Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Guided Day - New Zealand 2015

A few days ago I broke my Orvis Battenkill large arbor reel. Perhaps more accurately it broke itself. I reached down to wind in my line and instead of finding a reel handle I clutched at thin air. Somewhere along the river the handle had parted ways in a clean break of plastic and metal. Coming off the back of two broken rods in the same week the demise of my reel was a cruel blow. I used the small protrusion of the counter weight to reel in the excess line a little awkwardly and began the long 3 hour walk back to the car. A long day's fishing where I walked about 18km with no fish to show for it. I did miss two rises though so it wasn't wholly uneventful. The next day I bought a new reel in Te Anau. If anyone reading this is planning an extended fishing trip to New Zealand I strongly advise bringing along a spare of everything. Find the space, it's worth it.

By this time I'd hooked up again with Takahiro. By coincidence we happened to be staying at the same camp site at Te Anau and I recognised his blue tent. New Zealand is actually quite a small place when it comes to fishing and often I run into familiar fishing faces, transient trout bums all of them just like me. The following afternoon we fished the Upukerora River which is probably the closest stream to the town and whilst the guide book suggests rainbows are the predominant species I caught two brown trout of 2½ and 4lbs. The 4lb trout was a rewarding catch as it refused about nine patterns while feeding consistently in clear water no more than two rod lengths away from me. Eventually, perhaps after about 45 minutes of watching it and casting to it, it rose ever so slowly in the water on a collision course with a Royal Wulff and sipped it as gently as a dandelion falling on the grass. I waited a second for the fish to turn before I struck, as you have to do with these browns if you don't want to see your fly ricochet past your ear, and that's when the fireworks started. It's moments like these that make New Zealand such a rewarding place to fish.

Anyway, several weeks ago I had decided to book a guide to learn as much as I could of New Zealand fishing methods. Chris Dore came highly recommended and whilst initially he could not accommodate me because of an already full schedule he volunteered to use one of his rest days. Unfortunately the day itself turned out to be the worst day of weather since my arrival in New Zealand. A strong, almost permanent gust of wind from the west (downstream) made casting exceedingly difficult and from mid morning it started to rain and it never let up until about 5.30pm when we were already back in Chris' 4x4 on the road back to Queenstown. It was a miserable day, difficult for spotting fish, cold and wet and I cursed my foul luck at paying for a guide on such a day. Chris took me to perhaps the most famous big trout river in the district but all I could manage was a solitary 4lb brown trout. I learned a lot about spotting fish (Chris spotted more fish in the morning alone, even in the miserable conditions, than I would probably spot in three days of clear weather) and a few alternative methods such as streamer fishing but deep down my goal had been to beat my personal best of 5lbs (not an overly-ambitious goal for New Zealand). My initial feelings are of disappointment especially given the cost of a guided day and for a while I thought of nothing else but the many other things I could have spent the money on. But I bet over the coming weeks I will put what I learned from this day to good use and hopefully it will start to pay dividends. 

I'll never tire of catching 4lb fish. Anywhere else in the world fish of this size would be trophies to be celebrated and I try not to forget it!

Just a few more words on the day - Chris was an exceptional guide and the failings were mine alone. He put me on to about five or six fish which were happily feeding, some of them in the 8lb range at least, and for any guide this is a job well done. This is where the angler's skill has to prevail and unfortunately I came up wanting. The trout in this river are ultra spooky and you get one or two casts at most before they somehow know they are being pestered by a sharp piece of steel wrapped with fur and feathers. In the strong wind I tended to get my cast in the right place only at the third or fourth attempt and this is simply not good enough. You have to be exceedingly accurate with your first cast here. I also freely admit I probably suffered a bit of stage fright on the occasion - it's hard to control the nerves and adrenalin when casting to a large fish when the margins for success are so small. I cannot stress enough the importance of improving your casting accuracy before coming to New Zealand (and being able to do it in strong downstream winds).     

For now the quest for a 5lb plus fish continues!


  1. Hi Mate. It seems as if Murphy is around every corner waiting for you on this trip...:( Must've been because he is my "friend"...Lol. Well at least you are catching fish and that is the biggest reward. I've spend most of Saturday on the Clarence river with only 2 wee little ones that in any case got lose as they came into shallow water. Please add me on FB when you have a chance. Best of luck and I know you will get that big one still...:)

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Pieter. Hopefully there is better fishing for the both of us on the horizon!