My Best Fishing Days Recalled – A Big Salmon from the Opihi River sent to the Taxidermist
Over the years, we can catch many fish, and at the time the sport has given us much enjoyment and pleasure but as time goes on the memories tend to fade. However, there are one or two special occasions which are always remembered and I would like to relate one of my memories which happened in April 1984 and I can still remember the details as if it had happened yesterday. Here is the story of one of my best fishing days.
A friend was spending his holidays in the family bach at the mouth of the Opihi River and as I had never fished that river I arranged to meet Brian to do some salmon fishing in the early afternoon. Brian had a small rowboat and we rowed across to the north side of the river which we had to ourselves. Several fishermen were on the south side but most were lying down and resting so obviously there had been no recent activity.
As soon as I saw the water we intended fishing I also lost enthusiasm. There was only a very small stream and the water was gin-clear and it was a very sunny day. The tide was out and below us we had a lip and then 200 metres of shute with shallow water running out to sea.
I had my usual salmon rod and reel which I decided was not suitable because of the heavy line so I made up my bait caster which had a 5 kg line.
After putting on a Z spinner my first cast caught up with somebody on the other side. Because we had a broad stretch of water in front of us and at an angle, to the other fishermen the gear wasn’t going around at the same speed or angle from each side so I had to watch their casts to swing my spoon in the gap.
Two more casts and I hooked up again and my immediate reaction was, this is a waste of time. Next moment the thump, thump of a salmon!
It had been sitting just up from the lip of the chute so I was immediately concerned it would take off downstream. Luckily it sat and I quietly began leading the fish upstream and probably gained about 30 metres.
The fish still had not run but I was aware there was a lot of weight on the end of the line. As time passed and there was still no action to tire the fish I even hung the butt of the rod to get some movement. It then did a few short runs and we were then getting closer to the lip and big trouble!
In the finish, the fish managed to slip over into the shallow water of the chute and headed seaward, at great speed with plumes of spray shooting upwards.
At the time I used to jog and was reasonably fit but I had thigh gumboots on so in desperation I ran down the river bank towards the river mouth. No way could I keep up with the fish and I was losing line at a fast rate.
By the time I got to the north side mouth entrance, the fish was away out to sea at least 200 metres towards the south side. My reel only had a few turns of line left. Luckily the salmon had stopped running and when I got my breath and probably helped by the wave movement, I got the fish moving to opposite the beach. I then started to pump the rod knowing that the line must be very fragile after all the previous action.
Quietly the fish came in but with the pumping, the reel spool had expanded and with 40 metres of the line still out it finally locked. I knew the fish was spent as I could see it in the waves but at this stage patients was necessary and I had to rely on the right waves to bring the fish in. There was still a lot of undertow, so with the locked reel I was 40 metres up on the shingle walking back and forward in tandem with the waves to reduce pressure on the line.
At last, the right wave and my friend was able to lift a very tired salmon up the bank. Needless to say, I was very elated after such an exhilarating battle and the build-up of adrenaline kept me awake most of that night.
Later I called into the Temuka Sports Shop where the fish weighed 30.3 pounds. As I headed back to Christchurch, I stopped at the taxidermist who used to work from his home off the Main Road south of the Rangitata River. He was keen to mount the salmon but at $180 I wasn’t sure if I could afford the cost and wouldn’t commit myself. He coated the tail and fins with glycerine for me and suggested I keep the fish on a board in the deep freeze in case I changed my mind.
I did, and several months later the job was done and I have never regretted the decision. When the mounted fish arrived home I was keen to put it up in the lounge but my wife vetoed that idea so I thought it would have to live in the garage. Eileen then suggested the kitchen and within 5 minutes it
was on the wall.
Most mornings, as I have breakfast, I still get a thrill from seeing that mounted fish and remembering back to that very special day – one of my best fishing days!