Friday, November 30, 2007

Saturday Dec. 1st Fishing with Kevin

Today I met up with one of my South Island guides and went out for a short day of fishing. Being a Saturday and his only day off after many days working, we left later than normal and also I was spending the majority of the morning dealing with problems at home with frozen pipes back in Montana, according to my friend, house and pet sitter. So I dealt with how she should handle frozen pipes and also a last minute New Zealand booking for a client who was actually on his way to the airport as we spoke this morning! So off to a late start, but it was still a good productive day albeit a rather chilly one. We were freezing!!! Kevin and I decided to wade wet since the sun was out and it looked like a nice day...BUT as the day progressed, the weather “turned to custard” as they say down here and it got cold and cloudy and a little windy. Just enough to feel chilled to the bone, wearing shorts and wet wading. Brrr.... not a good idea today. Hopefully tomorrow won’t be the same as today’s weather. It’s not supposed to be, but this area is much like Montana in that the weather can change at the drop of a dime.

Nonetheless, we still had a good day of fishing and I caught some nice fat brown trout.

No matter where you are in New Zealand, you are never more than 60 miles from the coast, so weather can change quite rapidly which is what happened today. This was not in the forecast so we’ll see how they do tomorrow. I go out with a different guide tomorrow to a different river.

After such warm weather this entire trip, and beautiful sunny days, today was actually the first day I felt cold and not just cold but chilled to the bone. I haven’t been able to get warm all day so I came home and jumped in the shower and stood under the hot water for ages until I thawed. I don’t think it was actually that cold, but the relative humidity was high so it felt really cold. Coming from such a dry climate, it felt colder to me than if I was home in 20 degrees F.

So, a new report once I see how things go tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m once again in an area with no internet connection and I’m not set up this trip to do dial up on my laptop so I’m at the mercy of other people’s computers to go online to do anything, This post may have to wait a few days to go up but at least I’m writing it now while it’s fresh in my mind. to bed now. It’s 2:21AM in Montana now and I only have two more days to go so I should try to start getting closer to my old time clock as it will make for an easier adjustment when I go back home.

Ciao for now.

Akaroa to Pleasant Point

This morning after a delicious breakfast, I had a walk around the quaint village of Akaroa before heading south to Pleasant Point which is located in an idyllic part of South Canterbury. I forget, when coming from Montana where all roads for the most part are straight as an arrow, just how incredibly wiggly the roads are here! It’s no place to be in a hurry that’s for sure.

The drive to Pleasant Point took around 3-1/2 hours but now I can relax in a lovely cottage located on a certified organic farm called Centre Hill Cottage. Ian Blakemore owns this farm stay retreat which sits elevated above the Totara Valley where he has been farming since 1968. The farm gained full organic status in 1990, running deer, beef, sheep and growing potatoes for the New Zealand Organic Market. Right now the deer are fawning so hopefully I’ll have some photos of baby deer.

Tomorrow is a fishing day so hopefully I’ll have something good to report tomorrow night. For now, it’s time to relax with a delicious New Zealand wine and some locally made cheese and crackers and get ready to head out to dinner in a while.

Ciao for now!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bonjour from Akaroa - Maison de la Mer

"Akaroa" in Maori means "Long Harbor". The harbor was formed several million years ago with the giant Akaroa volcanic eruption which created the surrounding hills, with the harbor as the crater lake. Over the years the crater lake breached to the ocean, and it's now fully navigable.

The Maori were the first people here in the region, with the Waitaha tribe being the first nomadic peoples on the Bank's Pennsula. They were succeeded in the region in the 17th century by the current Ngai Tahu people who came down from the North Island in search of new resources for their people.

During the early 19th century, Akaroa was the earliest European settlement in Canterbury, and was a whaling port for French, British, Russian and American whalers who traded with the Maori. As a result of this connection, a group of French whalers came to a land agreement with the Ngai Tahu, and purchased a block of land, which is today's Akaroa village. The French formed a company of settlers with the intention of claiming the territory as French.

