After a long cold winter, an equally long cool rainy spring, the OI and its veteran crew were ready to knock off the cobwebs and get back to doing what they do best. A window of opportunity - a sunny day - emerged within an ugly forecast of rain/wind and T-storms. While real blue water is still forming at the edge, their are other fish to find - Bluefin. Off the dock at 3:00, first boat to arrive at 4:30, first boat to hookup at 7:30, fish on the deck at 8:30. Time for a beer.
Thanks to the OTW team for capturing this rare 3rd person perspective...you lookin' good OI...damn good...
So a little while ago I was on the blog and read one of those mediocre posts from Lucas' trip down in New Zealand. I use mediocre in the most sarcastic way possible, because those were some of the best pictures and most insane looking fish I have seen. There was one picture that stood out to me and it was of the fish that Lucas recently won the Moldy Chum Slab of the month. (congrats by the way) It wasn't just the sheer size of this fish that I thought was great, but it was the proportions, the colors, the setting, and the photograph.
I immediately wanted to try to paint it. I was wary at first, because of how perfect the fish and the photo were, but I had to give it a shot. So after a month or so of procrastination, here is the process and the result. Lucas, hope you approve. It is no photo, but hopefully it does this absolutely beautiful specimen justice.
Another gem to the west, another stretch of filthy good days on the water. Day one I enjoyed with two buddies from Alden Camps (Jeff & Carter), Day two Clark, Morrell and Katherine teamed up for another crushfest. Katherine had never landed a fish, let alone held a fly rod prior to this excursion....she was a quick study.
I'm going to treat this post like a cheap date you've taken to a cheap room; you all know what you came for so I'll skip the dialogue and get down to business.
And as an added bonus I'll throw in a picture of Jon Robbins who ventured north and west to this very river and landed a slob of his own. It's that time of year
I'm willing to bet that a few of you have come across the Epic Meal Time team at least a time or two during the inevitable late night journey down into the bowels of youtube. A friend of mine showed me a video of one of their exploits a few days ago and it gave me an idea.
Now, I'll admit, I'm a fly tying newb but I'll bet that some of you out there in Solid Hookups land have been thinking of, or have already tied an Epic Meal Time fly. A fly so hideous that only the most twisted monsters of the deep would venture a bite while any lesser fish would swim away scared. A fly so repulsive that any fly fishing classicist would vomit, weep, or weep vomit at the sight of anything so far from the "accepted" streamer designs that far too many hold sacred. So let's see em if you got em, substitute bacon strips for rabbit strips and get epic.
Please forgive the jump to day three in what was an amazing run on moving water; I am told that the BFC Futures have a post in the works for our second day.
It was Saturday, I had been waist deep the two days prior, I was tired and quite certain that the river would be busy. My comrades on the water would be talented, full of fire and fresh of mind and spirit. Clark would venture north, Morrell would travel north, Walsh would venture southwest and our forces would join in battle.
Rain fell and was predicted to fall throughout the day, coupled with a significant westerly wind. We motored into position around 6:30am, a two hour trip from my house to lines in. To our surprise there was not another angler to be seen.
This stretch of water can go from good to great with the arrival of one determining factor....Suckers. 0 suckers in the run day 1, day 2 a half dozen showed up late in the day with a few trout behind them and day 3 began with the same few suckers at the top of the run. The exodus of suckers had not begun just yet.
With this much talent on the water we started strong.
Numerous Brookies and Salmon came to hand from 6:30 to 10:30am but none were of the hog variety we had anticipated. We continued to be alone on the run and at approximately 10:45 we witnessed dozens and dozens of suckers pouring into the run; they were promptly followed by some fine Brook Tout and shit immediately hit the fan.
Old Winchell enjoyed a hot stick in the early going of the sucker run
Healthy eating with the Devil himself
Old Walshy wrapped up the day with this 23" Laker (taken on a black stone), a species not seen in this river since the late 70's....quite a catch
We had to pinch ourselves throughout the day as we experienced 'the run' which was witnessed by nobody other than ourselves. A bunch of guys rolled in around 4:30pm and it didn't matter. We had single handedly enjoyed a spectacle of epic proportions. As a group we landed over 80 fish and each of us would state that is a conservative educated estimate. The trip was simply unreal and it had it all, bad weather, sight fishing, BFC alums, wild rivers and a deserted stretch on a Saturday.
Days like this don't happen enough but when they do a man's mind is washed of all the difficult fishing of their recent past. We were as happy as a pig in shit, baptised in the waters of a Sucker run. Amen.
We drove south. Option #1 was too low. Option #2 was full of more didymo than a port-a-potty after Chili Fest, and looked none more appealing. Option #3 was too windy. This was our last option.
It was tight little spring creek that was full of spunky browns who aren't afraid to use every piece of cover to their advantage when fighting.
The following day we continued deeper into the rabbit's hole.
We soon ascribed it a new moniker, Improbable Creek.
This was one of the better fish we had seen, and I shouldn't have had two opportunities at it. But I did. And I certainly shouldn't have blown both of them. But I did.
A fish came the middle of this bit, just off Lewis's right shoulder.
And he fought it underneath and through this bush.
This one came while blind-casting, literally, over 6ft tall tussock!
We then went back to the lake I'd mentioned previously. The surface was glass and the fish uninterested in anything in anything less than the most technical of presentations (think <18 on 6x).
Thank you for your time.
We then packed up and headed back.
I had one more chance to fish before I was back stateside. I went at it alone and was rewarded with one fish on a random blind cast. Fish number fifty. The last fish I needed.
And alas, the sun has set on another New Zealand summer.
The cool creep of fall had finally settled in on the South Island. Though it doesn't necessarily amount to much by the way of harsh winters most places, it is a long and arduous transition into spring some months from now. With most rivers having closed before I left, I began to feel the restlessness of stale potential setting in. It's time to move on, time to get going. A few nights in Auckland enjoying a couple concerts by my favorite band helped to quell the unrest in my legs for a day or two, but the 24+ hours of travel following finished me off.
So here I sit back in Colorado reflecting on another winter well-spent, but also weighing opportunities anew. Stepping on that plane always leaves me heavy-hearted, wondering when or even if I shall ever see this land again that means so much to me. That is always the question and always the regret in leaving. I know not if I shall return, I only know that with the end of one journey thus begins another, especially for someone returning somewhere homeless and jobless. Keep looking forward, keep pressing on. For lack of sufficient alternatives I believe I shall be moseying eastward for a change. It's been a long while since I spent a summer in Maine, and though I regret not having fisheries work to occupy me out west, I do look forward to revisiting some long forgotten waters back there. Anyone fancy a fish?