It didn't look good. The whole of the middle of South Island was covered in snow. At least, the parts of it I could see from the 'plane window were covered in snow – the rest of it was obscured by a thick layer of cloud. Not the most reassuring sight. It was pretty cold when we landed in Queenstown, so we didn't hang around for long, apart from the obligatory visit to the viewing chamber at the Lake to gawp at some truly enormous trout. Felt a lot better after that. Then felt worse again on the bus ride to Te Anau. I think it was travel fatigue. Either that or the speed the bus was doing around some very tight corners, with the blue depths of Wakatipu beckoning. Or maybe it was the thick cloud, and the rain. I fell asleep, then woke up in Mossburn. It was still raining. We travelled 12,000 miles for this. Marvellous.
Te Anau. I wanted another rod. Ian Murray at Te Anau Sportsworld gave me three 9' 4 piece, 6 weight Kilwells to try, but didn't tell me what each of them cost. Smart guy. I loved the first one straight away, maybe because it was a lovely dark blue colour. Oh, and it felt crisp and accurate as well. The second one was an unvarnished matt grey, which would be good for stealth. Stealth, as we all know, is really important, but I didn't like the way the tip felt just as I shot line – I'm no expert, but it felt kind of tip heavy. The third one was dark red, and really slow. I disliked it at first, but then it grew on me. If I was fishing a shortish line down and across all day, it'd be a really easy, relaxing rod to use. I went for the blue one though, which was a Kilwell Innovation, and was, of course, the priciest of the three. I also bought some thermal underwear. And some flies. Lots of flies. Moose bought lots of flies too, even more than me. I was immediately jealous of him. I asked Ian if he uses Kilwells. He doesn't. He uses Sage.
Jet lag. I've never experienced it before. It seemed to kick in at about 7pm, just as we were eating dinner and drinking beer. Total body failure set in an hour or two later. I don't think either of us have had to go to bed at nine pm since we were kids. But that wasn't the worst thing. The worst thing was sitting bolt-upright and wide awake at one am, tossing and turning for the rest of the night, and then giving in at six am, and falling out of bed feeling more tired than when we got in it. Early morning Kiwi telly was a business/finance channel, a kids' channel, or a God slot on two channels. It was raining outside, and there was snow on the hill across the Lake.
We had two days to kill before we got the boat on the Lake. Time to go fishing. In true Sexyloops fashion I will name no names, but it was a lovely river. Our first trip resulted in one lost fish, and a six kilometre walk back into, and through the centre of town, in full wading kit. Red faced and sweaty, we must have looked like idiots, but nobody batted an eyelid. We met up with Paul and Antonio in the pub later on to share fishing stories, and discuss the double haul. Moose revealed that he is possibly the only angler in the history of the world, ever, to have caught an Octopus on the fly. Got back home early the next morning. Had lots of fun, but paid for it with a bad head. Still can't double haul.
Acting on a tip from Antonio, we decided to go and fish somewhere else. The previous evening's entertainment meant that we didn't actually get around to doing anything until four pm, but so what, we were on holiday. We booked a taxi to pick us up at seven pm. As we walked downstream through dense woodland, I spotted a trout close in, in three or four feet of water. It looked like a rainbow. I offered the first throw to Moose, not out of goodwill, but because I discovered that I had forgotten to bring a reel with me. He took an eternity to tackle up, his fingers trembling violently in anticipation. Eventually he was ready to go. We had to execute a two-man catapult cast because the bush was so dense, and the fish so close. Also because Moose had, in his infinite wisdom, decided to use his 11' 3'' rod, and couldn't reach the hare and copper he'd tied on. We watched unhappily as the nymph rocketed downwards upon release, making an audible “ plop”. The trout left rapidly for deeper water.
Undeterred, we moved on. I spotted another fish, definitely a brown, and much bigger too, but before we had a chance to wet a line, it too had gone. We were still largely undeterred. We moved on again, and after I pestered Moose to lend me a reel, both of us fished blind for a while. Moose hooked up, and landed a rainbow of 2 1/4 lbs. After much happy hullabaloo, and with photos taken of his first NZ trout in ten years, I began to concentrate properly. Soon I was rewarded, and gladly released my own first NZ fish, a fine rainbow measuring perhaps, ohhh, nine inches from nose to tail. I gracefully declined Moose's gleeful invitation to take some pictures of me with my prize, even though he promised that the camera lense could handle close-ups. We had to leave shortly afterwards to catch the taxi, so that we could get ready for the boat the next morning.
To be continued...
As well as being a fine upstanding gentleman, Al Greig also happens to be the first person in history to be taught the double haul, in a pub, by Paul, whilst drunk (Al, not Paul - Paul doesn't drink). In true Sexyloops' synchronicity Al, Moose and Paul just sort of bumped into each other in Te Anau. Al lives in Bonny Scotland where he says he doesn't need the double haul. Moose is the photogenic one.