As reported in my early articles on fishing in the Early Season, the New Zealand fishing guides and lodge owners have told me for years that some of the best fishing in New Zealand is in the early season after the streams have been closed for five months.
Having experienced successful early season fishing in October 2005 and again in late October/early November 2007, I wanted to check out the fishing in early December.
After another easy overnight flight and eight hours of sleep in a flat bed seat (and a sleeping pill) on Air New Zealand, I arrived in Auckland in the early morning where I easily cleared Immigration and Customs. Biosecurity looked at my Simms waders and this time determined they were clean and did not need to be disinfected.
I then met my friend and business partner (fly tying operation & archery equipment distribution) from the Kingdom of Bhutan, Ugyen Rinzin, who arrived a couple of hours later from Hong Kong. I had fished with Ugyen in Bhutan in September and wanted to show him that the big fish he caught on our trip to New Zealand in 2007 were normal for New Zealand.
First we headed to the Bay of Islands so Ugyen could experience saltwater fishing for the first time. After an easy drive to Opua we took the small ferry across the bay and drove to the Te Manaaki Villa Bed & Breakfast in the quaint town of Russell.
Russell was the first capital of New Zealand and one of the first European settlements. The town is rich in history with a variety of shops and services that do not spoil the old charm. Hours can be spent in the museum tracing the town's history from the first European settlers, through its whaling and marine history. Even the headstones at New Zealand's first church have a story to tell.
Te Manaaki Villa is owned and operated by Dudley and Sharyn Smith who have been good friends of mine for twenty years. Dudley has been an owner and Captain of fishing boats in the Bay of Islands for 25 years and now owns and operates the ≥Triple B≈. Dud was one of the first to offer a quality saltwater fly fishing experience in the North Island's beautiful Bay of Islands.
The 'Triple B' is ideal for all fishing options - Fly Fishing, Light Tackle, and Big Game Fishing - and is especially suited for a combination of fishing and island sightseeing cruising.
We headed out the next morning with Dud and deckhand, Chris, on a beautiful, sunny, & calm day. The day included some spectacular jigging for snapper and fly fishing for Kahawai. We were back at the wharf in time for a late lunch on the waterfront and a tour of the historic Swordfish Club. Dud then barbequed one of the snappers we caught, for a delicious dinner.
We were off early the next morning for a long drive to Poronui. From my first visit years ago Poronui has evolved from a rustic fishing camp into one of the world's finest fishing lodges.
Our drive was made longer by two hours to return to Te Manaaki for pants I had left hanging in the closet (first time I have done that), but we still arrived at Poronui in time for a tour of the Safari Camp; Blake House; wine cellar; and other facilities before the cocktail hour and the opportunity to meet the other guests.
The next morning after breakfast a helicopter landed on the lawn outside the lodge and we were off with our guide, Ben. First an aerial tour of the 16,000 acres of Poronui and much of the adjoining 500,000 acreas of Maori lands to view the various streams and beats fished from Poronui.
We then landed beside a small crystal clear stream that no one had fished so far this season.
We had a terrific day of fishing for bright colored Rainbow & Brown Trout -using both nymphs and dry flies:and at times with a dropper with a nymph tied off the dry fly.
From Poronui we drove to Rotorua for a flight to Queenstown on the southern end of the South Island. From Queenstown we drove in rain for approximately two hours to Cedar Lodge located in the Makarora Valley.
Thirteen years ago Cedar Lodge owner, Dick Fraser, joined me in a fishing trip to the Kingdom of Bhutan so our arrival was a mini-reunion for Dick & Ugyen.
After dinner Dick shared his photo album and tales of our Bhutan fishing trip with the other guests staying at the lodge.
The area had experienced heavy rains for several days and many of the rivers were high & muddy;and unfortunately not fishable. However, all fishing at Cedar Lodge is by helicopter fly out so after breakfast the next morning Ugyen and I departed by helicopter with our guide, Paul.
We flew into a beautiful valley with a very small stream (see photo below) where the water level was high, but clear. The higher water made spotting the fish more difficult, but our guide was up to the challenge and repeatedly pointed out fish that I could not see.
The small stream seemed to hold the trout, both Rainbow and Brown, in pockets next to the fast water and close to the bank.
When hooked, the fish would tear off down stream which fortunately did not spook the fish in front of it. In one 20 yard stretch Ugyen and I (taking turns) managed to hook seven fish and land five of them. Ugyen departed for the airport the next morning to fly back to Bhutan via Hong Kong and Bangkok and while I spent the next week visiting a number of new properties; meeting new owners and/or managers at properties that we already use; and checking out the improvements at some properties that underwent refurbishing over the winter.
Then home after once again experiencing The Best; early season fishing.
Read more about Mike's travels here...
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