Our final stop on Cesco’s last great fishing adventure was a return to the Tekapo-Pukaki hydro canal. We’d been here before, hunting for the 20-plus kilogram monsters that are said to haunt the depths.
We arrived about 2pm and claimed a spot just downstream from the salmon farm. Cesco befriended the two guys next to us, who showed off the behemoth they had caught earlier – folded to fit in their (large!) chilly bin.
Encouraged, we got to work. But try as we might, we couldn’t get a jot of interest despite the fact that the fish were obviously still around. It was turning into the Travers River again!
But we refuse to go home empty-handed! So we kept fishing as our new friends packed up and left. We fished into evening as the guard changed and new angler neighbours arrived. The problem wasn’t only with us – nobody else had had a bite since we arrived! Maybe the fish were tired after the long weekend?
As day turned to evening, we noticed one of our fellow anglers had an unusual strategy – he was letting his lure sink to the bottom of the canal and then “walking” it along as it bounced on the bottom. He claimed this technique had caught him many canal fish – and we were skeptical until he hooked one. The fish escaped, but that had done it – the shores of the canal were soon lined with anglers walking their lures downstream as if engaged in a stately waltz.
There was no more luck for anyone that night, but at least the stars were amazing. Defeated, we retired to the lake shore for some rest.
Next morning we returned revitalised and determined that today we would have our fish. We each had our own theory so decided on a wager. Cesco thought that combining the walking technique with using a shrimp as bait (how our first friends caught their fish) would be a guaranteed success. On the other hand, I hypothesised that the fish would be biting between 11am and 1pm, and that’s we’d get our catch.
So we each proceeded with our plans, Cesco walking the shrimp and me with my usual technique.
Soon Cesco gave a yell, but it just as soon turned into a curse. Something had taken his bait, but it had also taken his entire rig and he was left with nothing but an empty length of line.
Back to square one.
Then, another burst of excitement. Cesco had hooked anther one, and this time it stayed on the line. I grabbed the net while everyone nearby rushed to watch and offer advice. Finally we hauled it from the water to a resounding cheer from our spectators.
I checked the time. 12.30pm. And it had been caught using the shrimp walking technique. Our wager was indecisive. But I’ll admit I felt some measure of satisfaction as I folded the fish to fit into our (small!) chilly bin.
Some time later, and with no further luck, we decided to move down to the stilling pond.
Here Cesco’s shrimp again proved irresistible and he was soon battling another fish. I readied the net, but as he brought her in to shore she darted under one of the large boulders lining the shore, neatly slicing the line.
Once again unprintable words were spoken. By now the wind was getting up, and we began to consider calling it a day after our chair was almost blown into the water. But Cesco wanted to give it one last try, so he set everything up again and we waited in the car while the wind blustered outside.
Remarkably, this worked. We leaped from the car and Cesco began the work of bringing it in. Our excitement mounted as it became clear that this was a big one. I scrambled down the rocky embankment and ensured that the line did not get caught on the rocks again. Once the behemoth was brought to shore I swiped at it with the net and my heart sunk as I missed. But here it comes again – this time I’ve got it! I hauled the heavy creature up the bank for inspection.
Cesco was stoked. “This is the fish I dreamed of when I came to New Zealand!” He cried.
Finally satisfied with a catch that all the folding in the world wasn’t going to get in our chilly bin, we decided to escape the still raging wind and return victorious to Dunedin.
With two such magnificent fish, a magnificent preparation was in order, which is why we decided to have them professionally filleted at Blue Water Products on Wharf St. They let us watch the process from the doorway, giving us a neat sneak peek into how our fish is prepared. We just had two big fillets cut off the small one while the large fish yielded fourteen steaks.
Then we called the family round for a celebratory dinner and treated them to a side of smoked trout.
So Cesco’s last New Zealand fishing trip ended with a success after all, and ensured we’d be eating trout until he leaves.