New Zealand Day 8 – 01/25/2018

New Zealand Day 8 01/25/2018 Photo Album

Thursday was similar to Wednesday, as we completed a long drive on our way south on the coast highway from Greymouth to Haast. Before departing, however, Jane and I devoured a sumptuous breakfast in Greymouth at Maggies. We split a sultana scone and a yogurt parfait, and I complemented these items with some fresh brewed tea.


One of Many Swinging Bridges in New Zealand

Upon packing our bags, we hopped on the highway and drove to Hokitika Gorge. Brenda earmarked this attraction during her pre-trip research, and our hired driver from Nelson to St. Arnaud highlighted it as a “must see”. We arrived in the parking lot, and a relatively short thirty minute tramp delivered us to an overlook of the aqua blue Hokitika River. We crossed a swinging bridge and then climbed some rocks, until we were next to a huge pool in the river. We snapped an excessive number of photographs, and then we completed the return hike and advanced our itinerary to the cool small town of Hokitika.


Hokitika Jane

We parked near a statue in the center of town and immediately browsed a few shops before we headed to the beach. Quite a bit of driftwood art decorated the area right above the beach including sticks and logs connected together to spell out the name of the town. We continued our walk to several more streets with shops and found a great sandwich cafe, where we purchased sandwiches, chips, and iced tea. I struck up a conversation with the owner of the shop, and I learned that he lived in Denver, CO for five years and was a partner at the Curtis Park Deli. It is a small world after all.


Lake Mortenson Near Fox Glacier

We took our lunch back to the car and then walked to a picnic table outside the town swimming pool, where we consumed our goodies. After lunch we moved on to Lake Matheson, where we completed another short thirty minute round trip hike to a viewing platform along the northern edge of the lake. The surface of the lake was riffled, and the sky was overcast, and we were unable to see the reflection of Mt. Cook or Tasman Peak as described in the guidebook.


Glacial River Below Fox Glacier

Our next stop was the Fox Glacier. Originally we planned to view both the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier, but we were running short on time and chose the option that offered the shortest hike. A round trip tramp of forty minutes including a challenging climb enabled us to find another viewing platform, where we could see the edge of the glacier. The steep downhill descent back to the carpark was welcome, and another 120 kilometer drive brought us to the Heartland World Heritage Hotel in Haast. Despite its long name, it was short on amenities. Of course it lacked air conditioning, and only one small window opened on to a grassy area between the two wings. The oppressive heat forced us to open the door to the lawn, and this of course was an open invitation to the abundant swarms of mosquitoes and sand flies. Our next door neighbor began to blast Bollywood music from a boom box shortly before Jane and I attempted to go to sleep. Need I continue?


The Whole Scene

Haast is a tiny town, and due to our late arrival we elected to eat dinner at the Frontier Cafe, which was adjacent to the hotel. Our group was quite anxious to beat a path out of Haast as soon as possible in the morning.

New Zealand Day 7 – 01/24/2018

New Zealand Day 7 01/24/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday, January 24 was another travel day. We packed up the Hyandai minivan and drove from Motueka to Greymouth on the west coast. The initial portion of the route traced the same path as our fishing adventures near the Motueka River. Eventually, however, we turned on to Highway 6 and followed the Buller River all the way to Westport. The Buller Canyon and gorge were beautiful, and the river grew in volume before it made its final run from Westport to the ocean. It was admittedly difficult to refrain from fishing in such an attractive area. In addition to the main stem, we crossed over numerous tributaries that invited exploration. While we remained in cell phone range, I researched streams on, as we passed them. I was admittedly overwhelmed by the options available to a fly fisherman with more time to fish.


The Buller River along the Highway to Westport

We bypassed Westport and continued on 6 south along the coast to Punakaiki and Pancake Rocks. We paused here on our drive to Greymouth and hiked a short loop track, that enabled us to view the many uniquely shaped rocks and crashing breakers that draw tourists from all over the world.The west coast of the South Island was just as spectacular as the Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach.


The West Coast


So Many Pancakes

A short drive from Punakaiki took us to Greymouth, where we found the Kingsgate Hotel, that was reserved for Wednesday night. We checked in and instantly determined  that our room lacked air conditioning. We eventually discovered that this was normal, and the climate controlled comfort of the Equestrian Inn was the exception. In addition to the steamy situation in our sixth floor room, we found a puddle of water in the refrigerator, and we were unable to connect using the Wifi network. A call to the front desk resolved the Wifi and refrigerator problems, and a maintenance worker delivered one of the six fans in the Kingsgate’s inventory to room 1206. The fan proved to be a sleep saver.


Hidden Tidal Pool

Jane and I decided to take a stroll at 5:15, and we ended up at the Monteith Brewery, where we each quaffed a beer. Jane emailed Brenda, and John and Brenda joined us for a fine dinner. When Brenda researched her guidebook prior to our trip, she read about a New Zealand delicacy called whitebait. She spotted this item on the menu and made it her selection at the Monteith Brewery. After it arrived she swallowed two bites and then offered some to Jane. Before cutting a chunk from the pancake-like portion, Jane peered into the fried batter, and her stare was met by a pair of small beady eyes. Upon learning of Jane’s observation, Brenda pushed her whitebait aside and shared John’s dinner.




