North Fork of the St. Vrain River – 03/15/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of the St. Vrain River 03/15/2018 Photo Album

My season opener on the South Platte River near Deckers was a disappointing experience, and I was eager to visit another Colorado stream, where I could atone for my frustrating performance. My 2018 fish count consisted entirely of trout landed in the southern hemisphere. Surely Thursday would be the day, when I posted fish number one from North America on the fish counter.

Wednesday was actually a nicer day from a weather standpoint, but a morning doctor appointment prevented a meaningful fishing adventure. Thursday’s forecast projected a high of 65 in Denver with afternoon showers, so I opted to make a second trip in the early season. Historically I enjoyed early and late season success on tailwaters, and when I reviewed the flows, I noted that South Boulder Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain were running slightly below 15 CFS. These flows were low, but I knew from experience that a cautious approach and longer casts could produce decent action. The North Fork of the St. Vrain was more open to the direct rays of the sun, so I selected it over South Boulder Creek.

I contacted my Instagram friend, Trevor, and informed him of my decision to visit the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and he decided to meet me there. Trevor prefers an earlier start, so I agreed to look for him on the stream. The time change on Sunday meant that it took longer for the sun to warm the air temperature, and I intended to fish later in the afternoon, so an early start was not a priority for me.


Trevor Changes Flies

I arrived at the parking area near the entry gate by 10AM, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and climbed into my waders, I embarked on a thirty-five minute hike. I tied my light fleece coat around my waist, since I knew that I would overheat with the extra exertion of hiking. I eagerly scanned the creek for Trevor and his dog, Shilling, and finally after the expected walk, I spotted my friend along the left side of a long smooth pool. I asked about Shilling’s whereabouts, and Trevor explained that he left him at home for this longer trip and hike. Trevor also disclosed that he landed a trout near the parking lot, and he spotted numerous fish, as he ambled along the road high above the creek. These pieces of information revved up my expectations, and I announced that I would continue upstream to a point where a large boulder was situated between the road and the stream.

I strung my fly line and tied on a gray stimulator, and below the attractor dry fly I added a beadhead hares ear. I prospected this combination through several attractive areas with no positive results, so I added a size 20 salad spinner. This addition was ineffective, so I replaced the salad spinner with an ultra zug bug. Trevor in the meantime landed two fish that snatched a fly with a sparkling body similar to the ultra zug bug. The changes failed to attract hungry fish, and the stimulator did not support the two beadhead nymphs very well, so I once again initiated a change. I swapped the stimulator for a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle.



Trevor spotted several fish at the tail of a nice pool, but he concluded that his leader was too short, and his flies were passing over the fish. I moved in and made some drifts with my flies, but I experienced a similar lack of interest, and my leader length was similar to Trevor’s. I abandoned the sulking bottom huggers and moved on, but before resuming my casting I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This fly produced results during previous March visits, when I observed very small stoneflies, and I was hopeful that a similar occurrence might commence.

I continued fishing with renewed concentration, but the fish were not cooperating. I pondered the situation, and I decided I needed to get deeper, so I clipped off the beetle and replaced it with a size 8 yellow fat Albert. This fly was quite visible, and it could easily support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. Unfortunately my deep drift ploy was also unsuccessful, and Trevor and I approached the large pipe, where the overflow of the lake dumps into the creek. Since it was the middle of March, and the flows were regulated to a paltry 15 cfs, the pipe was dry, but Trevor wanted to show me the pool on the upstream side of the road. We walked across the dirt road, but the small pool was covered with ice. Trevor mentioned that when he checked out the pool later in the season, he observed as many as twenty-five trout gathered in the small space.


Deep Run

We crossed back to the main creek, and Trevor retreated to some nice water thirty yards downstream, while I approached the deep pool across from the pipe. I made some nice long casts to the tail of the pool and then worked the top portion where the faster water entered, but once again my efforts were thwarted.

Trevor and I climbed to the top of the bank on the edge of the road, and we realized that it was noon. Since Trevor volunteers to coach the Longmont baseball team on Thursday afternoons, he departed, and I grabbed a rock high above the creek and devoured my small lunch. My 2018 North American scorecard remained blank.

After lunch I mysteriously broke off the soft hackle emerger, as I began to migrate upstream from the pipe area. It was not producing, so I used this as an opportunity to lengthen my leader and to change flies once again. I added tippet below the fat Albert, and then I reconnected the hares ear. Below the beadhead hares ear I extended another fifteen inches and knotted a salvation nymph to my line. The total length of my droppers below the fat Albert was in excess of three feet, and I had the weight of two size 14 beadhead nymphs to improve the sink rate.


