Outdoors: Make your own luck by thinking smart

By Geoff Thomas

If the fish are not biting then a change in tactics could be all that's needed.

Dry flies can produce excellent results in small Waikato streams.
Dry flies can produce excellent results in small Waikato streams.

On some days the fish just seem to want to commit suicide, while at other times they prove frustrating in the extreme. What worked one day will draw a blank the following day, or a spot fires so well that before going back on another day you make rash promises and give away fish in advance. Fatal mistake. Never take the fish for granted.

But there are some things you can do to change your luck, as it were. For in fact it is rarely luck. In fishing you make your own luck.

A case in point. A party of Auckland fishermen were having difficulty finding snapper, and decided to have a last attempt at the reef inside the Rangitoto Lighthouse. They had been fishing in the Rakino Channel with the standard running rig - a ball sinker above a swivel, with a 1m trace and a couple of hooks on the end. This is a popular set-up for fishing channels where the current runs strongly and the only variations are in the weight of sinker and length of trace.

But the standard rig proved unsuccessful, in spite of a good berley trail which quickly attracted small fish to the back of the boat. Theoretically there would be larger fish hanging back. So they switched to another simple terminal rig with a small (half-ounce) ball sinker sliding directly on to the hook which was tied to the main line, dispensing with a swivel and trace, and immediately started catching snapper. That change was all that was needed.

On another evening just off Takapuna a similar change in approach ensured fish were hooked. Fishing started at low tide and small snapper were eager to grab the baits. So the bait was changed from pilchards, which were sucked off the hook immediately, to chunks of tougher squid. But as the tide started running and the current quickened, the bites slowed. More line was put out but the increasing distance and line angle made hooking the fish a problem.

The solution was simple. The sinkers were changed to heavier balls and the bites increased. But as the current ran more strongly it became hard keeping the baits on the bottom without resorting to large, unwieldy weights. Time to go home.

Another example of changing rigs to adapt to conditions illustrates the importance of being prepared to try something different. On this occasion the scene was another of the most popular spots for Auckland fishermen, the Motuihe Channel. It coincided with the largest tides for seven years, so there was a fierce current running.

The sinker used was a pyramid rather than a ball as it holds on the bottom rather than rolling along it, and a 2m trace worked fine until the increasing tidal flow started lifting it off the bottom. The main line of 10kg breaking strain was changed to 15kg line, and a second sinker added. This held on the bottom, but the trace was being swirled up off the bottom and bites stopped. The solution was to add a small ball sinker on to the trace where it could slide down against the hooks. Immediately the bites started.

The current built to a point where it was again impossible to keep the terminal gear on the bottom. There are two solutions - move the boat out of the channel to the wide, open spaces where the flow is not condensed between islands; or try the free-spooling, self-hooking approach. This involves letting out the line until it reaches the bottom, then simply thumb the spool and let line slip out slowly. This allows the sinker and bait to roll along the bottom away from the boat. When a fish takes it will simply be felt as a drawing away in which case the reel is flicked into gear and line wound in until the weight of the fish is felt. It is important to use recurve hooks. It will reach a point where the line is too far out to be effective, so it has to be wound in and the process repeated. Then as the tide eases the whole process is reversed, with weights removed and line weight reduced.

There is some excellent fishing with dry flies like cicada imitations with a nymph on a dropper under the fly in small streams like the Ohinemuri, Waitawheta, Puniu and Waihou Streams in the Waikato. For those not comfortable with a fly rod a small spinner like a Mepps on a light spin rod is a good alternative.

•More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz

Tip of the week
When fishing in the Waitemata Harbour in summer the best fishing is on slack tide or small tides, and baits can reach the bottom. Tide flows are stronger inside the harbour because it is so narrow, and strong currents make it hard to reach the bottom and also stir up mud, and fish can't see the bait.

Bite times
Bite times are 12.40am and 1.10pm tomorrow, and 1.40am and 2.05pm on Sunday. These are based on the phase and position of the moon, not tides, and apply to the whole country.

- NZ Herald

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