Wangapeka River (Day 6) – 01/23/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: Wangapeka River a mile or two upstream from our Sunday outing: Graham River (tributary of the Motueka River)

Wangapeka River (Day 6) 01/23/2018 Photo Album

I was preparing for a second day of guided fishing on Tuesday morning, when John knocked on the motel door and announced that he had a bad night and was seeking a doctor. This left me in a one on one situation with my guide, Steve, for a second day of guided fly fishing in New Zealand.

Steve arrived and picked me up a bit after 8AM, and we proceeded with the nearly one hour drive to the Wangapeka River. We visited the same river as Sunday, however, we stopped and prepared to fish a mile or two upstream from our previous location. Prior to the start of our fishing outing, however, Steve drove down a dirt lane to a farmhouse across from the river, and here he popped out of the SUV and knocked on the door. A young woman greeted Steve, and he asked for permission to fish. The daughter of the landowners of the farm called her parents and obtained clearance for us to spend the day on their property.


Back to the Crystal Clear Wangapeka

We proceeded to a farm lane and passed through three rope gates, until we parked in the shade next to a fence. I decided to wade wet on Tuesday with high temperatures projected in the low 80’s F. The weather forecast was accurate, and I was pleased to feel the coolness of the river throughout the day. Steve set up my rod, while I tugged on my wading socks and boots, and then we ambled along the fence line for quite a distance and then climbed to the other side and stumbled through an opening in the brush, until we reached the river. The river in this upper area seemed wider and more shallow than Monday, and consequently in my opinion it offered fewer quality holding spots.


Guide Steve Repeatedly Drank from the River

Between 10AM and 2:30PM we worked back and forth and covered mostly the water along the banks. Two sections of moderate riffles and pockets offered me the opportunity to blind cast a cicada, and I managed to hook two brown trout for a brief moment, before they escaped. Needless to say, I was frustrated by this turn of events, and I chastised my penchant for setting the hook too quickly. The prospecting involved long casts with a heavy spun deer hair cicada on a fifteen foot leader, and turning over this set up was a challenging experience.

I prospected the riffles by spraying long casts in an ever expanding arc, and then I made three steps forward and repeated the cycle. After missing the first two fish, Steve spotted a pair, and I dropped some decent casts near their position, but the fish displayed a lack of interest. My cast to a third sighted fish was short, but the brown trout heard the plop and moved three or four feet downstream to engulf the large terrestrial, at which point I set the hook and played the aggressive feeder for twenty seconds, before my fly pulled free.

A bit farther upstream along the left bank, I plopped the cicada three feet above and three feet to the right of a sighted fish, and just as Steve expected, it glided to the right and crunched the fly, and for the fourth time the hook sprung free after a brief connection. As one would expect, I was very upset with my fish hooking capability, but Steve reminded me that landing fish on a cicada is quite difficult.


Steve Spotted a Fish in This Area

At 1PM Steve climbed a high bank and spotted a trout holding in a depression. He swapped the cicada for a size sixteen nymph with long dangly legs, and I placed six or seven casts above the fish. Twice the indicator dipped, but I was now too slow on the set. Steve swapped the nymph for a different version, and on the eighth cast the indicator paused. I lifted quickly and felt myself connected to a bulldog of a brown trout. This brown loved to dive to the bottom and shake its head, and it immediately hugged a spot on the far side of a rock. This move aroused my fears that the hooked fighter wrapped me around a rock or ledge, and that yet another trophy was about to escape. I applied pressure and eventually coaxed my combatant out of its lair and then followed it downstream for sixty feet. The brown trout continued to dive and roll in short spurts, until I finally pressured it into Steve’s net. What a beautiful fish! There before me was a fat twenty-four inch brown with glistening light yellow sides and a dense array of dark black spots.


Heavyweight Sag

With this success behind me, we took a forty-five minute lunch break. After lunch we crossed to the side of the river where the car was parked, and we approached a nice section with numerous large white bedrocks on the bottom. Steve loved this place, because the white-tan bottom aided his efforts to sight fish. It was not long before he spotted a beauty hovering along the edge of a long white-tan bottom, and I waded into position quite a distance below. Before doing so Steve advised me to pick a landmark along the bank, so I could reorient my position relative to the fish, once I was in casting position. I began angling casts above and to the right of the sighted fish, and on the third drift after one fly change, the indicator dipped, and Steve shouted, “yep”. I lifted my rod and set the hook on another splendid Wangapeka brown.


Blue Rocks to the Left

This trout was a bit longer than the first, and I repeatedly exerted side pressure and moved it halfway to the bank, before it thrashed and moved back toward the center of the river. Eventually I pressured it across some shallow but faster moving water until it was fifteen feet below me, and at this point the fly popped free. It was so close that I could actually see the fly tucked in the edge of its lower lip. I made a perfect cast, set on a timely basis, and battled the trout for ten minutes; and I decided that this earned it a tick on my fish count. I was mildly disappointed with not landing the fish, but I was also quite pumped by the fish fighting diversion.

