Season wrap-up

I had every intention to write and post regular fishing reports for you but then the fishing got so good and so busy there was barely enough time to sleep! Eat, Sleep, Fish, Repeat, you may have heard this one before.

So here is a little pictorial wrap-up of the last two months of our Southland season. March was tough, with low water, spooky fish and a lot of anglers about but April was its usual glorious self, with great hatches, and plenty of feeding fish out. When it’s really ON, there is no other place like it if you like precise fishing with small dries for better-than-average brown trout.

One day we hooked up with a true Mataura trophy – a magnificent fish in 8-10 lbs range – which confidently took a #16 Hi-vis Parachute, then tore off into its hole and an entire tree that was there. Even on a 100lb tippet we would not have pull it out or stopped its run. These intense moments are certainly the highlights of autumn for me.


Best summer ever?

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What a superb summer it has been here in southern New Zealand: long spells of fine stable weather, deafening cicada song, eager fish rising to dries and terrestrials. With the first cold front and first snow of the year the cicada action is rapidly tapering off and it’s time to roll with the seasons. The light has definitely changed, it’s crisper and cooler and autumn is only a week or two away. I’ll be moving down to Southland and fishing the fabled mayfly hatches there for the next two months.

Meanwhile here are a few images of summer

Late November

Just back from a super week of fly fishing in the Mackenzie Country. Hatches, 200kph wind one day, snow, sunshine and days of calm before and after the storm. Camping, campfires, quality conversations, hand-picked wines and good food. And yea, plenty of nice fish. All as good as it gets …

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Early November 2015

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The spring gales and floods have passed and the windows of good weather are getting longer. Tough as the spring was weatherwise, it still offered great fishing if you’ve picked the right time and place. Generally, everything seems to be a month early, there’s been plenty of dry fly activity in Southland, even the first manuka (green) beetles have appeared in the Southern Lakes. The river levels, though still a bit high in places, are stabilising too and now the backcountry rivers are all open. Fish are in great conditions and the season’s prospects are looking superb. See yo out there!


Early October 2015

After the best winter in many years, our trout fishing season opened 1 Oct with sunny skies but severe gales, making for overall quite challenging and volatile fishing. Which is typical spring really so nothing to be concerned about. There have been a few windows of calm rewarding the patient. The good news is the trout are in superb conditions so once the gales subside the fishing will be great. Tune in for regular updates here …

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Mayflies like baby birds!

I’ve just come back from the final research trip for the New Zealand Geographic story about mayflies. On a little East Coast creek we found these babies hatching! Biggest mayflies I’ve ever seem. Anyone has an idea what species they are? Just picture big trout rising to those …

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Rune

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I’ll post the link to the entire story when it’s up and live

 

LOOP team NZ road trip

I’ve been given this assignment for a luxury travel magazine: to fly fish from Fiordland Lodge in Te Anau – (I know, but please don’t hold it against me, a guy has to make a living somehow) – and suggested to my fishing compadre Craig Somerville that we add a few more days to the gig and make it into a road trip.

The lower South Island rivers have taken a tremendous beating during the spring storms, some of them are only just becoming fishable for the first time this season, and I wanted to check out their state, and that of the trout, just as the rest of the waters were opening on 1 Nov.

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Yours truly, off to a good start

The weather we had was less than ideal – thick overcast and downstream gale – but we were off to a fabulous start, with the first three casts converting into three magnificent browns.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to keep this perfect score for long,” Craig said.

Prophetic words. We did not touch another fish for the rest of the day.

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The bend in the #5 says it all, Craig and Maya in hot pursuit

Day 2 was even more gloomy, and so windy it was impossible to cast upstream, even with the canon of a rod like the #7 Cross 1. Usually, a sight-fishing purist, I’d just go back to the camper and read but Craig had a better idea.

“You just turn around and fish streamers,” he said, “it’s just as good.”

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Worth all the efforts

Craig grew up on Scotland’s best salmon rivers so he is something of an expert on swinging streamers. He was hooked up almost immediately and to me it was something of a revelation, and a reminder: “fish to the conditions, not ideologies.” Craig had rescued what would have otherwise been a blown-out day.

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On day 3 we went looking for rainbows. We walked for miles exploring a river that was new to us both and we found the fish in gorges and on shallow spawning beds. After the demanding browns, they were almost too easy, and it was clear they have had a tough time surviving the floods. I spotted the “fish of the day” and Craig caught it with the first cast, and we were surprised to see it had teeth like a barracuda. Neither of us had ever seen anything like this.

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On the day 4  we rolled into Te Anau, a small frontier town on the edge of over 1.2 million hectares of Fiordland wilderness. Though we love walking remote rivers in pursuit of trout, camping on the riverbanks, sipping single-malts by campfires and being lullabied by the burble of trout waters, this far into our intense Carpe Diem trip we were more than a little weary. Sore-footed and weather-beaten, and as dusty as our 4×4 camper. More than ready for a little luxury.

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“You’re in for the treat of your life,” Craig told me. He has been to the Fiordland Lodge before. I said it was a tall order considering I spent the past 25 years of the said life as a travel writer and no stranger to luxury and opulence. I even got to stay in royal suites, I went on. “One of them had a walk-through wine-glass cabinet bigger than your living room.”

