It was a week ago that we got back home from our fishing trip to New Zealand. Time to browse through thousands of pictures, delete a lot of them and keep the good ones, while savouring the memories that each photo brings back. Also time to reply some emails, messages and phone calls. A question is prevalent: how is the fishing over there?
John Kent is the author of a famous New Zealand trout fishing guidebook. Some paragraphs from its Introduction summarize admirably the kiwi fly fishing experience. Enjoy.
To the observant nature lover no sport affords so much pleasure. At times the excitement can also be intense. Imagine, after scrambling for an hour up a back-country river, you finally spot a magnificent wild trout swinging from side to side, feeding in the current. There’s plenty of time: no other angler is within miles. A careful plan of attack is called for.
First find a place downstream, sheltered from view by river bank scrub, and watch the trout’s feeding pattern, observing the direction of the breeze and the flow of the current. Is the fish nymphing, and if so how deep, or is it rising and feeding on surface flies? What are the insects it is consuming? Do you have a pattern in your fly box resembling these? Observe the feeding lane and estimate where you will need to cast your fly in order for it to float down close to the fish. Is there a ripple on the water that might obscure the plop of a weighted nymph or an inaccurate cast? Should you lengthen the tippet so as not to line the fish?
Your heart beats loud enough for the fish to hear and your mouth dries. Have I selected the right fly? Can I make an accurate first cast knowing that I botched the last one?
You select a fly and notice that your hand shakes a little as you tie it carefully on to the delicate tippet. Now is the moment to put your plan into action. Keeping low, you creep up behind this magnificient wild fish, strip line off the reel and prepare to cast. Suddenly, you feel a great surge of adrenaline and become full of self-doubt. Your heart beats loud enough for the fish to hear and your mouth dries. Have I selected the right fly? Can I make an accurate first cast knowing that I botched the last one? Is my tippet sufficiently strong to hold this fish? What if it turns when hooked and races downstream through the rapids? Can I avoid that overhanging beech tree? The task becomes even more daunting under the critical gaze of an angling companion. I’m sure to botch it! Maybe it’s my friend’s turn?
Just at the crucial moment, a cloud darkens the sky and the fish is momentarily lost from view. You wait patiently in cold knee-deep water and ponder the words you have heard for years from non-angling friends: “Fishing must be dull and boring.” “I haven’t the patience.” “You’ve been away all day and returned with nothing. What have you been doing?” And here you are standing knee-deep in this cold mountain river, shivering with nervous tension and excitement. Who said trout fishing is relaxing?
Suddenly the light returns, and thankfully, the fish is still there feeding. You begin false casting away from the fish, carefully measuring the casting distance as you strip out line. With great care and a little good fortune your first cast is accurate and delicate. The artificial drifts down with the current and the unsuspecting fish swings across without a moment’s hesitation and sucks in your fly. You lift the rod quickly and tighten the line. That is the essence of fly fishing: the moment of take.
All hell breaks loose as the fish dashes madly upstream, stripping line off the screaming reel.