After this thrilling action we found a gap in the brush and straddled three fences before returning to the SUV. It was 2:30 by now. Once we maneuvered through the rope gates again, we drove back to the Motueka River and headed north until we turned left and navigated a dirt road along the Graham River. This stream was much smaller than the Wangapeka, and it presented a higher gradient. I liked the idea of sampling a smaller more intimate New Zealand river.


Steve Called This High Water

We parked and walked downstream along the road to a bridge and encountered a mother, daughter and two grandchildren swimming in the stream. Steve greeted the foursome and asked permission to pass upstream on the bank above the bridge. The mother and grandmother agreed, after Steve mentioned the owner’s name and cited previous permissions granted.

We hiked upstream until we reached a nice run, and here Steve spotted three fish…two on the left and one on the right. I targeted the closest on the left side, and after two fly changes and two misses, I connected with a fine chunky eighteen inch brown trout. I was fortunate to contain the muscular thrasher in the small pool, and Steve scooped it into his net to prevent any chance of escape.


Zoomed for A Better View

We moved on and bypassed quite a bit of fast high gradient water, before Steve sighted two more trout. Unfortunately I was unable to interest these two in my flies, and we once again climbed through an open area in the bushes to reach the road.

After hiking to Steve’s car we returned to a pullout closer to the Motueka confluence, and Steve hopped out to check a quality pool. After a few minutes he reappeared and asked if I was game for a steep descent and a shot at a nice fish. I could not refuse, so I cautiously followed him down a very steep bank. Sure enough a gorgeous pool appeared and after a bit of observation, I spotted a cruising brown trout. It hovered above some dangling branches that barely brushed the surface of the stream, and it periodically glided three feet to the right to heavier current and then returned to the slack water to the left.


Parachute Adams at the Top of Steve's Patch Did the Trick

Steve replaced the nymph that remained on my line with a size twelve parachute Adams. The scene was set, and I was admittedly feeling quite a bit of self imposed pressure. I carefully flicked a cast to the left edge of the current, but I could not see my fly, so I carefully picked up the fly and made another attempt to go above the dangling sticks and came up short of my intended target. Incredibly on the pick up I snagged the Adams to the tip of the lower branch. I handed my rod to Steve, and he yanked and snapped off the fly and replaced it with a size 14 parachute Adams. I was feeling about as low as I could and rued my ineptitude.

I mustered my concentration and flicked two side arm casts to the left and above the sticks. Nothing. I was certain that I blew this last opportunity to land a sizeable brown trout in a small stream. On the third cast I dropped the fly on the left current seam and amazingly the target moved and sipped the Adams! Steve shouted “yep”, I set the hook, and immediately I enjoyed a huge bend in my five weight. This fish was another dive, shake, and dog it brown trout, but eventually I guided it into the net. Whew! What a way to end my day. I reminded Steve of the broken off fly on the bare branch, and he waded over and recovered it.


Steve Cleaned the Lens

On Tuesday evening our traveling group walked to Cheekdon Thai Restaurant in Motueka for dinner. I savored the Thai basil and recalled my day of fly fishing. Goodbye Motueka.

Fish Landed: 4


New Zealand Day 5 – 01/22/2018

New Zealand Day 5 01/22/2018 Photo Album


The Upwelling Spring

Monday January 22 was a sightseeing day in New Zealand. Brenda recovered enough from her illness to join John, Jane and I for a trip to the Farewell Spit on the northern tip of the South Island. Our two hour drive from Motueka included a twisting, climbing section through some forested mountains. We stopped at Waikoropupu Springs and completed a short hike that circled two huge upwellings from a deep aquifer. The volume of water that rushed to the surface in two large pools created an instant river. The Pupa Springs pool is sacred to the Maori people, and visitors may not touch the water. We followed the outflow on our return hike through a dense rainforest that contained huge ferns and thick stands of moss covered trees. The entire circuit took place amidst steady rain and intermittent fog and mist.


A Very Wet Environment

We were pleased to reach the shelter of the minivan, and we proceeded north until we reached a turn that delivered us to a carpark next to a cafe and a small visitor center. We reviewed a large map on the wall and selected a loop route to explore the Farewell Spit, but the absence of detail prevented us from identifying a starting point that we were confident in. A returning hiker in the parking lot suggested that we move to another carpark closer to the start, so we accepted his advice and relocated downhill from the cafe. The steady rain that followed us for two hours from Motueka subsided, and the skies cleared, so we paused to apply sunscreen and insect repellent before we hit the trail or track, if one prefers the local dialect.


Jane Is All Smiles

We began hiking east on the Inner Ocean Track as it followed the shoreline of Golden Bay on the southern side of the spit. During this segment of our trek we spotted an abundance of waterfowl and raced a ray, as it flapped its wide wing-like fins and propelled itself parallel to the shoreline. After traveling east a good distance we cut across the narrow land mass on the appropriately named Spit Trail to the ocean beach side. We followed the Ocean Beach Track west toward Fossil Point, and then completed the loop through a Farmpark to the parking lot.


Near the Ocean Side of Our Tramp

The trail was muddy at spots as a result of the recent rain, but we managed to avoid wet feet. The beach segment was beautiful, and Jane could not resist the temptation to wade knee deep. We paused on some driftwood logs and munched our lunches before continuing to the turn off before Fossil Point. Once the sun broke through the clouds, it became very hot and humid, and these conditions prevailed, while we tramped over the grassy meadow, that was cropped short by the grazing sheep.


