Coastlines: An open salute to Fred

The 2022 Opening was planned to be special.

Each year is a standout event but this day was set up to be significant. A bunch of long-term fishing buddies travelled to a very productive lake just east of Darfield, to kick off the season together and mark the memory of a couple of the lads’ dad.

Our group was made up of Cantabrians and us West Coast guys, who over the years had gathered for fishing weekends on both sides of the mountains. The morning came after a few days of cold, blowy conditions that tore blossom from trees. At the lake, it proved still cold, blowy and with white caps on the waves, while our truck was rocked by some ferocious gusts. We didn’t get out.

We watched the weather a bit, then moved to another lake sheltered by Mount Te Kinga. It was flat calm, with no other boats on the water—on Opening Day for goodness’ sake!

We rowed stealthily behind some reeds, where we saw fish but the fly wasn’t to their taste. It was enjoyable in the calm conditions, hearing multiple kingfisher piping calls, primeval rasps from the odd heron, fluting black swan notes and the strident aggression of spur-wings. We both rose and missed fish, then took one each.

However other elements of the day beckoned. We cruised back, reloaded the boat onto the trailer and headed round to the original lake, where we’d arranged to meet the Canterbury contingent for a poignant event to mark the passing of our great mate Freddy the Fisherman. He’d been a good fly-fishing mentor, while hosting us at his high country bach each year.

We gathered at the gravel ramp, sat about talking piscatorial matters until everyone arrived, then held a few moments of remembrance. I read my poem, doggerel really, in memory of Fred and we shared a tot each to mark the occasion. It was a moment appreciated by the two sons and friends of Fred.

Later, when our fish were cleaned, a very odd-looking critter was taken from one of the fish stomachs. It caused quite a lot of conjecture, because even with our combined experience, there was no clear idea about what the specimen might be. Thoughts ranged from a very fat bully, a well-developed salmon fry, or a pale little goldfish but the thing was, it looked nothing like anything from freshwater environs we’d seen.

Then thoughts turned to an illegally introduced coarse fish that had appeared in another Coast Lake, the rudd. So, it was photographed and taken to be frozen for sending to Fish & Game for further analysis. It would be sad if something that didn’t belong was found in the lake and we hadn’t taken a record of it. Every angler has a part to play in protecting our world class fisheries.

We’d planned a special day and that is what we had.

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