Two month South Island adventure ride and fishing trip, with a twist
At 5am my alarm sounded, finally the day to head off for a two-month ride was here! The departure date came a week overdue which was caused by an overflow of tasks including prepping my bike, prepping my father's bike (who was to join me halfway through the ride), creating a work plan for the programmer covering my job, and sorting out all the other time consuming bits and pieces associated with a long ride. All that was soon put behind me as I slipped on my helmet, turned the key and hit the start button. Whoohoo!!
The first leg was not as initially planned, originally five days were to be spent riding, camping and fishing my way down from Christchurch to the Catlins but because it was now Christmas Eve and I was spending Christmas day with my family at a crib in the Catlins, a one day blast was in order. The 680km route consisted of as many back roads and 4X4 tracks as possible, there was alot of new impressive territory to me so it was the fantastic way to kick-off the trip.
The next few days were spent with the family, fishing, and some day rides around the Catlins area. It was a really nice way to unwind from what had been one hell of a year with work and dealing with the 2010/2011 earthquakes.
Saying goodbye to the family and departing the crib meant the start of the real adventure. I had spent weeks researching new places to ride, camp, explore and fish so now all that was left was to do it!
Because the bike was brand-new and I had only just finished this build it I had only one day of testing and tuning. There was a lot of fine tuning the Rekluse clutch but other than that all appeared to be in travel ready condition. It would have provided peace of mind to do a few pre-runs and thoroughly test everything, but so far it was all running great.
This leg was to travel the most outer circumference of the South Island backroads from the East Coast to the West Coast and head into Fiordland. I had heard there were a lot of dairy farms in the lower east, they weren't wrong. It was so nice to hit the Fiordland native bush and the lakes were simply stunning.
The next day was tagged to head in to a couple of small tarns and a remote lake. Arriving at the tarns it was plain to see neither would be holding trout, with the record dry period they had almost halved in size. Even at their fullest they were small tarns however one was reputed to hold a few large fish.
So it was off to the next lake. There was no track, I was simply following my GPS so there was a lot of bush bashing all the way. I was surprised to see so many large fallen trees, scrambling over and under them was like an army training course. Arriving at the lake it was as beautiful as I had imagined, however, this did not hold trout either. I'm used to this, I often explore undocumented waters to see if they hold trout, often they don't, yet other times great waters are found that few others know about.
After a 5 hour slog I arrived back at the bike and decided to visit the South Arm of Lake Manapouri. What a stunning view! The remainder of the day was spent walking the perimeter of the lake and fishing the inlet area. A couple of small rainbows came to the net but much like a ghost town nothing of substantial size was seen or caught.
The next day was going to be a big one, there would be lots of walking to remote lakes, tarns and rivers off-track. The going was hard, real hard. Steep terrain, dense bush and muddy swamps had to be tackled to reach the lakes and it zapped the energy from you quick smart. The day was spent walking the perimeters and stalking the shallows. The water was beautiful, the weather was great and although the fish were extremely wary some exciting dry fly action brought two nice fish to the net while another three managed to shake hooks free.
Heading off from there the aim was to find somewhere to do a load of washing, charge batteries, shower etc. Mostly tarmac was ridden but with great weather and fantastic scenery it couldn't be knocked. I ended up in Te Anau which was bustling with tourists and confirmed without doubt my preference for remote places. It took a while to find a room, one of the few left was a deluxe three-person unit but the shower and comfy bed was worth paying the extra dollars.
Next up was an area to explore tracks, rivers and lakes I'd been keen to tackle for quite some time. As I arrived they did not disappoint with their scenery. The riding was great, a continual string of natural whoops and twisting gravel roads and 4X4 tracks
After settling into a hut I wandered up a small gin clear river for the afternoon. The fish numbers were fairly good but the combination of clear water and the pressure the river receives from anglers and guides make for some eagle eyed highly wary browns. A few lifted to inspect a dry only to flatly refuse it. Perseverance and a number of fly changes was rewarded when a fighting fit jack rainbow acrobatically snapped up a bushy dry, you beauty!
According to my trusty GPS, 17.2 kilometres were racked up on foot exploring another nearby river. I experienced an even higher level of wariness but in the end a superb 5lb Brown Jack came to the net after serving him a smorgasbord of rejected flies. There were a couple of mistimed strikes that caused me to lose a further two fish, but I was pretty content with the day all in all.
A nearby lake was on the next day's agenda. The calm morning made for some great sight fishing to some more highly wary browns. Very early on in the piece a beautiful brown was caught with a textbook nymph trap. The wind soon picked up making sight fishing hard but three rainbows were picked up close to the shore throughout the rest of the day, thoroughly satisfying!
I departed the next morning feeling good about the success and was looking forward to the upcoming two days of riding. The first new road for a looksee was Von Road through to Lake Wakatipu. Stunning stunning views. There is also a very touristy farm where you can pay to see cows and sheep, surprisingly I passed on that! I did however enjoy standing on the jetty watching a 2lb trout patrol up and down the lake edge a mere arms length from the small children playing in the shallows, a very human conditioned trout. Next up was a track I was looking forward to, the Nevis.
