Hurunui River Monster Trout on Scarborough Reel, and Rapala

Brian Mercer's Hurunui-River monster trout weighed 14 lbs 10 oz
Brian and his Hurunui-River monster brown trout.

Hurunui River Monster Trout on Scarborough Reel, 6lb line and Rapala

by Lex Coutts

Hurunui River Monster Trout by Lex Coutts.
Brian and his Hurunui-River monster trout smile for the camera.

Some of you will have met Brian Mercier at Mcintosh’s Rocks, on the lower Waimakariri River, fishing with his South African fishing rod and Scarborough reel. Brian now has another claim to fame.

We were fishing in the Hurunui Gorge a few years back on 8 January. He with his Scarborough rod and reel and I with a Nymph /Dry Fly combo when I heard Brian whistle urgently for my attention.

After scrambling up the steep bank and running as fast as I could without tipping out my fly fishing jacket, I saw Brian into a good fish out on a stony beach above the hole he had been fishing.

Try as I might I couldn’t get down to him until he had managed to land the fish on his own. And what a fish! He had called out to me that he was into a good fish but this thing looked like a salmon.

I eventually got down to the river to find that Brian had in fact caught a huge brown trout.

We were both astounded at the size of this fish and after a little self-congratulation, we made our way back to my 4WD to weigh it. My scales pulled down to 15lbs and we were in for another round of “Holy **** can you believe that”?

Later we weighed the fish on the LPG scales at the Kaiapoi Shell garage to 6.5kgs/14lbs 10ozs. A very remarkable catch indeed. Even more so when you look at the tackle Brian uses.

At a club night, Brian gave us a demonstration of fishing tackle from his homeland, South Africa. Among the many new things we saw were his Scarborough reels. These are a centre-pin reel similar to a fly reel except they spin freely on a very smooth bearing. So smooth in fact that the demo model took ten minutes to stop from a good spin up on the table!

Brian casts straight off the reel, no bail arm, and retrieves directly back onto the spool laying the line across the spool by hand as it returns. There is no clutch or braking system, again as in a fly reel, and Brian has full control of the whole show with the bottom hand on the reel. To say some practice is required to cast and retrieve would be an understatement.

Each outfit is handmade to a very high standard and Brian has a range of these rods/reels, from trout size through to game fish size. In fact Brian, in his experiences in game fishing on the Indian Ocean, has caught two sailfish on a larger rig. The best was a cool 48kgs.

This monster trout was caught with no casting release other than by finger friction, no clutch other than hand pressure on the spool, on 6lb line (mono not braid) with a Countdown Rapala cast through fishy water on the Hurunui River. Fantastic!

Brian is a very quiet person and tends to understate his experience and skill as a fisherman. Not only has he fished extensively around Africa with great success, he has been a ‘deckie’ on big game boats off Cairns, Australia fishing for marlin and the many tropical reef fish that abound in those waters.

His closing remarks on the whole affair was “well that breaks the drought of fish for you and me”.

Brian and I had been fishless together for the last four trips to other rivers and I managed to catch a 1kg brown later on in the day. Quite small and inadequate in comparison to Brian’s Hurunui River Monster Trout.

Brian Mercer's Hurunui-River monster trout weighed 6.5kgs (14 lb 10oz. Pictured with Brian's Scarborough reel, and the little Rapala Countdown bibbed minnow lure.
Brian Mercer’s Hurunui-River monster trout weighed 14 lbs 10 oz. Pictured with Brian’s Scarborough reel, and the little Rapala Countdown bibbed minnow lure.