Summer is officially here, so cheers, to wet wading, weekend excursions, and some of the most fun fishing of the year. Let me tell you about where I spent my ‘first’ summer of 2016 down South.
My best friend and I needed an escape from the gloom and darkness of February in the Pacific Northwest, so we headed to the land of monster trout and sandflies for a life changing fly fishing adventure.
“We’re so screwed.”
We said this a lot. It was never because something bad had happened, or because something bad was going to happen. We typically said it after we had just released a 20+ inch brown trout that had slurped our dry fly as it sat in 10 inches of the clearest, most pristine, turquoise water we’d ever seen. In other words, we thought we had genuinely ruined our lives at the spry, recently graduated age of 22. We’d constantly ask ourselves the question: “How could anything be better than this?” We thought we’d genuinely jaded ourselves past the point of no return. It was a serious concern; it still is to be honest…
New Zealand is a twisted place. Vegemite is unanimously enjoyed, they drive on the left side of the road, and the trout are absolutely monstrous. The fishing is incomparable– It is some of the most challenging, relentless, but rewarding angling you will ever do. Its trout fishing with the mindset of steelheading: to catch one fish is a treat, to catch multiple is truly a special day. The psychology is the same because whether you are swinging for steelhead or trout fishing in New Zealand one thing is for certain: if you get one, its going to be a good one.
It is also unique to any other trout fishing you will ever do. It is 100% sight fishing in crystal clear water for large, intelligent trout in precarious situations requiring not only long casts, but also sneaky presentations. You get one shot at a fish before it either spooks or decides to never move again. So, not only is it difficult, it is also a game of patience, and one that tests your skill as a fisherman with every trout you encounter. The fish aren’t necessarily picky, but the most willing of feeders won’t even sniff your fly if you don’t place it precisely and gently. Did I mention you’re using a 15-17 foot leader and wind is a constant variable? That doesn’t help much. Neither does a swarm of sandflies buzzing around your face looking for any piece of exposed skin to gnaw on. But hey, its all part of the kiwi experience.
From what I’ve gathered, every season is different in New Zealand. Some years you’re catching fish on mouse patterns and others (such as this one) it’s all about cicadas. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the constant humming of these insects as they serenaded me from the surrounding trees as I walked up the river. I’ll never forget how much the fish loved them, too. See and hear for yourself:
It’s a cool thing to be 22 years old, backpack on, fly rod in hand, and setting out on the trail up a new river whose name you can’t even pronounce. It’s another cool thing to trek 20 kilometers through rainforest and have the day culminate with a few hungry fish and a cozy, backcountry hut to sleep in at night. And it’s a really cool thing to sit on the bank of a trout stream 7,000 miles away from home and think about where you are in the world, let alone the universe.
This was my first taste of traveling internationally with a fly rod and I now know what I want to do with my life. Perfecting your craft and knowledge on your home water over a lifetime is awesome but as the term ‘home water’ implies, it will always be there when you return. I’d say there is nothing more enjoyable then stepping out into a mysterious, utopian-like trout stream on the other side of the world and not having the slightest inclination of what might happen. That sort of anticipation and adventure is addicting and enriching for the soul. I read once that water covers about 70% of the earth, I’d say that fares pretty well for us fisherman.