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Just enough rain.
A river to myself.
You learn something every day.

Just enough rain.
Thu 22nd December, 2011

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Last weeks rain was just enough...it removed the top layer of slime from the rocks, without scouring them clean so plenty left for the aquatic bugs which graze this stuff. Wading is much easier and the rafts of unsightly but harmless brown algae which builds up along the rivers edge has been washed away. It also encouraged some late spawning rainbows to make the upstream dash. Afterwards there were some nice fish around for a few days including more good browns.
I had Russian businessmen Sergei and Oleg booked in for their first ever fly-fishing experience. They were part of a group touring New Zealand for a few weeks, the trip had been organised by their best mate Andrei who lives in Oz. With the exception of Andrei none of the guys spoke a word of English...the only Russian I knew was "vodka and lemonade" so it was going to be an interesting challenge because their interpreter wasn't joining us on the day. I picked them up at 7.00am and twenty minutes later we were standing at the waters edge ready to begin "lessons". I started by showing them a couple of setups and with the aid of a pen and paper did a couple of rough sketches to illustrate how each one fished differently. Teaching them a basic cast proved to be much easier than I had anticipated.
Because of the language barrier they both paid very close attention to all of the subtle movements involved in chucking out a fly-line. When it was their turn to have a go they were soon into it and it wasn't long before we were actually fishing. As soon as they hooked up we encountered a problem. In Russia they fish mainly for the table rather than for sport. The gear is much heavier and once they hook their fish it's literally dragged in.
It was several lost rainbows later before the penny dropped and they began to play each fish. I was in the middle of unhooking one for Oleg and as
I glanced upriver Sergei struck into a take about a rod length out. Even though he was a beginner he realised straight away this was different as the brown took off on the first deep run upstream. Although he was pretty excited he didn't panic and did everything right. Twice he got it close to the net but not quite close enough, then without warning it changed tactics and burst from the water, as it smashed back into the river the hook pulled out. Both of us stood there for a moment or two with that awful empty feeling that your left with when you lose a better fish...then with a shrug of his shoulders and a quick grin he carried right on. By the end of the morning the Tongariro had given them a memorable time and they landed seven good fish...keeping three so we headed back to meet up with the others at the Motel.

They were obviously quite proud of their mornings work because they signaled for me to stop so that they could walk across the bridge carrying their catch. The rest of the guys were waiting for them in the bar and when they saw Oleg and Sergei's fish there was lots of laughter and pats on the back. Andrei asked the chef if he would cook the trout for them and they asked me to join them while Mark prepared their meal. Oleg was their "sober driver" and stuck to a couple of beers but for the others it was rum or cognac and soon the conversation began to flow as fast as the drinks. These were the first Russians I'd ever met and yep...these boys can definitely sink a few. Andrei was a particularly colorful character who like a lot of Russian men had served in the military. Some of the stories were quite funny...but unrepeatable on a family report. He told me they had all been friends for around twenty years. For the past twelve of these he had lived in Oz where his company is based. Although the others were on their first visit to New Zealand he returns to Russia a couple of times a year to meet up with them at one of their holiday homes in the Russian country-side.
Most of them live in St. Petersburg a city which has undergone some dark times.Today it's the cultural center of modern Russia and according to Andrei a beautiful place to visit. A round or two later their trout arrived at the table looking nothing like they had an hour before. Chef had done a great job and they gestured for me to get stuck in but unfortunately I don't like eating trout.
I explained this to Andrei and after speaking to the others in Russian he told me they felt awful and would not begin until I ordered something for myself. A short time later while they enjoyed their New Zealand rainbow trout I ripped into a couple of bacon butties. By 4.30pm with stocks of rum in Turangi reaching dangerously low levels it was time for them to be on their way back to Taupo, then onto Auckland for the return trip to Australia. I had a great day with all these Russian visitors and it wouldn't surprise me if they came back... providing they can remember where they'd been ! The next couple of days I fished for myself and continued to pick up more late spawning stragglers like the hen below. But the fresh had also knocked back a few worn out looking kelts from the upper reaches which is to be expected.
I even landed my first brown of the "season" after it nailed a caddis under the dry. Not one of the big boys but a well marked fish that gave me a couple of "moments" before I finally slid it into the shallow water. It swam off happily after the pics were taken so may be I'll see it again next year a bit wiser and heavier. Gail and I will probably spend Christmas at the bach in Turangi so I'll be around if anyone fancies an Xmas day on the river. This will be the last report until the New Year...unless something out of the ordinary happens. From Jake and myself thanks to all of you for the fantastic support you have given this site during 2011. Have a Very Happy Christmas.

Don't drink too much

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