Well, I can only assume Paul did not read the last article… because for some strange reason he has asked me to write another!? Guiding… that's the topic...
Ok… let's look at it. Before I get into this, let me state that I do a lot of fishing outside of NZ myself. I hire guides every trip… I either have a completely guided trip, every day with someone good. Or, I grab 2-3 days with a guide… pick the guy's brains for ideas, tips, and technique, then go do it for myself. I tell the guide up front what I am doing - this way we both know I need to learn what its about - no sense walking the flats of Belize by myself without knowing what to do!!
I have been guiding here in New Zealand for 7 years.. And fishing all my life. Ladies, please excuse the vernacular 'guy/bloke' used… I know several women that guide and do an excellent job.. its just easier for me to type 'guy/bloke' than to do the PC thing each time I refer to a guide.
Maybe a good place to start is how to get the most from your experience/adventure with a guide. I always ask my clients 'what experience do you have'. The biggest mistake most make is to overstate their ability… particularly their casting ability.. 'Yes I can cast, yes I am fit, yes I want a 'back-country adventure'.
Man, casting is a big issue here… the only time I ever experience any exasperation is when a client can not get his cast near the fish… I will stress here that my angst is not 'at him' but rather 'for him'. As a guide, all I want is for my client to have his dreams come true and land big fish. And lots of them. Paul will tell you I am not a pretty cast. My cast is 'ugly but functional' (had a girlfriend that used to say that about me… never forgot it). I can cast into a wind… I can put the fly within a metre of where it needs to go. If not 'right on the money.'
The fish we have here are like Clint Eastwood…. Unforgiving. You get one shot… two if you are lucky, three if the fish is related to Ray Charles or Helen Keller.
You MUST be able to punch a cast into the wind. A cast of 40 feet will get you to most fish… I don't need you to be able to get a whole fly line in the air.... although I can do it myself when I throw a rod across a river. (That would be the whole rod with the reel… and hoping there is someone on the other bank to catch it!).
Often you get ONE shot... these fish will spook easily.. and once spooked, will be 'down' for the rest of the day (at least) and very spooky for a couple of days. This is why it is important we are on water that has no other anglers. If there is another angler on the water in front of us... that water is now 'dead' to us.. it will not fish well for a few days.
We would be wasting our time (and your money) to follow in someone's footsteps... remember this, whether you use a guide or not... you MUST be fishing 'untouched' water to have a good chance of catching fish. (untouched water to me is anything that has not been fished for at least 3 days before our arrival....preferably a week or more).
I have had many anglers express great surprise at this fact... so its worth mentioning it here so you know the facts.. it doesn't matter who guides you ... you need unfished water to do well when fishing for big trout in back country rivers.
Spotting the fish is not an issue if you are being guided.
Spotting fish here IS an issue if you do not have a guide. 99% of anglers walk past so many fish I almost cry. Any guide worth his salt will find you fish. If you ask him to teach you he will share with you what he is looking for… explain the lies, the light, the wind advantages, the most likely water, where fish sit in 'this particular river' etc. If you are starting with a guide and then 'doing it yourself' (which is a great way to fish NZ) then TELL HIM! I am happy to show someone everything I know… I love getting emails from clients when they get home telling me they had a great trip after they left me and that they got some great fishing by themselves.
There is a lot to learn here. Our fishing is different. You will walk big distances in a day unless you are on a lowland river. You will need to know how to cross rivers when you are here… simple with a guide, but by yourself you want to know you are doing it right. Drowning whilst on holiday in NZ is not a good look.
The things that surprise most visiting anglers are.
A licence that gives you access to most waters in NZ is under $100NZ dollars for a season.
The size of our fish… it's a fact, they are big and solid.
The distances you need to cover… its commonplace to walk 5-10 kilometres a day… or more if you are up to it. Then to walk that distance back to the vehicle… or wait while your guide goes and gets the vehicle.
The fact that there will sometimes only be one fish in a stretch of river over 500 metres long.
The type of water that holds fish in favourite rivers 'back home' holds none here.
The places you would never look for a fish back home have big fish sitting in them here!
Blind fishing is rarely practiced. Why chuck a fly 'hoping' to hit a fish when you can walk upstream and see a fish and cast to it??
On most of our backcountry rivers I have never seen a 'hatch'. There's no 'match the hatch'… the nymphs and drys we use are generic.. but specific. Sometimes there is a mayfly hatch… but there is no standing around looking for rising fish… 'We walk'!!
Boots. You gotta have felts!!! That's my opinion.. Some like this new special soled technology, sprigs etc.
If you are on a river with smaller stones and intermediate rocks they may be OK… but get into boulder hopping and you will break your neck.
Waders…. a nice luxury when the conditions are cooler.
I have only been wearing waders the last 3 seasons. Prior to that I have worn (and still do) polyprops and fleece layers. There is a range of new product made with wool that are the same as polyprops… the neat thing with these is they don't 'get whiffy' the way polyprops do. You can buy them here for around $60-$70 a garment. You only need leggings and a top… if you are spending US dollars or Pounds then you will afford them a little easier than a local does. I don't know all the brands.. But Icebreaker is one that comes to mind. There are plenty to choose from, Merino wool is a feature of these garments. Greens and blacks are best, buy red and you will find yourself alone in your hotel foyer with a perplexed expression on your face as I drive away.