First Trout of 2018 in North America

I once again began to prospect the deep runs and pockets, and finally I connected with a small seven inch brown trout. In spite of the small size, I snapped a couple photos, since it was my first Colorado fish of the new year. In a short amount of time I added another similar small brown trout to the count, and then I was surprised by an eleven inch rainbow trout. Two of the first three trout snatched the hares ear and one attacked the salvation.


A Hares Ear Fooled This Rainbow Trout

It was now around 1PM, and some gray clouds moved in and blocked the warming rays of the sun. I responded by retrieving my light down coat from around my waist, and this improved my comfort level dramatically. I continued my upstream path and tallied two more trout, before I once again inexplicably lost a fly, and this time it was the salvation. At this point four of the five fish preferred the hares ear, so I replaced the salvation with a pheasant tail nymph.


Brilliant Orange Spots

Over the next hour the fish count mounted to ten, and the hares ear accounted for all except one pheasant tail victim. The action was steady up until this point, but each fish required three or more drifts to arouse the interest of the trout. The pheasant tail was in the prime position at the end of my line, and it was relatively ineffective, so I returned to the salvation nymph. This move proved to be a winner, as I landed eight more trout over the remaining two hours. Included in this batch of netted fish were a thirteen and twelve inch brown trout and another eleven inch rainbow. The two afternoon browns were easily the best fish of the day.


Hot Spot

In one particularly productive hot spot, I landed four trout including the eleven inch rainbow and the foot long brown. All of these trout grabbed the trailing salvation nymph. Unlike the early afternoon quite a few fish snatched the tumbling nymphs on the first or second cast. In addition two trout smashed the fat Albert, although I was unable to land these small but aggressive feeders.


A Fine Small Stream Catch

By 3:45 my hands were curled and ached from the cold, and my toes began to lose their feeling. I reeled up my line and hooked my fly to the guide and completed the forty minute hike back to the Santa Fe.

During the morning I failed to land a single fish, but the afternoon proved to be a fun beginning to my fly fishing season in Colorado. I extended my leader, added heavier flies, and changed to a salvation nymph; so it is difficult to isolate which variable produced my afternoon success. The air temperature warmed, and perhaps that prompted the fish to become more aggressive. I will never know which factors contributed to my enjoyable day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain, but I am thankful and anxious to continue my fly fishing adventures in a new year.

Fish Landed: 18

South Platte River – 03/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Morning downstream from Whale Rock; Afternoon just below Deckers

South Platte River 03/08/2018 Photo Album

Highs of 65 degrees in Denver convinced me to make my maiden trip to a northern hemisphere trout stream on Thursday, March 8. Today was exactly one month after Jane and I returned from our exciting trip to New Zealand. I contemplated traveling  to the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek or Boulder Creek, but I somehow convinced myself to give the South Platte River near Deckers another try.

I recalled that my last two season openers occurred on this same section of the South Platte River, and each resulted in a day of futile casting. These thoughts were a strong deterrent; but the flows were running at 180 cfs, and the tailwater in a wide open valley that absorbed an abundance of direct sunshine convinced me to make the drive.

I descended Nighthawk Hill and made a right turn at the T and continued downstream for another couple miles, until I reached a long parking lot along the dirt road. I named this area Whale Rock, since a huge long rounded boulder in the shape of a whale is perched between the road and river at the upstream edge of the parking lot. A car was parked near the entrance to the lot, and I could see the owner fishing in the nice slow moving bend pool adjacent to the parking area. I decided to make Whale Rock my first stop and planned to hike along the shoulder to position myself downstream of the angler who preceded me.


Starting Point to 2018 in North America

I executed this plan and found myself perched on the edge of the river just above a steep whitewater chute, and I rigged my Sage four weight with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear and salad spinner and began to prospect the deep runs and pockets. For the next half hour I continued this cast and move sequence, until I reached the bend previously occupied by the fisherman, that I observed upon my arrival. During this time I persisted with the hares ear and midge emerger, but the resident fish population, if there was one, eluded my efforts. In fact I never spotted a fish in spite of repeated attempts to pause and observe in a manner similar to my New Zealand sight fishing experience.

At 12:15 I reeled up my line and returned to the car and decided to execute a radical shift in plan. I drove upstream for twenty minutes until I reached a large dirt parking area on a bend just downstream from the village of Deckers. Three cars preceded me, but one angler was removing his waders in preparation for departure. I was astounded by the number of fishermen along the South Platte River on Thursday, March 8. It was a weekday, and each parking lot along the way was occupied with fishermen vehicles. Does anyone in Colorado actually work?

