Hydros 4wt. This I thought would be a great test to see just how good these 2 rods were. Today we headed out early to where the Malleo River meets the Alumine River. The Alumine eventually becomes the Collon Cura where our take out would be our launch site on day 1.

Today started fairly windy, so a 4wt wasn’t going to cut it first up, so I reluctantly dragged out the 6wt with a shooting line and a streamer. After just 2 casts, stripping the streamer as I was told, WHAM, our first hook up for the day. This ended up being a nice size Rainbow, which was uplifting after so many small fish on day 2.

Another nice Rainbow

We continued for several miles down river, and hooked up on another 2 or 3 good-sized Rainbow, but I also finally hooked a nice size Brown. Yes this was what I was hoping for. I’m not sure about anyone else, but Brown Trout to me are a level above Rainbows, even if it’s for the variety of colors. Ranging from deep brown to deep orange, they just look the goods.

Just prior to lunch, the wind finally eased to the extent I could drag the 4wt rods out and give then a trial. First off was the Orvis with a dry hopper and bead head nymph as a dropper. It didn’t take long to have my first Rainbow attack the dry, and we were once again down to the backing trying to pull back a nice sized fish. We continued on until lunch, and although the Orvis was light and great to use, I wasn’t convinced if it was better than the Matthews.

We stopped for what was once again a very relaxing and delicious lunch, thanks to Charly and his mum’s preparation. All washed down with a nice Sauvignon Blanc, we hit the water again, but this time armed with the Matthews 4wt using the same set up as the Orvis.

As soon as I had the Matthews in my hand, I knew this was the rod for me. I’m not sure what it was, but it just had something that suited me. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be getting rid of the Orvis, it a great rod, just the Matthews suits me better.

As for the rods performance when landing a fish, the large grip on the Matthews comes into its own. I hooked and landed 1 nice sized Brown and 2 nice Rainbows, and the rod performed very well. All tolled, I landed about 7 fish on each rod, and they both performed better than expected, even with good-sized fish.

Brown Trout

Brown Trout caught on the 4wt Matthews

The day ended fairly abruptly with the mother of all thunder storms coming over. I’m not too keen on lighting, and after 3 unforgettable days in Patagonia, I told Charly that we would call it a day. So as Charly paddled the float back to the take out as any good guide would do, I sat in the rain drinking a nice cold Argentinean beer and pondered over yet another 3 great day of fishing.

People to thank

Carlos and Charly Trisciuzzi – from Patagonia Fly Fishing – they were great guys and very professional guides. All guides and tourism in general has been doing it hard due to false report about Volcano eruptions. As such tourist are staying away in their thousands. The reports and info in the press is incorrect, and its entirely safe to travel. Just keep in touch with your airline.

Hector and Ida Scagnetti – from Arco Iris Cabins – Hector was the one who put me onto Carlos and Charly. He and his wife Ida are the best hosts one can have and made us fell at home. What a great place to base yourself for any type of vacation

This is my new page where I hope to be able to post some of my exploits with Fly Fishing and using my Kayak to help me fish.

So this is day 1, so come back soon when I hope to have some pics.

Cheers Grego

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This is my current logo that I hope to have stickers made. Stay tuned.