Weekend ride to Jim's Flat Hut fishing the Ahuara River
Scanning topographic maps in search of new fishing areas I discovered a hut simply marked "hut" by the Ahuara River. With a little research I soon discovered it was an old Department of Conservation hut that was going to be torn down but the Ahuara community stepped in to maintain it themselves to ensure that it lived on. Unsure of what condition the hut would be in I departed Christchurch hoping it would be at least watertight.
Stopping off at a High Country lake on the way through
Hitting the West Coast gravel roads
Once the hut was reached I got a pretty pleasant surprise. It was well set up, in great nick, plus is was one of the tidiest huts I have visited in a long time.
Arriving at the hut
Ahuara River just below the hut looking upstream
Ahuara River just below the hut looking downstream on sunset
I tried to get an early night but I was continually fending off aerial attacks from mosquitoes, I'm not too sure how they got it, but they did! Come 12 o'clock I decided to rig up my tent insect screen to the bunks and finally got some sleep.
The morning brought a heavy mist choking the sun until well after 11am, but as the mist was burnt off it was warm blue skies all round.
A misty morning start
Blind fishing some promising looking fast water kicked off the morning's efforts, but to no joy. As the sun sat higher in the sky lighting up the river I decided to slowly walk the river's edge to see if I could sightfish anything. Soon enough a 4ish pounder was spotted casually circling a backwash pocket sipping emerging insects from the surface. The fish itself looked easy enough to catch the way it was actively feeding, but the actual approach and cast was quite difficult due to a high bank and tall scrub, plus the backwash currents. Long story short, while trying to move on to position I spooked the fish, booooo! Sneakily retreating hoping that it wasn't too badly spooked and would be out again on the return trip I moved on. Although I passed some very promising looking water nothing more was seen until I approached a right angle in the river against some cliffs where I was bluffed from going any further. Right at the elbow was a fantastic backwash with fish habitat written all over it. Sure enough a 3ish pounder was out in the afternoon sun cruising around sipping food morsels from the surface completely unreserved. After positioning myself I made five respectable casts ahead of the fish with a small mayfly imitation, but with heavy foam lines and ample food it was missed each time. After waiting for quite a while the fish moved out into a clear patch of water, the fly was cast, and was casually sipped into his mouth without any hesitation. The rod was lifted and the line was tight, but three seconds later after a short burst slack appeared as I watched the fish scurry to the depths. Because this was the end of the section I could fish I waited around for an hour or so to see if he would reappear. He must have been pricked pretty well however as he wasn't seen again, no doubt sitting down deep unimpressed with my efforts.
The backwash holding a crusing fish
On my return trip I didn't see the first fish out again either so the plan was to go for a ride further up the river for a looksee
After talking to a local farmer to get permission to cut across some paddocks I came across some nice looking water, because this was just a quick look I didn't setup a rod, I wished I did however as I came across a couple of really nice fish, good to know they'll be there for next time though.
As the next morning rolled around the plan of attack was to revisit the two fish from yesterday morning. Along my travels I encountered this big fellow...
A Black Scarab beetle. Using my finger as a size comparison you can see its quite large and no doubt on the trout's menu, however I didn't have a fly imitation of this size in my box
The first fish was out heavily feeding again so I stealthily made my way to a concealed spot where I could just make a cast from within the scrub. From here I could see the fish circling the backwash in a random manner for what looked to be mayflies hatching so a small dry was tied on. The erratic patrols made timing difficult as the fly would only be drag free for a very short time before the backwash swallowed all the slack line. Not only that, with the dense scrub all around and lots of branches at my feet it made for a tough task getting the line out without getting caught up, the back cast had to be almost vertical. In short, this was not a straightforward fish to catch by any means. The next two hours were spent mostly waiting with the occasional cast put out that didn't quite sync up with the fish's patrol path. Finally however a cast was made that caught the fish's eye, from a reasonable depth the fish lined up the fly and came plowing up towards it, but just 2 feet from the fly drag kicked in and slightly pulled the fly left. The fish half leap from the water with a mighty splash then retreated to the depths, it appeared even the slightest drag was enough to spook him. I sat and waited for a good 20 minutes but did not see him reappear so it was off to tackle the second fish.
As I approached the backwash pool the mood sank as the fish wasn't there, I got my line ready anyway and had lunch while scanning the water optimistically. After 20 minutes a black shape finally appeared and was slowly snaking towards me casually sipping food from the surface, I wasted no time in delivered a #14 Adams dry fly landing it right in front of his nose first cast. In an almost seamless motion the fly was engulfed and after a painfully long 2 count delay the rod was lifted and the hook was set. You beauty! An exciting battle began that certainly lasted longer than the previous day, but after four energetic runs in the main current the hook came loose still technically leaving me skunked for the entire weekend. Bugger!
The backwash where the fish was hooked up for the second time
Making my way back I was thinking I may well end up going home without bringing a fish to the net, horrors! I soon dismissed this option however when I slowly popped my head through the bushes and saw the first fish was back out feeding again, my determination to catch this fish was now fierce. I spent a considerable amount of time making sure I didn't blow this by being too hasty. An opportunity finally appeared and an Adams was perfectly delivered. It looked all good right till the last minute when it was flatly refused just an inch from his nose, presumably he'd become pattern shy from the earlier attempt with that very same fly. I decided to change up opting to go small and subtle on light gear and tied on a #16 Twilight Beauty. After waiting and waiting for the right opportunity the cast was made, without hesitation the fly was plucked from the surface, 2 count on clock before a rod lift and the battle was on! This fish had some serious power under the bonnet, for a 3 1/2lb fish the battle was more than I expected, my reel sang loudly as I was taken all the way downstream in the main current. I was stoked to see the fish finally come to the net and after an audible "you beauty" and a quick pic he was released in good shape. Over the two days the total time spent on this one fish would have been in the 5 hour range, but I tell ya, totally worth it!
In total about 5 hours was spent on this fish over a 2 day period but if finally came to the net
Pattern: Twilight Beauty
Technique: Cast ahead of fish's beat, 2 count delay on setting the hook on sighted fly take
As the day rolled on it was time to pack up and hit the road. The weekend didn't bring lots of fish to the net, but it was completely satisfying to land the one under difficult circumstances.
The Arnold River running very low for the time of year