Suiting Up

10257499_753751864657265_4893673440228550360_oFitting enough gear into a backpack for a six month journey is difficult.  By the time you pack the tent, sleeping bag and stove, and throw in some clothes, there isn’t much room left for fly gear.

Fly fishing so many different places over 6 months out of one backpack worth of gear posed quite a few selection issues.  Ideally, I would have liked to have taken 5 fly rods but ultimately that had to be cut down to 3.  These ended up being a 9wt TFO TiCRx, a Sage Bass Bluegill 230gr, and a 6wt Sage Flight.

The 9wt should handle all the saltwater as well as the big rivers and salmon of Alaska.  The Sage Bass rod was taken to cover all the warm water fishing and also as a back up for any salmon available on the surface.  Hopefully it gets bent by a few Silvers at the last frontier.  The 6wt rod will cover all the trout fishing and any light warm water opportunities.

Unlucky to miss out was the 4wt which would have been unreal to have on the small trout streams in the North West and for targeting grayling in Alaska, however the 6wt will manage.

A couple of sets of poly leaders will help get the flies to the fish.  Tippets are all fluorocarbon and are 3lb, 6lb, 8lb, 20lb, 40lb and 32b wire.

I have packed a stripping basket, waders and boots, but could not fit a net.  This may prove to be a problem but hopefully not often.  I have deliberately not taken any flies so I can stop in at plenty of fly shops and pick up some the local patterns as well as the good oil.

Time to hit the road

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A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Fly Fishing Dream

We can't stop here. This is bat country

We can’t stop here. This is bat country

G’day USA

Being an Australian, the majority of my fly fishing is done throughout Australia and trips to New Zealand. But that is all about to change as I’ve finally pulled the trigger and clocked off work for six months.

During May 2014 I will pack the great red shark and hit the road in North America to chase of some of the most respected quarry in the fly fishing world.

So far the list of target species and where I think my best chance of targeting them are as follows, in no particular order:

Bonefish                                              Hawaii, Florida

Peacock Bass                                      Hawaii, Florida

Smallmouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

Rainbow Trout                                     Various

Steelhead

Atlantic Salmon

Cutthroat Trout                                   Idaho

Whitefish

Shad                                                    California

Brook Trout

King Salmon                                        Alaska

Chum Salmon                                      Alaska

Sockeye Salmon                                  Alaska

Silver Salmon                                       Alaska

Pink Salmon                                         Alaska

Grayling

Artic Char

Dolly Varden

Northern Pike                                      Alaska

Lake Trout                                           Alaska

Bull Trout

Sheefish                                              Alaska

Striped Bass

Muskellunge

Redfish                                                Florida

Snook                                                   Florida

Tarpon                                                 Florida

Chub

Bluegill

This is what I have put together so far from a bit of internet research and a few books, however I would prefer input from ground zero local fly fishos.

So what are the best fly fishing experiences in the US? What is your favourite species and locations to fish for them?

If you have any suggestions for species, places to catch them, or fly fishing experiences that I should include in my trip please feel free to help me out by letting me know.

After all there is nothing more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of a fly fishing binge.

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New Zealand; Part III – Otago

After the week in Southland, I dropped Leo back Queenstown airport, bid farewell to the rest of the group and headed across to explore some new waters in the tussocky high country of Otago alone. Hooking through the Kawarau Gorge and across the highland Lake Dunstan, I headed down the grand Clutha Valley. I had a hankering to fish a large river and the Clutha looked a likely target. The river is huge and the emerald green water flows with enough power to easily intimidate a wading fisherman. Most banks of the river drop of steeply, into fast water that limit the possibly of both fishing and fish being able to hold and feed. I continued down the valley to the quaint town of Roxburgh.

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Clutha River at Roxburgh

I had heard about the Chinook Salmon run that occurs in the Clutha and about fisherman hooking huge specimens from positions high above the water level near the dam outlet near Lake Roxburgh Village. Of course, it would be even more difficult hooking and landing one on the fly and it was still a little early in the season to consider trying, so I continued South and found a nice gravel bar and island near the golf course. By the time I rigged the six weight  the sun was behind the hills and the moon was rising. The perfect time to give the Twilight Beauty a run.

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Evening on the Clutha

Wading and fishing around the island was easy enough, apart from the hundreds of seagulls that must have been nesting close by and continually felt the need to attack me. The waving rod and line kept them at bay, and I managed 2 rainbows and a brown on the Twilight Beauty.  One of the rainbows which was a half decent size must have been recently attacked by a cormorant and had claw marks and cuts along its back and gill plates. The tough little bugger had recovered though and was obviously back feeding.

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Clutha Rainbow with battle scars

I gave the woolly bugger a swing through some of the faster water around the front of the island in the hopes of hooking into something big and got a few grabs but failed to hook up. The joys of swinging big flies 40 feet away with a six weight!

I camped the night and was up early the next morning with a plan to fish Lake Onslow and the Teviot River. I made a quick stop on the way up to Lake Onslow in Roxburgh East to embrace the gold mining history of the area and spent a couple of hours on Pierce’s Prospect sluicing some pay dirt with a couple of the local gold bugs. Stu Edgecumbe owns and runs the site, and is a deadset character who knows as much about the local gold mining history as anyone.

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Pierce’s prospect is still producing

Didn’t get a massive pay out but took home some colour nonetheless.

With the weather looking like it could turn nasty any hour I rallied the Subaru up the winding dirty road for what seemed like an eternity, until finally arriving at Lake Onslow. The lake is incredibly high for its size, sitting at 700 metres above sea level.

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The view over Lake Onslow

As I began to explore the area, the outflow into the Teviot River looked like a particularly tempting spot to wet a line. A quick walk through the tussocks and I was covered in green cicadas. I had a variety of cicada flies, all of which compared well with the size and profile of the cicada.