Strange Juxtaposition of Pasture and Beach

For our next stop we traveled west to Wharariki Beach. The travel guide suggested taking a horseback ride along the beach, but our time was running short, so Jane and I elected to complete a thirty minute roundtrip hike instead. John and Brenda decided to remain in the car and rest, since they were both recovering from illnesses.

When we stepped out of the minivan, we were stunned to see a huge bird lying on the ground in front of the right front tire. The bird carried a tuft of feathers on its narrow head, and Brenda quickly identified it as a female peacock. Sure enough upon closer examination a small chick appeared from beneath the adult’s feathers. Jane and I circled to the rear of the minivan and opened the hatch, and the peahen and chick followed us. I was about to reach in the back to grab my backpack, when the female suddenly lurched forward and snatched an insect from below the taillight. Jane instantly grew concerned that the aggressive hen would try to jump in the car, so I slammed the hatch shut and we shooed the crazy fowl and her baby away. This was a wildlife encounter not outlined in the guidebook!


A Mother Peacock and Baby by Our Minivan

The fifteen minute walk to the beach traversed pastures, bush and rolling sand dunes before we reached a wide strip of sand. The white beach was spectacular with several large rocks protruding from the surf. They were fifty yards beyond the edge of the dry sand, and they blocked the surging waves. Off to the right four or five individuals were body surfing and using belly boards in large angled waves. Jane and I ambled southeast until we encountered a pair of seals relaxing on the beach next to a rock wall. They seemed rather content in their sand and surf paradise.


Surfers of Every Sort


As Close As I Could Get

We found the trail that brought us to Wharariki Beach and returned to the car park, and then our foursome returned to Motueka. Our route took us past the Mussel Inn near Collingswood, and based on the recommendation of our trip advisor, Dave Glasscock, we made a stop. We all ordered craft beers and Proper Crisps, and then we relaxed in the shade of an outdoor covered patio.


The Mussel Inn for Brews and Proper Crisps

After a long day of sightseeing we returned to  Motueka by 7:30. A quick shower refreshed us, and then we strolled a couple blocks north to the Sprig & Fern Taphouse for dinner. Jane and I both enjoyed fish salads with grilled whitefish fillets over fresh greens and vegetables. A healthy meal was a fitting end to our active day on Farewell Spit.


Wangapeka River (New Zealand Day 4) – 01/21/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Above confluence with the Motueka River

Wangapeka River (New Zealand Day 4) Photo Album

Our guide, Steve Perry, picked us up at 8:15AM, and by the time we drove south and geared up and configured our rods, it was 10:00AM. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the temperature peaked in the eighties. The Wangapeka was high for this time of year and carried a tinge of color according to our guide Steve. It looked rather ideal to this uninitiated Colorado fly fisherman.


Amazing Clarity

Steve was an excellent guide, and he patiently worked with us throughout the day. I gauge his height to be 6′ 5″ or taller, and this physical attribute served him well, as he patiently scanned deep runs and riffles in his efforts to spot target trout. Steve is a huge proponent of long leaders, and he rigged John and I up with a nine foot tapered leader plus a three foot section of 4X followed by three feet of 5X thus yielding a cumulative length of fifteen feet. I rarely fish longer than twelve feet, so it took some time to acclimate to pausing for the long leader to straighten on backcasts.


I Hooked But Failed to Land My First Fish on the Cicada at the Edge of the Shadows

During the morning I hooked a fish on a long cast across the river to within ten feet of the opposite bank. Steve was working with John and suggested I cover the bottom of a long pool while they were engaged. A nose appeared and nipped the spun deer hair cicada, and when I raised the rod tip and set the hook, the fish shot downstream a short distance before my line went limp. The never seen fish parted the 5X section from the 4X leaving a short nub of curled line.


I Used This Cicada Fly Off and On

Before we quit for lunch, I experienced two additional rises to the cicada, but in both instances I could not restrain my impulse to set the hook, and I raised the rod too early. Steve suggested that I repeat “God bless America” before striking, since large trout tend to slowly swirl around before chomping a large fly like a cicada. When seeking one’s first New Zealand fish, this is easier said than done.


On Display


Typical Nymph Used in New Zealand

Finally thirty minutes before lunch Steve spotted a brown trout in a depression between two faster moving currents. He removed the cicada and rigged my rod with a small neon green poly yarn strike indicator, and below that he knotted a size 14 nymph similar to a pheasant tail. This change finally produced results. On an early upstream cast the indicator dipped, and I instinctively responded with a hook set and landed an eighteen inch brown trout. What a blast! New Zealand brown trout are invariably large and display a silver background color with a sparse array of spots. I admired my prize and celebrated with a hand shake with Steve. I was on the scoreboard and ready to pursue more South Island beauties.


My First New Zealand Landed Fish Was This Fine Brown Trout

We ate our lunches on a high bank in the shade next to a very deep run. After lunch we once again alternated fishing to sighted fish. Steve was very adamant about remaining behind him, keeping our rod tip down at all times while on the bank, and unhooking and stripping line before entering the water. He knew from experience the skittish nature of New Zealand South Island brown trout. It did not take long for me to buy into his philosophy.