While the French settlers were underway on their ship - "Le Comte de Paris" - the British were signing an historic treaty with the Maori - The Treaty of Waitangi - which made New Zealand an English colony. The British got word of the French ship and rushed to Akaroa just days before its arrival to let the settlers know that the British flag was flying. The British decided to honor the original French land grants, so the settlers landed and set up the small French settlement here in Akaroa under British rule. The original family names are today found o nall the street names around the village. (quoted as written at Maison de la Mer where I'm staying)

Last night I arrived around 5 PM in Akaroa. My destination for the night, Maison de la Mer. As I arrived, Bruce and Carol were hard at work decorating the Christmas tree. Now, mind you, I realize Christmas is coming but I'm still having a hard time getting my head wrapped around Christmas and Christmas trees when it's 80 degrees outside! Nevertheless, it looks lovely twinkling away just inside the front door.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Claremont Country Estate and Limestone Hills

I spent the night in the cottage on Gareth and Camilles' property and then in the morning I went over to the property next door which just happened to be Claremont Country Estate. Gareth arranged with the owners Richard and Rosie Goord, to go out on their private Land Rover "Safari" over the 2,400 acre estate and nature reserve to see some history regarding the limestone cliffs and the hidden prehistoric treasures found inside.

A big attraction at Claremont is the chance to see God's Marbles – massive round limestone boulders dating from the age of the dinosaurs. About 15 million years ago, God's Marbles began to form. Erosion by river, sun and rain has gradually exposed these boulders, which have tumbled down into the riverbed. They can weigh more than seven tons. If I remember corectly, they are more like pearls which are calcium carbonate that formed around dinosaur bones and like a pearl began to grow. So, everywhere you see one of these "pearls", there is a dinosaur bone hidden inside somewhere. How cool is that?

"Claremont also contains rock-solid proof of the disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs. About 65 million years ago, a meteor or asteroid collided with the Earth, striking the Yucatan peninsula near Mexico with the force of a major nuclear detonation. The resultant debris blocked out light and heat, causing mass extinction.
Evidence for this can be found at Claremont in the KT boundary, a layer of rust-streaked rock rich in iridium, an element found in meteorites. This is one of the most visible KT boundary sites on Earth. Dinosaur fossils exist below the line, but none above."

Anyway, after a truly fascinating tour of the high country sheep station, deer farm and my geology lesson for the day, I took off for Akaroa. I drove back through Christchurch and then out to the Banks Peninsula all the way to the end to Akaroa, a little French fishing village. More on that later.

Waipara Valley and Limestone Hills

So today I left the Murchison area and headed back toward Waipara and the grape growing region near Christchurch. I was heading to my friend Gareth Renowden's place to see his truffiere, talk mushrooms and see his shearers cottage. But first, I stopped at the swingbridge that goes over the Buller River and took some photos. This is the longest swingbridge in New Zealand which crosses the Buller Gorge...a long way down!

They have a ride called the high speed comet line which is like a zip line that you can either fly across on your belly or sit down like in a chair and ride across the gorge at high speed from great heights. I was hoping someone would come along and pay to go so I could video them. I suggested to the guy at the comet line that he find someone to go across and he said, he'd take my camera and I should go tell his mate Peter that Markie sent me and he'd film that's what we did. It was really fun and not even as scary as walking across the swingbridge.

Before I got too far out of town, I stopped for a brief time to meet the new owners of Maruia River Lodge on the Maruia River. They are a lovely young couple and I think will do a good job as new lodge owners and I wish them the best of luck with their new venture. I had some extra time on my hands since Gareth had left me a message on my voice mail saying he was going to be in Christchurch until later and wouldn't be home until around 5:30. That meant I had time to take a rod and a walk on the Maruia River and see if I could find a trout to hook. Unfortunately I didn't see any trout so after about an hour and a half I was back on my way south and east. Of course it wouldn't be New Zealand if you didn't have to stop once in a while and wait for someone moving sheep.

