THE TROUT BOHEMIA, free first chapter


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Fly Fishing Travels in New Zealand, 

by Derek Grzelewski

Published by David Bateman (NZ) and Stackpole Books (USA) 2013


‘Once upon the time a prince met a beautiful princess.

“Will you marry me?” the prince asked.

The princess said, “No.”

And the prince lived happily ever after. And he fished, and skied, and hunted, and went on long safaris, and he drank expensive whiskies by the campfire, and there was no one there to tell him he played too much, and that it was costing a fortune . . . ’ Anonymous

‘For us, New Zealand is a dream come true, the trout Bohemia.’ Jetske Darbeaud

‘A seeker of silences am I.’ Khalil Gibran, The Prophet


Chapter 14PROLOGUE

‘Is that it then? Is this how it all ends?’ she asked, and I did not have the courage to meet her eyes.

For the past half an hour, with a heavy heart, I’d been telling Ella how this togetherness of ours was not working for me any more. How, after the autobahn of a long honeymoon, our road was getting more and more rocky and potholed, and how I was increasingly unsure I wanted to travel it. I’d been telling her how I grew tired of conflicts and dramas, how it seemed I was forever putting out fires and whenever one was out, another would flare up elsewhere until, in the end, I’d given up and thought, ‘Well, just let them burn.’

All the time I talked, she held me with a steady gaze and listened silently, two rivulets of tears running down her beautiful sun- browned face. Now that at last she had spoken, asking the question loaded with so much finality, I could not bring myself to answer it.

Truth was I didn’t know. Despite our best intentions and contrary to earlier promises and reassurances, we had lost our way. Maybe we just went into it all too hard and fast, two stubborn individuals burning with many passions but unable or unwilling to compromise. Or perhaps we were just not compatible. I really didn’t know any more.

I could feel Ella’s eyes probing me for answers, but the words failed me. I got up and gave her a peck on the cheek, tasting the saltiness of tears, then headed for the door. With my hand on the doorknob I turned to her one last time. She was still there on the couch, paralysed in stillness, her usually tall and proud ballerina’s body crumpled as if the bones were suddenly gone from it and there was nothing to hold it up any more.

‘I need to go away for a while,’ I said. ‘Let’s put some time and space into this. Maybe then we can piece it all back together.’ For a couple of beats I waited for a word from her but, as none came, I stepped out through the door and slid it shut behind me. The metal frame gliding on rollers sounded like the fall of a guillotine. Whoosh! Maybe it was how it all ended.

Chapter 7


‘The solution to any problem — work, love, money, whatever — is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be.’ John Gierach


It was early October, in New Zealand the beginning of trout season. My 4WD camper was parked in the driveway, ready to go, and Maya, my Airedale terrier, was sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting. As I was getting in, she gave me a double lick of greeting while her tail walloped the seat cover, raising puffs of sand. Then she moved over to the passenger side. It was her seat again, now that there were only two of us in the camper. I backed out on to the road and, once on the main highway, felt the Land Cruiser pick up its momentum.

I took a deep breath and it came out as a seismic sigh, and Maya’s tail walloped three times like the clap of applause. It was time to cheer up, she was implying. As so many times in the past, and they were always good times, we were again ‘Gone Fishing’ together. Might be some time and out of range. Incommunicado. Address unknown. We were going to the best place we knew: to the peace, solitude and the silences of the rivers.

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SIGNED COPIES of THE TROUT BOHEMIA are available in my online bookshop here. Worldwide shipping.


Two hours later we were in Southland, heading further into the vast green plains through which so many good trout rivers meander. In spring, Southland can be a volatile place and this time it was no different. Apocalyptic hail storms bore down on us like giant waves from the Roaring Forties, pelting the camper canopy with hailstones the size of peas. The ice bounced off the road and crunched under the tyres. There were bands of brilliant sunshine in-between the storms, and full, double-arch rainbows, and this stark illumination made the farm hills glow with surreal green, so bright it seemed almost fluorescent. It was blinding like the surface of a glacier but lush and fresh and dotted with the confetti of shorn sheep and lambs prancing on newly found legs.

