View Full Version : New Zealand 2015 - First Trip Report (1 of 3)

04-23-2015, 11:46 AM
"No place on the planet more richly rewards a trout angler when he does everything perfectly--and more harshly penalizes him when he does not--than New Zealand. It is, by far, my favorite place to fish." -- Kirk Deeter (http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk/last-dispatch-from-new-zealand-the-gear-and-flies) | Field & Stream

A borrowed rod & reel, a generously donated fly and the last minute kindness of a stranger set up the perfect moment.

When I was a teenager - QUITE some time ago - I remember seeing photos and articles about New Zealand… the land, the water and the fish! It looked somewhat like Colorado, my home, but bigger - better - more wild - and definitely out of reach for myself and most people I knew.

After decades of dreaming about New Zealand’s gorgeous, craggy mountain ranges, endless miles of clear pristine trout water, huge wily browns and wicked winds - the dream began to take on a tangible shape.

My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this past December. We had decided years ago that we would go on a big trip - maybe the trip of a lifetime for us. Around the time we started discussing the “big trip,” the Lord of the Rings movies came out. Wouldn’t you know, they were filmed primarily in New Zealand. Somehow the landscapes shown in those films called out to her as loudly as they did to me - although for quite different reasons. The destination was set. All that was left was the wait (several years), determination of the date, and LOADs of trip planning.

I started the detailed planning back the in the fall of last year. There were books to read, blogs to pore over and maps to dissect. Because this was our first (and maybe only) trip we wanted to try to see a broad stretch of the country (both islands). It was evident early in the planning stage that the big challenge for me would be to choose locations to stay where we’d be close enough to the sights we wanted to see, the activities we wanted to do and OF COURSE the rivers I wanted to fish. This, along with the fact that we’d only have 13 days in country, only added to the tough-enough task of planning this kind of trip.

When I started pulling things together I had a plan to spend 3, maybe 4 full days on the water - time permitting. Perfect, I thought… just barely enough time to get my bearings, find some fish and get lucky.

After months of planning and years of anticipation we finally arrived in Auckland. It wasn’t too many days into the trip that I realized my goal of 3-4 full days on the water was kind of pipe dream. Driving, shopping, activities, finding places to eat, checking in and out of our lodging at each location began to chip away at those days I thought I might steal away. My wife was exceedingly gracious to encourage me to go fishing whenever there might be an open slot - but those slots and the drive times to the rivers didn’t quite mesh as well as I’d hoped.

It was the 5th day, in the Upper Moutere on the South Island, before I got my chance to do a quick scouting trip to the first river I’d get to fish. I headed straight to the Motueka. I’d read about it and its major tributaries in ‘Trout Diaries’ by Derek Grzelewski. I spent a few minutes there and it looked to be pretty low so I headed up to the closest major tributary, the Baton River - which looked satisfyingly familiar.

http://i1307.photobucket.com/albums/s599/technowannabe/Almost_Home_zpsvgojlp9t.jpg (http://s1307.photobucket.com/user/technowannabe/media/Almost_Home_zpsvgojlp9t.jpg.html)
Almost looks like home

I’ve since told several friends that The Baton looked a lot like Little River in TN, only with HUGE trout. The next order of business was to see if I could have any luck spotting fish - I don’t have a ton experience with this anyway - and I’d heard that for many people it’s one of the biggest reasons to get a guide there - they can spot the fish before they spot you. After popping my head over the side of a couple roadside pull-offs I spotted my first NZ trout.

http://i1307.photobucket.com/albums/s599/technowannabe/Can_You_See_It_zpsr9bwylm7.jpg (http://s1307.photobucket.com/user/technowannabe/media/Can_You_See_It_zpsr9bwylm7.jpg.html)
Can you see it?

After a couple more pull-offs I saw this one. Check out the video (https://youtu.be/XUbesk4Pywg) - it’s a NICE fish. I’d have to say 24”-28” - in the video I’m zoomed way in from the roadside quite high above the river.

The following day I finally got my chance to hit the water. I’d been worried for the past couple of weeks that I’d made a bad decision in not booking a guide early on for at least one day in the beginning of the trip. The closer I got to hitting the river - the louder that worry whispered over my shoulder. I tried to remember all the things I’d read: stay out of sight, use long (REALLY long) leaders, make your first cast count, only cast to a fish you’ve spotted (because if you don’t see them - they are there). When I started the walk downstream from where I parked I saw good signs of active fish. By the time I got ready to climb down into the gorge to the river, things went dead quickly. It was late morning in late summer on low water - I only saw two other active fish the rest of the day before I had to head back to the house for dinner. Now, it’s worth mentioning those two active fish I saw even though I wasn’t in a position to cast to them… why? Because their appearance marked the first time I was ever startled to the point of jumping by a trout so large, and appearing out of the depths of the water so quickly that I nearly peed myself. Seriously - I was just watching the water looking for anything in a very deep, dark hole when they shot up from the bottom - one brown chasing another out of its way. They came up right at my feet - I regrouped and pitched a few frantic casts their way - but I was too shaken to do much good. I left that pool and fished my way up the gorge - excited to get a shot at a feeding fish even close to the size of the two I had seen. Pool after run after pool, nothing, no fish (feeding or not). This is something I'd heard about NZ - big fish - but sparsely distributed. I climbed out of the gorge to go and have late lunch and pick up my wife to come back in the late afternoon to fish the evening feed. When I arrived back at the house the lunch/dinner plans had changed and thus ended my first "day" on the river in New Zealand.