Did I hear anyone say truffles? Maybe not this time of year in the southern hemisphere, but Gareth Renowden and his wife Camille have a truffiere planted with English Oak and hazelnut trees with the roots inoculated with the tuber melanosporum truffle spore with high hopes of harvesting the black Perigord truffle this coming winter. Two winters ago he harvested his first ever truffle and hopes that by this next June there will be more. He also has planted olive trees for pressing into olive oil and a nice vineyard of Pinot Noir grapes and Syrah.

After talking mushrooms and travel all night and exhanging mushroom photos of Gareth's trip to China and Shangrila, and some of my multitude of mushroom photos of which Gareth refers to as "mushroom porn" since he lives in a somewhat mushroom deprived country now, we called it a night. Of course it didn't hurt that we had a lovely roasted chicken dinner and polished off 4 bottles of wine between the three of us.

Gareth has also just published his new book entitled "Hot Topic" Global warming and the future of New Zealand" I'm looking forward to reading it on the plane coming home.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hanmer Springs to Owen River

Today was kind of a bust. I took off this morning from Riverview Lodge and only got about 20 kilometers and had to turn around and go back. There had been a horrible fatality accident involving a car and truck on the Lewis Pass Road going to the west coast and they had to close the road for about 3 hours to investigate and clear the bodies etc. Not a pretty picture at all and not what you want to ever see on the road. I got there just after I'd been in the town of Hanmer Springs when the siren went off for the volunteer fire department. As I got up the road about 20 k's the road was closed off to through traffic and they said it woud be up to 4 + hours before they had the road cleared, so I had to go back to Riverview Lodge and wait it out. While I was up there a helicopter life flighted someone out so I hope they make it ok. I finally got my start at 4:15PM to drive my 2+ hour drive to Owen River Lodge. I got there around 6:30 and finally I could relax again.

These roads in New Zealand are quite wiggly and winding and people tend to drive too fast and underestimate the speed on curves even though they post the optimum speed. I can't imagine how an accident of this severity could happen on a sunny, clear day with no slippery roads or ice or rain or anything, It had to be all driver errors. I've seen fatality accidents in Montana where people fall asleep at the wheel because driving through Montana is all straight and hardly any curves, but over here, it's all curves so that can't possibly be the problem. I'm guessing the small car was going too fast around the curve and got into the gravel on the shoulder and over corrected when they lost control and ended up going under the trucks' trailer and the car was just toast! No way anyone could have survived a crash of that magnitude. OK...enough of that. I can see it's not going to go away in my mind very soon.....

Today the weather is better than yesterday but although it started out this morning without a breath of wind, it picked up big time this afternoon around 2:00. I hope tomorrow will be a good day as I'm heading out in the morning with a guide for the day for some west coast fishing. We're not quite all the way on the west coast but we're certainly close. I hope the fishing will be better than yesterday!

We had a nice meal of Lamb chops and home grown brocolli, and baby new potatoes with profiteroles with chocolate for desert.

I'm off to bed now as it's been a trying day dealing with the hard cold facts of life that if people don't drive carefully, they die! Someone's family or family's are going to have a long hard time dealing with the reality of what happened today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Riverview Lodge Hanmer Springs

Wow, what a view from this place! The Southern Alps in the background and all the colors of spring...pretty magnificent. Too bad the fishing couldn't have been as good. I guess we're not in Motu anymore, Toto!!!

Today John and I walked what seemed like an eternity over river rocks and didn't see a whole lot of fish. On top of that, the weather has changed a bit here heading into the mountains and the wind blew all day from the minute I got up this morning until now and I believe it's still howling out there. Ever try casting a flyrod directly into gale force winds? it's not pretty, let me tell you. At times my cast came back right at me and tried to wack me in the face. This is not my idea of fun and it's not at all like Motu where there are fish everywhere and you can SEE THEM!!!!! OK...enough whining. We only saw three fish and I hooked two of them and landed one...albeit a rather smallish one, but it was a sea run brown so it was feisty and different to look at. Better than nothing I reckon...although the pesky sand flies are not much fun to deal with...that's a fact of life on the west coast of the South Island though and you just have to be prepared with bug stuff which we were.

