So you think you can cast …

I’m studying for FFF Casting Instructor exams, revisiting both the finer points and the principals of casting. Over and over, I have been watching clips about Bill Gammel’s casting fundamentals made my fly fishing and neighbour from across the river Carl McNeil of the Once in a Blue Moon movie fame. Carl has the biggest fly fishing YouTube channel on the planet, and he has set new standards in instructional casting DVDs.

Here are Bill Gammel’s five fundamental principles of fly casting. Never too much of a good thing. Watch, enjoy, apply!

Introduction:

1. Eliminate slack line

2. Timing:

3. Variable casting arc:

4. Power application:

5. Straight rod-tip path:

You’ll find more of Carl’s clips and DVDs at his BUMCAST Youtube channel

 

Winter in Paradise

More skiing and fishing around the Southern Lakes NZ

An excerpt from THE TROUT BOHEMIA

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One aspect of fly fishing for trout I treasure above all else is the seasonal variety of our pursuit. The end-of-winter stillwater and the early-season nymphing on rivers where trout had lost the memory of anglers, the season’s first mayflies, the arrival of green beetles with their sequin shine and antler-like antennae, the explosion of insect life in early summer. Then there are the fat bumbling cicadas and the trout that forsake reason and all sense to gorge on them, the willow-grub days when you can hear the fish slurping insects but you cannot see them in amongst branches trailing in the current, and later the much-anticipated spinner falls when swirls of mayflies seem to be snowing out of clear autumn sky. And there are the surprises, of course, though more about one of them in a moment.

This is the trout calendar which I delight to live by. Within it –except for June, when the days are short and cold and often oppressed by the inversion layer, is truly a fly-tier month – there is always a time and place to go fishing somewhere good, even in the heart of winter. In fact, this winter fishing, when most anglers put away their gear and count days toward the new season, has always held peculiar attraction for me, perhaps because some of my formative years as angler centred around lake Taupo and its river mouths.

After the stealth and mileages which the season’s sight-fishing demands, river time in winter is relaxing and sedentary, and far more social because when all you need to fish is a good spot and just enough room to cast, other anglers are no longer intruders on your river. I used to regularly travel to Taupo for an extended fix of winter fishing and the superbly conditioned rainbows, a one-way drive of 2.5 days in my trout camper. But as the peak of Taupo spawning runs became more and more unpredictable, and the overall size of fish decreased until in July 2008 the size limit had to be lowered from 45 to 40 cm, I looked for alternatives and found them, right at home, at the mouths of rivers which empty into the Southern Lakes. I got to know the river mouths of Lake Wanaka pretty well, with the runs peaking around mid-August when the snow lies low on the mountains and you often have to fish in neoprene gloves. But recently I’ve been venturing further afield, exploring the river drop-offs around Lake Wakatipu and this is how I found myself fishing in Paradise.

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For this latest jaunt I invited my twice-a-year river companion Brendan Shields and his wife Rana, who also travel in their own trout mobile, a small 4×4 with a nifty and manoeuvrable caravan. Brendan is a Southland man, especially apt at small dry fly, and he was keen to learn winter fishing to which I professed a level of expertise. I had all the gear and he made himself a stripping basket, and we met in Glenorchy, an hour’s drive west of Queenstown. I promised them good time and surprises. If I had only known …

As fishing marriages go, the Shields are a rare success story, mainly because Brendan only encourages and never insists, and he’s quick to praise to high heaven any fish his wife catches, often over the trophy browns that mistake his fly for a natural. He has worked for a humanitarian agency out of Malta, survived a dysentery in Ghana, and his travels through tough places have inspired a calm and pragmatism which permeate into his life and fishing, both of which are inextricably intertwined. He would make a good guide, I often thought, because he derives as much pleasure from seeing others catching fish as from doing it himself. Which is exactly what happened at our first stopover.

We began at the mouth of the Rees River which is near the domain at Glenorchy’s centre and I was out like a hound from a gate, wading across to the prime spot at the inside eddy, eager to demo for Brendan just how things were done. At any river mouth an eddy on one side of the current entering the lake is often more pronounced than on the other, and this is indicated by flotsam and bubble lines pooling around within it. You can reasonably assume that trout food would be doing the same thing at the lake’s bottom just beyond the drop-off and that fish would treat such a place as a buffet and a prime beat to patrol.

In position, I was just stripping out my shooting-head line off the reel, ess-ing it out with the rod tip and against the current, when the line suddenly acquired a life of its own, straightening out into the deep water with such speed and purpose the backing burnt my fingers. Fish! A good one, too!

