We couldn’t believe the weather when we walked down the steps from the plane onto the tarmac, it was 29 degrees and there was NO WIND (and it did not get above a light zephyr until the 2nd last day either). We passed through the hi-tec security of Cassidy International Airport, and bounced our way in the mini bus to Ikari House, our new home for the next week or so.
A quick unpack, breakfast was inhaled in record time, and then we were finally off to catch a bonefish. After 2 years of planning, saving and tying flies, it was safe to say I was pretty excited!
Back on the bus for a 5 minute drive to the boat, board the boat with all our gear and then we were on our way to the famous Paris Flat. The water was like glass, and someone had dialled all the colours up way past maximum. I just could not believe the place, it just seemed surreal. My casting arm was twitching.........
We arrived at Paris Flat, and English (the head guide) had told us during the trip over that there were plenty of big bones about. We pulled up near a big school of bones, a quick wade, a short wait for the school to turn around, 3 casts later & I was on. Man these thing pull hard! I always wondered what backing looked like........... A 5 - 6lb bone eventually came to hand, and this was the 1st of many for the day on the Ringburner. English, I and another member of our group headed to Cook Island, which was absolutely sensational. I caught a quite a few small bones there, followed by a 6lb bone, a nice Sweetlip that took me into the backing twice, as well as countless other varieties. My fishing companion broke his 7wt and was then relegated to bird watching, while I did the team thing and caught more fish :)
From day 2 onwards the week became a bit of a blur, but overall the bones were pretty spooky, something to do with no wind & constant sunshine, so the bead chain & 7/64” brass eye flys got a good run. The Ringburner was the fly of the week for me, followed next by a yellow George Bush. Suprisingly, English pulled the heavily weighted #2 SL12 Ringburner out when we hit the deeper water, saying “Big bones like big hook & heavy eyes” and he was not wrong. Over the week I lost all 4 of these flies to big fish, and landed quite a few in the 4-6lb range. Dion also had success with his “Naked Charlie” fly (no body, only overwing), as well as christening his “Testicle" fly (tied whilst waiting in Fiji) quite convincingly. No I will not be tying that one for you if you ask :)
The highlight of the trip for me was my encounter with a 60lb GT. Andrew, a friend also with us, had just released a bone, and it wasn’t travelling too well, just splashing around on the surface. A GT came from one direction, and a shark from the other and all hell broke loose! In the battle there was a vortex of mud stirred up from the bottom, water was splashing wildly and we were not sure who the victor was as the combatants disappeared into the depths.
Unfortunately I was too far away to get a shot with the 12wt in time, so I waited for a couple of minutes to see if the GT would return, and obligingly he did. A couple of false casts and I had a Chris Beech flashy profile directly in his path, one strip and the fish accelerated menacingly towards the fly, intentions very obvious. One more strip and the enormous gob opened, the GT savagely engulfed the fly, strip strike and he was on! The water exploded, the rod buckled, and the fish headed for the horizon at a million miles an hour. The flyline was gone in a matter of seconds, and I couldn’t quite believe the insane rate at which the backing was disappearing from my reel. I cranked the drag on the Hatch 9+ up, and the reel was absolutely singing. What an amazing feeling, was I going to run out of backing, was this fish ever going to stop.....?
The reel had been singing one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard. There was around 350 yards of backing out, along with the 100’ flyline, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face with a belt sander. If I had a pair of skis on I could have gone water skiing, and I felt like the fish was trying to pull my arms from their sockets.
After what had seemed forever, the reel stopped singing, and I was now thinking that I was ½ a chance of not being spooled by the fish. It was now time to start winding . “Crap, I have to wind all this back in!” was the next thought to register in my brain. The spool may have stopped madly spinning, but the fish was still pulling hard, and I could barely wind the handle. Wind 2 turns, fish pulls, reel spins again, my knuckles get whacked on the spinning handle..... wind 2 turns, fish pulls, reel spins again, knuckles get whacked on the spinning handle..... This fish still didn’t want to come in.
OK, time to show this fish who was boss, I started pumping the rod to gain line to wind back on the reel. Hmmm, not easy, time to HTFU and really have a go – BANG!!!!! There was an explosion. The tension from the bent rod that had wanted to pull me into the water instantly let go. I staggered backwards a step, and when I regained my balance I looked at my rod - most of it was gone! Looking in the water, the top ¾ of the rod was floating several meters in front of me! The butt section & reel was all that remained in my hands, and it was shorter than it was last time I looked at it – broken! Clearly, the fish was the boss......
I stood there dumbfounded for a moment, before Andrew interrupted his photo taking by shouting “keep winding!”. Fair call I thought, the look of shock disappeared from my face, & the manic grin returned. Yep, the fish was still on, and I began trying to wind the fish in directly onto the reel. I battled away for a couple of minutes (I still had the bruises on my chest from the rod butt weeks later to prove it), but the inevitable soon happened and the tippet broke, fish swimming away with its new “Flashy Profile” piercing. Andrew & I looked at each other, both grinning like the Cheshire Cat – “How COOL was that?” was all I could say. Time to wind in......
I have been soundly beaten by double figure trout in NZ before, but I have never actually been beaten up, in what I can only describe as hand to hand combat with a fish. The GT comprehensively won this bout in the early rounds with a TKO. I’ve SOOO got to do it again........
There were plenty of other highlights during our trip, but I will leave you with one last story:
After fishing the morning session by myself, it was my turn to fish with the guide. We followed a similar path over the flat that I had covered earlier, stopping near a drop off onto the lagoon. I had just landed a baby GT, and something caused me to turn around 90 degrees and look. “Holy #@!*” may have escaped from my mouth, “David LOOK!!! “ I said to the guide, in an extremely calm manor (OK, maybe not so calm.....). 30 feet away swimming next to us was a 8-9’ Hammerhead Shark! “Oh no, that not good” David said in reply, and we froze, knee deep in water.
At this point of the story, I would like to nominate David for the understatement of the century award.... I also have to say that standing still in knee deep water in this situation, when every part of your being is telling you very clearly to run away screaming like a 6 y/o girl - is NOT EASY!
Time stood still. After what seemed an eternity, and I’m pretty sure that my heart actually stopped beating at one point, the Hammerhead changed direction, and slowly meandered its way back to the deeper water. Fishing near the drop offs now had a new feeling for the remainder of the trip.........
We had a ball on the trip, with excellent banter between the group. One day I will return to to complete my "unfinished business" with the GT, who I imagine will be even bigger by then.
A big thanks to all on who have offered advice and suggestions to a Trout Tragic like myself. I certainly have enjoyed fishing "the dark side" :)
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