When we returned to the lodge, Robin had a pleasant surprise in store for me. We took a run into Hanmer Springs and she had a pass for us each to take a soak in the hot pools and have a Swedish Massage, which was absolutely delightful. It saved the day as far as I was concerned.... that was a very nice surprise and then we came home to the most elegant and gourmet dinner. They have hired a chef from Germany for the season as well as another person from Switzerland to serve and help out. They did a great job and the chef is quite talented.

Tomorrow I have all day to drive all of two hours so I can take my time and maybe go back into Hanmer Springs and look around in the shops. Not much was open today as it is Sunday,

Ciao for now...I'm heading for bed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christchurch to Riverview Lodge- Hanmer Springs

Today after picking up my rental car and then doing what seemed like massive amounts of computer work, I finally headed out of Christchurch toward Hanmer Springs, a small alpine thermal resort about a 90 minute drive toward the west coast in the Canterbury region of the South Island.

On the way I stopped off at the Pegasus Bay Winery and had lunch with a lovely and very interesting man from Montreal. After a 2 hour lunch, I figured I was now late and hustled my way to the lodge.

Riverview Lodge is just on the way into the town of Hanmer Springs. The setting is majestic with the Southern Alps as a backdrop. We had a nice dinner of wild duck and there is a couple from England staying the night.

Tomorrow will be another fishing day so let's hope I have some photos and something to talk about then.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wednesday Motu

Tomorrow we are off to the Ruakitori River for the largest rainbows to be had in all of New Zealand. It’s also the eastern most rainbow trout fishery in the country. Frank owns a cabin on the Ruakitori, knicknamed the Ruakitori Hilton. I have high hopes for a big rainbow tomorrow. We’ll spend the night in Gisborne tomorrow night and then I’ll have a town day on Friday while I’m waiting to fly down to Christchurch on the South Island Friday afternoon. It will be Thanksgiving Day in the US. If I don’t get my next blog written in time, Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Ciao for now.....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Here in Gisborne, New Zealand, we are having an exceptional heat wave. Yesterday on the Ruakitori it was 92 degrees. That’s crazy hot for November which is springtime in New Zealand. Today it is not quite as hot, more like 88 degrees which is still plenty hot.

I’m on an airplane now flying from Gisborne to Wellington and then on to Christchurch on the South Island. I’m on the leg from Wellington to Christchurch now. I hope the weather is as nice on the South Island as it’s been sunny and gorgeous since I got here. It would be ok if it was not quite as hot though...just a teeny bit. My computer weather bug tells me it’s 3 degrees at home in SW Montana....Yikes!

The flight time from Wellington to Christchurch is only 30 minutes so I’ll be landing there in a jiffy. I’m meeting an old friend of mine from my California days and her husband and we’re heading out for a Friday night on the town. They are new in town in the last month. Susan’s husband is doing his three year doctoral program in Christchurch on plant physiology and he’s doing allot of research over on the west coast where the glaciers are. I’m interested in what exactly he is researching.

So, tonight it’s Christchurch for one night. Tomorrow I’ll go check out some properties here and then head off late morning to Hanmer Springs to another fishing lodge called Riverview Lodge.

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to update my blog for a few days. Motu is very remote and I was not able to use my laptop out there. Same thing goes for where we spent the night in Gisborne last night...dialup only and I couldn’t go on with my computer as I don’t have the program needed to go online. Hopefully I’ll be in good shape tonight at Orari B&B.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ruakituri Hilton and the Rainbows

Today we drove up to the Ruakituri River where Frank has his batch (cabin). The Ruakituri is well known for having the largest rainbow trout in New Zealand living in it. It’s quite a rocky and slippery river and wading is difficult but the fish are gigantic! The rainbows love fast water and there is plenty of that on this river. There is also a plethora of aquatic insect life on this river so plenty of food to make this trout get big.

Unfortunately, since the rainbow trout are so light colored, they are not real easy to spot in the river like the brown trout are. Also since they are holding in the fastest water in the river, that also makes them much harder to see. But, when you do see them you can’t believe your eyes how big they are.

My last day, Wednesday on the Motu River, I spotted a brown trout that would have easily gone 12+ pounds. He looked like a salmon sitting in the river...just plain huge! Unfortunately the paradise ducks spooked him.