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By the time Brendan caught up I had the magnificent rainbow on the reel and in control, and I let him hear the zizz it was making peeling off the spool, despite the drag being set on max.

“First cast! That’s impressive,” Brendan nodded and I could see he was already a convert to this winter fishing. It was impressive. We did not touch another fish for the rest of the afternoon.

Beyond Glenorchy, along the narrow gravel roads that branch out into the mountains, there are places with names like Paradise and Arcadia, which gives you an idea of the impact the beauty of this land had made on its pioneers. It would be harder to find more spectacular country, with the wide-open valleys fringed by forest, the shark-tooth Humboldt and Richardson mountains for the horizon, and the iconic trout rivers like Greenstone, Rees and Dart entering the lake all within an easy drive.

You can ponder this from a purely aesthetical point of view until a practical realisation hits you: “Wakatipu is a huge lake and full of fish, and most of them are in spawning mode, and on the move. With the exceptions of those heading up the relatively smaller Lochy and Von all of those fish have to spawn up one of the three said rivers and the mouths of these are like gateposts through which all trout have to pass. All you have to do is to be there at the right time. Bit of a lottery? You bet.

I wondered about our timing as we drove around the head of the lake, set up camp at the wooded beach of Kinloch and waded out into the delta of the Dart River. The Dart has several channels and each one ends in a textbook drop-off. Perfect water levels, well-defined eddies, no other fishermen. And no fish. We hooked one here and there but it certainly wasn’t the bonanza I had anticipated. To make things worse a storm brewed up over the mountains and made the place look like Mordor. It rained, and then it snowed and, with each river having a huge mountain catchment, this made for dismal prospects. We started the next day with a long leisurely breakfast and talked about dry fly. Out of the caravan’s window we could see the Dart running thick and grey like wet concrete.

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When it cleared, the world appeared dazzling, freshened by new snow but largely unfishable, perhaps for a few days. In a last-hope attempt to rescue the trip I suggested we go exploring the mouth of the Greenstone, and a good thing we did. Unlike the braids of the Dart, all silt and shifting quicksands, the Greenstone’s riverbed is cobbled and stable, the drop-off descending into the lake like a staircase. Even after the heavy rain the river was running with only a hint of colour but clear enough to sight the couple of rainbows patrolling the edge of the deep. I cast a booby into the current of the river, where it was still shallow, and let it swing over the drop-off and I saw one of the fish accelerate towards it. The take was ferocious but this time I was ready and let the backing run through my fingers, without burns or tangles, with just enough pressure to allow a modicum of control.

I led the fish away from the action zone of the drop-off and into the slack water of the lake.

“Brendan, c’mon, there is another fish here,” I yelled. “Get in and catch it!” But Brendan was gone. I looked around, widening my visual search, until I picked his figure along the beach maybe half a mile away. Out from him and in the lake there was a sudden flash of silver as if someone has thrown a brick into the water and shattered its metallic sheen. A fish? In stillwater?

As I walked towards him I could not believe my eyes. The western shore of the Wakatipu, on both sides of the Greenstone mouth, is sheltered by the Humboldt Mountains, a sharp wall of imposing crags, and so the waters here are still even if there are whitecaps further out. In this glassy water, well within casting range, trout were dimpling the surface, rising to midges. In the middle of August!

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Did I mention that, in his journey as a fly fisherman, Brendan is going through the midging phase? To him, every rise is a potential midge rise and to cover himself for the foreseeable and the unexpected he has tied an impressive array of innovative midge patterns. He never bothered to name any of them and just the previous night we entertained ourselves coming up with epithets and aliases for his creations. The all-time winner was the “crippled spent midge emerger,” the kind that requires a magnifying glass to see, let alone to thread on to the tippet. Now, while loaded like a Mexican bandito with bandoliers of Stu Tripney’s boobies I was sulking that we did not quite hit the peak of the runs, Brendan was picking off one fish after another, with long precise casts and those inimitable midge patterns. He looked truly like an angler who has found his own paradise, a midge aficionado fishing to an untold number of midging trout, in the dead of winter and straight after a snow storm.

I tiptoed back not wanting to attract his attention and break the spell of the moment, and taking the ability to derive pleasure from watching a friend catch all the fish to a whole new level. No choice really. Sure, there were enough rising fish to keep a platoon of anglers busy and content and Brendan would certainly share his midge flies with me. But, in my single-minded focus on winter fishing, deep and heavy, I did not even have a floating line with me, an error of omission I swear I shall never make again.