I quickly consumed my lunch and then clipped off the two flies and extended my leader. Insanity is continuing to fish the same way and expect different results, so I swapped the hares ear for a flesh colored San Juan worm, and then I added a size 16 beadhead pheasant tail as the end fly. The San Juan worm and pheasant tail nymph were stellar performers during the halcyon days of the 90’s on the South Platte River, so why not give them a test?

When I was set, I cut directly to the river twenty yards from the Santa Fe, and here I began to drift my subsurface offerings through some quality deep runs. Again my efforts were not rewarded, so I proceeded up along the right channel where the river split around a small narrow willow-covered island. At the top of the right braid two currents merged to create a gorgeous deep run, and my expectations soared, but alas only casting practice ensued.


Junction Pool Looked Attractive, But No Success

At this point I crossed to the road side of the river and climbed a steep bank and returned to the car. The parking lot at the Deckers Store contained numerous SUV’s, and fishermen appeared everywhere. I continued downstream from the parking lot with the intent of fishing back from the first bridge, but as I approached, I spotted a fisherman along the bank changing flies or unraveling a tangle, so I reversed my direction and cut down to the river thirty yards above him. I began drifting the worm and nymph through some attractive deep runs, until I turned my attention to a small but deep pocket along the left bank just above my position. I paused to peer into the clear water and spotted a decent trout, as it held in the deepest section of the area behind an exposed boulder.

I debated switching to a dry/dropper in order to create less disturbance in the relatively thin water, but I planned to fish deep in the runs toward the center of the river, so I was reluctant to execute a change. I lobbed a couple casts to the pocket above me, and I thought I saw the target trout follow one of the drifts, but it never grabbed a fly. I reconsidered my approach and decided to switch to a dry/dropper system, since the flows remained relatively low, and I determined I could effectively cover the deeper areas without the aid of a split shot and indicator.

I removed the indicator and split shot and converted to a yellow fat Albert trailing an emerald caddis pupa and beadhead pheasant tail. On one of my earlier drifts the hook of one of the flies impaled a greenish blue caddis worm, and this prompted the emerald caddis choice. Once I was ready, I flipped five or six casts to the area where I spotted a fish earlier, but it was no longer visible and did not respond to my new menu. I turned my attention to some deep narrow runs across from my position, and began to drift the large visible foam imitation in the beckoning lanes. On the fifth cast the fat Albert darted sideways, and I instantly set the hook and felt the throbbing weight of a decent fish.

I quickly raised my rod, and the moving shape on the end of my line plowed upstream and then reversed and headed toward some heavier current. I began to carefully move downstream with the fish, but the connection did not feel normal. I applied some side pressure to bring the fish below me, and at this point the flies popped free and hurtled back toward me feet. I clearly sensed that the fish was foul hooked somewhere in the head but not the mouth, and thus was likely not as large, as I initially perceived.


Fish Spotted in the Deep Trough in Center

I moved upstream after this momentary connection with a trout, and I once again spotted a decent trout hovering in the deepest trough of a slow moving pool. This time I was prepared with my preferred dry/dropper technique. I carefully executed some nice casts to the area three feet above the fish, but on each successive drift the fish showed no signs of recognizing my offerings. I paused and exchanged the pheasant tail for a size 22 RS2, but this did not capture the attention of the sighted trout.

Finally I conceded to the wise stream dweller and once again moved upstream to some upcoming attractive water. The river created a gorgeous long riffle of moderate depth, where it angled around the wide curve by the parking area, and I was certain that this would yield my first landed fish in North America in 2018. Unfortunately my instincts were misplaced, and after covering the area thoroughly I reeled up my line and returned to the car and called it a day.

The weather was spectacular for March 8, and I managed to spot two fish and connect temporarily with one, but the crowded conditions were very disappointing. Given the number of competing anglers, I suspect that the area I covered was disturbed repeatedly in the morning hours prior to my arrival. Based on my limited success on the Deckers stretch of the South Platte River, I continue to be baffled by its popularity.

Fish Landed: 0

Pool Toy Hopper – 03/04/2018

Pool Toy Hopper 03/04/2018 Photo Album

A pool toy or a fat Albert? I struggle with this question quite often. During 2017 I opted for the fat Albert early in the season and late, but leaned on the pool toy during the July and August time period. The comparison may not be valid, since I tend to tie fat Alberts with yellow bodies and pool toys with tan bodies. Also I construct fat Alberts on size 8 hooks, and my pool toys are built primarily on size 10 hooks. I point these differences out to suggest that other variables besides type of fly may factor into the effectiveness of these two large foam hopper imitations.


