I have casually wondered about ‘Maruia’ for some time- nothing dramatic but having seen references to the ‘Maruia Society’ and a fleeting grasp of what they are about I sort of thought there might be Maori origins for the word but I initially did nothing more about it than wonder. But then I got a call from my brother. At this stage I should explain that when we were babes in arms (a wee while ago) our father must have scratched us both quite badly with a Hairy Dog, or perhaps a Rabbit and Yellow. In my case I suspect a Rabbit and Yellow given I’m not a HUGE fan of night-time fishing. By now you might have gathered what brother Allan’s call was about, something along the lines of “Paul and I are going up the Maruia then on to The Coast for a few days, are you interested in coming with us?” And because my Dad had inoculated me with a Rabbit and Yellow I jumped at the chance to join them, if only for a couple of days, those to be spent on the Maruia River just an hour and a half from home.We agreed to meet up mid Friday afternoon and spend the next couple of days beating the local water to a froth, or something (I had a sneaking suspicion the ‘something’ might involve beer!).
It was great to see he and Paul again! As time passes it seems to increase the periods between meetings with good mates and this getting back together offered certain promise, especially since I had glimpsed the river on the road down from Springs Junction to the (sparse) settlement of Maruia, and that Brother had issued instructions to bring (some) grub and beer!
The weekend got off to a very good start- they were there, and I had beer! We went to the river for the remainder of the afternoon full of enthusiasm and hope given that they had had a closer look at a couple of reaches earlier in the day and had seen trout! Large trout! Now it must be said before we proceed any further that this fishing expedition was not just a whim of the other two, it was an adventure that had been planned at some length by them and this planning included picking the brains of a piscatorial pal of Paul’s (oh points for alliteration, Sir!!) who had provided them with detailed information on proven fishing spots both on the Maruia and other West Coast fishing rivers. Thus we chose one of a number of ‘promising spots’, off a road just north of Maruia. From the bridge we looked down onto this-and in the crystal clear water below we saw trout- many trout! Not huge, admittedly but my brother and I have always had a belief in the saying that where there are small trout, there are BIG trout hiding not far away. And so the hunt began!
I watched from the bridge and offered the occasional word of encouragement, the occasional word of advice, the occasional word of derision (offered sotto voce!)
Having moved many of the fish lying below the bridge it was decided we’d move upstream a bit where the water looked even more inviting than the little pool below the bridge.
There were two or three lovely runs that did look very inviting and it was through these that we three quietly worked our way with floating dries with tiny droppers, fully expecting these offerings to be snapped up! No- didn’t happen, and so after a respectable period of time, (at the very least enough to allow the Maruia browns to show some interest,) we left the river and went back to the motel to plot further attacks.
The evening was spent dredging through the information provided by Paul’s mate on fishing in the area- well ‘the eveing’ and ‘dredging’ is probably exceeding the fact seeing everything was written on a single A4 page so we’ll just leave your imagination to fill in the details of the remainder of the night!
Saturday dawned calm but misty although we were confident the cloud would lift and the day on the river would be much more rewarding than yesterday.
Our first outing was this time upstream to a part of the river that also meandered through farmland and presented a number of equally promising runs,one deep clear pool easing over gentle rapids to the next with what looked like ideal holding water sheltered at times by overhanging willows and at others open and very visible for the fish and suggesting a bit of stalking would be ‘the go’. Of course it’s seldom a good idea to charge in without first spending a bit of time reading the river and hopefully spotting at the least promising lies or even better, feeding fish, so we did. I didn’t have a beer although the sun was over the yard-arm somewhere in the world at the time! Of course you can read and read and not learn much but it’s never wasted time looking at pristine streams flowing by. We fished. So! Having not upset the balance in any way by removing any fish but having fed the soul a bit we wound in the lines and returned to the motel to feed the body- bacon, eggs, toast and fixings. That’ll make ALL the difference, and so to illustrate the pair’s determination Allan and Paul got the SERIOUS fishing faces on at the same time putting on chest waders, vests and hats, checked the tackle boxes, bathed in insect repellent (yes, namunamu were about in their hungry thousands!!) and possibly even muttered a quiet word to the Fishing Powers That Be. I put a few bottles of beer in a bag, repellented my bare legs and waited while the boys finished their preparations.