They don't pill, they wear well… and they last. Best thing is if you are still wearing them day 5 of a trip, people don't fall over when you get too close from the aromatic qualities' that polyprops would have. Gucci said it well years ago.. 'Long after the price is forgotten the quality remains'. Do wear camo gear (seriously) the pattern breaks up your body form and you will be less visible to the fish.
Don't bring or use Neoprene waders… breathable are the only way to go. You will kill yourself or spontaneously combust if you try and walk a day in Neoprene.
I like to wear a vest… I always carry too much gear, too many flies, too many spare glasses in case I lose a pair, too much warm gear, spare forceps, emergency blanket, hay fever medicine, anti-inflammatory for my knees, chafe cream for the walk out, camera, video camera.. Spare fleece, food, 2 beers, big jacket, … you get the idea. I am ready for anything, but if you could give me some advise on how to get my girlfriend to reduce the amount of crap she carries around in her handbag I'd be grateful.
I have spare vests for clients… why carry one to NZ if your guide can loan you one fully kitted out?
Short list for a trip to NZ….
Boots (felts) loaning boots is dicey… you want them to fit well.
Rod/s 6 and 7 weight…optional unless you are staying on after your time with your guide.
Warm clothing. (Your own fishing gear/attire may be appropriate… email your guide and ask him) Camo is good.. otherwise greens and subdued tones.
Waders. Optional.. But if you bring them… Breathable ones only.
Polaroids… essential. Amber or orange lens best.
Cap with brim. Essential.
Insect repellent.. very essential, our native sandfly has a nasty itchy bite. Apart from the Sandfly, about the most noxious pest you are likely to run into is the odd Australian tourist spouting off about the rugby and cricket.
Sunblock.. Essential, the French stole our Ozone layer when they were testing Atom Bombs in Muroroa Atoll. (well, we've got to blame someone, and I have never had a French client.. so , its their fault.)
Sense of adventure. Essential.
Sense of humour. Optional… but advised….then again if you read this site you may already have all you need.
You will be asked to clean your gear in detergent at Customs due to the recent Didymo scare here in NZ…. So, clean all boots and waders in detergent before arriving, this will save you time clearing Biosecurity and customs. They may still wash them again anyway.
DO NOT BRING FEATHERS OR SKIN to tie flies. They will be seized by Biosecurity and heat treated or some such nasty procedure and you will then get them back in 2 weeks… just in time to go home!
Flies are fine, but do declare them.
Oh… a passing thought, a recent client was fined $200 for having an orange in his bag when he got off the plane. DO NOT CARRY ANY FRUIT INTO NZ.
What to expect from a guide for a day.
Heres what I like when someone takes me fishing… and I provide this to my clients.
Early pick up/start. (6 a.m. is good. Most good fishing will be a two-hour drive each way.)
Coffee on the way
First aid kit in truck.. just in case.
Loo paper.. just in case.
Two rods on river…just in case.
YOUR GUIDE DOES NOT FISH!!!!
Some guides think it OK to fish with a client.
You may only get 8-10 shots at fish… you are paying for it.. Its not your guides place to take your shots!
One small addendum to this from me…
I don't 'punch a time clock' if we start at 6a.m and its still all go at 6pm… you might invite me to have a cast… I will gratefully accept. 12 hours on a river is hard work…it's nice to throw a line if the day warrants it. Particularly if I still have to drive two hours back.
Price… I have a pretty strong opinion on this… and I know I won't get everyone coming with me. I charge $650 plus tax per day…some charge $500. You get what you pay for. I include wine at days end choice of Pinot, Chardonnay, Sav Blanc. (Not rubbish.. I will join you in a glass, it won't have cost me less than $25 a bottle.. And it's all included in the day). Lunch on the river… sandwiches or rolls with your choice of fillings, plus snack bars and energy drink in vest. Beer, snacks at days end… maybe some smoked trout on crackers with blue cheese and Brie. A cigar if that's your fancy, a scotch if you are inclined. Photos of the trip on CD for you to take home.
I drive a new Toyota land cruiser… that's a $100,000 vehicle. You have several rod choices, a vest fully kitted (I don't charge for lost flies or new leaders)… an option to fish from our 24-foot motor launch if you want to fish lakes.(there is an additional charge to take the boat out) There is a huge amount of money invested in gear.. Quality gear so you get the best… not just 'what does the job'.
Income facts for an NZ guide.
A really busy guide here 'might' do 100 days in a season… at $650 a day that's $65K before costs. I don't know about you but I don't believe that is a huge income. Most guides in The South Island will be part time… there is plenty of friendly competition… and most of us require a 2nd job to make ends meet. We don't have a winter fishery to speak of (unlike the North Island with Lake Taupo and the big rainbow runs over the winter months). I have no problem if you want to tip or buy me a bottle of something for a job well done… most guides feel the same way.
Your 'day' will be at least a day and a half for your guide… the truck doesn't clean itself after the trip, the gear needs to be washed, resorted and organised for next trip. There's a good 2 hours preparation before every trip (I'm not talking about the time it took to get the job…emails, calls etc… I'm just talking 'the trip' here.) All stuff you wouldn't think of but worthy of mention.
Most Kiwi guides are down to earth… there are few airs and graces. We are real people doing something we love to do.
Make sure you can cast. Practice!!!! BEFORE you get here.
Tell your guide your expectations of your trip.
Get your guide to kit you out.. It's easier.
Be as fit as is practical. And possible for your age, and the adventure you are about to have…this is a totally unique experience, its all there for you… so why not maximise your fun by being as fit as you can.
Email Paul Arden and tell him I have the best cast you have ever seen.
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