Stealthy approach proved a winner

PETER SHUTT
Last updated 18:50 27/05/2014
john manning
SUPPLIED
POPULAR CATCH: Several years of patience paid off for John Manning on the last day of the salmon season at the Rangitata River.

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Peter Shutt

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Today we continue the commentary of wise words from the late George Anderson to those who listened to his softly spoken advice in the early 90s - advice that has held true.

The late George Anderson claimed to have enjoyed expert advice from his fellow anglers when he started fishing for salmon.

But let his views be expressed in his own words.

"As a schoolboy, I was allowed to go fishing with Chillie, and the late Joe Rooney ... or perhaps it was that they tolerated my youthful company.

"However, they had a few rules, and woe betide me if I stepped out of line. They observed a strict code of silence once we got near fishable water, and it was forbidden to speak at such times," George said. "There was no throwing of stones into the water, or shining a light near the water."

Indeed, Anderson said the stealthy approach was ingrained in his memory to the extent that in his later years, when he approached the water on his farm bike, he switched off the light before it played upon the water. "I also wondered if the noise of the many bikes that became an integral part of the salmon anglers tackle, was not, in fact, disturbing salmon sheltering in edge- water."

Reading the water is another important lesson that Anderson said he learned through fishing with his experienced friends.

"Chillie would tell me where to fish, and how to fish the water. Sometimes he didn't say much, but he certainly made it clear when I did something wrong.

"I well recall him telling me to select my spot, and then he would say I should stay there for the duration of our visit. I soon learned that tidal influences changed the holes and it paid to select carefully.

"On another occasion, I was with Chillie at the Rangitata River and when I saw the late Mr McCullough standing back from the water, enjoying a cup of tea, I claimed the river bank at that spot.

"When I hooked a salmon and ran down the river bank I had to pass Chillie, who clipped my ear for taking another man's position on the bank."

Anderson said he often didn't recognise that Chillie might give him the prime spot, and was providing a lesson on how to read the best water.

"I didn't move around the river much in later years.

"Chillie's advice stuck with me, and I selected the water carefully and stayed there all while tidal conditions permitted."

Anderson recalled the time when it was legal to sell salmon. "When purchasing an adult fishing licence, you could also purchase a seller's licence," he said. "This cost a pound, and permitted the angler to sell salmon. That was abolished in the 40s or early 50s and never reinstated. "These fish sold for 1/3 to 1/6 a pound at Ferons auction in Christchurch."

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Throughout the 90s and later, Anderson wore the mantle of his mentors with great dignity, and gladly assisted new anglers getting started.

"I learned so much from Chillie and Mr Rooney, and I believe I should put something back into the sport," he said.

Although living in Temuka, and still with a love for the Opihi River, he tended to spend much of his time fishing the Rangitata River mouth.

A stalwart of the South Canterbury Salmon Anglers Association since its inception in 1972, Anderson was a fund of knowledge on Opihi River conditions, having led a petition to have foul hooking abolished at the Opihi River mouth. "That led to me losing what I had considered were good friends, and taught me much about human nature," he said.

"I believe the opening of the Levels Plain Irrigation system was also a sad day for the Opihi River. It destroyed the flow during normally low flow periods and fish migration ceased many times. In their annual report in November 1971, the South Canterbury Acclimatisation Society declared the Junction Hole in the Opihi River as a salmon trap, so that the persistent foul hooking of salmon would cease."

It's ironical that in February 1972, foul hooking became a contentious issue at the Rangitata River too, and while the acclimatisation society did change regulations to stop the habit at the Opihi, nothing changed at the Rangitata River for some years.

Indeed, George retained a copy of his letter to the editor, published in The Timaru Herald in 1972, claiming that instead of considering a bag reduction, the acclimatisation society should address the issue as discussed at the South Island salmon symposium at Ashburton earlier in the year . . . foul hooking!

There were many letters to the paper at that time, but unlike Anderson, others tended to use pen names.

Many times he stood and was counted, but most often time proved him right.

However, he admitted to one indiscretion.

"I did once tell a lie to protect myself from what I perceived might be physical harm. In the late 30s, I wagged school one morning and went fishing. The opportunity to stay and fish a while longer with Chillie Williams was not to be missed. However, when I went to school later in the day, the head teacher asked if I had been ill, and of course, I chose the easy answer. It was a great surprise to me to see him with a copy of the newspaper next morning, featuring me with a 40-pound salmon."

Anderson said he told the truth thereafter, and never wagged school again!

In his later years when he fished the Rangitata River mouth, it was an observant person who noted where he chose to fish. It was not unusual to hear a fellow angler say: "He'll catch one there soon."

They were very often correct.

- The Timaru Herald

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