The notes had mentioned another road access to the river a bit further north than yesterday’s but to cut a longer story short we missed the turn-off. It was fortunate that we did! The road wandered into the ranges and through beautiful native beech forestbefore arriving back at the river some kilometres later and presenting us with another road access.What promise! We crossed the river and followed the road that wound along beside the river, at times offering enticing glimpses through the beeches of deep, clear, smooth-flowing sections of this lovely river. We parked up and assembled the rods, gave the determination button a press and went onto the gravel bank.Stunning! The Brains Trust went into committee for a while …and plotted how the unsuspecting brownies lurking in the deep pools would/could/should be hooked, what would be the guaranteed lures, and who would do what and where. (You will note the requisite hand-signing that is the secret to success and realise that the fish didn’t stand a chance?) I had a beer.
Obviously the fish hadn’t read the same script the boys had and so after a couple of hours of letting the flies drift through this delightful piece of water it was decided that there wasn’t enough interest being shown by the fish to warrant carrying on and it would only be fair to not catch some fish in another part of the river! I had a beer.
We found the missing road on the way back but unfortunately access wasn’t quite as simple as we were in the mood for so we allowed a top-dressing plane to buzz us before heading back to the motel. Lunch was good!
The evening session was spent upstream again and as dusk gathered it dawned (get it?) on me how fine the line is between careful preservation of our waterways and disaster. The banks in most places were choked with willow, the gravel berms were scattered with one of Mother England’s most successful importsand it was obvious that the farmers whose properties bordered the river had to be committed to some sacrifices to maintain the riparian strip that protects the water quality of our rivers. In some places this commitment was nothing more than a fragile single wire strand that in no way could even remotely be hinted at as being a ‘fence’!
Suffice it to say the ‘angling’ was great, the ‘fishing’ was less so. Again the water held huge promise, again many fish were spotted but again, to our absolute credit we played conservationists and failed to land a fish. I blame the weather!
We ‘cranked up the barbie’ and prepared a meal fit for perhaps more worthy than we, but we were hungry after a day full of ‘fresh air and scenery’ as The Old Man would say so we tucked in. We were careful to include all food groups
and I had a beer.Dinner consumed and housekeeping done we put the world to rights and The Boys planned the rest of their campaign. It would include the Grey, possibly the Rough, certainly the Crooked. If they passed any other strangely named rivers on the way home it was quite on the cards that they’d give that their attention, too!
What a memorable couple of days- great mates, great weather, great refreshments and an absolutely gorgeous river. The Maruia is certainly one of the most heavily populated river I’ve seen, and it is pure. The water is gin clear, and even though the river obviously hadn’t seen a ‘fresh’ to turn the rocks for a while the bed of the stream was clean. Maybe the single-strand ‘fences DO work!!! Through the lower reaches beyond the Maruia Valley the native bush reaches down to the river, the river gets really deep and ‘gorgie’ and given a lower barometer I am certain it would be grand fishing. A wonderful example of West Coast rivers.
And being a stone carver who nowadays tends to pay more to what else is in the river, I proved one of the unwritten rules of stone gatherers- the best and biggest rocks are always the ones furthest from the car!!!
…’Maruia’? The word means “sheltered valley’ in te reo Maori and a was adopted by an environmental group, The Native Forests Action Council established in the 1970s to protest against native tree logging in New Zealand. The group lost much of its grass-roots support in the 90s when it publicly supported sustainable beech milling on The West Coast. The Maruia Society has since sort of morphed into a commercial entity, NZ Nature with the Society reinventing itself as ‘Ecologic’.
…and ‘You Should Have Been Here Thursday’? – this refers to a commonly used line heard by anglers who have spent HOURS walking, wading, casting, changing tackle, untangling wayward back-casts, (all to no avail) when they, somewhat dejectedly return to their car at the end of the day to invariably be greeted by a smart-arse who is more than happy to make one’s day- “You should have been here Thursday!”
Thanks Allan and Paul for a top couple of days. I’m sorry you don’t feature a bit more, Paul- I was waiting for you to land the BIG one!