If you fancy winter fishing in Paradise, or at least near it, the most agreeable time is August and September, after the frigid inversion layer of early winter has worn off. You’ll still need neoprene waders because you would not last half an hour in goretexes and, as there is next to no walking involved, you cannot warm up that way. For drop-off fishing a heavy sinking line, or better still a shooting-head, is required and the best and only flies are boobies, Woolly Buggers and smelt imitations. Wade out to about a rod length’s from the drop-off and cast from there. This puts the line precisely where it needs to be and may save you from ending in the cold drink should the lip of the drop-off suddenly erode under your feet. And, of course, now that you know my sad story, don’t forget a box of midges and a floating line should action break out in stillwater.

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I’m already anticipating this winter’s fishing, now that I have my own selection of “crippled spent midge emergers” and all their pupal relatives, and live in eternal hope for coming across a rise as profuse as the one Brendan found. All three river mouths are easily accessible by road and viable even as a day trip from Queenstown. You just follow the lakeside corniche west and into the mountains, then turn off near a sign which says “Paradise. No Exit.” For a fly fishing enthusiast this seems a one-way sort of trip.

PS. Brendan Shields is indeed in the process of becoming a guide. You’ll find more details about his trips here

 

Ski and Fly Fish the Southern Lakes

An excerpt from THE TROUT DIARIES

In early August David was back again in New Zealand but this time his agenda was different. It was the heart of winter and he was coming to ski, bringing all three of his teenage kids, usually scattered around far-off universities. This was a family affair. A comfortable lodge, après-ski, gourmet dining, not our usual roughing-it kind of trip. Still, he couldn’t resist asking over the phone: “Shall I bring my rod, you know, in case the snow is not so good?” The snow was fine, I told him, “but definitely don’t leave home without your stick.”

“But. . .is it worth it, the fishing at this time of year?” It could be, I replied, trying to sound neutral. He didn’t know, and I did not want to spoil the surprise. If you think the skiing is going to be good, I thought to myself, the fishing is going to blow your mind.

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Usually, come the end of May, even the keenest of fly anglers put their rods away until the spring. Unnecessarily so, because winter fishing in the Lakes District—from Wanaka through Wakatipu to Te Anau—can be as good as in Taupo. As I’ve said, I enjoy travelling to the volcanic region for a fix of its trout and ambience, but it is four days’ drive there and back, and always a hit-or-miss venture: when you hit the runs it is fabulous, when you miss them it is absolutely dead. One year, I decided to stay home and explore the local waters, and—surprise, surprise—I found plenty of fish and not a picket line in sight. Sure, the fish are a little smaller than the Taupo average, but they still reach respectable three to four pounds, with a few sixes and sevens if you’re lucky. In any case, landing a four-pound rainbow in big water like the Clutha River is momentous enough to make your arms tremble for a while afterwards. Because the water is cold—often straight of the snow and the glaciers—the action can be electric. In fact, when you touch a fish which comes from a glacial river, your hand go numb within seconds. It’s as if touching a trout could give you frostbite.

Winter in the Lakes District is mostly about skiing. The Austrian and the US national teams come here to train, and from around the June solstice to early October the morning rush hour consists of one-way traffic streaming up the mountains. Around Wanaka and Queenstown you see a lot of people sporting the bug-eyed suntan that comes from spending long days in the snow, and at night the lights of the snow groomers make the ski fields look like distant Christmas trees.

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Fishing is certainly one of the last things on people’s minds, and yet, over the past 15 years during which I’ve lived in Wanaka, I’ve come to consider skiing and fishing as complementary winter activities. Ater each fresh snowfall, when we chase the elusive powder snow, the rivers are usually in spate and unfishable. Then, after a few days of skiing, when the quads burn and the body aches, the powder is all tracked out but the rivers have cleared. A “fresh” gets the fish moving, and just after it recedes is an ideal time to catch them.

I love this way of fishing. After the intensity of summer hunts, the long walks and even longer returns, here is a way to relax, fish side by side with mates, enjoy the scenery, ponder the meaning of things a little.

The first day with David and the kids we skied Treble Cone in Wanaka, and when in the early afternoon their legs refused to carry them any further, I suggested my long-prepared alternative. “Let’s go down and fish a bit,” I offered. “No point burning your legs out on the first day. You’ve got a whole week of this.” They agreed.