Steve Again Spotting

Steve assisted us as we crossed the river several times to fish the bank away from the road. Our guide’s years of experience taught him which bank provided the best holding lies for wary Wangapeka brown trout. Steve’s impressive fish sighting skills earned me shots at five or six fish, but only one moved toward my nymph, and I set prematurely and pulled the fly away. Fisherman error once again foiled my bid for a second fish.

Two very attractive wide riffle sections seduced us into blind casting, and although I was certain these areas would deliver some splendid fish, they did not. Toward the end of the day Steve spotted two excellent fish along the left bank. He worked hard for my success and changed flies four times for each target, but despite some accurate casts, the fish showed no interest.


Solid Stretch

My first full day of fly fishing in New Zealand was amazing. Yes, I only landed one fish, but it was a muscular eighteen inch brown trout, and I had multiple shots at more fine trout. I acquired a vast amount of knowledge about casting long leaders, sight fishing, and approaching spooky sighted fish. It was a fine start to my New Zealand fly fishing adventure.

Fish Landed: 1



New Zealand Day 3 – 01/20/2018

New Zealand Day 3 01/20/2018 Photo Album

Saturday January 20, 2018 evolved into a spectacular summer day in the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand. John, Brenda, Jane and I once again visited Elaine’s Cafe across from the Alpine Lodge for a light breakfast. I could not get enough of the loose leaf fresh brewed tea. After breakfast we returned to our rooms and packed our bags and departed for Motueka, a small city along the Tasman Sea.

John drove the large Hyandai minivan while I navigated. We chose the route that followed the scenic Ruby Coast from Richmond to Motueka, and we stopped at Mapua and the Wharf District along the way. A short walk delivered us to some shops, where we browsed for a bit, and Jane purchased a bicycle trinket, that she plans to use as a zipper pull. The craft shop displayed a variety of metalworking art crafted from recycled odds and ends such as the locking lever on a bicycle tire hub that replicated the beak of a bird.


The Wharf in Mapua


The Golden Bear Brewpub in Mapua

Next we visited the dock that borders the inlet, and we were spectators to local kids, as they leaped into the rapidly moving incoming tide. The drop was roughly ten feet, but the young residents seemed immune to fear. From my position on the wharf I spotted the Golden Bear Brew Pub, so we wandered up to the counter and ordered lunch and beverages. Jane and I savored tacos and quenched our thirst with lemonade (7Up in New Zealand), while John sipped a lager. Brenda wandered over to the Smokehouse Cafe and picked up fish and chips and then joined us on the patio at the Golden Bear.


We Were Impressed by the Flower Wall at the Equestrian Motor Lodge

We vacated Mapua after lunch and continued a few additional kilometers to the Equestrian Motor Lodge in Motueka by 1:30PM. Allan, the owner/manager, checked us in by 2PM, and then I embarked on a forty minute run on the Intercoastal Walkway. Jane and Brenda overlapped with a shortened version in the form of a walk. The air temperature hovered at 29 C, which is quite warm, but it felt good compared to the winter temperatures we left behind in Colorado.

After our activities we drove to the New World Market and picked up breakfast and lunch goodies. Happy hour on the lawn outside our hotel was followed by dinner at Armadillos on High Street in Motueka. We looked forward to four nights and three more days in Motueka.

New Zealand Day 2 (Travers River) – 01/19/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 1:30PM

Location: Travers River above Lake Rotoiti

New Zealand Day 2 (Travers River) 01/19/2018 Photo Album

After a solid night’s rest in our new surroundings in St. Arnaud, New Zealand, Jane and I completed a walk to the car park on Lake Rotoiti. Steady overnight rain created lingering  low hanging clouds over the mountains surrounding the lake, and a large collection of puddles next to the car park provided new territory for the local ducks to explore. It was quite chilly in the early morning aftermath of the rainstorm, but we put our energy to productive use by reviewing a large sign with a map of the area. The billboard map highlighted several interesting tracks (hiking trails) in Nelson Lakes National Park near Lake Rotoiti. We also inspected the rates posted for the water taxi that departed from the dock near the car park.


Lake Rotoiti on Friday, January 19

On the way back to the lodge we stopped at Elaine’s Cafe across from the Alpine Lodge for breakfast. I devoured an apricot coffee cake along with a small cup of yogurt and washed it down with two delicious cups of English breakfast fresh brewed tea. New Zealand breakfasts were fast becoming a favorite.

After breakfast John, Brenda, Jane and I walked to the Nelson Lakes National Park Visitor Center. A very helpful young lady advised us on various hiking (tramping) options, and after much debate we settled on crossing the lake on the water taxi to the inlet and the Lakehead Hut. Instead of paying for a return ride on the boat, we elected to tramp along the Lake Shore Track. John purchased a fishing license from the man in the visitor center, and once the transaction was complete, I peppered the park ranger with questions about fly fishing in the area and more specifically the Travers River. He informed me that we needed a backcountry permit to fish the Travers River, and I could obtain one for free at the park office I was standing in.