Well, unfortunately I don’t have any photos of big rainbows to show you since I didn’t land any! I caught three nice big rainbows yesterday, got to see them when they jumped but they are super fast and super strong and managed to spit the hook or just break me off entirely. Today, between the highly difficult wading, my new knee and the size of these fish, I wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped but just hooking them and playing them for a few minutes is a great treat. The rainbows in the Koranga are big also and I had one charge my fly so hard I almost had it pulled out of my hands. These fish are crazy and stronger than any trout I’ve ever seen anywhere else I’ve ever fished. I cast my fly into a fast riffle going into a big deep pool and the fish hit my fly so hard it just busted the dry fly and dropper right off in one easy motion. I never got to see this particular fish but I know it was a monster. I did hook two other fish on the Ruakitori that jumped clear out of the water and showed themselves quite nicely. Again, BIG FISH!!! I am always amazed at the size of these trout.

Tomorrow I’m off to the South Island.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wednesday Motu

Today was another beautiful day on the Motu. We headed out to a different section than where we fished on Tuesday in search of some big brownies. Well, we found them allright. I had a cast at a nice fish sitting in a rather precarious spot with a stump just to the right and in front of him and a willow tree to the left and another big snag in the middle. The chances of landing this trout were not good to say the least. Well, I had to have a try, so with just one perfect cast, I hooked the trout which exploded into action and I had a good tug of war to keep him out of all the snags which seemed to be everywhere. I percervered and managed to land a beautiful 8-9 pound brown trout. What a beauty!

The day went on with much the same, casting to large trout. Sometimes I was fortunate enough to land them and sometimes not. I did catch some beauties though and here are a few pics of them.

Tomorrow we are off to the Ruakituri River for the largest rainbows to be had in all of New Zealand. It’s also the eastern most rainbow trout fishery in the country. Frank owns a cabin on the Ruakituri, knicknamed the Ruakituri Hilton. I have high hopes for a big rainbow tomorrow. We’ll spend the night in Gisborne tomorrow night and then I’ll have a town day on Friday while I’m waiting to fly down to Christchurch on the South Island Friday afternoon. It will be Thanksgiving Day in the US. If I don’t get my next blog written in time, Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Ciao for now.....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Te Kaha to Motu

On Monday morning, my friend Frank, a lodge owner, met me in Te Kaha and we drove back to Motu by way of the Waioeka River so we could have a flick of the old fly rod enroute. The rivers are somewhat low but clear as a bell so we saw lots of trout and I managed to hook 4 nice trout and land NONE! Oh well, we will be fishing the evening rise tonight on the Motu so I guess I can wait! After a nice dinner with some of New Zealand's premier Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noir, we headed out around 8:00 pm for the evening rise. There is a good caddis hatch here on the Motu as well as various and assorted mayflies. This is a clay bedded stream so no stone flies found here.

The evening rise got off to a slowish start but as it grew darker and darker, the fish were really starting to feed and I finally redeemed myself and caught a nice brown trout before it got too dark to recognize what it was.

Today, Tuesday, we spent the day on the Motu. This is a heavily regulated river on the north island between Gisborne and Opotiki and is all, for the most part, on private land which Frank has exclusive rights to fish. This is all farm land with beautiful green pastures full of sheep, cows, BULLS!!! and the most beautiful slow meandering stream running through it all. It's easy walking, wading and spotting since there are high banks on one side and gravel bars on the other. The easy way to do this with a guide is for the guide to be on the high bank spotting the fish and you are on the opposite side of the river casting to the fish as he tells you where it is and you are best to spot the fish first before casting.

This river is insanely full of trout. Today alone just in one beat, we counted easily over 100 fish and all brownies. Mostly in the 4-7 pound range. I managed to hook about 10 fish or so and landed about 6. I'm not going to say how many I totally missed because they got spooked. Then there are the three or so that were nice big fish and wrapped the leader around a log and got off. Geez these are smart fish!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tonight we'll go out for the evening rise again and then tomorrow we have new water to fish and will go play with the rainbows.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Paua recipe from Te Kaha

I'm off to Motu today and we're going to fish our way from Te Kaha to Motu so will report back later with the full story.

