Monthly Archives: January 2018

Diamond River (Day 14) – 01/31/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Diamond River

Diamond River (Day 14) 01/31/2018 Photo Album

A Morning Rainbow in Glenorchy

Gale force winds greeted us on Wednesday morning in Glenorchy. At one point I stepped outside and marveled at a huge rainbow in the southern sky, so I returned to the room and snatched my camera for a couple photos. The change in weather was welcome after the last week of intensely hot weather, but wind is a four letter word for fly fishermen. My guide on Tuesday, Nick, suggested that I return to the Diamond River on Wednesday and even showed me the best section and productive techniques. When I heard the rushing air on Wednesday morning, I decided to take my time, and for this reason Jane and I did not reach the carpark until 10:25.

Jane Captured My Cast Nicely

Jane brought her book and beach towel, and we tramped for thirty minutes, until I reached the lower end of the section suggested by Nick. The wind was already in a blustering state, but I spotted a couple sporadic rises, so I unhooked my blow fly and began to cast. In the middle of the stream I noticed a decent brown trout, as it darted to the surface and snatched some form of unidentifiable food. I executed quite a few drifts over this area between frustrating gusts of wind, but I was unable to interest the sighted fish in another meal.

Ready for Action

As this scenario was playing out, I observed a couple splashy rises ten feet out from the opposite bank. I responded and moved upstream, until I was above the last rise, and I began shooting casts toward the far shore. With each cast I extended the drift ten feet. I also adopted the ploy suggested by Nick of walking downstream at the same pace as the fly to avoid drag, and then allowed the blow fly to swing across the river, until it was below me. Finally I extended the rod over the water and stripped line to bring the fly back toward me, and then I allowed the fly to drift downstream along the near bank, while I wiggled my rod tip and fed line. The entire process enabled me to prospect for bank dwellers on both sides of the river with relatively long drag free drifts.

Quite a Bend

I repeated this sequence three times, and on the fourth circuit a fish slashed at the dry fly, as it began to drag across the river. This elevated my optimism, since my fly was attracting interest, and it identified the location of a trout. Another cast and drift was ignored, but on the following effort after a long twelve foot drift, a nose emerged, and a fish chomped on the fly. I responded with a swift hook set, and a combative brown trout responded with a noble battle. I was forced to slide down the bank, where a tiny side creek entered the river in order to be in a solid position to fight and net the brawler on the end of my leader. I applied side pressure and guided the brown just below me, and then it made several attempts to dive into some thick aquatic moss. I was having none of it and managed to leverage it into my undersized net. The curled fish in front of me was heavy and in the eighteen inch range. While this episode was unfolding, Jane snapped some photos and video clips. What a thrill! I landed my first quality New Zealand trout without the assistance of a guide.

Best Fish Landed Without a Guide

A Bigger Smile

After this bit of fun, Jane and I moved upstream at a slow pace, as I scanned the river for additional surface feeding activity. The constant wind made spotting rises and fish quite a challenge. I stopped a couple times in quality segments to employ the Nick Clark cycle method, but I never observed another rise. The ferocity of the wind accelerated, so we decided to move directly to the lake. Nick suggested that I should not underestimate the lake, as quite a few large trout cruised the shoreline looking for food.

Wildflowers by the Lake

Whitecaps greeted us at the outlet from the lake, and I quickly abandoned any thoughts of fishing. We sat in the midst of some small yellow wildflowers and snacked, while we admired the spectacular scenery.

Showing the Photographer

On the return hike I stopped at two locations and blasted some casts toward the far bank. After the wind generated a discouraging tangle, I replaced the blow fly with a Jake’s gulp beetle. On a downstream drift ten feet out from the bank that I was standing on, a small brown trout elevated and nosed the terrestrial. Two casts later I drifted the beetle through the same area, and the eleven inch brown crushed it. Catching a fish on a fly I tied was my last action on Wednesday, as the wind raged with utter fierceness. In fact when we returned to the Bold Peak Lodge later in the afternoon, we discovered that there was a “power cut” (outage), because some trees between Queenstown and Glenorchy were blown down on power lines.

Creaky Dock at Kinloch Lodge

After we stowed our gear in the van, we drove farther around the lake to Kinloch. The Kinloch Lodge was recommended by our New Zealand travel advisor, but we were unable to secure a booking because vacancies were not available on the dates we stayed in the area. We wanted to see what we were missing. The lodge rested on a hill overlooking Lake Wakatipu, and it appeared to be a charming and well maintained establishment. It was obviously a step up from the Bold Peak Lodge, but Jane and I were not exceptionally disappointed.