Fine Looking Hopper

2017 was the second year that I fished a fat Albert extensively, and I was quite pleased with the results. In situations where I yearn for a large buoyant visible fly to support a pair of beadhead nymphs, the fat Albert is my preferred choice. The size 8 high floating attractor with dangling sexilegs is easy to track, and when combined with a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph provides hours of productive prospecting.


Ready to Tempt Trout

Despite my recent preference for a fat Albert I am not inclined to abandon the pool toy. In situations where I attempt to match the grasshopper hatch, the pool toy is very effective. For this reason the pool toy occupies my line frequently during the months of July, August and the first half of September. My 1/31/2013 post chronicles my introduction to the pool toy and describes some of the questions that I confronted during my first attempts to replicate the Andrew Grillos pattern. My 02/11/2017 post describes the intrusion of the fat Albert as an alternative surface indicator fly in a dry/dropper configuration.


A Pair with Different Color Legs

I counted thirteen tan pool toys in my various fly bins, so I manned my tying bench and manufactured an additional seven to bring my total to twenty. Eight yellow versions occupied space as well, and I decided to increment that total to ten by tying two more. I feel that I possess an adequate supply of foam grasshopper patterns to entertain the trout population in 2018.


Fat Albert – 02/25/2018

Fat Albert 02/25/2018 Photo Album

Although the fat Albert is a decent fish attractor in its own right, it earns significant time on my line purely due to its visibility, buoyancy and durability. I particularly love the fat Albert as my lead surface fly, when I deploy a three fly dry/dropper arrangement. It is unsurpassed as a highly visible indicator fly that floats above the surface even with two size 14 beadhead nymphs dangling below. The yellow color combined with a white wing and its large size make the fat Albert easy to follow in riffles and difficult light situations. Often it is simply an indicator with a hook point, as I search the stream with a productive nymph combination.


Dangling Legs

There are incidents, however, where the fat Albert attracts the attention of opportunistic fish. One such memorable situation occurred, while I fished in Penns Creek on 6/1/2016. In this instance a brown trout crushed a yellow fat Albert likely mistaking it for a golden stonefly. I frequently deploy the yellow fat Albert during high run off conditions, as I edge fish, and I recall numerous instances where a large bank dweller ignored the dangling nymphs and pounced on the juicy foam attractor. Of course during hopper season in August and September, the fat Albert performs as a serviceable grasshopper imitation as well.


Eight New Fat Alberts

My 3/27/2016 post documents my introduction to the fat Albert, and a 12/18/2016 post chronicles the fat Albert’s effectiveness during 2016, its first full season of use. I counted twelve yellow fat Albert’s in my fly boxes, so I busied myself with the task of tying an additional eight to bring my 2018 starting total to twenty. Yellow has been my most productive color, although I must admit that I have not experimented extensively with the green and orange body versions, that I tied among the initial batch. I plan to visit Pennsylvania this year for my college reunion, and you can be certain that I will pack an adequate supply to test on wily central Pennsylvania brown trout in case large golden stoneflies are present. Twenty should be sufficient to lead my nymphs through pockets, runs and riffles during the 2018 fly fishing season.



Chernobyl Ant – 02/25/2018

Chernobyl Ant 02/25/2018 Photo Album

My post of 02/12/2017 sums up the status of the Chernobyl ant in my fly boxes. It remains an important weapon, but it ceded some of its importance to the fat Albert and Jake’s gulp beetle. In addition I enjoyed moderate success with a slightly smaller and lighter hippy stomper in the late fall of 2017, so this rising fish deceiver may displace even more line time from the Chernobyl ant.


Nice Segmentation

My introduction to the Chernobyl ant extends back to my first trips to the Green River in Utah, and if interested, you can read about my early contact with the large foam ant in my post of 02/01/2011. In the initial days of tying the Chernobyl ant I experienced frustration with the single layer of foam spinning around the hook shank. This generally occurred after landing two or three fish. My 02/13/2014 post describes a significant modification to my tying methodology that eliminated the spinning shortcoming.


Three Brand New Chernobyls

As the fat Albert and Jake’s gulp beetle pilfered line time from the Chernobyl ant, my need to restock my supply shrank as well. I counted an adequate supply of size eights, but I determined that additional size tens were required. It is difficult to totally abandon a fly that factored so prominently in past success. I backed off on the hares ear nymph several years ago, but it returned to the number one productive fly in my box, just as I sensed its effectiveness was fading. It is far too early to write off the Chernobyl ant, since it owns a solid history of success.