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(l to r); Cicada, Stu’s Cicada, Elk Hair Cicada, Manic Classic Cicada, Turks Tarantula

Over the next two hours I fished them all, and they all caught fish. A lot of fish. The fish were mostly browns, nothing massive but up to three pounds and beautifully coloured in bright yellows and golds.

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The fish were stacked up waiting for cicadas

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Great water, amazing fishing

I was well into the double figures and had only fished a few hundred metres before the weather started to close in. Being so far up a somewhat sketchy dirt road I thought it best to retreat to lower ground before the storm hit, and boy did it hit. By the time I was half way down I could barely see five metres in front of the car. I was driving in clouds for close to 40 minutes before I found the Clutha River again and recovered some visibility.

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Rain on the Clutha

I decided to leave the Clutha valley in the hope of escaping the weather and so continued driving South. By the time I arrived at the Pomahaka River the rain had stopped, so I pulled up at the bridge and hoped for signs of an evening rise. Conditions were dead still but I did not see a single fish rise in half an hour looking upstream and downstream. According to some locals the Pomahaka has felt the full effect of intensive cattle farming and the fishing in the river had been decimated.

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All quiet on the Pomahaka

I continued along the road and spent the night on the banks of the Mataura in Gore. The moon was out and bright, illuminating some of the towns historic buildings.

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Beautiful night in Gore

The next day I had a quick fish on the lower Mataura and Waikaia Rivers for a couple more nice browns on willow grubs, before heading back up to Queenstown to return the rental car the following day.

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Paying homage at the World Capital

I did actually catch another couple of nice browns in a small creek in the middle of town before I found out that it was supposed to off limits. Whoops.

All in all it had been another great trip to South Island New Zealand, exploring new water and catching plenty of quality trout.

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New Zealand; Part II – Southland

After snaking through the alps and a quick stop in Queenstown for a fergburger and some food supplies I headed South to banks of the world renowned Mataura River. I briefly stopped for a captain cook at one of the Nokomai Gorge access points. The river was a lot lower than I had previously seen it. Even with the scarce flow it didn’t take long to find a handful of trout sipping willow grubs under the cover of low hanging branches. I watched these fish for ten minutes and was tempted to rig up the rod, but I knew I had to keep moving if I was to camp the night at Mavora Lakes.

The drive up the valley to Mavora is always special, with the Mararoa River to the left and the world famous trophy waters of the Oreti to the right, separated by a dusty gravel road that encourages Colin McCrae inspired driving in the rental car. I pulled up at one of the upper Mararoa access points, just below the lakes and landed a few decent rainbows on a tan cicada in quick succession. Unfortunately the Mararoa has felt the full effects of a didymo invasion, but this year a heavy flood had helped to scour the river bed earlier the summer.

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Solid Mararoa Rainbow

After camping the night at South Mavora Lake and a quick fish for a couple more rainbows in the morning, I headed back to Queenstown to meet up with a group consisting of Illawarra and Lakeside Fly Fishing Club members, and my partner for the next week of fishing, Leo. Most of the group of 14 are regulars on this trip to Southland, staying for a week at the Mossburn Hotel and fishing any of the multitude of rivers or lakes within an hours drive. This year, the fishing and weather were excellent in most spots, with the only exception being the upper Mataura which we found not to be as good as previous years, although the lower reaches and tributaries were still first class.

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Couldn’t have hoped for better weather

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Standard Southland Brownie

Together, Leo and I fished rivers including the Mataura, Mararoa, Waiau, Waikaia, Hamilton Burn with plenty of dry fly action on either cicadas or willow grubs. Some days I would tie on a woolly bugger and swing it through current just to try something different.

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Fish in the Waikaia were in good nick

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Plenty of Browns around the 60cm mark

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Willow grubber caught in the skinny water behind

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Perfect glides full of waiting trout

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Two in two casts on the tan cicada

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Gorgeous late afternoon willow grubber on the Hamilton Burn

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Gems of nature

The highlight of the week would have to be the day spent jet boating on the Waiau River with Ken of Fish Jet. A group of 4 of us and Ken left the boat ramp at 10am and spent the day getting chauffeured between usually inaccessible gravel bars and islands or even casting out the front of the running jet boat to sighted trout. The day was only interrupted by a lunch of fresh venison and crayfish tails. Life doesn’t get much better than days like this. All 4 of us were amongst the fish all day. The fast flowing currents of the Waiau produce well fed fish with incredible strength that require stronger than usual tippets up to 10lb. Most of the day we fished large dries such as cicadas or bushy stimulator patterns. Nymph droppers were also used but most fish were quite willing to come to the surface. By the time dusk was approaching Ken loaded us back on the jet boat and we headed back to a small island near the ramp. There were hundreds of seagulls around, which Ken stated was a good sign for an evening rise. We parked the boat on the island and all necked a beer while waiting to see if a hatch eventuated. I switched to a Twilight Beauty ready for any mayfly action. Sure enough, Ken was on the money and it wasn’t long before a few rises started. Two casts later I was attached to a meatball of a Rainbow that gave me a workout before Ken netted it in a calmer cove around the back of the island. The hatch only picked up from here, soon there were fish rising everywhere, with an incredible amount of mayflies on the water and in the air. The seagulls are a real pain and will take a fly as a couple of the others found out. The hatch would have lasted close to 40 minutes and I landed 6 fish in that time. The others did similarly well. It was just after 10pm by the time we arrived back the ramp, Ken the Kiwi legend had guided us for 12 hours straight, champion! We were all stoked and I think Ken was happy with the new daily record of 41 fish landed.

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Smallest fish in NZ on a size 14 Twilight Beauty

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Chunky Waiau Rainbow on the jet boat

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