Sunday, November 06, 2005

Fly Ass Fishing

Queenstown, New Zealand

I have been feeling a bit jumpy since the skydive. Rather than join Jason in bouncing about at the end of a rope, I decided to calm down and reconnect with nature through the ancient and mysterious medium of fly fishing.

My initial contact (Ian) put me into the capable hands of a fishing guide called Will. He was an affable local with an easy manner and the steady confidence of experience. Also along was Doug - a retired dentist from Canada. Doug was an experienced angler who gets out on the water "three or four times a week". His stomping grounds (the Miramichi River) are not far away from my family's summer home in New Brunswick. We had lots to talk about during the 30 minute boat trip across the lake to the mouth of the Lochy River (really more of a stream).

Will got Doug set up with a quickness and he headed off to do his thing. It was lucky that Doug needed so little supervision. As a rank beginner, I occupied almost all of Will's time. After a quick rundown of the equipment, we went over basic fly selection, and how to secure a fly to the line. That done, we slipped on our waders and strode into the water to start casting. This bit was not nearly as easy as it looks.

Unlike all my previous fishing experience, in fly fishing you do not reel back in between casts. You retrieve a small amount of line by hand, but the reel is just there for bringing in fish. To move your lure, you get the entire line airborne by whipping back the rod. Once it is entirely behind you >and< before it hits the ground, a person, or a tree, you whip the line back forward and let it settle down on the water - hopefully somewhere near your target. Getting this right takes practice and Will was a patient instructor. It was not a few times that I wrapped myself in the line or caught the hook on the back of a jacket.

Predictably, Doug got the first few fish, but they were just a small rainbow and an even smaller brown trout. Will and I worked down the river to the mouth, then switched from floating to sinking line to have a try beneath the surface. I stopped to have a cup of tea and Will almost immediately landed a smallish brown trout on my line. He was gracious enough to let me reel it in. It appears that experience definitely counts in this game.

Towards the end of the day, we moved further upstream to fast water. I was feeling more confident about casting and having a good time, but I could tell that Will was frustrated that I had not caught anything. He left me alone to check for betters spots and I almost immediately pulled in a rainbow trout. I took a few moments to impress my superiority upon the fish before dropping him back in the water. It is amazing how much pride you can get from outwitting something with a pez-sized brain.

We took a few more casts on the way back to the boat before calling it a day. Doug and I chatted some more on the way back in. I like Canadians. They are just the right combination of friendly, polite, and well-read to suit my tastes. Canuckophilia aside, we all parted company at the dock after settling up the bill. Our one-day licenses permitted taking one fish each, but nobody did. Will said it was rare for fly fishermen to take away a catch in New Zealand. Doug confirmed that it is much the same in his hood. Even if I had some use for a fish, I would have given in to peer pressure.


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