Parachute Black Ant – 02/22/2018

Parachute Black Ant 02/22/2018 Photo Album

Historically I resort to an ant pattern when a gust of wind initiates a flurry of surface rises, or a feeding fish rejects several of my fly offerings but continues to feed. In the latter case it is very gratifying to dupe a reluctant feeder with a small black ant riding low in the film. Both of these scenarios are described nicely in my 02/03/2016 parachute ant post, and this was the last time I tied a batch of ants.

During the past summer I experienced several days on South Boulder Creek, when a parachute black ant became a very effective searching dry fly. The most prominent example is 10/17/2017. In this instance the trouts’ posture toward beetles was very tentative; however, they sipped my black ant with utter confidence. On a visit to South Boulder Creek on 09/21/2018 the black ant provided a preview of its later season effectiveness, as it yielded the first four trout of the day.


Nice Narrow Waist

Naturally the increased deployment of parachute ants resulted in a higher rate of depletion due to break offs, snags, and unraveling flies. My elevated level of confidence in the ant pattern suggested, that I would opt to knot it on my line with increased frequency, so I counted my holdings. I learned that my various storage boxes contained sixteen parachute black ants that complied with my exacting standards, so I decided to augment the supply by fourteen to thirty. I searched for and found my 01/11/2012 post, where I created a materials table and documented the excellent tying steps demonstrated by Tom Baltz at the Fly Fishing Show. I modified these instructions for one change. I now tie off the hackle and whip finish against the wing post rather than around the hook shank. This method traps far fewer hackle fibers. I also suggest using a finer thread such as 8/0 to avoid excessive build up in the waist area.


Eleven Refurbished Ants

I searched through all my damaged fly containers and uncovered eleven that were unraveling or poorly tied. Over the years I came to believe that a narrow waist between two well defined bumps is a triggering characteristic when casting an ant. I stripped quite a few ants from the hook that did meet my higher standards. The fourteen flies that I tied originated from unraveling flies, or flies that I deemed unacceptable for my exacting ant specifications.



New Zealand Day 21 – 02/07/2018

New Zealand Day 21 02/07/2018 Photo Album

We drove from Twizel to Christchurch on February 7, and upon our arrival we checked into a hotel across from the airport, returned the IMAX, and repacked our bags in preparation for a 9:40AM departure on Thursday morning. None of us looked forward to a day of travel back to the States, but Jane feared it the most, as she acquired a cough and sore throat during our last few days.


Lake Tekapo on Our Way to Christchurch

Most of the road trip from Twizel was characterized by rolling farmland and pastures. We stopped at a rest area in Rakaia, and a statue of a huge leaping salmon caused me to initiate some online research. I learned that the Rakaia River is New Zealand’s premier salmon fishery with runs occurring in the January through April time frame, but salmon fishing was not in our itinerary.


Rakaia Is the Salmon Capital of the South Island

We arrived at the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch by 3PM and quickly checked into our rooms. The hotel provided a shuttle service, so we decided to return the rental car as soon as possible to remove one chore from our morning list. John remembered that we needed to top off the gas, and that resulted in a fairly time consuming nuisance adventure. We used the phone app to navigate, and it led us astray twice, before we found the Allied Petrol Station. All the pumps were occupied by commercial vehicles with large gas tanks. We patiently waited for a pump to free up, but when we punched in the credit card information, it requested a PIN. We shrugged our shoulders in disbelief and embarked on another circuitous route to a BP station. This unwelcome tour of the airport surroundings involved circling endless roundabouts. Fortunately we eventually hit pay dirt and topped off at the BP.

With this task in the rear view mirror, we continued back to the airport car return, and shed the IMAX. The Hyandai minivan provided workmanlike transportation, but no tears were shed, as we said goodbye to the cumbersome boxy road warrior. At first we were perplexed by the walking path back to the Sudima, but after a false start we figured it out and crossed a busy roundabout and returned to the hotel.

Both parties completed additional packing, and then we rendezvoused at the lobby and strolled to the nearby bus stop. Twenty minutes elapsed before we boarded the number 29, and the Metro bus efficiently transported us to the Christchurch bus exchange. High Street was highlighted on the map as an area containing shops and restaurants, and its proximity motivated us to pay it a visit. We stumbled across a cool outdoor bar/food spot called the Smash Palace. A bus was situated away from the street, and it was converted into an outdoor bar. We approached the Kiwi bartender, and each ordered Bodgie brews, since they were on a happy hour special.