We Returned for a Water Taxi Ride

Because of the recent heavy rain and the swollen nature of the streams that we crossed on our drive from Nelson to St. Arnaud, I was skeptical of the condition of the Travers River. The gentleman was persistent, however, and suggested that I should take my fishing gear and cast in the lake at the inlet of the Travers. He also mentioned that I was free to fish the river above the inlet for a stretch, before I reached the point where a trail crossed. Angling above the trail crossing required the backcountry permit that he alluded to earlier. His powers of persuasion were effective, and I resolved to wear my wet wading clothes and carry my fly fishing gear.


Creating a Wake

The four of us returned to the Alpine Lodge with a road map for the day, and I prepared to include some fishing time. We prepared lunches and reviewed our checklist of necessary hiking essentials, and then we returned to the car park and boarded the 10:30 water taxi. I struck up a conversation with a Swiss gentleman, who was also a passenger on the water taxi, since I noticed he carried a fly rod, fanny pack and net. He planned to fish upstream from the trail crossing, so I concluded we would not interfere with each other.


My Loves on Both Sides

I wore my hiking boots and hiking socks, but once we disembarked, I switched to wading socks and wading boots. After I assembled my Sage One five weight and strung my rod, Jane was kind enough to carry the rod case, hiking boots, and socks back to the Lakehead Hut to stash, while I fished. We agreed to meet back at the hut at 1:30, and this allotted me two hours to explore the Travers River and Lake Rotoiti. I was about to embark on my first New Zealand fishing adventure!

We snapped some photos with the spectacular backdrop of the Travers River valley, and then we said our goodbyes, and I followed a worn trail that angled across some tall brown grass to the river. The high temperature peaked at 75 F, but large clouds blocked the sun from time to time. To this uninitiated New Zealand fisherman, the conditions seemed nearly ideal. But what about the water level?

It did not take long to make the pleasant discovery that the river was crystal clear, but running higher than normal. Actually since I never fished here previously, I was not knowledgeable regarding normal, but most of the channel was covered, and the runs and riffles seemed to rush along at a fairly high velocity. I cautiously ambled back toward the lake in an effort to spot fish. My sources in the US who fished in New Zealand told me this was the key to success, and all the articles that I absorbed proposed the same sort of approach.


High and Clear After Substantial Rain

After what seemed like twenty minutes of futile fish spotting, I crossed a braid and began fishing upstream in the main channel. I only had two hours available, and I could no longer restrain myself from making some casts. I started my pursuit with a size ten Chernobyl ant, and after I covered a reasonable distance with no success, an older gentleman appeared, and he slowly approached me from the right bank. He informed me that a guide named Hannah and her client recently worked up the left side of the river, and he suggested that I cover the myriad of braids on the right. He seemed quite knowledgeable, and after more conversation I discovered why he made this impression. He was an agent with the Department of Conservation, and he asked to check my fishing license! I extracted it from my backpack, and he wrote my name and number in a small log book. My annual license was reviewed within my first hour of fishing in New Zealand!


Lots of Braided Areas

Once this official matter concluded, he advised me that I could fish up to a post along the left bank without a permit, and he pointed it out from our position downstream. I was relieved to hear this, as I was harboring some doubts that the man at the park office misinformed me. The DOC officer then kindly went above and beyond and implied that I should sample a nice pool a bit beyond the post. He casually commented, “I already checked your license, and I am walking the other way.” He even inspected my fly and offered that it should work, and then he went on to mention, that he spotted a couple very nice fish, as he walked the bank and warned me not to overlook shallow spots.

My optimism soared as he departed, and I worked my way through the braided area with elevated concentration. In spite of some long expert casts and superb drag free drifts, I never saw a fish in the quality braided section. I continued to some nice pools above a deadfall in the permit area since my friend promised to look the other way, but I could not spot a fish nor could I entice one to the surface with my foam ant. Next I reversed my direction and hiked downstream toward the lake, until I was beyond my initial starting point.

I added a salvation nymph dropper to my set up for the last thirty minutes, but this move was also to no avail. At 1:15PM I stumbled in some shallow water next to the bank and fell forward and completely soaked my slacks, shirt and front pack. Fortunately I was wading wet, and the air temperature was comfortable. With this embarrassing pratfall behind me, I returned to the hut and met Brenda and Jane.

After a brief snack the three of us hiked for three hours and thirty minutes along the lake on a intermittently muddy trail including quite a few dicey small stream crossings. I changed back into my hiking boots for this section of our adventure, but near the beginning both feet slid sideways on a pair of angled roots, and I once again greeted the earth with a thud. I now displayed a large bruise on my shin and created a severe bend in my trekking pole/wading staff.

As we moved along we noted many trees that displayed a dark black bark, and in many cases the bark attracted a significant quantity of wasps. The same trees also presented small yellow rectangular boxes or pink or yellow plastic triangles. Later on our trip I asked my fishing guide what these observations were all about. The explanation is quite interesting. The black bark is called sooty mould, and it exists on beech trees. Scale insects reside in the tree bark and suck sap and excrete a honeydew substance. The sooty mold fungi grow on the waste honeydew that runs down the trunk of the tree. The honeydew is a source of food for many native New Zealand birds, but it is also popular with non-native European wasps. New Zealand wildlife officials are concerned that the depletion of honeydew may affect the native bird population, so the yellow box and triangles are traps aimed at reducing the wasp colonies. It is amazing how a few observations lead to a new realm of knowledge.