The forecast was good so I was not too concerned about the passing tempests. Here and there along the way, at Anglers’ Access signs and by numerous bridges, I saw fly-fishers’ cars parked, each staking a claim of privacy to an upstream beat, but the opening- day fever was tapering off and I was confident that, like every early season over the past decade, I’d have ‘my’ river largely to myself.

By now, the sense that by driving away I was stretching some invisible rubber cord which would either snap or pull me back to Ella was gone, replaced by the gravitational pull of the river which was growing stronger. I hadn’t been back here for nearly a year and the anticipation was delicious. Butterflies in the stomach. It felt like going to visit an old friend — solid and reliable, always welcoming and always there in times of need.


The river is not especially well known, nor is it a better fishery than any other waterway in Southland. But because of my experiences there — the rapid evolution of skills it had forced me into, the friendships and camaraderie I’d found there, the moments of magic so numerous and stacked so close together they overshadowed all other memories — it has always been a special place for me. Secret and sacred. The river of the heart.

Two years had passed since I completed The Trout Diaries and much had happened in the meantime. Firstly, like a doting teenager again, I had fallen in love just as when, this late in mid-life, I thought I was immune to such afflictions. Then there was the sad news from Grandpa Trout.   Continue reading

Nature of Sight Fishing in New Zealand


Trout Diaries Radio, Episode 5:

a chat with Ian Cole, top fly fishing guide in New Zealand


In Episode 5 of the Trout Diaries Radio we chat with Ian Cole, one of the most experienced fly fishing guides in New Zealand, and a character in both The Trout Diaries and The Trout Bohemia books. We talk about the nature of sight fishing, how to do it well and how not to get into trouble with other anglers pursuing similar goals. River etiquette for sight fishing is totally different from all other styles and, if we want our space and trout solitudes respected, we need to do the same towards others. So listen and learn what are the exact rules of engagement.

7We also stray into river conservation issues, it is difficult not to these days. Ian is a vocal activist for water quality and he will also appear in our upcoming documentary The Trout Heaven and Hell.

Enjoy the show and tune in to more of our episodes brining you the best of fly fishing in New Zealand



From my latest column at


The Fables of La Fontaine


Do you have a river of your dreams, a place that comes first to your mind whenever you think “flyfishing?” It may be a memory snapshot of somewhere you’ve already been or a mental compilation of everything that is the best in our pursuit. Picture it for a moment, what’s it like?

What size, with what backdrop, in what country? Does it have long smooth glides where rise-rings take forever to dissipate, or is it fast and boisterous, with plenty of big rocks for rainbows to sit against? Is it an easy ego-pampering water à la Timaru Creek or a fair dinkum test like the lower Tongariro where massive browns regard you with contempt? Whenever I closed my eyes I always saw my river clearly but only this spring I realised that it actually exist, and that it has a name. I also got to fish it for all of three days. Talk about vision becoming a reality!

The river is called La Fontaine and it seeps out of the swampy paddocks on the New Zealand’s West Coast, two hours north of the glaciers, near the farming settlement of Hari Hari. It’d be tempting to think that it was named after the writer Gary LaFontaine who, as one journalist noted in Gary’s 2002 obituary, “was a flyfisherman—in much the same way Albert Einstein was a mathematician.” You may have come across his books – Trout Flies: Proven Patterns, Caddisflies, and The Dry Fly: New Angles – they are classics in their field. But it’s more likely, certain in fact, that the river carries the name of another scribe, the Frenchman Jean de La Fontaine, a conjurer of magic and fables. For a dream river such association seems particularly fitting.