We drove to the nearest river mouth, and David and I pulled on our neoprene waders and walked out to where the river and the lake met. The kids played on the beach, building a driftwood bonfire, and we began to fish. The lines were running vertically down over the drop-off from our rod tips when, twenty metres, out a solid rainbow jumped, flashing quicksilver. I stripped my line a little and it moved freely. “It must be you, David,” I said. “Tighten your line.” As he did, he came across resistance, then with a jolt that nearly pulled the rod out of his hands the fish jumped again. “Holy shhhhh. . . !” he exclaimed, fumbling with the reel. And then it was on—fish on, reel singing, rod held high. I felt a solid take, struck and missed. Doesn’t matter, I consoled myself, there will be more. And there was. Later, in between fish, I described to David the nuts and bolts of this fishing style which I had transplanted from Taupo.

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Taupo-style fishing for running rainbows but in Southern Lakes, near Wanaka and Queenstown

In winter, because there is virtually no visible insect life, you have to fish deep, using streamers and egg patterns. Essentially, you are fishing for spawning rainbows, which linger around river mouths to gorge on ova and fingerlings washed downstream and into the lake. In the Southern Lakes district, brown trout begin their spawning as early as late March and continue well into winter. Once in spawning mood, they pair up, their bodies turning dark—almost black—and become completely unresponsive to an angler’s offerings. Rainbows, on the other hand, continue to feed voraciously throughout their spawning.

Choosing where to fish in winter is simple: you need a river mouth with a well-defined drop-off that is within casting range of where you can safely wade. Stay at least a rod length back from the drop-off as, being made of sediment, it can suddenly slump and deposit you in the drink, which at this time of the year is only a few degrees short of iceberg temperature. Also, the fish often patrol the very lip, and you can spook them by coming too close.

Some of the larger rivers, like the Clutha, are also open to fishing, and there will be trout wherever there are good spawning beds. A recent Fish & Game helicopter survey along the Upper Clutha revealed the highest fish densities in recent history. However, the fish are not evenly distributed throughout the river, so a bit of local knowledge or the methodical sampling of different areas is essential.

The most vital part of winter-fishing equipment (apart from neoprene waders, because you won’t last half an hour in your Gore-Texes) is a fast-sinking, or better still a shooting-head, line. The latter is unlike any other fly line. It is extremely heavy and only about ten metres  long. The rest of it is braided backing, the stuff knotless loops are made from. To successfully cast a heavy line you also need a stripping basket, which prevents the coils of line from sinking before the cast. Powerful but slow-to-medium action rods are also preferable as a fast stick does not give the line enough time to straighten, throwing all sort of kinks and twists into it.

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The tricks to casting a shooting head line are having the backing nicely coiled in the basket, loading the rod to its full power and not having too much line in the air during false casting. If your line hand is near or on the line-to-backing connection, it’s about right. After a couple of false casts, once the rod is fully loaded (ideally with a bit of double-hauling) you simply shoot the line forward, allowing the backing to follow out of the basket. I tend not to let the line go out of my line hand entirely but make an extra rod ring with my thumb and index finger. This guides the backing and helps to avoid tangles. Also, make sure you have not waded so deep as to have water at the bottom of your stripping basket, as this messes up the coils and turns the backing into a bird’s nest on subsequent casts.

With all of the above going smoothly, you can cast thirty-plus metres without too much fuss. Mike Weddell, a former world casting champion, once told me that all of the long-distance records are achieved with shooting-head lines, with the top guys reaching the eighty-metre mark. For our purposes, such distances are unnecessary. If you can get your line out twenty metres you’re already fishing. Most of the takes happen during the last third of the retrieve, anyway, when the fly is right on the drop-off.

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After the cast, you need to wait until the line sinks all the way to the bottom, before beginning to strip it into the basket again. It is imperative to match your stripping action to the type of fly you’re using: eggs, for example do not swim but are entirely at the mercy of the current, while smelts and Woolly Buggers dart in short, fast zigzags. If your egg swims about vigorously it may elicit a few curious glances at the bottom of the lake, but not much else.