To be continued in two more parts. (One for each "day" of fishing)

04-24-2015, 10:41 AM
This is going to be good!

Rog 1
04-27-2015, 09:26 AM
Can't wait for next installment....when my friend and I were there last October the first thing we heard was that there were about 8-10 fish per mile. In four days of fishing I only managed to spot 2 fish before our guide saw them...water was a lot higher then and would have probably had been skunked without a guide....know it was exciting.

04-28-2015, 07:07 PM
“Advanced trip reconnaissance and map-making don’t do much good if you don’t look at the map when you get there.”

My wife and hit the road early the next day - determined not to show up too late to the party like I’d done the day before. We had about an hour’s worth of driving to section of river I’d picked for the day. (On a side note - where we stayed outside of Nelson, NZ in the Upper Moutere - there are half a dozen amazing rivers with very different characters within an hour or two. When you’ve got only a handful of days to fish - it makes the picking VERY stressful.)

Within 20 minutes of driving the landscape began to change - more rugged - more green - more mountainous. It was so exciting to see the real beauty of the area I’d memorized in my mind’s eye via hours spent on google maps. Correction - that’s “thought” I’d memorized. I was stupidly so overconfident in the route I’d planned that I missed a small, non-descript turnoff that led to the angler’s access I’d picked on the Motueka. We ended up several miles above it in a section of the river that had very little flow that time of year and spent a few hours playing the “just around the next bend it’ll get better” game until hunger and discouragement got the best of us.

Miles off target

We decided to grab a quick bite and look for another place with more water - hopefully on one of the tributaries downstream. It wasn’t until after lunch when searching for the next location that I realized we’d overshot by miles. Advanced trip reconnaissance and map-making don’t do much good if you don’t look at the map when you get there.

Big huge lunch

After an amazing lunch (yes - in the middle of nowhere - amazing food) and a 30 minute drive back downstream we arrived at the Wangapeka river. In a rush I scurried down a steep embankment from the angler’s access to see if this was where we’d want to start. Immediately on emerging from the brush - I saw two very fat browns hanging out in the bottom of a deep, still pool. Game on! Back at the car as I was gearing up around 2pm - we ran into another fly fisherman (the first one we’d seen anywhere in the country so far). I mentioned how shocked I was that he was the first fisherman we’d run across. He said it’s not unusual at all and he’d likely be the only one we’d see the rest of the day, maybe the rest of the trip. I guess that’s part of the reason he moved there from Oregon 30 years ago. He’d been broken off by two large browns (4-8 lbs be his account) that took cicadas that morning.
He told us to hurry - there’s maybe only an hour or two left before it would be too late in the day - we then talked for 30 minutes:smile:

Finally we made it to the river. I headed upstream maybe 100 yards from the big pool where I’d seen the two fatties earlier and was slowly creeping along the side of a nice run watching for any sign of active feeders. What it is about me getting bumrushed by startlingly huge trout in NZ - apparently that was going to be a thing? Two nice fish - one chasing the other - shot out of the deep run I was watching and into the shallows maybe 10 feet ahead of me. “Babe - there are two huge trout right out in front of me!” I whispered. In my mind - that meant - (OK - don’t move a muscle, don’t make a peep. This is my first chance to cast to a gorgeous NZ brown). What I think she heard was - Babe, grab your pole, QUICK, and get that line in front of them:biggrin: We’re talking 2, 20”+ trout chasing each other around in figure eights right under my nose in maybe 6-8 inches of crystal clear water. I froze and was determined to be patient, let them at least turn back upstream so they wouldn’t see my movement as I cast. I paused a few seconds to gather my wits before I started the backcast. I’ll leave out the gory details of what happened next - but let’s just say mine wasn’t the only line in the water and those beauties were gone in snap. Still - I wouldn’t trade having my wife there on the river by my side for anything - not even a clean cast to those fish.

Me on the river not far from the encounter with two kamikaze trout

We re-grouped - slathered on some bug spray (100% DEET) as the sandflies were starting to get aggressive - and found her a spot to sit and read (I think I kind of ruined the allure of fishing for her for a bit with my earlier stunned and overly dramatic reaction). I then headed upstream a few hundred yards and was able to spot two more nice fish in consecutive runs - but neither seemed to be actively feeding - just hanging out. I gave them all I had for 10-20 minutes each - got a couple of decent follows - but no solid takes. The heat of the day and the apparent lethargy of the fish signaled the end of fishing for the afternoon so we packed up and headed back to the house to meet our friends for dinner. By the way, Fish and Chips almost anywhere in New Zealand is a wonder to behold! Fresh. Fresh. Fresh. and so gorgeous - wait this is supposed to be a fishing report. I'll get back to it... and so ended the 2nd of my 3 days fishing for dreams in New Zealand. I’ll leave the 3rd day for another post. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get skunked.

04-28-2015, 08:31 PM
The food pic alone made that post. Sandwich: salami and stinky cheese? Bowl: cabbage, beef and peanuts or chickpeas?