Magic Tool – a revolutionary gadget for fly tying with CDC

After my posts on Southland dry flies and the life cycles of trout insects many of you have been asking about tying with CDC. My friend Marc Petitjean has developed a revolutionary, simple and cheap gadget to take the headaches out of tying CDC flies.

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Here’s a demo of Marc tying a basic hi-vis and first-choice parachute dry fly using split thread and his Magic Tool. Anyone can complicate things, but it takes genius to simplify them. Watch the Master at work.  For more than a decade he had been tying over 25,000  CDC flies a year! Learn and enjoy:

For guided fly fishing in New Zealand, including spectacular Southland dry fly, contact me here.

 

The Miracle of Trout

I’m working on a story about mayflies for New Zealand Geographic magazine and the guy who is photographing it, George Novak, is one of the best macro shooters I’ve ever come across. George has previously shot a story about the life cycle of rainbow trout for the magazine and, with his permission, I’d like to share some of those images with you here. Truly a magnificent and rarely seen insight into the life of trout.

All images © George Novak , Please contact for usage.

Rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout emerging.

All images © George Novak , Please contact for usage.

Rainbow trout.

I’ll post some of the mayflies macro too, once we are done with the story.

 

THE TROUT BOHEMIA, free first chapter

 

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THE TROUT BOHEMIA

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.

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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

The Trout Diaries TV trailer is here!

Here’s a preview trailer for our upcoming TROUT DIARIES TV series, featuring the best of fly fishing in New Zealand.  Enjoy and come back as soon I’ll be uploading the entire pilot episode in sequential 5min clips so you can get the full taste of what the thing is about.

The show has been inspired by my travels and adventures during the research and the writing of both The Trout Diaries and The Trout Bohemia books. It really brought home the fact that when it comes to fly fishing for big wild trout, there is no better place than New Zealand. Realising and pursuing that has certainly been the greatest adventure of my life. 

If you’d like to fish in New Zealand and are looking for information, guides, itineraries and places to stay, Contact me as I am now also a consultant and location scout for Castabroad.com which is the leading agency and itinerary provider for fly fishing in our Country of Trout.

Happy fishing and see you on a river!

 

From my latest column at Midcurrent.com

 

The Fables of La Fontaine

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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 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 Midcurrent.com.)

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.

 

Play

The Trout Diaries Podcast – Episode 2:

 

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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.

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The Trout Diaries – February

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Anaru (Henare) giving it his best shot

GONE NATIVE AT THE BIG O

“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

 

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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.

 

 

Fly fishing in New Zealand with CDC guru Marc Petitjean

 

An excerpt from The Trout Diaries, A year of Fly Fishing in New Zealand

In the Taupo backcountry, in the illustrious company of the CDC guru Marc Petitjean and trout scientist Michel Dedual, Derek Grzelewski fights trophy rainbows and other demons.

Have you ever been on a fishing trip, a long-planned and much anticipated, where nothing goes right for you? You arse up just stepping out of the helicopter and give yourself a good one on the shin. You promptly trump this with another act, stepping on the loose end of a vine with one foot, with the other tripping over the noose you’ve thus created. You want to break the fall with your hands but they are full of camping gear and heavy supermarket bags, and your backpack, well, it’s just big and inert enough to prevent a recovery. Your companions help you up and give you puzzled looks. And you too wonder: what’s going on? Is it just me or some nasty local taniwha who clearly does not want me here?

Maybe it’s both because things get even worse. On the river, you tangle up, spook every trout you see, hook yourself with your own fly, the one you did not yet de-barb. By contrast, your companions are having time of their lives. That first night in the headwaters of the Rangitikei, after we set up a camp in the forest clearing, Michel trotted off for an evening hunt and only minutes up the creek bagged a decent-size sika deer. He brought it down, dressed and hung it from a tree, then, going down to the creek to wash his hands, he spotted a fish rising in the camp pool. He ran back for his rod and hooked the six-pound trout first cast. A pool below I was with Marc, watching him fight an equally magnificent rainbow. When the night fell all I had to show for was a limp, a grazed elbow, and an increasingly foul mood.

At the camp, Michel and Marc discussing tying CDC emergers

But then we were back in the camp, the fire, wine and good food working their wizardry. I stared into the flames, sipping another glass of red and thought: “hey, anyone can have a false start, a bad day, and mine was just about over.” Earlier, I even spilled some wine on the ground, a peace offering to the taniwha, if there was one. I certainly did not want to fight it for another day.

The upper Rangitikei, clear like spring water, snakes a contorted passage through the volcanic hills of the Kaimanawa Forest Park, east of the Tongariro. The fishing here is hard and honest, every fish a major victory, and that’s providing you are at your best, sharp and assertive. Tomorrow, I promised myself, was a tabula rasa I should fill with perfect casts and beautiful fish. No pratfalls and blunders. I fell asleep with the visions of rainbows racing each other for those beautiful CDC dries Marc was tying.

I have to tell you about Marc. This was, after all, his trip. He had travelled halfway around the world for these five days on the Rangitikei, and Michel especially did all he could to make those days into a memorable outing. Once on the river Marc needed no help at all. As Pasteur said “good fortune favours the prepared mind” and Marc Petitjean was more prepared than most. “If you define the problem, the solution is often obvious,” he told me that first night, apropos nothing. “People often get pissed off with themselves and they don’t know why. They never take time to precisely identify what bugs them. If they did, the remedy would be self-evident.”

Wise words but lost on me at the time.

Marc Petitjean hooked up to a NZ rainbow trout

The next morning I scooped out a large mayfly nymph out of the river with my stainless steel mug. The aquatic insect life in the Rangitikei is so prolific, every time you dip a pot, a plate or even cupped hands in the water you capture one of the little beasts. No wonder the trout grow so large here. Continue reading