It has been my experience that fish fight differently, depending on what kind of fly you hook them on. The difference between a hook-up with an egg pattern and a smelt is enormous. In drop-off fishing, eggs and eyed ova flies, from glowbugs to Boobies, are the most deadly imitations because all the naturals from the entire river system wash up at the river mouth, which is where the trout waits for them. However, fish taking egg patterns often hook themselves in the soft parts of the mouth and not the cartilaginous lips. The resultant combat is usually short and uneventful, with the fish giving in easily. The same fish hooked on smelt is an entirely different kettle. I’ve had a four-pound rainbow bouncing off the surface six times like a basketball, each jump getting a metre of hang time, before it dived for the bottom and sulked there for minutes, immovable like a brick. And that was not the end of it, either. Whatever the fly, keep in mind that in this style of fishing the trout usually hook themselves hard. With the inevitable big hooks, releasing the fish involves a fair amount of dental surgery. Unless you fish to eat, using barbless hooks in drop-off situations makes a lot of sense.

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We certainly fished barbless, and the trout that occasionally got off the hook only added to the excitement. I can still see David on our last day together, braced against the current of the Clutha. We had skied hard earlier in the day, from mid-morning, when the snow had softened, to early afternoon, when it become too slushy, then left the kids up the mountain to catch the end-of-the-day shuttle. They were booked in for snowboarding lessons, so we knew they’d be “stoked.”

We bee-lined for the river, and David was already casting before I could put on my heavy waders. From the plentiful driftwood I made a small fire and set out a pair of camping chairs around it. I lost count of the fish we caught, but it must have been well over a dozen, all magnificent rainbows in fast, frothing current. And still, David kept hooking into them, one after the next, and I left him to it, knowing that I was witnessing his lifetime memory in the making. The sun dipped beyond the Pisa Range and the darkness came down rapidly. The temperature plummeted, I edged closer to the fire, and topped up my whiskey glass.

“Just one more cast,” I heard David plead as he unhooked another fish. Sure, have a few more, I thought, watching the last of the sun gilding the snow on the highest peaks. Get them while you can. There was a forecast for heavy snow. Time to swap the rod for skis again, if only for a few days.

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To fish, and ski the Southern Lakes with us, visit our BOOKINGS page

 

LOOP road trip #X

We’ve been exploring, experimenting, testing new gear and new waters. Salmon on the fly,  brook trout, trophy browns. Much of it is still work-in-progress but here’s a little peek into our most recent adventure.

Troute Diem! Come and join us …

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The MAYFLIES have hatched …

My story about Mayflies in New Zealand Geographic is now out in bookshops and online

Hatched in rivers, mayflies rise to the surface and unfurl new wings, the final phase of their precarious and astonishing lifecycle.

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At dusk, on the upper Waiau River under the swingbridge entrance to the Kepler Track, the mayflies were hatching. Each insect rose from a dimple on the water’s surface, then took a hyperbolic flight path, vanishing into the glowing Southland sky.

The mass emergence of mayflies attracts trout, which I had come here to fly-fish, but such was the explosive beauty of the spectacle before me, I put my rod away and just watched.

Mayflies spend almost all of their lives underwater among rocks on a streambed—usually a year, sometimes two in the case of the largest species. Then, when conditions are right, they ascend to the surface to hatch. There, they struggle through the viscous membrane that separates the two worlds and climb out of their nymphal shucks—think of a whitewater kayaker, adrift in a current, pulling herself out of a tight cockpit. Then they fly off, keeping their bodies vertical in flight, tails trailing like long legs, giving an overall impression of dainty ballerinas carried on gossamer wings.

Once in the air, they live only a day or two, to mate and procreate, to die and to fall back into the water. This phenomenon, and a misunderstanding of their complete life cycle, has given rise to their Latin name Ephemera—living for a day—to describe the fleeting nature of their existence.

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Though trout hunt mayfly nymphs among the river gravels all year round, they are especially attuned to the calendar of the mayfly hatching. Ascending insects, briefly trapped in the surface film, are at their most vulnerable—away from the safety and shelter of riverbed crevices, caught out in the open and silhouetted against the sky. No surprise then that, as I watched, the weaving currents of the Waiau were roiling with feeding trout, the fish slashing and punching from beneath the surface, their jaws snapping like so many pairs of wet hands clapping shut.

But the mayflies’ strength is in their numbers and the brevity of their emergence. Some of the hatches in the United States have been so huge and dense, they registered on radar systems at local air traffic control. One species, Hexagenia limbata, erupts from the waters of the Mississippi in hatches totalling some 18 trillion insects—more than 3000 times the number of people on Earth. The newly emerged mayflies are attracted to lights in riverside towns and descend on them like a blizzard. Local authorities use snow-clearing vehicles to sweep up in the aftermath.

Above the Waiau, thousands of fluttering insects streamed skywards until night fell and the spectacle ended as if by the flick of a switch.