Fish Landed: 2



Diamond River (Day 13) – 01/30/2018

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Thirty minutes from the carpark.

Diamond River (Day 13) 01/30/2018 Photo Album

After we departed from the Routeburn River, Nick headed back toward Glenorchy to the Diamond River carpark. Nick described the Diamond as a spring creek, and it did in fact display spring creek characteristics. It flowed consistently between high banks, and thick aquatic vegetation lined the riverbed. The water projected a deep green color similar to the Pennsylvania spring creeks that I grew up near rather than the blue aqua shade of other New Zealand streams such as the just vacated Routeburn.

Attractive Deep Run

While I fished sporadically during the remaining two hours of my guided fishing day, Nick was mainly preparing me for a solo trip on Wednesday. He told me that under more advantageous conditions, fish rose frequently and consequently were fairly easy to spot. On Tuesday late afternoon, however, the wind was brutal, the air temperature was oppressive, and six fishermen had just pounded the area. We knew this because we passed them on their way back to the carpark.

Diamond River Is a Jewel

Nick demonstrated how to cast across the stream to the opposite bank and then walk downstream with the pace of the current to enable a long drag free drift. This step was followed by a surface swing, and then he walked back upstream while extending the rod out over the stream as far as possible. The last tactic was to feed out line to create a nice downstream presentation along the bank. It was readily obvious to me that this cycle created several long drag free drifts along each bank, and typically those areas are the home of large brown trout. I was sold. I practiced this technique a few times and managed a refusal over a light colored shelf on one circuit.

Ready to Catch Some Fish

Within the last thirty minutes I shot some long casts to the far bank, and as I shuffled through the grass, the fly drifted fifteen feet when a large mouth appeared. I paused, and just as Nick shouted “set”, I reacted and felt the momentary weight of the hook catching the lip of a decent fish. Alas that was the best I could on the Diamond River, but the two hours whet my appetite for a return visit on Wednesday.

Routeburn River (Day 13) – 01/30/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Routeburn River

Routeburn River (Day 13) 01/30/2018 Photo Album

I scheduled a solo day of guided fishing out of Glenorchy on Tuesday, January 30. My left eye was once again sealed shut when I woke up in the morning; however, I began using the antibiotic drops that Brenda procured for her eye, and the medication seemed to show signs of effectiveness. I was not feeling great, but I swallowed the prescribed dose of cold medicine and stuffed more in my pocket for later in the day. I was not about to let a cold ruin a day of guided fly fishing in the Southland Region of New Zealand.

My Guide’s Fly Box

My guide, Nick Clark, picked me up at 7:30 at the Bold Peak Lodge. Tuesday developed into another very hot day with the high around 30 degrees C. We drove a short distance and began our fishing adventure on the Routeburn River. I waded wet, and throughout the day I was quite pleased with my decision. I began fishing in a section of the river that was characterized by fast water with many pockets, deep runs, and short pools. Nick set me up with an irresistible, and I began prospecting the likely spots. Tuesday on the Routeburn was my closest New Zealand experience to my favored style of Colorado fishing. The water was very similar to Colorado high gradient streams, and Nick actually commended my casting, pace, and ability to keep the line off the water to prevent drag. It was confidence boosting to receive positive feedback on my casting compared to suggestions for improvement.

Absolutely Stunning Water

In the early going I landed two rainbow trout in the eleven inch range on the irresistible. While I was blind casting to likely holding positions, Nick scanned the water ahead and spotted larger trout, and this supplemented my style with some exciting sight fishing. One of the first such encounters with a larger fish resulted in a refusal. I lifted the rod quickly and flicked a cast to the left, although Nick actually implored me to strip the line in for a fly change. I instinctively tossed the cast before I heard his command, and I never saw my fly, but Nick followed it and saw a fish eat. He shouted “set”, and I reacted quickly, but the fly came hurtling back toward us. I was disappointed by this sequence, but nevertheless exhilarated by the short jolt of action.

We Began with an Irresistible

For a few of the football shaped dark spots sighted, Nick changed the top fly to a Goddard caddis and then later a parachute Adams. He also experimented with a pheasant tail nymph dropper, but these moves failed to deliver results. We concluded that the big boys were extra moody and quite skittish.

