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Fly fishing with Paul in New Zealand - a Loopy Guide, part 4
by Lisa


 

If you missed the beginning then here is part one.

 

Trek

 

Wide-awake and with a sense of adventure, we put our packs on and fled the groups of tourists. We walked quickly and it took over an hour before Paul told me to follow him through the bush down to the riverbank. We were to ford this amazing river. Knowing how loopy I can be and not wanting to take the risk of losing me down the river, pack and all (I had the Sambuca, don't forget), Paul linked his arm through my pack around my back and literally supported me across the river. It was icy cold!  Still, we got across and the next part, crossing some backwater, seemed easy.

 

It is extremely difficult walking on huge stones and pebbles with slippery wading boots. I was amazed I didn't break an ankle! Paul having done this most of his life was once again miles in front and I was concentrating so hard on just walking with 10 kilos on my back.

 

Lesson number eight: Just take your time and Paul will stop walking eventually. Don't believe him when he tells you that you only have 150 metres left to go.

   

Friendly bush robins

 

We made camp. I was getting good at this now and could put or take down the tent, collect firewood, make tea etc. We were watched by two friendly bush robins, who kept inspecting our equipment and us. They took a shine to the fishing rods and we were as fascinated by them as they were with us.

 

At one point we took shelter in the tent; the weather was appalling and the fishing was very difficult that evening. Paul was slightly disappointed as he was expecting to spot lots of fish but the river was pretty high and had changed. He pointed out to me where the fish normally were, much to my amusement, as I half expected him to tell me their names and life stories too. He knows these places like the back of his hand.

 

Paul had brought Sean here a few weeks previously. Sean had warned me about the sandflies but did add that it was really gorgeous. With not a soul in sight and surrounded by pure, unspoiled nature it was quite breathtaking; I felt numb. Have you ever felt like time has stopped for you? First I took in the sights, the colours, the contrast provided by mountains, rivers, lakes and forests. There were mountain tips covered in fresh snow, a beautiful clear river with a riverbed full of colourful rocks and stones, giving the impression that someone had painted the bottom these wonderful tones.

 

I absorbed the different sounds. The first thing to hit me was the lack of noise – no cars, no distant motorways, no radios, no voices, no children playing, no mobile phones, no alarms, no sirens, no factories, no televisions. At first, it was still – all around. I became aware of the water in the distance, travelling either fast or slow, actually very loud in comparison to the surrounding quiet. I noticed other sounds such as trees and branches rustling in the wind, birds singing, the insects, all different types, vying for attention. And then there was the noise I made, crunching the stones and pebbles underfoot, the leaves and twigs brushing past my jacket, the squelch of my wading boots in the mud and water.

 

With each new step we were greeted by a different landscape and different scenery which just left me feeling dizzy and invigorated. I could take wonderful deep breaths and enjoy the feeling of crisp fresh air in my lungs. This was one of the most exquisite places on earth and I could certainly understand Paul's enthusiasm in wanting to spend his time here.

In a place as magnificent as this, it suddenly wasn't so important to land that fish.

   

Wind and Rain

 

That morning I was given some casting tuition (what was Paul trying to tell me?) and things were looking and feeling better. I even attempted the double haul for the first time and after not getting it at all, it suddenly felt good too. With a positive attitude and lots of time, I was certain today was going to be my lucky day!

 

After a while you notice how awful the weather is, especially when you have been wading up to your knees, or higher (I am not as tall as Paul) in a river full of icy water. I was suddenly very cold. Even the fleeces and rain jacket were not providing the necessary warmth anymore. To top it all, it was windy again! A novice's worst nightmare is not being able to cast because of the wind. “Cast over your other shoulder” was the kind advice. It was hard work and I was reminded once again that I needed to practice!

 

I struggled, wading along the riverbanks; having only been doing this for a week or so I found myself getting stuck in the mud, wading out too deep and quite often nearly falling in. Paul spotted a fish and I wanted to land it. I set up aim and tried but didn't cast far enough. I lost it out of my sight and the wind was up again.

 

Quite suddenly my cap flew off my head and skimmed off down the river. Paul, being the *hero* that he is, then proceeded to rescue it, which seemed to take ages, whilst I was determined to catch the trout in the meantime. (I think Paul had to go miles to collect it – the wind was very strong and carried my cap off at great speed). And I didn't catch the fish and was now bloody freezing!

 

On the way back to camp we stopped at a place where Paul had looked for fish two nights before. He spotted a couple and this was my chance! I attempted to catch them and had a good shot at the first one. Every time I thought I'd lost sight of him back he came and it was very exciting, although he always managed to stay just out of reach.  A second fish came closer, so I went for him but couldn't get him to take my fly.

 

Paul decided to head back to get a fire going before darkness fell and I was determined to catch one of those fish. I must have spent the next 30 minutes trying hard but in the end the one who was closest to me spooked. A third fish (Paul had spotted him further away earlier) became my last target. I was starting to feel desperate now and the first fish was teasing me just beyond my casting capabilities. It was dark now and I really couldn't see anything anymore, so called it a day and headed back to get warm and have some wine! I had been a wonderful day; and you live and learn!

   

Lesson number 9:  Paul doesn't feel the cold, doesn't get hungry and will not notice if you do, in fact all his basic needs are temporarily shut off whilst fishing. Be prepared to call it a day, otherwise you will be there until dawn.

   

Stranded

 

This was by far the biggest and most exciting challenge of the whole three weeks. That evening it rained (what did you expect?) and it rained and it rained. In fact it poured and when I awoke at 9 it was still raining. I suddenly realised the river may be up and since I had had difficulty crossing on the way in, there would be absolutely no way I was going to get out again! I woke Paul quickly and explained my fear. To my surprise, he packed up the tent and told me we were to set off straight away and go and have a look.

 

Backpacks on, we had to cross the first backwater, which was no longer nice and calm and I had serious difficulties in the current keeping my footing, despite Paul's firm grip. When we reached the spot where had crossed a few days previously, we couldn't see the part of the riverbank where we had entered the river, as it was now hidden somewhere underneath. A walk further down showed us a spot we could maybe attempt to cross but it seemed so far to the other side and the current looked quite strong there too. Paul was hesitant, weighing up the options. He would go for it, if he was alone but he wasn't sure if I could do it or keep hold of two full packs and me. 

Up to our knees in icy cold water, he recommended we turn back and eat breakfast (all we had left was a tin of baked beans). Sitting on the bank, he then promptly began to play guitar and there was no indication that we were going to eat the beans, which I knew in my heart of heart meant Paul was not sure if were going to get out of here…

Lisa

"Loopy" Lisa lisa@sexyloops.co.uk is Sexyloops' Superwoman has been flyfishing for just over a year. In that time she's fished Devon (one fish), Spain (nada de nada), Germany and most recently New Zealand. She has a unique approach to fishing, life and Tim Tams.

 

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