This is my thirteenth year travelling and my eleventh summer in New Zealand. I had one summer in Australia and another was a bit screwed up when I found myself broke in the Southern States in the middle of December and ended up in Munich for Christmas! That was ten years ago. Since then it's been summer, summer, summer, fish, fish, fish.
Before that it was summer, winter, summer, winter, fish, tie flies, fish, tie flies, try cod fishing, fish. Is there anything else? I'm not saying this is a good thing incidentally; just how it is. I made a choice back then, during that first summer here in New Zealand, when I realised that working the UK summer at Ardleigh's fishing lodge I could find enough money for the flight South, and trout fish 12 months every year until I was thirty.
I'm not quite sure what I thought I'd do when I was thirty; I've been thirty for the past four years. I may always be thirty in fact. That or younger.
The reason I mention this is partly because I've been thinking about it – working out the time-frame wasn't particularly easy and I had to figure it out by way of the girlfriend route, which is always very complicated, but far less complicated than the fish one – and partly because I've never had the big fish fetish. That is, not until now.
I like six pound fish. They give you a good fight, you often end up wet, exhilarated and they are, more often than not, free-rising. Here in NZ six pounds is not a big fish, it's a good fish, but for the big fish fetishers six pounds doesn't even make the grade.
I've had big fish; they turn up from time to time, all over New Zealand. Last year I lost two double figure fish – over ten pounds and getting bigger – ten pounds is a big fish by the way, just in case you were wondering – one of them disappeared down a gorge and the other broke the hook. I landed and weighed two nine pound fish last year; a brown early on which weighed in at nine pounds straight and a rainbow of 8 ¾ which stars in the Enlightenment DVD. Nine pounds is nearly a big fish, but not quite. Actually a nine pound rainbow is a big fish in my books.
Plenty of 6-8 lb fish turn up each year, but I've never caught trout into the 'teens – just not been my thing really – but that's all about to change. And I can offer no explanation; it's simply a fetish.
So that's what I'm up to this spring. I've had to postpone my North Island plans – I missed out on fishing with Herb with my usual pre-season car problems. And so instead of being at a loose end I'm going to set about a bunch of high-country waters I've yet to fish. I know you probably think I've fished everywhere in New Zealand but there is so much water here that I still feel that I've only just scraped the surface and, apart from the lowland rivers, I rarely fish the same stretch of water twice in one season! I do intend to fish everywhere eventually.
I'm not going to tell you where I'll be fishing – for the obvious reasons – however Canterbury will by my main focus for the next few weeks. There'll be one day trips as well as three and four day hikes – as Sexyloops allows. Americans chopper into many of these rivers later in the season and I want to get in first.
I can typically go hard and fish 15-20 Km of water with a pack on my back and 10-15 Km if I have to retrace my steps in a day trip. The idea is to travel light and fast; I'll be fishing pretty much solo (more shots at fish), no tent, I'll carry a stove because this is not a backcountry bush fishing fun trip – there is focus here and I don't want to bugger about with camp. Some of the best fishing is a full day's hike. I'll take a camcorder, a handful of batteries, flies, some fluff and not a hell of a lot else really.
This is all sight-fishing with a 6-weight, using nymphs – both big, small and possibly together – beneath a large bushy dry, and there'll be the odd woolly bugger chuck. I'll also try out some of the large lures I've been using over in Montana; Terminators.
Should be fun. Assuming the weather doesn't turn to crap. Interestingly, you can often take browns even when the rivers are high and coloured since browns (not rainbows) move into the edges. I've frequently taken browns in chocolate water. But you're better off on a lake.
It's nice to be back. It feels like home in a weird kinda way :-))
PS I think this could be a mouse year. Bring it on.