Back in the 1980s I discovered a fabulous small trout stream. I’ve always had a soft spot for small streams. After all I began my serious fly fishing as a schoolboy on the little tributary streams of the Manawatu River. The Manawatu itself was often muddy from rains since its watershed uniquely rises both sides of the eastern sides of the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges before the river carves through the cleft of the Manawatu Gorge and then flows in a general south westerly course, past my hometown of Palmerston North and to the sea at Foxton.
Sure we could fish the Manawatu when it was often discoloured, by using a freshwater shrimp impaled on a hook on a ledger rig and left to lie on the bottom of a pool. We caught many trout.
But somehow as youngsters we seemed to prefer the streams which while the parent Manawatu was murky, ran clear and sparkling.
Streams such as the Tiritea, Kahuterawa and Tokomaru were easily wadeable barefooted. We used minnows swung out on a bamboo or greenheart rod for those years, spinning reels were then unknown. We were eager to learn and we discovered tiny wet flies such as Peveril of the Peak, Hardies Favourite and Red Tip Governor – unseen today – which we fished across and down and caught scrappy little brown trout.
“we discovered tiny wet flies such as Peveril of the Peak”
Later I discovered nymph fishing thanks to an introduction to its ways, by par excellence Nelson fly fisherman Jim Ring one sunny day on the Motueka River. And it was in the Nelson region I discovered my fabulous small trout stream.
It was quite by chance that I was in idle mood, always keen to explore and especially since the parent river was brown from overnight rain. I left the state highway where the stream sauntered in shallow runs over pea-sized gravel. It was a long shot but I thought upstream it might take on a different character.
So I walked upstream, eased through some manuka and the stream was suddenly quite different from near the highway. A few hundred metres further upstream the stream bounded down its rocky course and was flanked by native forest. t was a miniature mountain river – pure heaven.
In one place a jumble of large boulders formed a cataract. In other places the stream curled around a bank forming pools. On my first exploration, I spotted a trout about a kilo in size and a small Hare and Copper nymph winked it out. Just upstream I encountered a trout lying in behind a rock, its lie overhung by a tutu bush. The water was swift and drag was inevitable. I scared the fish and in subsequent visits I never did catch that trout although once, just briefly I hooked it. No matter how low I crouched or how sneaky I tried to be, I was spotted. But I kept trying and each time, smiled as that trout – about a kilo – outwitted me.
But the streams character was delightful. Ferns adorned shady faces and tall beech trees stood on terraces while tuis and native pigeons were to be seen here and there. And of course fantails followed me on most days.
But there were bigger fish than that kilo brownie that eluded me. I took a superbly conditioned 2.2 kg (5lbs) trout on a Green Stonefly nymph and I killed it. Later I regretted doing so.
“I killed it. Later I regretted doing so.”
Instead I wished I had returned it and it would’ve been there another day, or more importantly spawned in the coming autumn or winter.
No one else appeared to fish the stream. Its appearance down by the road bridge didn’t invite further investigation. I fished upstream accompanied only by my labrador. I dared not introduce it to anyone else. But if another angler by initiative had discovered it, as I had, I wouldn’t have been angry. Disappointed slightly but not irate.
Often it’s the fish you don’t catch that you remember more vividly. There was that elusive one kilo fish. Then there was another unseen, that took a stonefly nymph and powered away in such a sudden startling surge, the tippet snapped. It felt like a hefty trout.
I got to know every pool intimately and also most of the trout. It was best early season, i.e. October – November when the trout had remained there after spawning.
Its charm was in its wilderness character. It was magical. Sweet solitude. I loved it. I moved from the Nelson region to the North Island.
I returned there many years later but things had changed. The stream was there but the valley was now inhabited by two or three“hippy” life style blocks. The access was gone and for me so as had the wilderness solitude.
I guess that’s the price of “progress”.
Yet ironically the lifestylers were trying to avoid progress based on GDP and the material world and were seeking their own brand of potty serenity and solitude.
But then I can remember.
Memories can be some consolation.