Monday, April 25, 2005
Fishing for Flounder Our Way.
The Taieri River at Henley.
The tidal water of the Taieri at Henley and down through the Gorge towards the Pacific Ocean forms a popular and rich amatuer fishery producing good catches of many varieties of fish.
Much of it is not accessible by foot except for the few very determined fishers who enjoy to the full the natural spoils of beauty and bounty that this pristine area offers.
Trout, Trevally, young Snapper,Flounder,Mullet, Whitebait and Eels are some of the species present at various times adding variety and unpredictability to the catches of those who lined the bank of this broad waterway, cars at their backs for shelter from the often cold wind, fishing the incoming tide along the stretch of water that hugged the road from the bridge to the Old Lodge.
This was the perfect spot for the older less energetic fishers, or for those with children and the majority of the parked cars had couples, with fold up chairs and perhaps a Thermos of hot Tea, or familys all enjoying a regular day out fishing with friends.
They all had their own spot and knew their neighbours here as well as the ones they had in the various towns they came here from every weekend to "fill the 'fridge" and "recharge their batteries".
A very real sense of community prevailed and it was a warm welcoming feeling.
Newcomers were smoothly slotted in and made welcome by all.
And to top it off, the fishing was good!. What could be better?.
My brothers Garry, Vernon and I were often seen driving through this area occasionally stopping for a yarn with one or other of the many friends we had made here.
But we had always been a different breed of fisher and seldom stopped here to fish.
We were all very fit and keen to see what was "around the next bend" of any river and, being undaunted by difficult access, our outlook opened up water to us that was seldom fished by others.
We came to this beuatiful place, usually in summer and in various combinations, to fish for the most unusual looking but delicious Flounder.
Cooked simply and quickly with little garnishing this fish will rival the very best of the better known table fish.
The fishing trip would start days before with a look at the tides in the paper and selecting a day when both low tides were to occur in daylight as our favourite spot involved a good hours walk down the Taieri Gorge towards the sea and was almost impossible when the tide was in although we had all made the difficult and dangerous trek out after dark.
Bait in the form of Sea-worms was collected the day before at low tide at a spot in Dunedin harbour and kept fresh in cool, damp, sand ready for the trip.
One such trip was a stand out and deserves a mention.
About a half hour drive brought us to the turn off at the Henley Pub, through the gate and past the scattered cars parked along the bank with their people setting up for the day's fishing.
Our first stop was a mile or so further at the end of the road near the Old Lodge.
The car parked and locked at the start of the short track to another flat tussocky area about 500 yards further long. This was the last bit of flat bank so was about as far down as most people came to fish.
After that the going got much tougher.
Sometimes along tidal beaches with their little scurrying crabs or rocks normally covered by a metre or more of water when the tide was in ( and bloody slippery when the tide was out ! ), and at times winding amongst the tall clumps of tussoks and Toi Toi or up the steep slopes through dense, yellow flowered Broom scrub and Gorse bushes, the barely discernable "track" was tough enough to keep everybody away from our secret spot. Only once do I remember arriving to find others there and they had come by boat, had no real interest in fishing, and were soon gone.
Soon enough we were on the last leg of the journey above the scrub and making our way through the very pleasant easier going of the cool shaded trail through the taller trees of this almost estuarine environment .
Finally down through the last of the trees and onto the small, rocky beach of our beaut little inlet. Small sandy beaches on the opposite bank led through the bright green of the shorter Mangrove-like trees to the dappled steep slopes of the Gorge proper. The backdrop of azure sky and the tang of the salty water pushing it's way up the Gorge on this magnificent summer day added to the magic of this spot.
First class fishing with a million dollar view!.
We were spoilt.
My "hot" spot, if I was quick enough and beat Garry, was off a fairly big rock on the waters edge at high tide that had a very convenient water worn hole that made a great rod holder. It didn't really matter though as about twenty feet out the sandy bottom dipped into a deeper channel that the flounder used while traveling upstream feeding and it was an easy cast from any part of our inlet.
We used our trout gear here too but set up differently, with a flat running sinker above two small hooks tied six inches apart and liberally baited with sea-worm.
Vernon preferred to fish about 10 yards downstream off the rocks ( Gave him first crack at any fish, the bugger ) but on the edge of the same channel.
I'm not sure whether Garry fished off the rock that day or me but I know we all had one of those amazing days of fishing that simply cannot be equaled.
Vernon also liked to take a small frypan and his Primus stove so that he could put his first flounder in some sizzling butter for his lunch.
Such was his confidence this day that he set up the stove and had the pan heating before he cast his line in!!!
Serve him right!.
He burnt the butter!.
He was the first to cast in and almost as soon as his bait hit the bottom the action began. His rod bending in his hand and the broad grin on his face heralded the great day we were about to have.
Garry and Vernon both had fish on the bank before me and both got double hook ups before me but I think I may have caught the biggest fish!
One savage strike on my line bent my rod double and effortlessly tore line from my reel. I thought I had my first double hook up but it was a huge Plaice, a relation of the flounder.
Landing him became a simple test of strength and patience, after his first mad dash he didn't run or fight me in any way other than to grip the bottom like a limpet!. I simply put as much pressure as I dared on it and waited. Eventually he would give in and lift off the bottom a little bit allowing me to regain a yard or two of line.
Hard work but well worth the effort. About 4lb, a feed for the family.
Another felt like I had caught one of those miniature Japanese submarines but it eventually, after a lot of effort, showed itself to be about 20 lbs of very cranky, huge, green, sea run eel. I got him in as close as I could and cut the line. There went two good hooks and a sinker!.
The three of us were kept pleasantly busy for most of the six hours or so of the incoming tide so the hour's lull of high tide gave us a nice break to clean the fish, have lunch and quite possibly a beer ( Speights of course! ), relaxing in the warmth of the midday sun.
There were an unusually large number of fish feeding on their return journey to the sea so the outgoing tide was a fairly busy time as well.
Nice dinner plate sized Flounder were the rule rather than the exception and, while not difficult, needed some patience to land successfully although there was always someone there with the landing net when needed.
From memory I think we caught around 30 flounder between us that day, most of them big enough to keep.
This was an exceptional day but most days would see each of us with half a dozen or so keepable fish and enjoy the outing just as much.
I don't think we ever left this place empty handed.
I don't think we ever left this place without having a few or two cleansing Ales at the very conveniently located Henly Pub ( now closed I think ), and consequently I don't think we ever left this place totally sober!.
We always left happy and with memories that will last a lifetime.
My wife Robyn caught her first edible fish here on her first visit to NZ with me, a Flounder of course.
Garry, Vernon and I brought people fishing here over the years but few of them returned without us.
A lot of our ancesters both Maori and Pakeha are buried around Henley so there's more to the attraction the place has than just fishing.
Cheers for now..
An Ordinary Bloke.