Perfect Te Kaha Day Video Clip

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Perfect Te Kaha Day

Ah, the weather couldn't have been nicer today. We headed out to the kingfish hot spot to jig for big kingies. After losing four rather expensive lures to barracuda, we finally landed some lnice kingfish. The fish they refer to as kingfish here are what we refer to as California yellowtail which we fish for on the Sea of Cortez in Baja. Our fish don't get nearly as big as the kingfish get here. We landed two, the first being around 20 pounds and the big one weighing in around 42 or so pounds. A respectble fish for sure and excellent eating. Paul was the hero of the day landing the big one.

Now that we'd lost our big jigs and growing weary of the barracuda that were plaguing us, we decided to head to a new spot for Terakihi for dinner. Now it was Lee who was the hero of the day. All in all, we landed about 11 Terakihi for our fish and chips meal tonight. Terakihi is my favorite food fish of New Zealand with a delicate but sweet flavor.

OK, now we know we have enough food for a respectable feed but we're not finished yet! Next we headed off to the rocks that were visible at low tide to dive for green lip mussels and paua (abalone). Oh and lets not forget the crayfish! Lee was our diver of the day and came back with his bag full of mussels, paua and crays. Wow, this is going to be some feast tonight!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Auckland to Te Kaha

Well, finally, Auckland, New Zealand. After an extremely full, packed to the gills flight from LA with not a seat to spare on the plane, we touched down in Auckland, City of Sails, New Zealand. After a hot shower and activating my cell phone, I was feeling pretty human for a change. The weather was not what I was hoping for...overcast and light rain socked in. After a long layover in Auckland and a ride around to the domestic terminal, I was finally on my last flight of 4. I arrived in Taraunga on the Bay of Plenty. My friend Paul O'Brien met me at the airport and we were off and running to Te Kaha. Now, let me explain the dilemma of having the most popular guy on the East Cape pick you up from the airport. It means stopping everywhere imaginable between every little burb of every town to either see someone or pick something up. Hence what should and could have been a three hour drive ended up being a 7 hour drive!

Life in Te Kaha is much like life where I live in Southwest Montana. I think 60 miles round trip to the grocery store is a big deal...well, try living in Te Kaha. The closest town with a store is a good hour drive away and if you're anything like me, you save up all your errands for your trips to town. Well, I think Paul had been saving up since last January...needless to say, many stops were made along the way. But, it's all good...tomorrow the weather is to be stunning, sunny, warm, and calm seas. That means we're heading out on the Te Kaha Cat (catamaran) for some fishing, diving for crayfish (lobster) and Paua (abalone). We're set up to go catch some big kingfish (aka yellowtail)(50 pounders) on jigs and then some other species of food fish for dinner and of course the creme de la creme...crayfish and paua. I'm ready for a shellfish feast to beat all.

Let's see...the temperature is around 14 C which for those of us who are total ninny's when it comes to metric, = 56 degrees F. Why is it us Yankees refuse to learn metric? Of course it's now 11:10 PM here which is 3:06 am yesterday at home. HUH? Ok, I think it's time to take a soak in the hot tub and then head to bed. Tomorrow promises to be a grand day so more when I know what happened.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Well I'm getting closer. The only screwup so far was forgetting my US cell phone at home on the charger! Not cool! At least I still have my NZ cell phone so I won't be completely lost. I do feel quite naked without it though.....

Everything else has gone pretty smoothly with the exception of a very complete pat down at the Los Angeles International Airport when my new titanium knee set off the alarm. The TSA ran their wand all over me and at least it buzzed at all the right places :-). I'm now a card carrying new owner of a new knee and even though it didn't go off at the airport in Butte, MT, it did in LA. I guess they have their machines set to a more sensitive setting. So now it's a waiting game until my flight to Auckland boards. I just love airports where a 12 oz beer costs you $6.50. I'll go broke fast at that rate.

OK, that's it for now. More once I actually get somewhere worth talking about.