But Craig’s confidence was unfazed.

“No, trust me, I mean it. Wherever you stayed, you’d have never seen anything like Fiordland Lodge.”

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Fiordland Lodge, home on the range

How right he was.

By design and thoughtful landscaping, the first sight of Fiordland Lodge catches you by surprise: a log cabin the size of a wooden tall ship anchored in the sea of red tussock, with the backdrop of a huge lake and a horizon of endless mountains, greened with rainforest and topped with snow.

Fiordland, with its canyon-like glacial valleys and 1000m rock walls dropping straight into the water, offers some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet and the Lodge is exquisitely designed to echo this grandeur.

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At the bar made out from an enormous slab of recycled rimu we met the Lodge owner and head guide Ron Peacock. For 25 years Ron has been a national parks ranger, and spent 18 of those years roaming Fiordland, so his knowledge of the vast mountain wilderness would be hard to rival. He has fly fished for trout since he was a boy and thus naturally, when with his wife Robynne they built the Lodge in 2002, he also became its head guide.

Our original plan was to fish the Clinton, a greenstone vain of a river with dizzying clarity and a plenitude of both brown and rainbow trout. The Milford Track – “the greatest walk in the world” – follows the river and we intended to fly in with a float plane to the beginning of the track and fish as far upstream as we could get in a day. But in Fiordland, the weather always has the final say in any action plan and, as we breakfasted in front of the Lodge’s panoramic windows and watched heavy storm clouds brood over the mountains, Ron suggested an alternative.

“The Clinton is out in this weather but not to worry,” he said. “We have over forty rivers and streams within 90 minutes’ travel from Te Anau. We’ll go inland, there is a beautiful little stream I’d like to show you.”

And so he did.

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For the whole day we walked up the river and into the mountain valley which opened up in front of us, revealing itself, like a good tale, one turn at a time. There were fresh deer signs everywhere, not a soul in sight, and here and there we found trout feeding with graceful efficiency of the top predator.

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We insisted that Ron fished too, it was his day off and guides as popular as him are often too busy to fish much for themselves. We sighted a large brown trout feeding voraciously on the edge of a log jam and Ron hooked it with a precise cast, then leapt into the river with agility you would not expect from a 65 year old, to lead the fish away from the logs and possible tangles. Craig netted the fish and Ron hooted with delight, suddenly a boy again, doing what he loved.

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In the net but still jumping, Craig and Ron’s teamwork

Then we sat on a rock overlooking another promising pool, and we ate our lunch, and I thought that if there was a technology to measure the levels of happiness and joie de vivre in my blood the way cops test for alcohol I would certainly be well over the limit.

In his other life, when not being my fishing buddy, Craig runs Castabroad, a fly fishing travel agency which emphasises quality, luxury and hassle-free itineraries. The magazine story was his idea, as was staying and fishing with Ron, and so on the way back home we talked trout and more places to visit.

“There are 14 other trout lodges around New Zealand, six in the North Island, eight in the South,” Craig told me. “Similar in standard to Fiordland Lodge but as unique and individual as the people who built them.”

“And you know them all?”

“That’s what I do. Castabroad takes care of every details in its clients’ travels, from the moment they get off the plane until they step back onto it, so I’m the test pilot for the itineraries, making sure everything is just right and as good as it can be, or better.”

“Tell you what: next road trip we do, I guide you on rivers, you guide us to the best lodges.”

We shook hands. It was a deal. A pact of trout sybarites.

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To be continued …

 

Happy New Trout Season! Guided flyfishing in New Zealand

Most people’s year begins on 1 January, ours starts 1 October, the opening of the new trout season in New Zealand. We’ve hardly had a winter – only one big snowfall in three months – so everything in Nature is about a month or more early. It’s been remarkable to start the new trout season with dry fly, straight up!

photo by Lizelle Jacobs. The Complete Fly Fisherman, South Africa

photo by Lizelle Jacobs. The Complete Fly Fisherman, South Africa

I’m pleased to announce that beginning from this season, and due to requests from the readers, I’ll be offering a limited number of guided/hosted fly fishing safaris in New Zealand. If you’ve liked my books and want to experience some of the magic of the Trout Diaries and Trout Bohemia, come fishing with us. You will find details and rates on my Guided Fly Fishing page here

photo by Brendan Shields

photo by Brendan Shields

We roam widely and wildly during our trout safaris, following the season to wherever the fishing and river conditions are best. Multi-day hikes in the backcountry, riverside campouts, Southland’s fabulous dry fly, lake-edge stillwater, winter river-mouth drop-off fishing. There are over 300 trout rivers in the South Island alone, and the North is like another trout country again.

‘I couldn’t live in New Zealand. I’d just fish, fish and fish every day. I’d never get anything else done.’  PJ Jacobs, the editor of The Complete Fly Fisherman

If you are planning a fly fishing trip to New Zealand and want to immerse yourself in the trout magic of this country do get in touch. Come fishing with me or, if I’m not available, I can put you in contact with my fellow guides and friends who will help make your trip a memorable pilgrimage.

photo by Lizelle Jacobs. The Complete Fly Fisherman, South Africa

photo by Lizelle Jacobs. The Complete Fly Fisherman, South Africa

Come join us in the trout fishers’ paradise!