I’d been meaning to explore it for years and never had but this time we’d finally set a date and made it happen. My fishing compadre David Lloyd flew in from Hong Kong and one sunny November day we set off in my camper, from Wanaka and up the coast. By that time we’d already had a week’s fishing on our favourite River X, hard but rewarding, and it was the most memorable trip ever (sorry mates, no GPS coordinates here.) Sight-fishing to eager browns, the solitude and the luxury of having the river to ourselves had raised our standards, honed the expectations. Thus we arrived in Hari Hari a little too cocky perhaps, two self-professed experts ready to kick butt. The La Fontaine browns would see to it that we did not delude ourselves for long.

lafontaine_releaseLa Fontaine is a river-size spring creek, with fat weed beds waving in the current over clear patches of light gravel and sand, all of which makes for rather good spotting. David and I delight in sight fishing, now almost to an exclusion of any other style, and the “See no fish, cast not” adage has become something of our modus operandi. We are happy to walk for miles just looking for the moments of magic this particular kind of voyeurism affords, knowing that to see even one fish react to a fly – to see it  take, inspect or refuse – is an experience far more intense and memorable than catching half a dozen fish blind.

Maybe it’s because we’d both done our river mileage, flogging the water without seeing the fish first, or perhaps it is a residue of my years as a fishing guide. For a guide, watching his clients fishing blind can be intolerably boring which is why we so insist on finding the fish. Spotting makes a guide feel useful and engaged, a part of the adventure. All other alternatives are grim by comparison. Consider the renown Scottish gillie who was asked what was the single most important skill for a career fishing guide. After scratching his beard in deep thought he replied: “I’d have to say it’ll be the ability to yawn with your mouth shut.”

Continue reading …


Trout Diaries Radio – Episode 4

 The Punk-Rocker of Fly Fishing

In this episode we visit and chat with Stu Tripney who runs a delightful little doll-house of a tackle store on the Upper Mataura in Athol, New Zealand’s Southland.

Stu Tripney

Stu, who is one of the characters in The Trout Bohemia – which is now avaialble for pre-orders in our BOOKSHOP – is a guide, FFF Master Caster and an innovative fly tier. He’s also the punk-rocker of fly fishing. You can read about my re-learning to cast with Stu here.

Lot of movement in the tip, not a lot in the handle

But, as you will hear, there is a lot more to Stu than casting or punk rock.

Enjoy the show! Use the Comments feature below to let us know how you like it and what else you’d like to learn about fly fishing in New Zealand.


Trout Diaries Podcasts – Episode 3:


Johnny Groome fishing the Arnold

Johnny Groome fishing the Arnold

Johnny Groome and the Arnold. The saving of “One of the best trout rivers in the world you’ve probably never heard about.”

Episode 3 of the Trout Diaries podcasts features a happy-ending post script to the story of Johnny Groome and Arnold River (featured in the book and as ONE MAN’S RIVER ONE MAN’S WAR on

An inspirational tale of what happens when we follow our passion and stand up for what we love and believe in.

Let us know what you think (use Comments below.) This is our first fully audio-engineered  show.



The Trout Diaries Podcast – Episode 2:



Episode 2 of The Trout Diaries podcast is up on iTunes, an interview with Derek by Brian Bennet of Moldy Chum and Teeg Stouffer of Recycled Fish, recorded by by MauroMedia. Coming up in Episode 3 a chat with Johnny Groome and the saving of his beloved Arnold River. Stay tuned to the Trout Diaries podcast, brining you the best of fly fishing in New Zealand.



The Trout Diaries – February


Anaru (Henare) giving it his best shot


“YOUS FELLAS FISHIN?” a Maori guy asked on the shore of lake Otamangakau. I said we were having a look.

“Plenty a fish here, bro, big bastards too, but bloody hard to catch, ay.” He was lean and hard, dressed in a bush shirt and hunting shorts, and his legs and arms were scratched with bush lawyer and blackberries, the barbed wire of the backcountry. Behind him was a camp that looked like a mobile butcher’s workshop. Game carcasses wrapped in fine white muslin against blowflies were hung from meat hooks on all available trees. On a log his companion sat pulling an oily swab through the barrel of a large-calibre rifle.

