This was our second overnight mission and the next Lake after Maraetai. We arrived at the boat ramp at dusk and it started absolutely pelting down with rain. One of the boats has a really nice rain cover system but Dukes of Hazzard skipper Kingy fashioned a refugee shanty out of sticks and a blue tarp. As we slowly motored out into the darkness, we wondered what our next instalment of the Hydro Explorer Tour would have in store. Needless to say, the spotlight was pointed at the floating shanty for maximum comedy value.
After getting soaked through at Maraetai and Arapuni, I knew my other jackets were no longer waterproof. I needed a better way to stay dry but after spending too much money on fly tying materials and a new fly line, all I could afford was a $2 pink plastic poncho from the supermarket to wear over top of my merino, fleece and jacket layers. Kingy was sporting a brand new Stoney Creek jacket and his official report after being rained on all day was that he stayed completely dry underneath and managed to avoid looking homeless.
Chef Joe had dialled in some home made curry and naans for dinner, tapping into his childhood in the mountains of Pakistan and resident German Martin made some sort of tasty apple pancake things. The shanty was tied up with Splash Out to create a shanty village. After a late night swim from Chef Mazzer it was off to bed.
I was awoken in the middle of the night to the sound of Lucas saying he could hear fish working on the surface as he was flicking a spinner from his post out of the cabin hatch. Way too tired for fishing, I fell back asleep.
Still wearing my sleeping bag and two of the lads still asleep in the cabin, I slowly motored us up the Lake and found a beautiful clear stream mouth that fans out into a nice knee deep sandy delta, with a very defined dropoff. We managed to talk Dukes of Hazzard into a stealthy approach and it paid off.
The first fish from this stream mouth is the most memorable fish of all of the Hydro Explorer Tour trips for me. I was using my Airflo 40+ DI7 fly line (it was my only sinking line at the time, you've got to make do with what you've got) and tied on my "Road Killer" fly. This was the same actual fly that caught me a fish at a stream mouth at Arapuni, still going strong. It was missing a bit of it's bulk now and I'm pretty sure one of the foam eyes had fallen off. The key thing is it still had a large black possum tail head and a heap of copper flashabou. As I shot the 40+ line up onto the shallow sand flat of the delta, the large articulated fly splatted down on the surface like a small bird crash landing. Until you start stripping this fly, it literally floats on the surface as it has no weight—this helps with the serpentine swimming action though. Instantly there was a big swirl only 2 metres to the left of where the fly crash landed. I knew what I needed to do: strip, strip, fish on!! After a good fight, a nice 3.5lb brown was in the net.
Canadian Mike Brown joined us for the first time on this trip and put his experience of lure fishing for Pike and Musky to good use, picking up a nice brown on a bladed spinner.
As we moved further up the Lake, we picked up fish at a few small stream mouths. The large flies didn't seem to be the go like they were in the early morning and most of the fish fell to spinners or small olive wooly buggers. Wooly buggers also worked well around the weed beds—both on the sinking fly line and on a spinning rod with a ball sinker. We picked up good numbers of fish around the weed beds slowly drifting down the Lake.
Lake Whakamaru is another highly scenic Lake and holds good numbers of fish. Every Hydro Lake has some sort of unique and interesting terrain that makes it different to the last. Next up, it's Lake Atiamuri.