The Nevis did not disappoint, what a great ride, lots of river crossings and high altitude offering spectacular views. The day was already coming to an end, time to find a place to crash. Madness, due to an annual convention every hotel, motel and holiday park in Cromwell was booked, so too was Alex. I managed to get a motel in Roxburgh, the only one left was a large room for five, I had to pay extra but again soaking up a nice warm shower and a comfy bed with fresh clean linen was worth it.
From Roxburgh it was up and over through Onslow Road. The expansive barren country is a sight and a half.
After having a nosy at Coalpit Dam and a coffee in Naseby I could see cloud cover lifting making way for a perfect day over Mt Buster through to Walking Spur. I've done Walking Spur A few times now (part of the DB1K event) but this was the first trip up Mt Buster to connect up with it. What a route! Words can't describe the ride I had, the great weather and fantastic track made for the best riding of the trip so far.
After a quick peek at Falls Dam it was time to find a place to crash. I chose Boundary Hut up the West branch of the Manuherikia River. An empty hut meant an undisturbed nights sleep after a solid 10 hour ride.
The next morning it was straight into the remaining west branch river crossings and through to Omarama for a hot breakfast. After both the bike and myself were fuelled up it was off to the river for a couple of days fishing.
After setting up base in a hut, without a rod I wandered nearby pools and bends to see if any fish were sitting in obvious spots. I bumped into a fisherman looking quite defeated, he told me he comes to this river every year, has done so for over 10 years and that it normally fishes great. This year he said it was dismal, he hadn't seen or caught one fish. My wander up the river confirmed his claim making me think the possibility of too much pressure from holidaymakers had forced them up or downstream away from the many flailing lures being thrown at them, or the extended hot weather had pushed them to cooler locations. After making a plan to walk 5 km upstream from the end of vehicle access the following morning I decided to chill out for the rest of the day and read a book in a nice spot up the valley under the shade of a tree.
The next day was another big day on foot, as planned I was up ant 5am and walked 5 km up the river from the end of vehicle access before I even started inspecting the water. Normally this would push past the distance of holiday fishermen and into good fishing territory, but in this case 3 km of walking the river revealed pools, runs and bends that were void of fish. At a little over 8 km up the valley it was time for a new game plan, checking the GPS revealed what was recorded as a small unnamed "lake" 2 km away, with few other options I set off unsure of what to expect.
I couldn't believe my luck when I finally arrived to see rises on a stunning medium sized tarn. Although there were no fresh footprints to be seen around the edge no doubt it would have had some angling pressure, the wariness of the fish seemed to confirm this. The day was spent casually walking the perimeter and sight fishing over the shallows. What a day! The average fish size was quite small with most under 1 lb however four beautiful browns came to the net after numerous fly changes to find a successful pattern.
After a long walk back to the hut I found I had some company for the evening. It was an interesting mix, a Central Otago 4x4 guide, a flute player from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, a Japanese flute student and a Slovak who was walking the length of the South Island on a budget of $0. It made for some really interesting conversation throughout the night.
The next morning was a casual ride out and off to find a place to wash clothes, charged batteries, shower etc. While waiting for my clothes to dry I shot off for an afternoon/evening fish at a nearby lake. The wind was howling through the valley but I managed to find some sheltered stillwater up one of the major tributaries. A few cunning browns were sifting around and after a number of fly changes I managed to land a couple. The sounds of thunder and flashes of lightning were getting closer and closer. It was a spectacular view over the lake as I retreated back to the motel for the night.
So far I haven't even mentioned the weather, through this entire trip I have had nothing but luck. A five-minute sprinkle on day one, a couple of hours of mild drizzle on one day, and a major thunderstorm that rolled in at night leaving a nice clear morning the next day. Unbelievable!
Today was the return trip to Christchurch from what had been a dream run of weather, exploring new tracks, seeing new country and experiencing some of New Zealand's best fishing on offer. From here the plan was to do some general maintenance to the bike and catch up with my father (Jeff) who was joining me on the second half of the trip. The plan was to kick things off in the 2012 DB1K and then carry on for another 3 1/2 weeks riding, fishing and camping.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite go to plan for the second half of the trip. We were plagued with issues from the get go, GPS files were accidentally overwritten, a circlip in the gearbox of Jeff’s bike let go, I was rear-ended resulting in mangled pannier racks and finally Jeff fell victim to a rut early on in the piece and banged his shoulder and knee up good and proper. We called it quits here to get Jeff some medical attention and some much-needed recovery time. It was a real shame for a trip we had planned for some time to end so prematurely, however we all know it is part of riding and that sometimes, shit happens. We will be rescheduling the trip when Jeff is back in fighting fit shape.