Brews at the Smash Palace

After finishing our brews we explored more of Christchurch and found O.G.B, a trendy restaurant in an Old Government Building near Cathedral Square. Upon the completion of our dinners a brief walk of two blocks delivered us to an ice cream shop, where Brenda and John indulged in a cup of frozen dessert. Throughout our wanderings in Christchurch we were amazed by the ongoing construction, as the city continues to recover from the major earthquake in 2011. The devastation must have been massive, in order for the effects to endure for seven years.


Christchurch Cathedral Displaying Damage from the 2011 Earthquake

We wandered back to the bus exchange and returned to the Sudima. I set the alarm for 6:30 in order to catch our 9:40AM flight from Christchurch to Auckland. We were about to return home, and memories of three weeks of travel adventure and spectacular scenery dominated our thoughts.



New Zealand Day 20 – 02/06/2018

New Zealand Day 20 02/06/2018 Photo Album

With our base camp established in Twizel we prepared to explore the Mt. Cook area. Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in all of New Zealand at 12,218 feet. However, we were low on breakfast treats, so Jane and I hiked to the Town Center Cafe & Bakery. Here we spotted breakfast pastries on top of the counter, and we used some of our remaining NZ $’s to purchase two sultana scones, two blueberry muffins, and one apple crumble. Jane and I split the crumble, when we returned to our room.


Spectacular Setting Prompted Two Photos

The Prices rolled by and picked us up at 10AM, and we continued on to a campground near Mt. Cook Village. The parking lot was jammed, and we nearly found ourselves locked in a big city traffic snarl, when a huge tourist bus attempted to turn around on a narrow dirt road loaded with pedestrians and parked cars. John somehow managed to execute a U-turn in advance of the bus, and we parked on the shoulder along the entry road. A longer walk was a preferred trade off to sitting in the van among the parking lot chaos.


Breathtaking View to the East


First Swinging Bridge Over the Hooker River

The tramp was a three hour round trip undertaking, and it ended at a glacial lake, where we enjoyed spectacular views of Mt. Cook and surrounding peaks. The glacial lake next to our viewing point was filled with dense silt-laden glacial melt. The guidebook suggested that floating icebergs would be visible, but we only noticed one small one near the outlet of the lake. The river that carried gray sludge through the adjacent valley was more impressive to me, and we crossed it three times on suspended bridges supported by sturdy metal cables. Jane formulated an exit strategy each time we crossed one of the suspended structures, in case it collapsed during our time hanging above the river.


Deep Slabs of Ice and Snow Near the Peak

Numerous waterfalls cascaded down the steep slopes on both sides of the river, and several significant ribbons of rushing water disappeared in a rubble of gray boulders and gravel. It was obvious that this was the source of the dense gray sedimentation that converted the water into gray sludge.


Tasman Lake and Tasman Glacier

After we returned to the minivan, we detoured to another trailhead to view the Tasman Glacier. The sign informed us that the viewpoint occurred after a fifteen minute walk, but it neglected to tell us that the trail was a continuous climb up steps. The view at the top was interesting, as another glacial lake appeared just below a massive block of gray and charcoal ice. The return hike was tricky, but not physically taxing.


Lots of Snow Up There

Upon our return to the IMAX we sped back to Twizel, and the Prices deposited us at the Lakes Hotel. After a brief happy hour with snacks, Jane and I sauntered across the highway to the convenient wood oven pizza truck. On Tuesday night we ordered a meat pizza to demonstrate that we were not in a deep food rut, and after ten minutes it was baked and ready for our consumption. It disappeared in the same amount of time that it required to bake.

Wednesday is a travel day to Christchurch, and Thursday we make our return to the USA. This was a bittersweet thought, as we neared the final day of our long anticipated New Zealand trip.

New Zealand Day 19 – 02/05/2018

New Zealand Day 19 02/05/2018 Photo Album

My earliest recollection of following professional sports was the 1959 World Series featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers vs the Chicago White Sox. I was eight years old at the time. More vivid memories play out in my mind, when I recall the !960 World Series in which Bill Mazeroski blasted his game winning home run in the ninth inning to defeat the New York Yankees. Since I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, I also have rich recollections of the 1960 NFL championship game at Franklin Field, when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers. At the impressionable age of nine I worshiped the Philadelphia heroes of that team including Norm Van Brocklin, Tommy McDonald, Pete Retzlaff, and Chuck Bednarik. This glimmer of success encouraged me to become a lifelong Eagles fan, and although they fielded some impressive teams under Buddy Ryan, Dick Vermeil, and Andy Reid; they never managed to win a Super Bowl. I anxiously followed the 2017 Eagles, as they built a huge lead in the NFC, but my heart sank when Carson Wentz left the game against the Los Angeles Rams with a torn ACL. I was hopeful, but I realistically expected another disappointment in the playoffs.

