Before the winter sets in, we have been enjoying the last days of Autumn in some of our favourite places in the South Island, NZ.
St Annes Lagoon wildlife reserve was today’s road trip from our Parnassus stop over.. Autumn foliage colours still linger as did the birdlife flying overhead. So many trees were half submerged in the lake.
Whilst I was wandering with my camera, Leicester found someone to chat to, discovering they had a mutual friend from 50 years ago- such is the nature of this small country, it would appear. He was happy and so was I in my happy place wandering with my camera.
Back at camp, we were amused by Seymour the tame magpie who crows like a rooster and barks like a dog. I tried to mimic the rooster sounds so she would too but I only embarrassed myself. I have the video clip to prove it – but nope – not going to share that.
Next stop was Kaiapoi which is handily located not far from family and friends on the outskirts of Christchurch. We attended our granddaughter’s birthday party.
We love visiting Christchurch as many of our cousins and extended family live here so there are often several visits and coffee catchups with family each time we visit.
Fishing in the Mckenzie canals
The silence is broken only by the gentle plop of the lines being cast into the flowing canal. Everywhere I look I see hopeful anglers casting and reeling their lines. Waiting for the elusive rainbow trout or perhaps salmon escapees from the salmon farms that stretch throughout the man made canals.
Hydro electric power schemes on a grand scale have turned this region into a fisherman’s dreamland. 56 kilometers of canals teaming with big rainbow trout.
Adjacent to the salmon farms are the ever present fishers. Parking up in an assortment of vehicles from utes to motor homes, cars or cyclists, everyone has to stop and try their luck at catching the trophy fish, or at least stopand ask that question – “Any luck Today?” The answers vary as you would expect.
Even if the fish are not rising to the bait it is so peaceful here. Amazing reflections. Interesting bird life. And even some water rats co-existing with the wildlife and humans.
There are as many theories as there are fishers or so it seems. So many theories of what to use to attract the fishy interest. Egg rolling or glow bugs? Live bait or lures? What time of the day? Is the flow fast enough? Is the current too strong?
So many questions. The only important question is – where are the fish?
It’s so quiet then suddenly there is an almighty splash and telltale ripples expanding across the canal. Which way did that fish go?
There is quite a little community of like-minded people here, quietly conversing as they stroll along with their egg rolling tactics. ( the egg rolling technique is a common method for attracting trout. Little egg-like bits of fluff with a hidden hook inside.) Apparently the trout feed on fish eggs so the trick is to get the right colour egg and cast out the line, allowing it to float/ roll along with the current. If the fish fancy the egg then it’s all on as they gulp the hook.
Nets at the ready, the fish is played until it comes into the waters edge. A quick scoop of the net and it is caught. Everyone else on the canal looks across to check the size and the type of fish. Is it a brown trout, a rainbow trout or the prized salmon?
The success of the hunt is short lived as the fisher gets straight back into the action. There is a sense of real camaraderie here. Whilst there are those that go to great lengths to protect their secretl tips and techniques, there are others who generously share their experience and knowledge with the newbies.
It’s an addiction of the healthiest kind. Fresh air and exercise, solitude and amazing scenery. What’s not to love? Walking thousands of steps each day, it sure beats hitting the gym. There is something special about stepping out alongside the canals whether you have cast a line or not. Aoraki (Mt Cook) dominates the landscape even if it is sometimes hiding amongst the clouds, it’s majestic presence is felt and enjoyed by all who venture here.
The air is pure and crisp. The views are truly spectacular and the changing light patterns reflecting across the waters are fascinating. There are swirls and ripples in the current (or is that a big fish passing by). Shags, terns, swallows, ducks, seagulls and herons glide up and down the canals searching for food.
I was captivated by this heron standing ever so obligingly still on the bank until I realised it had old fishing line entangled on its legs and feet. It was so sad to see and I felt quite helpless to assist. It could fly well but when landing it took ages to settle and untangle its feet, having to stand on one leg most of the time. Almost impossible for it to position itself to catch fish in the shallows.
The very next day, one of the salmon farm workers noticed its predicament and called the DOC rangers. They arrived a short time later and tried to capture it in a net. Unfortunately that didn’t work either as it kept flying away. The rangers decided to try another approach later. I was left pondering on the impact on the local wildlife from the trout fishers. Days later, I’m still wondering about the fate of this beautiful bird.
We spent several more days relaxing and enjoying the magic of the canals. I even managed to do some night photography under the dark sky until the fog and clouds rolled in. The lunar eclipse hid behind those clouds.
And the very next day, along came the hoar frost. Spectacular icicles covered the trees and tussocks. It was very pretty and also very cold. It was time to move on.
Snow and heavy rain were forecast for the next few days so it was time to start heading homeward bound. We drove North to Christchurch and hunkered down for the next few days. Fortunately for us, we made the right decision as within two days major flooding closed all the roads and bridges to the South and low-lying areas of Mid and North Canterbury. Had we remained any longer we would have been cut off too. Even though we were parked up alongside the Waimakariri River, the stopbanks held back the waters flooding in our little Kaiapoi campground.
Further along the coast others were not so lucky. Communities evacuated as rivers broke their banks. Helicopter rescues as farmers tried to save their stock and got trapped in rapidly rising floodwaters.
Several days later, the sun came out from the clouds and so did we – back home to the Marlborough Sounds to find Autumn leaves still clinging to the trees. Yet the changing seasons are now upon us here too.
Farewell to the lazy hazy days of May.