Screaming southerly’s silver lining

Simon locked and loaded

I was nodding off in the car en route to the Rakaia; work had be punishing of late. My brother Matt and I were intent on fishing the lower reaches, buoyed on by a fish each the day before and a season shaping up to be one out of the box. With recent seasons showing a fishery in steady decline and possibly in collapse, salmon were swimming against the run of play this year, with plenty of big fish teasing anglers.

We put in a good walk downstream and eventually discovered an obscure pool that other anglers appeared to be overlooking—a couple of jet boats whizzed past without a glance. River levels were low and the flow over this vanishing bar was slow so I figured the run might hold a fish or two.

Matt fished through the pool and I followed, using very light tackle to match the conditions: light canal trout gear running 10lb braid with a 10lb fluorocarbon tippet and 10g zeddy—all the tens! The river was so low you didn’t need big lures. I cast out towards the bar and let the zeddy flutter through the pool. Repeat.

Simon’s salmon swam against the run of play

Sounds easy but the heavy southerly made casting almost impossible.

Cast. Flutter. Repeat.

Bam!

At the bottom of the pool I hooked up. Solid. Heavy.

“This is a good fish,” I shouted the obvious to Matt.

We couldn’t stop laughing. We were literally hysterical.

The salmon was all muscle, powering off upstream and trying to wrap me up in a tree at the head of the pool. I had to play it heavily and muscle it as best I could on such light gear. Victory came through attrition; pressure, skill and persistence. Eventually I had the salmon near the tail of the run and coaxed it in with side strain.

The salmon was a thumper, weighing in at 17.5lb but it is worth noting the condition factor here. It measured 970mm and, according to Rasmus from Fish & Game, it should have weighed around 25lb. I have heard of others catching salmon of similar dimensions so it begs the question, why have these fish lost condition from their peak?

Rasmus floated the theory that climate change has seen a rise in sea temperatures and he suggests this may be causing salmon at sea to stop feeding earlier, so they are coming into our rivers having already started losing condition.

On a positive note, there seems to be an abundance of them this year but it’s not entirely a silver lining. Many anglers are frustrated at the two fish per season bag limit. Some catch salmon to feed their families and a number go for years struggling to catch a fish, so to limit out early and have to watch fins sliding past is causing some angst.

Me? I finished the morning on an absolute high.

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