Much of my time over the last few months has been taken up preparing a new online flyfishing magazine and website, FlyStream.
We finally launched yesterday, so go to http://www.flystream.com and see what you think.
On the last night of my recent trip to New Zealand’s North Island, I was awoken by a distant rumble. A thunderstorm? Blasting for roadworks? A freight train on a far off railway line? I drifted back to sleep with a shrug and returned to dreaming about the fishing. And it had been good, even excellent at times. Based in Turangi on the fabled Tongariro River, Andrew and I began the first day walking through the back gate of the Creel Lodge and almost straight on to the water. I stood on a high bank above an anabranch, peering through the ferns to the river and wondering if I should clamber down or find an easier route. Then a movement caught my eye. In the first square metre of the Tongariro I laid eyes on, a nice rainbow swam past, then another. Promising!
And the early signs proved accurate. Within half an hour I had my first fish and by early evening several more had joined it, 3 to 4 lb rainbows and a solitary brown. The river was a very comfortable 26 cumecs and a lovely blue/clear colour (some said too comfortable & clear.) But I felt at home on the river in this condition, searching with natural nymph patterns under an indicator. I even sighted quite a few fish and caught a couple of these. After this great start, rest of the trip followed suit. In gorgeous weather, the smaller Taupo tributaries yielded nice fish, and we picked up some big rainbows polaroiding the Rotorua lakes.
It was only on the last morning that it looked like our perfect run of luck might come crashing to an end. Nearby Mt Tongariro blew up for the first time in over a century – the roads out were closed by ash and the risk of further eruptions. Then at the last minute, the police reopened SH 1 and we drove through ash-shrouded forest towards Wellington airport and home. At the end of the range of volcanoes, the final peak of Mt Ruapehu poked its snowy slopes out of the ash and rain cloud in a spectacular farewell to a remarkable trip.
My new book Fishing Sense has arrived and should be finding its way out to stores over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be signing copies at Petrachs Bookshop, Launceston Tasmania on Friday 29 July, and at Aussie Angler, Greensborough Victoria on 13 August.
After an absence of several months, I’ve enjoyed two trips to New Zealand already in 2010, and they couldn’t have been more different. The first in late January was to one of the most remote places I’ve been for a while. For 7 days, a few mates and I hiked up a backcountry river (and a few tributaries) in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. Even satellite phones don’t work here, such is the steepness of the valleys. To get out requires a 3 day walk over 2000 metre mountains, or an activated EPIRB and a rescue helicopter – weather permitting.
Fortunately the latter weren’t needed. We were blessed with a week of fine weather, almost unknown in a region which averages 4 metres or rain a year. (We later heard some West Coast farmers describing this period as a drought!) The backcountry fishing was all you could ask: not necessarily better than more accessible fishing, but in spectacular country, on unbelievable water, and with the sense (if not the reality) of being the only ones to fish there for a long time. On the flipside, there were of course sandflies, some demanding hauls between camps, and a steady decline in meal quality as fresh food supplies were gradually replaced by the dehydrated variety. We planned to keep a trout for dinner, but somehow it was always too early in the day to carry it, or it was too big, or… In hindsight, I guess on some level we just didn’t want to break the pattern of catch-and-release.
In late March I was back in the South Island again with fishing friends Ian and James. This time the accommodation was a pretty little farm cottage in Westland with doonas, hot running water, and a store in the town just up the road selling pretty much any fresh food we wanted. As for remoteness, the nearest water was a very nice spring creek about 50 metres away.
We spent the next few days fishing streams never more than a short stroll from the car, surrounded by paddocks and sheep rather than sky-scraping mountains. The fishing itself was excellent: perhaps the trout weren’t quite as big as their backcountry cousins, but they weren’t far off. The only downer was the arrival late in the trip of a deluge. As if to make up for that freakish fine spell in the backcountry in January, the rain pitted the water so hard on the Arnold River, it turned completely white.
Before long all the streams within driving distance were flooded and unfishable, so we sought fishing refuge on the largest stillwater nearby, Lake Brunner. And what a refuge it turned out to be. Whether we fished exposed rocky points or sheltered sandy coves, good browns in top condition smashed the ever-reliable Green Emu Bugger again and again. After landing one particularly fat fish that I’d polaroided belting bullies against the bank, I found myself comparing this fishing to the backcountry trip. River versus lake, small nymphs and dries versus Woolly Buggers, roadside versus mountain-side? As usual, I couldn’t come to any meaningful conclusions, except that I was glad for both.