Tackle and Tactics
It's a while since I posted anything from my pal Alan in New Zealand so here's his latest contribution, interesting stuff as always:-
Trust that this note finds you and Lilian in the best of everything. Just got back from Whangamata and I'm pleased to report that the forecast weather bomb turned out to be a damp squib, a weather forecaster's dream that never materialised.
Saturday morning dawned dull and uninspiring. The hills and estuary were shrouded in mist but there was none of the promised torrential rain. A strong wind, gusting 20-25 knots, was buffeting the settlement from the SE which was pushing large ocean swells topping 3 metres at times straight into the harbour mouth. The bay immediately out from the surf club was a maelstrom of white capped waves, collisions and confusion. Low tide was at 10.05 am and when I tried to get out onto the mudflats two hours out from dead low the flats were still awash with water. The outgoing tide was fighting a “two steps forward one step back” battle against the ocean swells and struggling to disgorge the contents of the estuary to the schedule dictated by the moon. You can see how bad it is in the "Ugly day" photograph. Normally the mass of water between the foreground and sand bar in the distance does not exist at this stage of the tide. Slowly it dawned on me that the mist was not low lying cloud but a dense “saline aerosol” created by the action of the waves crashing on the beach. Amazing! Wrapped in a Gore-Tex cocoon, I decided eventually to waddle through the extra water to get to the main channel. The mercury was struggling to best 13 degrees C and the wind plus swell combination was sending a nasty knee high standing chop directly up the harbour. The chop was moving across me from right to left and the billow on the braid created by the wind made it hard to keep in touch with the lure.
I started fishing about 50 metres upstream of normal start point as I could not find my normal marks on account of the extra water. I tied on a on ¼ oz. jig head and threaded a Lunker Hunt Bento bait (3” Perch pattern with a red tail) onto it. The first two casts went about 10 yards upstream of where they would normally have gone, such was the ferocity of the wind. The third, with range compensation mode deployed, plopped in the right place and was immediately monstered by a feisty 2lb kahawai. I did not see that coming! It fought like a dervish and ran up and down the estuary for about five minutes before I could draw it into the shallows. Then it got particularly grumpy when it felt sand on its belly and took to the air, spitting out the lure with the first head shake. I persevered unsuccessfully for about 20 minutes with the Bento in the general area and then lost it on a horse mussel when the wind again sent a cast too far upstream.
To avoid line billow I opted to change to the ever reliable Binsky Blade. I angled my body slightly to get the wind behind my right shoulder and sent a cast almost across the estuary. Whoa! Top stuff. I was getting into a real rhythm now and spraying the far bank with a procession of long casts. The only downside was that the fish couldn’t give a jot and studiously avoided the flashing blade. The next cast was a beauty. It headed out like an Exocet, got caught by a wind gust and arched perfectly to plop in the water directly behind a mooring buoy. The braid instantly knitted macramé around the topknot and was attached for the duration. Watching the buoy bob up and down as I tried to remove the lure from the mooring rope was excruciating, especially when the braid pinged with a crack.
Next I attached a Size 4 Mepps. Nine grams in weight. Chartreuse blade with a white rooster tail. It looked more like the nether regions of an exotic parrot species than a serious fish catcher. And so it proved…for the first 30 minutes or so. I was enjoying trying all sorts of different retrieves and there was no doubt that the lure was visible in the rapidly discolouring water. It screamed “Hello” with every handle crank. Last cast I mumbled to myself and almost on cue the Mepps got spanked by another feisty 2lb kahawai. It was the mirror of the first fish, thick in shoulder and plump in belly, and gave a splendid account of itself.
Sunday morning was everything that Saturday was not. Still, cloudy and warm. Nothing, not even the heavy breathing of the clouds of sand flies when they discovered my exposed hands, ruffled the surface of the estuary. The heavy surf was still driving into the estuary mouth and slowing the ebb tide flow so again it was hard to get onto mudflats. I opted to fish near the marina until the water level dropped and was casting in knee deep water in areas that were normally ankle deep mud. Again I started fishing with the Lunker Hunt Bento Bait (perch with red tail) on ¼ oz. Nitro jig head. Within three casts I’d hooked and landed a 2lb kahawai in the crystal clear water. Six pairs of avian eyes locked onto the thrashing kahawai and it was suddenly all on as shags converged from everywhere determined to share the spoils. I managed to quickly land and release the fish unharmed before it could take its place at the dinner table. The next 20 minutes were spent peppering the channel and fishing the soft plastic across and down like a streamer. A few taps but no solid connections.