At one point the parachute Adams got snagged on an overhanging rock, and Nick instructed me to break it off. I did so, and as he searched his box for a replacement, I asked if we could try one of the hippy stompers I recently tied. Nick was game to try something new, so he knotted one with a peacock dubbed body to my line. The change paid off somewhat, as I landed two small rainbows in short order. My confidence in the hippy stomper temporarily elevated, but after fifteen minutes of prospecting some delightful fast areas with no interest from the trout, we reverted to the irresistible.

So Clear

The next sequence was the highlight of my day. A nice deep wide run flowed along a large bank side rock that displayed a white high water mark stripe along the top edge. As we moved closer, Nick and I simultaneously spotted a solid rise within a couple feet of the opposite bank toward the tail of the run. I positioned myself slightly above and across from the scene of the rise, and I began to shoot casts increasingly closer to the far bank. As I was doing this, the target fish came into view, and we could both identify it as a tantalizing large rainbow. On the fifth cast I placed the irresistible within two feet of the rock with the stripe, and it slid downstream along the base of the rock wall with no response.

Lovely Pink Stripe

I extended another cast to within a foot of the rock, and unlike the previous cast I allowed the fly to dead drift to the very lip of the run. Just before the dry fly was due to drag next to an exposed boulder, a mouth appeared, and it crushed the spun deer hair attractor. Nick shouted “set”, and I reacted simultaneously with his instruction. Now the fight was on. Initially the rainbow shot upstream, and I managed to apply side pressure and brought it to a position twenty-five feet directly above me. But then the resisting trout had other thoughts. It made four successive runs downstream, and I recklessly followed over slippery boulders and rocks while applying side pressure. I was reenacting scenes that I witnessed on Instagram. In a last ditch effort the trout raced into some fairly fast pocket water and stopped next to a large exposed boulder closer to the opposite bank. I lifted my rod high above my head and waded to the middle of the river and coaxed the recalcitrant fish between two rocks and then added side pressure and brought it to the bank below me, where Nick scooped it. High fives broke out, and I admired a New Zealand rainbow trout in excess of twenty inches.

Big Shoulders

We continued our upstream progression, and I added another ten inch rainbow and a twelve inch brown to the fish count. Both of these fish showed a preference for the irresistible. We stopped for lunch at 12:30PM, and after a forty-five minute snack, we resumed the upstream dry fly prospecting. The quality of the water declined, and the temperature rose, so we decided to return to the car in order to move to another stream at 2:30.

Fish Landed: 7


New Zealand Day 12 – 01/29/2018

New Zealand Day 12 01/29/2018 Photo Album

Monday morning I woke up with my left eye sealed shut from the cold I recently acquired. The eye remained an issue throughout the day, so I purchased some eye drops in Queenstown. We packed up and departed Wanaka by 9AM, and this enabled us to reach Queenstown by 10:30AM. In the morning after our arrival Jane and I browsed some shops and purchased gifts for the kids and their significant others.

When we planned our trip to New Zealand, we read that Queenstown was the bustling hub of the Southland Region, and a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. We decided to bypass the touristy town and stay in Glenorchy, a small town near the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu. We did not, however, wish to skip the Queenstown experience entirely, so Monday was our day to gauge whether the tour books were accurate or not.

Hang Gliding Over Lake Wakatipu

As we walked into Queenstown along Beach Street, I attempted to capture a quick video clip of a paraglider, and my camera displayed a message stating that the micro card was full. I instantly overreacted and went into panic mode, since nearly half our New Zealand trip remained. I was not about to complete the rest of our bucket list vacation without the ability to take photos and movies. Once we reached the business district, we stopped at a tour guide service, and the young lady behind the counter directed us to a camera shop. A short three block walk brought us to the store, and I purchased a 16 GB micro card. This represented eight times the capacity of the card that I maxed out, so I was satisfied that I possessed adequate storage for the remainder of the trip.

Our traveling companions, the Prices, took the gondola ride that was anchored in town near the central shopping district, while Jane and I found a Vietnamese restaurant and slurped down bowls of pho. Needless to say the Asian soup felt wonderful on my burgeoning sore throat.