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The trout were gone just as quickly and I turned on my headtorch, climbed up the steep rainforest bank and headed back to my camper, pausing for one last look at the river from the swingbridge. Only now I realised that, faced with this extravaganza of mayflies and trout, I had completely forgotten about fishing. This, it later turned out, was not an uncommon reaction, as many careers in entomology began with a fly rod. “You start by fly fishing for trout but after a while you stop bringing your rod,” one mayfly researcher told me. “The invertebrates are a lot more interesting.

Continue reading …

all photography by George Novak

Saving Trout Country

My story Saving Trout Country, about trout and water quality in New Zealand, is in the March issue of North & South Magazine.

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Have a read and join the groundswell!

The big trout held just under the tongue of current breaking off an island-like boulder and from where we stood it was nearly invisible, camouflaged beneath the liquid greenstone of the river frothed with whitewater. Only the sway of its tail gave it away, and only when a brief window of smooth water passed over it, which was how I first sighted the brute.

“There’s a good fish just down and left of that boulder,” I said to my companion Frank Mosley, and pointed to it with my fly rod.

Frank couldn’t see it but this was to be expected. Unless you’ve trained your eyes to spot New Zealand trout, you are likely to miss all but the most obvious ones. Frank was from Montana, accus- tomed to “fishing water” rather than individual trout, though to his credit it was tough to see fish here in the Reefton backcountry. The ostrich-egg boulders that cobble the riverbeds are bone-white and, in bright sunlight, as hard on the eyes as the blinding glare of a glacier.

“Trust me,” I said. “There’s a fish there all right, and a big one too. Just cast a metre up and left of that boulder.”

Frank did, even if he was not entirely convinced. His cast was accurate enough, but for a long suspended moment nothing happened. He lifted the rod and the line seemed snagged.

“Damn, I caught the botto…,” he said, but then the bottom near the boulder exploded with a fury of spray.

The big trout was airborne above it, shaking its head from side to side, its arched wet body glinting gold as it caught the sun- light. The fish bounced off the water a couple of times, then shot downstream, like a soft, lithe torpedo and a contra- diction to all laws of fluid mechanics.

“Oh my gawd,” Frank’s voice was an octave above his usual baritone. “Did you see THAT? It’s a monster!”

We followed at a run, rod held high but bent into a deep C, Frank’s eyes fixed at the end of his line. He seemed in a trance, ready to walk on water. Well, almost. He was fit and nimble for his mid-60s but a few times I had to catch and steady him as he stumbled over rocks he did not see. The fish was tak- ing us down the river and we crossed and re-crossed the tumbling current, wrestling with it, tripping and fumbling on slippery bottom, gaining some line, losing it again, but at all times keeping it taut like a guitar string.

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Twice Frank was down on his knees, flailing on all three limbs but with his rod arm steady and strong. With a pang of dread I saw where the fish was head-ing: a mother of all log-jams a pool below us. If he went in there, into the debris of past floods, we would never get him out.

But then, in the eye of calm below the rapids and just short of the log-jam, I finally netted the fish. He was just shy of the magic 10lb that is the hallmark of a trophy. Frank got his pictures and we released the fish immediately. He was a magnificent trout in his prime, with a fiercely hooked lower jaw, muscled body and a glistening skin that seemed too tight for it.

He was just as spent as we were, and nosed into a rock in the slack water right at our feet, and for a long while all three of us just sat there in absolute stillness, catching our breaths, the only sound the murmur of the river. Then I heard Frank sobbing, and covering it with laughter. He rubbed his eyes with a ban- dana, his hands trembling. “Got the god- damned river water in my eyes,” he said, but he was fooling no one. I smiled and said it was a really good fish, the kind you’d expect out here.

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“No, no, you don’t understand. I’ve been fishing all my life, since I was big enough to hold a rod, and this is the best trout I have ever caught,” Frank cut in. “Where I live, you can’t even buy this kind of experience anymore, no matter how much money you have.”

He fell quiet and withdrawn after- wards, taking time to absorb the expe- rience, and he didn’t want to fish any- more that day, as if not to dilute the quality with repetition or numbers.

On the way back down the river he said: “You’re probably spoilt because you
can have this any time you want, but for me this one fish was worth coming all the way down here. Mountain climbers go to the Himalayas for the best there is, fly fishermen come to New Zealand. Today, I bagged my personal Everest.”

Continue reading in the March 2014 issue of the magazine or get the online version here