Monday, February 5 was scheduled to be another relatively long travel day, as our foursome drove north and west from Dunedin to Twizel, a town close to the center of the South Island of New Zealand. I hoped for an earlier departure, but we managed to climb in the IMAX and leave the Euro 315 by 10AM. Since Super Bowl 52 began at 4:30PM Mountain time on Sunday February 4, I did some quick calculations and determined that the game began at 12:30PM on Monday, February 5 in local time. Actually I made this determination prior to our departure for New Zealand, since I clung to the small hope that the Eagles could advance to the big game. I was not certain that I could find a television in New Zealand tuned to the NFL Super Bowl, and with a planned stop along the way, it was now obvious that we would not reach Twizel by 12:30.


Rainy Day at Moeraki

Initially our route skirted the coast, and it was here that we stopped and completed a twenty minute round trip beach walk to inspect the Moeraki Boulders. We discovered a series of spherical rocks that were formed on the ocean floor a long time ago. For some reason the east coast of New Zealand contains around twenty-five of these globes, and many display fissures and cracks. We touched and leaned on several and snapped some photos, and then we settled back in the IMAX and continued on a northeastern path, until we veered to the northwest just before the town of Oamaru.


A Collection of Round Stones

For the next several hours we followed the Waitaki River, until we turned right on route 8, and then found the Lakes Hotel in Twizel. As explained in the first paragraph, I possessed a strong interest in the Super Bowl, and I frantically attempted to follow the game via my ESPN app and gametracker. This ploy actually worked fairly well for a time, as the Eagles built a 15-3 lead in the first quarter and early going of the second. Unfortunately we then passed through several sections of rural country that generated the dreaded no service message on my mobile phone, but the Eagles amazingly survived my absence.

Once we arrived in Twizel, we stopped at the Lakes Hotel, but a sign announced that the receptionist would not return until 2PM, the prescribed check in time. Not wasting any time we found the Twizel town center, and a woman at the information center directed us to the Top Hut Sports bar. John or Brenda prefaced our question about the Super Bowl by asking if she was familiar with the American game. She was clearly a bit offended, as she replied, ” we do read and watch television here in New Zealand.”

Sure enough when we entered the Top Hut Sports Bar, we were surprised to see five screens carrying the big NFL contest. I intently watched the remainder of the second quarter, and then Jane and I took advantage of the Super Bowl special and ordered two “American hot dogs” for NZ $6 each plus two craft beers.


Super Bowl 52 Champions

The Super Bowl developed into one of the best ever, and my beloved Eagles survived the Patriots’ second half surge to become the new NFL champions. I was quite surprised by the number of customers in the Top Hut on a Monday afternoon watching American football, but we later learned it was a holiday in New Zealand called Waitangi Day. After the post game trophy presentation and interviews, when I admittedly choked up while listening to the Nick Foles interview, we returned to the Lakes Hotel, where we discovered that a credit card snafu left the Prices without a room. The receptionist called the nearby Mackenzie Country Inn and secured a room there for our traveling companions.


Wood Fired Pizza Dinner Across from the Lakes Hotel

Once Jane and I unloaded our suitcases, we completed a one hour hike on the Twizel Walkway. This elevated our hunger, so we returned to the town center where we visited the Ministry of Works (restaurant), Jasmine Thai, and Top Hut; but all were extremely busy and required excessive wait times. We toyed with buying something at the supermarket, but eventually we returned to a wood fired pizza oven food truck across from our accommodations. It proved to be a great move, and we finally satisfied our burgeoning appetites. Being able to watch the Philadelphia Eagles become world champions surpassed my wildest expectations for February 5.


New Zealand Day 18 – 02/04/2018

New Zealand Day 18 02/04/2018 Photo Album

Sunday was a very active day for Jane and I in Dunedin, NZ. On Saturday we reserved mountain bikes from Dunedin iBikes, and Nick delivered them along with helmets on Saturday evening. He also suggested routes, so on Sunday morning we began to check them off. Our first ride took us east along the northeastern shoreline of Otago Bay. During this one hour ride we joined in the Masters Games, as a large group of race walkers shared our track.