Jane Pauses Next to a Wall Near Our Turnaround

After lunch we hired bikes at Cardrona Bicylces for half a day. At the outset we inched our way through the busy city to the Queenstown waterfront pathway, and then we cycled for 45 minutes to Frankton, which was near the outlet of Lake Wakatipu. We crossed the outlet and continued for a short distance toward the Kelvin Peninsula, but by then our allotted outbound time expired, and we were feeling the effects of the heat, so we reversed our direction and returned.

Swimmers Enjoy the Cool Water on a Hot Summer Day in January

With our cycling exercise behind us we strolled back to the van and met the Prices, who were watching a shark-shaped speed boat navigate the harbor. The small vessel periodically disappeared below the surface of the lake and then launched four or five feet in the air before crashing back with a huge splash. I’m sure this was an exciting ride for the thrill seeking tourists. We were about to depart, when hydro man appeared!

This insane individual had jet packs attached to his feet and a long hose connected to a pump that was mounted on the rear of a large personal watercraft. He dazzled the beach spectators with an array of flips, dives and tumbles. Our jaws dropped with this never before seen display of water sport athleticism. Hydro man was the highlight of our day on January 29 in Queenstown.

I Dubbed This Guy Hydroman

Finally with the end of the free entertainment we drove another forty-five minutes to Glenorchy, where we checked into the Bold Peak Lodge. Our first assigned room was a sauna bath above a noisy bar, so we mildly complained to the manager, and he moved us to a smaller unit on the shady east side of the building away from the bar. We unpacked our bags, and then visited the Bold Peak Cafe (the source of the noise) for passable pub fare.

New Zealand Day 11 – 01/28/2018

New Zealand Day 11 01/28/2018 Photo Album

Sunday in Wanaka was a bit of a rest and relaxation break for Dave; whereas, Jane accepted the challenge of kayaking the Clutha River. She signed up for guided kayaking in the lake the previous day, so she was surprised when the truck and kayak trailer stopped to unload along the Clutha. I suspect that she was the only customer for the lake option, and the kayak touring company combined her with another couple from the U.S. to avoid paying two guides and two drivers. It all worked out, and Jane smiled from ear to ear, when she returned, as she described her exploits on moving water.

A Sunday Morning Stand Up Paddle Boarder and Loyal Friend on Lake Wanaka

I, meanwhile, came down with a cold, so after a tasty breakfast at the Wanaka Springs Lodge, Jane and I completed a one hour stroll along the lakefront, and on the return we stopped at the Mt. Aspiring Pharmacy. I searched for and found the closest New Zealand equivalent to Dayquil and Nyquil and eagerly made the purchase. I popped a pair of cold pills and spent the remainder of the morning organizing and deleting photos, since my phone was displaying warnings about the lack of storage space.

After lunch I saw Jane off on her kayak venture, and then I enjoyed a two hour nap in our mildly warm room. Jane returned at 5PM and after showers, we walked downtown and consumed an excellent dinner at The Spice Room. I tried a new dish called biryani comprised of basmati rice and lamb, and I was more than satisfied.

Waitaki River (Day 10) – 01/27/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below several dams

Waitaki River (Day 10) 01/27/2018 Photo Album

Originally John and I were scheduled to float fish the Clutha River on Saturday, January 27 with our guide Greg, but he contacted us one day prior and offered another destination that was a longer drive, but offered the likelihood of more and larger trout. John and I conferred and elected the longer drive scenario. The extra 1.5 hour travel time translated to an earlier departure, and Greg gathered us and our gear at 7AM at the Wanaka Springs Lodge.

Our Starting Point with Guide Greg on January 27

After an uneventful drive we arrived at a location below an upstream dam, and Greg unloaded the inflatable raft and then shuttled the SUV and trailer to the take out point. John and I fished below a bridge, while Greg rode his dirt bike back to the launch point. The air temperature spiked in the 90’s, but I never felt overheated. We stopped frequently along our route and climbed out of the raft to wade fish, and since I was wearing my wet wading garb, I was continually refreshed by the cool river water.

At each wading location Greg set John and I up in likely fish holding spots. He spotted fish and coached one of us, while the other client was encouraged to fish independently. We enjoyed a fun day, as Greg provided numerous opportunities for us to cast over large sighted fish. Most of our approaches required long accurate casts, and the afternoon wind increased the challenge of this endeavor.