This Area Was Very Green

Eventually after a steamy return hike through the rainforest, we returned to the car park and then the Alpine Lodge. For dinner on Friday Jane and I chose to cross the street to a takeaway (takeout) fish and chips establishment. Our food arrived wrapped in several layers of newspaper, and heat radiated from the newsprint surface. We carried our meals to an outdoor patio table by our room. Jane opened her packet first, and initially she assumed that the chips were in one bundle, and the fish were in the other. Eventually we determined that the fish was buried underneath a thick layer of french fries. The meal was quite good, but we concluded that one scoop of fries exceeded our stomach capacity.

Fish Landed: 0

New Zealand Day 1 – 01/18/2018

New Zealand Day 1 01/18/2018 Photo Album

Ever since I began fly fishing in my early thirties I dreamed of traveling to New Zealand, and on January 16, 2018 Jane and I made our dream a reality, as we stepped on to an American Airlines flight at Denver International Airport. We departed at 1PM and landed in Los Angeles LAX a few hours later. At LAX we found gate 41, where our American Airlines flight 83 departed at 11PM for Auckland, NZ. The reality of our next three weeks had not penetrated our beings at this time.

The flight from LAX to Auckland was uneventful, yet it would be an overstatement to describe it as fun or comfortable. Twelve and a half hours in a cramped coach seat is taxing regardless of how hard one tries to soften the experience. Jane and I bought neck cushions, and Jane sewed sleeping goggles, and we both took some over the counter drugs to induce sleep, but slumbering while sitting nearly upright with no leg room is not natural. I cannot imagine being a taller person in these circumstances.

Somehow we coped and touched down in Auckland at 9:30 on Thursday, January 18. The time difference of Auckland compared to Los Angeles is twenty-one hours, and our flight time was twelve hours. We actually skipped January 17 in our effort to reach New Zealand. Upon our arrival at the Auckland Airport we waited an hour for our luggage to appear, and another hour transpired while we passed through customs. Based on reports from other New Zealand fishing travelers; I scrubbed my waders, wading boots, and net thoroughly, but the customs check turned out to be a nonevent.

Next we navigated ourselves and our luggage to the Air New Zealand domestic terminal for our flight to Nelson on the northern end of the south island. We decided to eat lunch while we waited for our flight, and I ordered a BAP and a yogurt parfait. The BAP turned out to be similar to a breakfast sandwich. Another item to be removed from our checklist was purchasing Skinny mobile SIM cards for our phones. I ducked into an airport shop next to the lunch cafe, and I purchased two Skinny mobile SIM cards for $2 NZ each. We activated the two cards, and then we topped off and purchased a one month combo package which provided 2.5 GB of data per person. The process took longer than necessary, because I had no idea what topping off was. The customer service representative eventually explained that it was simply a pre-payment or deposit that would then be applied to the cost of the combo plan. For some reason top off to me connoted adding more data on to the amount included in the combo plan, but eventually the terminology became clear. We were also clueless about how to determine our new phone numbers, but after another call to the customer service group, we solved that riddle as well.

After a short flight to Nelson our hired driver picked us up and transported us to St. Arnaud on Lake Roto-iti, where we checked into the Alpine Lodge. Our traveling companions, John and Brenda, arrived ten minutes before us in the shared rental minivan, that they picked up three days earlier. Brenda and John arrived five days before us, so they could spend a couple days in Auckland and a few days in Nelson and Blenheim, an area famous for its vineyards.


Finally in New Zealand


Longfin Eels by the Dock Waiting for Handouts

In order to convince ourselves that we were really in New Zealand; Jane, Brenda and I walked to the lake. We marveled at the beauty before us, and then we strolled over to the dock. As we gazed into the clear water below us, we were surprised to see a school of large eels slowly swimming about in the graceful undulating manner of the snake-like species. Brenda earlier mentioned reading about the presence of eels, but I was quite shocked to encounter them this early in our New Zealand south island adventure. When we returned to our room, I used the wifi network to do some research, and I discovered that the species observed are named longfin eels. They live as long as eighty to one hundred years, and at the end of their lives they migrate to the Pacific Ocean, where they spawn and die. I can only guess that tourists frequently feed them, thus their presence next to the dock.

After our eel viewing session we returned to the lodge and quaffed craft beers while watching the Denver Nuggets lose to the Los Angeles Clippers. The world has indeed become a small place. Once the game ended we adjourned to the dining room and savored excellent meals. I was quite pleased with my lamb shank with mashed potatoes and lamb gravy.


An APA by Sprig and Fern

I developed a new friendship with the tour guide of Mauger Tours, as he watched the Nuggets along with the rest of us Americans. The tour guide informed me that he is an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, since Steven Adams, their center, is a native of New Zealand. The northern section of the south island received considerable rain in recent days, and it continued during our drive from Nelson and overnight. Many of the small streams we crossed during our trip were obviously bloated and discolored. I nervously looked forward to our first guided fishing date of January 21.