I Liked My Hired Bike


Cruise Control Now

After we returned to the CBD (Central Business District) we headed northeast until we found Baldwin Street, allegedly the steepest street in the world. A crowd of people choked the base, and many groups accepted the challenge and ascended the six blocks of pure vertical. I wish I could announce that I completed the climb on my mountain bike, but I turned around at the location where the grade shifted dramatically and then returned to Jane for some photos. After surrendering to the hill we elected to swing back to the Euro 315 to remove some layers, as the 46 degree F temperature at the start quickly rose to the 50’s F.


Teeth Sculpture at Our Turn

The last leg of our cycling adventure was to power our way east on the Otago Peninsula. The initial couple of miles were a bit dicey, as we maneuvered through a mix of city streets and bike paths. We stopped a helpful cycling couple at one point and asked for confirmation that we were headed toward the Otago Peninsula. Not only did they assure us, but they also outlined the next two turns including a “left at the teeth”. Sure enough after another kilometer we encountered a series of eight sculpted teeth, and just as they suggested, we were on the Portobello Cycle Track heading northeast.

Unfortunately the off road trail ended halfway through our outbound trip, and the remainder of the ride was along the narrow shoulder of Portobello Road. We survived and returned to the Euro 315 by 12:30PM, and Nick stopped by at 2:15 to retrieve the bikes.


Lighthouse Is Where the Royal Albatross Hang Out

The Otago Peninsula ride peaked our curiosity, so we studied some maps and our guidebook after lunch. John and Brenda were scheduled to be picked up by a commercial tour service, so the rental minivan was available to us. We jumped in the Hyandai IMAX and completed the 45 minute drive to the tip of the Otago Peninsula. This was my first extended stint driving the IMAX while steering from the right side and driving in the left lane. It was certainly a challenging start, as Portbello Road was a two lane highway that twisted and curved endlessly along the contour of Otago Bay.

The Royal Albatross Centre was situated at the end of the road, but a $30 NZ charge for the guided tour dissuaded us from that option. Instead we took advantage of the plethora of information in the Royal Albatross Visitor Centre. We educated ourselves on the various species of albatrosses and shags (duck-like bird) and their life cycles and studied photos in case we were able to observe any of the large resident birds. We exited the visitor center and began our self-guided nature walk.


Looking North from the Viewing Platform

The Pacific Ocean (east) side of the point featured three wooden viewing platforms. We stood on all of them and marveled at the powerful wind and surf in front of us. We now attempted to put our recently gained knowledge of the appearance of shags and albatrosses to use, and we peered intently into the sky north and south along the coastline. Much to our satisfaction we spotted six albatrosses, as they glided in the strong air currents along the ridge high above. In addition several shags flapped their wings and powered their way by our viewing platform. Jane carried the binoculars, and they were invaluable for zooming in on the majestic albatrosses.


At Least Seven Seals in This Photo. Three in the Water.

Once we soaked in the bird watching spectacle, we crossed the parking lot and descended to Pilots Beach on the bay side of the point. Another viewing platform existed here for observing the arrival of the blue penguins, but we decided against waiting for the 6-8PM show. Instead we chuckled at the frolicking fur seals on the rocks to our right. In total eight chubby mammals occupied the rocky shoreline.Three glided about in the water, while the others lazily basked in the warm sunshine. I was amazed how clumsy these creatures were on land, yet they morphed into sleek water acrobats once they entered the ocean.


We Stopped at Wellers Rock. Who Knew?

After the multiple wildlife shows we began our return drive along Otago Bay to Dunedin. After ten kilometers we noticed a sign for Wellers Rock. Since my last name is Weller, I could not overcome the desire to stop and investigate the origin of the name of this landmark. A rectangular plaque was embedded at the base of a large rounded rock next to the bay, and it stated, “1831 – 1931, THIS TABLET MARKS THE LANDING PLACE OF WELLER BROTHERS (WHALERS) WHO FOUNDED THE FIRST WHITE SETTLEMENT IN OTAKOU (OTAGO) IN 1831”. I eagerly snapped a photo, and I was shocked to learn that I had famous ancestors in New Zealand!

We continued on and returned to Dunedin. We changed into comfortable clothes for dinner and visited The Reef, a seafood restaurant four or five street numbers away from our hotel. Jane ordered a shellfish bowl, and I chose prawns. Oohs and ahs echoed about the dining room when my dinner arrived, with eight shrimp displaying heads and antennae. The large orange prawns were stacked on a metal skewer that dangled over my plate from an L-shaped hanger. It was a striking presentation. We savored our meals and reminisced about our wonderful day in Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula.


Complete with Beady Eyes, Legs and Antennae