The man’s summary of fishing at the lake – big, challenging trout and plenty of them – was precisely what had attracted us here. Sure enough, we saw the first fish, large shape shadowing against a patch of dark-gold sand, as soon as we descended to the waterline. I was with Marc Petitjean, the Swiss fly tier and angling innovator extraordinaire but even his masterly casts and best-money-can-buy flies made no impression on this or any other fish we saw. The trout were weary, not giving us even one honest opportunity.

Marc made a face of mock dejection. “This is not a place for casual drive-by fishing,” he said. “The trout here need to be studied and understood before anything of consequence happens.” I had to laugh. This was exactly what I had planned for the next few days. For now, we were just filling a couple of hours waiting for Marc’s afternoon flight to Christchurch where he was to give one last NZ fly tying demo. Before we left I went back to ask the fellas if there was anywhere nearby I could camp.

“You can camp with us bro,” one of them said. “Plenty a room.”

And so it began, my affair with the big O, its trout and the whanau that camps along its shores.

With just enough foresight, I had borrowed a three-metre inflatable tender for the Otamangakau because the lake is an old swamp filled by the hydro scheme, and the shoreline fishing is limited to a few small and unconnected beaches. The rest of its margins are boggy and full of holes oozing muck and oily blackwater, quickly discouraging any exploration on foot. By the time I returned, set up camp and pumped up the boat it was already dark. One of the bros materialised, beer in hand, and unceremoniously put another one for me on the bumper of my truck.

“Come and have a feed with us,” he said. When I joined them both by their great incinerator fire he picked up an enamel plate from a sheet of corrugated iron which served as a dish-drying rack and heaped it with venison steaks and token stalks of boiled broccoli. Then he took a dinged-up mug, half filled it with Jim Beam and handed them both to me. We ate in contented silence, the lake behind us so still, even the stars reflecting in it did not shimmer. These two, I thought to myself, were my kind of people. My tribe.  Continue reading

The Trout Diaries Podcast – Episode 1: Introduction



Welcome to the first of our TROUT DIARIES podcasts. New Zealand is a phenomenal place to fly fish for trout, many say the best in the world, but it’s also one of the most challenging. Many anglers have come here to live their dream of the Trout Eldorado only to come away beaten and humbled. This is because, as Charles Gaines wrote in his The Next Valley Over:

 “In some places and at odd times trout fishing can be easy in New Zealand but typically and essentially it is more technically challenging and butt-kicking difficult than anywhere else in the world.”

This is just one of the reasons for these podcasts: to help you improve your fishing and, if you are coming from elsewhere in the world, to come prepared.

In subsequent episodes I will be brining you the best of New Zealand fly fishing: interviews with top guides, trout scientists, river conservationists, tips and tricks for what to do and what NOT to do here. I will take you with me on the road – the research trips for my trout books – and show you our diverse regions and how they differ through geography and seasons.

Another reason for these podcasts is to spread the word about conservation of our trout rivers which are under an unprecedented threat from industrial interests. The more anglers know about this the sooner the change in environmental awareness will come about. So please join us, let our voice be heard. The hour is late.

In the course of our journeys you will meet some of the characters who inhabit my books – the trout bohemians – and learn what makes them so passionate about fly fishing in New Zealand. You will gleam some of their river wisdom and experience. We will finish each episode with an audio excerpt from my books THE TROUT DIARIES and THE TROUT BOHEMIA (which will be out in August) to give you a literary taste of what it’s like to live the trout dream here.

There is always a danger in a writer writing about himself and his work so to begin with and, to forestall any self-indulgences on my behalf, here’s an interview about The Trout Diaries which Colin Shepherd did with me for his HOOKED ON FLY FISHING radio show.

So, sit back, pour yourself a glass of your favourite, and join us in living the trout fishing dream.