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 01/15/2018

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 01/15/2018 Photo Album

Yesterday I finished tying my twentieth Jake’s gulp beetle, and this action advanced my supply to thirty-five. My 10/22/2015 post provides a nice description of my introduction to this fly as well as excellent step by step tying directions. I no longer create notches as outlined in steps 10 and 11, and the effectiveness of the fly does not seem to be compromised.


A Beginning

What can I say about this fly? Since my introduction on the Elk River in British Columbia, it secured a position as one of my most productive dry flies. If a large terrestrial such as a fat Albert or Chernobyl ant generates a plethora of refusals, the next fly out of my box is a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. In 2015 I tied size 10’s and versions with red and purple bodies, but experience taught me that an ample supply of size 12’s with a Ligas peacock dubbed body are more than adequate. On rare occasions during 2017 even the size 12 beetle proved to be too large for Colorado trout, and my next step down was a parachute black ant. Quite often this proved to be the answer, but I am also quite bullish on the hippy stomper, and I will assuredly insert that in my terrestrial downsizing progression.


Twenty Completed Beetles

South Boulder Creek trout seem to relish Jake’s gulp beetle more than trout in any other Front Range stream. 09/19/2017 was an example of trout repeatedly crushing the foam beetle for several hours. 09/21/2017 was a similar experience, although early refusals caused me to switch to an ant. The improved visibility of Jake’s gulp beetle caused me to give it a second chance, and the move rewarded me with a span of hot action. A superb day on South Boulder Creek on 10/17/2017 reminded me that change is a constant in fly fishing. For some reason Jake’s gulp beetle was not in favor; however, a size 18 black parachute ant set the world on fire.


Necessary Tying Materials

Overall Jake’s gulp beetle continued to attract significant interest from western trout, and I continue to view it as one of my top five dry flies. It is very buoyant and highly visible and catches fish. That combination earns high praise from this fly fisherman.

Hippy Stomper – 01/13/2018

Hippy Stomper 01/13/2018 Photo Album

My introduction to the hippy stomper fly occurred, when I purchased one as part of a five fly terrestrial splurge at the fly shop in Viroqua, WI in the Driftless Area. It contained a silver body with a white under wing, and at the time I was not aware that it was more of an attractor than a terrestrial. I never tested the novel foam pattern in the Driftless Region, and it rested in my fly box for most of the summer. Meanwhile I found a red body version, when I snagged my fly on a tree branch along South Boulder Creek or Boulder Creek. This also resided in my fly box for most of the summer without seeing any time on my tippet.


Bright Red Underside on This Fly

During a fishing trip to South Boulder Creek on 09/19/2017 the fish rejected my usually effective Jake’s gulp beetle, and for some reason I tied the store bought silver hippy stomper to my line. Much to my amazement the flashy attractor immediately delivered four spunky wild trout to my net. This experience impressed me and established the hippy stomper as a potential option in my foam attractor arsenal.


First Ever Hippy Stomper

I resorted to the red hippy stomper on a 11/22/2017 venture with my son on South Boulder Creek, and it once again surprised me with some modest effectiveness near the end of our day. My growing faith in the size 12 foam fly with odd appendages caused me to deploy the red version on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek on 11/27/2017, and it once again opened my eyes, when it yielded two trout. I was essentially utilizing it as a medium sized indicator, so attracting two fish was a pleasant bonus. On a 11/16/2017 visit to Boulder Creek within the city of Boulder, the silver hippy stomper provided another glimpse of its potential, when it attracted a wild brown trout to my fly.


Cork Perch

Why am I highlighting all these fishing outings when the hippy stomper accounted for a few fish? The attentive reader will note that most of the days when the hippy stomper shined were late in the season, when trout rarely seek their meals on the surface. Aggressive surface rises to the hippy stomper in late November certainly gained my attention, and I look forward to testing it when trout are focused on a diet of terrestrials and stoneflies during warmer temperatures.

Another aspect of the hippy stomper that excites me is its size. I tie them on a standard size 12 hook using 1mm and .5mm foam strips. The size of the hippy stomper strikes a nice midpoint between a size 10 Chernobyl ant and and a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The hippy stomper and beetle are both size 12, but the thin foam and more slender profile of the hippy stomper allow it to accommodate a soft landing and thus a smaller impact when casting. I often encounter refusals to the Chernobyl ant, and this initiates a series of downsizing fly changes until I discover a terrestrial that is acceptable to the native trout. The hippy stomper option provides another step in the downsizing process between a Jake’s gulp beetle and a size 18 parachute ant.


Three Colors

I was sold on the allure of the hippy stomper, so I searched online for tying instructions and found several YouTube videos that demonstrated the tying steps. I purchased some 1mm and .5mm sheets of various colors of foam, and I replicated the process demonstrated in the videos. After several productive days I loaded my fly box with twenty-five hippy stompers displaying various color combinations. I reproduced ten red and five silver models, and then I strayed from the proven and tied five with Ligas peacock dubbed bodies and five with peacock ice dub bodies. These bodies complemented a medium olive foam under layer. The peacock body is my most productive style of beetle, so I am anxious to determine if the same will be true in the hippy stomper genre.


Hippy Stomper Invasion