My earliest memories are fishing with my dad on English rivers, catching coarse fish like roach, rudd and perch. We then moved to New Zealand, and I soon discovered the joy of sea fishing and I still love it today. But twenty years ago we bought a property on the banks of the Tongariro river, and I was introduced to trout fishing.
Trout fishing is not like any other fishing, the results are often small and modest by comparison to other fishing. Yet there is so much to learn and understand and it is more like hunting than fishing, it’s more of an adventure.
New Zealand both North and South Islands are intertwined with a plethora of available trout streams, rivers, dams and lakes. There are numerous websites and books that outline where the most accessible are and how to access them.
The is nothing more exciting than driving up to a river access not really knowing what to expect. Some rivers are right there, others you have to tramp sometimes for days to get too. (It is important if you are crossing private land to ask permission).
Recently a mate and I smashed through bracken and up a small goat track for what seemed hours following the hardly used trail not really sure if we were going in the right direction. Then as we crossed a low ridge line, we looked down on a crystal-clear river on a large bend no deeper than a foot. And we could see the silhouettes of the trout from where we looked down. We approached the river ‘stealthy’; these big boys don’t get to hear a lot of footfalls. On the sandy bank for as far as you could see in both directions you could not see a footprint, not a sign of mankind. As per our custom we sat, we watched, and we whispered rather than just jump straight in. Just using our go to flash back peasant tail, and keeping a low profile while casting, first cast big rainbow, second cast big rainbow, third cast big brown. Catching the fish is the bonus and it does not always work out so well, but when it does come together there is nothing like it.
I am no tramper, I find it boring, but if you add trout fishing to that I’ll happily spend all day walking the banks of a river casting a fly, hunting the fish for kilometres. It is so much less about gathering food (but trout do taste good if cooked correctly) but it is more about the experience, more often than not I find myself sitting on the bank just looking at what an amazing place we live in, and it is right on our front door.
My dad used to tell me to slowdown when fishing, typically you’d catch a fish and rush to pull it in. He would say ‘this is what you have been waiting for all day now enjoy it, take you time’. With fly fishing it’s not just the catching it’s the whole adventure experience. I recently went out on to some back water with a friend who was once a full-time guide. We split up he caught and/or lost about fifteen fish, whereas I caught and/or lost five. As we sat on the bank at the end of the beat, he said, ‘you need to slow down’, he told me ‘You need to spend more time on each section, don’t rush through so quick and your hit rate will go up’ The next day I did just that and he was 100% correct. But slowing down is what adventure fly fishing is about. You are not burleying up and simply cranking in big snapper. You are out in the whole experience from the planning to the travel, to the discovery, to the environment and then hopefully a few fish.
It does not always work out but the more effort you go too to find somewhere a bit more remote the better the hit rate. Fish do not really like people, sure at times you will look down and there will be one swimming by your boot. But a good example is my local river the Tongariro, during the last level 4 lock down, within a week (because no one was fishing) the numbers in the shallows doubled, then tripled and as soon as you could fish for them again – they went back to their normal holding patterns.
You can pull up to a river get out and stand in the same spot all day and you will have fun; you will catch fish. BUT you will also be missing the experience of adventure fly fishing, it is like having a three-course meal instead of just nibbling on the entrée.
If you are going to adventure fly fish, you need to gear up for it. The big heavy, neoprene waders are great for the cold local rivers, as long as you are not walking too far or having to climb over stuff. The super cheap plastic waders are thin and light weight but tend to be uncomfortable, hot and hard to walk in. If you intend to adventure fish, then invest a pair of lightweight quality waders and they will make the whole experience a lot more fun. The second major bit of gear is your boots. These are more like hiking boots compared to the neoprene waders and easy to walk in and safer. There are hundreds of options, material style and sole type. Personally I have been using the Patagonia River Salt Wading Boots with Vibram® Megagrip sole a compound specially developed for grip on both wet and dry surfaces some people add studs, I don’t as a lot of places I fish have hard round stones which tend to make you slip. The rest of your gear is about the conditions, rain, sun, wind, and also where you are going. Like any hike make sure you tell people where you are going do not rely on cell phone coverage as it is not always available. There are a few excellent safety kits on the market which are a good idea in case of an emergency.
My last piece of advice is enjoy. Its not always about catching the fish, its about where you are, who you are with (even if you are alone), and the simple joy of being outside.