This was a world class trout fishery and great fun to fish. Five rainbow trout all over half a metre long, caught in crystal clear waters from a temperate rainforest setting. This was the New Zealand you see in magazines and DVDs.
The Fishing gods are smiling
I found myself winding through the gorge country of State Highway 2 from Whakatane to Gisborne. I was looking for some dusty, corrugated farm roads on route to the Koranga river. After nearly two hours of driving to seemingly nowhere in particular I was surprised when I arrived to see two other cars already in the car park. Fortunately these folk were hunting deer; the Koranga river fish would remain unspooked and unfished on this day … the fishing gods were smiling 🙂
A pool too far
The advice I had was to walk two and half hours downstream and then fish sections of the river back to the car park. Alas I just couldn’t help myself. After only an hour of hiking with rod in hand, the lure temptingly tucked into the bottom guide, I had passed one too many promising spots. I had to have a cast.
After a near perfect presentation into the white water at the head of the pool I was optimistic. Even so, I got the shock of my life when after just a few winds of the reel, the spinning lure connected with a solid weight. A big rainbow emerged from behind the large rock in the photo, hit the lure and then took off on a scenic tour around the pool.
It was a beautifully conditioned fish, a new personal best, and a great way to start the session. With the nerves of 3 weeks of fishing misadventure settled, everything from here would be a bonus. I did then take heed of some of the advice I had, hiking another half an hour down stream until a thick section of forest pushed me back onto the river. Still short of my destination (Koranga forks) and with the prospect of too much hiking (and not enough fishing!), I decided to cut my losses and fish from this spot all the way back upstream to the car park. On reflection it was the right decision 😉
Wading back up the river a dozen or more ‘fishy’ looking spots presented themselves. Usually these were fast flowing rapids which emptied into slower moving pools. Every pool had a half metre rainbow trout in it – somewhere.
Casting to the far end of the elbow I soon had another hook-up. Although all the fish caught on this day were about the same size, this was my favourite fish of the session. It was vivid pink, 55cm long and put up a great fight.
As I continued into the afternoon, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. In contrast to the previous couple of weeks, everything seemed to go right. Everything that is, except for what happened next!
Monsters of the deep
During this particular hook-up, as the fish was charging around the pool, I noticed a much bigger shape moving in behind it. No it wasn’t a 12lb trout, it was a long finned eel.
These incredible creatures hatch in the pacific islands, swim across the Pacific Ocean as an elver and swim up into the freshwater mountain streams and rivers. Here they can spend up to 50 years growing to huge sizes before returning to where they hatched to spawn once more. Then they die.
This particularly large eel, around 6 foot long, was intently following the hooked fish. As it drew closer I quickly muscled the fish onto the bank. It slid up leaving only its tail in the water. The eel swam over and quite casually grabbed the 5lb trout by the tail and starting dragging it back into the water!!!
In a panic I pulled hard on the line to retrieve my catch. In the ensuing, but brief, tug-of-war the knot broke and the trout slowly disappeared back into the pool … with my lure in its mouth… And an eel attached to its tail.
For a moment I considered stripping down and diving in after it before the fear of losing even more “tackle” convinced me otherwise. So I left the scene just like that: my fish and an eel locked together. I felt bad for the fish, amazed that it could co-inhabit a pool with another top-line predator and simply in awe at the ability of mother nature to surprise.
After struggling to catch (and land) a decent fish in my previous NZ expeditions, every fish I hooked from the Koranga made it to the bank. I landed five in all and had many more follows. From the first cast, some 60 minutes hike away, to the last cast right next to the car park, the result was the same. A beautiful, vividly coloured and hard fighting rainbow trout. The small spinning reel I was using got a real workout, to the point where the ‘clicker’ on the drag finally gave up. A small price to pay, it is easily fixed.
What is the best word to describe that feeling when you are excited, exhausted and completely content after a long day of fishing and hiking in a world class fishery? … Nirvana 🙂
Nirvana: An ideal condition of rest, harmony, stability, or joy.
My particular thanks to David Freudenberger (Freudie) for maps and advice on where to find these fish. Check out his article on the Koranga river in FlyLife magazine.
Well that’s all from New Zealand, stay tuned as Mish, Lee, Dan (and Rachel) post on everything from our temptation to change the blog name to high country fishing adventures back in Oz!