The tide was slowly dropping so I made a call to head out to the main channel for a final cast. I lobbed the lure to the far side of the channel and followed it around as it “tap, tapped” a tattoo across the bottom. The next tap was slightly different so I struck hard and whatever the hook penetrated took off like it had been plugged into the mains, wheels spinning madly. It headed upstream at a hell of a speed, line exiting the spool at a fantastic rate. (Very reminiscent of Richard’s fish). It must have gone 50 metres in the initial rush and I picked it for an XOS kahawai as the weight on the rod blank was solid. At the end of the initial run I managed to turn the fish and it headed back downstream at a much more sedate pace. The fight then became very different with whatever was attached just turning side on to use its body to stop itself being drawn into the margins and charging off in short bursts. Imagine my surprise when after 10 minutes of dour struggle I managed to catch sight of the fish and it was a stonking 6lb parore, hooked neatly in the wrist of the tail. It is the largest parore I’ve ever landed and the photograph does not do it justice. The tail was like a small hearth shovel. Brilliant! When I got it close I was able to free the hook and let it go without beaching it.
After dealing with the parore and attaching a new Bento I moved into main channel at 9.45 am. The next hour was manic. I hooked and landed 8 kahawai, the first three in four casts. All freshly minted silver bullets weighing 1.5 - 2.5lb. The trick was to cast upstream at 11 o'clock, allow the lure to sink, follow progress with upstream mends and twitch retrieve steadily. Almost every take came as soon as the lure nudged the bottom directly out from me. As the tide flow slackened so did the action. I had to work lure more vigorously to entice strikes which were getting few and far between. I gave up early as the sand flies were using the back of my hands as a pin cushion and beginning to also attacking my neck and face with gusto. They were winged beasts. I swear at one stage one of them tried to remove and purloin my polaroids! The steady roar of waves crashing on beach continued throughout the session. It was surreal.
Trust you managed to nab some more perch and chub today.
Tight lines and best wishes,
Alan followed up with another short email that adds a little more to the picture. Just to clarify things below I had a near 6lb chub on a plug and then lost the plug in a tree. Also, Alan has been sending me flies to try out on the mullet.:-
Dan’s move to Perth (my youngest son is emigrating) and your potential visit to NZ next year is fantastic news. I’ll break out the ground bait. This time I’ll try to arrange for you to meet Colin Clark as he is a soft bait guru. He’s retired now and splits his time between Hamilton and Whangapoua. Couple of other ideas to explore. Targeting kingfish on a charter out of Tauranga is one and visiting Turangi to target XOS brown trout is another.
You are right about thinking I’d cracked it. There must be a phenomenal number of big parore in the harbour now as I’ve now foul hooked five in two years versus none in the 18 years prior. Ivan (Alan's Dad) and I used to target them in the upper harbour in the 1970’s from a dinghy using pipi (clams). Lots of shell ground bait and then lob in a wad of pipi on a leger or running rig. They were unstoppable as the immediate response when hooked was to bury themselves in the weed beds. I dislike fishing the marina entrance area as the shags have no fear and are painful. The bloody wind on Saturday was a challenge. If I’d have been fishing a lot lately then I may have stayed at home. However, I’d taken all of my Gore-Tex kit (chest waders and over jacket) so there were no excuses.
Great chub. The Rapala dangling from the willow tree would be the ultimate annoyance. Watching the trebles give me a three pronged salute every time I ambled past would be a call to action. You could start a tackle shop with the lures that the boys and I have lost on horse mussels and mooring buoys at Whangamata. Hamish used to be a channel buoy specialist and Tim a yacht catcher supreme.
As an aside, I noticed that I did not get any line twist when using the Mepps. Perhaps the combination of thin braid (12 lb.) and heavy monofilament trace (14 lb.) stops the lure spinning somehow?
Keep me posted, especially on how you fare with the latest batch of maggot flies and SJW’s.
Tight lines and best wishes,
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloomy at Whangamata.