The first fish that I hooked was a rainbow trout that stripped line from the reel at an outrageous pace. This incident was the first in my fly fishing life, where the fish completely unraveled the fly line, so that all that was left on my reel was backing. Much to my chagrin the nymph eventually popped free in heavy water downstream, and I invested a significant amount of time winding the line back on the reel. Greg suggested  that there was not much I could do about the situation, since the rainbow immediately bolted for the fast heavy chute next to the place where it was hooked. Nevertheless I was disappointed to miss an opportunity to land a powerful New Zealand rainbow trout.

A bit after this episode I fished a hares ear nymph without an indicator, and as the fly began to swing at the end of the drift, I felt a heavy throbbing weight. Fortunately for me this fish essentially hooked itself, and I battled the angry river resident for ten minutes, but after several powerful moves, I guided it into Greg’s net. Greg estimated the brown trout to be 26 inches, and this represented a personal best brown trout by two inches.

My First Fish of the Day and Personal Record

After lunch I hooked another nice trout on a blow fly, but it raced down the river at a frightful pace. I followed it as best I could, but then it suddenly stopped, and I managed to regain a bit of line. Suddenly the brown resumed its downstream streak, and I could tell that the powerful fish succeeded in wrapping the leader around its body. It was not long, before the combination of the downstream move and the wrapped line caused the blow fly to break free. I chastised myself for the one out of three landing performance, and we moved on.

Greg and John by the Raft

The drift continued, and Greg spotted two fish in close proximity to each other. I hurled ten casts to the large visible upper shadow, and eventually it spooked, but I continued to pursue the downstream trout with additional casts. On the third toss the remaining visible fish crushed the blow fly. The fight was on, and again after several spurts and deep dives accompanied by head shaking, I guided the heavy fish over Greg’s net. I experienced another South Island thrill, and I smiled, as I examined a 24 inch gem.

Not As Large as Number One, but Much Appreciated

During the course of the day we drifted a short distance, since we stopped to wade fish most of the time. Near the takeout Greg pulled the raft on an island, and he and I waded upstream and began chucking a sink tip line with a black woolly bugger. In a deep trough where the river dropped off a gravel ledge, I made a long drift and then stripped the streamer perpendicular to the shelf. I felt a bump and made another strip, and then a stronger grab transferred through the line. It was at this moment that I made the mistake of stripping again, and the fish and my line separated. My streamer instructors at Montana Fly Company taught me to continue stripping and to not set the hook, but in this case the second grab indicated that the fish was already on my line. I expected a stronger hit from the large aggressive fish, but I suspect the depth of the water and the fairly strong current offset some of the energy transfer. Given the deep trough and the faster run, Greg was certain that my lost trout was a rainbow.

The Blue Water Looked Like a Quality Spot

Saturday was a fun day on a different type of water in New Zealand. I liked the sprawling tailwater that featured numerous braids with riffles and runs of moderate depth. Once again I was amazed by the ability of New Zealand guides to spot fish from a distance. Greg offered me numerous opportunities to connect with large wild trout, and unfortunately I broke off two fish, failed to land another hooked fish, and spooked several through a lack of accurate casting.

Upon our return to Wanaka, Jane and I dined at Speight’s Ales House. The town was quite active with numerous patrons dining al fresco on a warm Saturday night.

Fish Landed: 2

New Zealand Day 9 – 01/26/2018

New Zealand Day 9 01/26/2018 Photo Album

Friday began at the Heartland World Heritage Hotel in Haast. As mentioned in the previous post, we survived loud Bollywood music and a room infested with sand flies and mosquitoes. Amazingly lodging that provides air conditioning is not a given in New Zealand, and the Heartless did not offer that amenity. Needless to say it was a steamy night.

We stopped in Haast at the breakfast takeaway, where we chowed down on a scone with black tea, and I purchased a yogurt for the road. We met three young gentlemen using the Wifi on the adjacent deck and struck up a conversation. They were filming a Finnish woman (sisunotsilence at, as she ran 30 Km per day along the west coast. One of the young men was from South Jersey and attended East Stroudsburg State University, another lived in Boston, and the third member of the film crew was from San Francisco and named Ben. We left them eating breakfast and fussing with their mobile phones, and we actually passed the female runner on our way up Haast Pass, as she descended.

Thunder Creek Falls

On the western side of the pass we stopped and viewed Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls, and then we completed a thirty minute roundtrip hike to Blue Pools just beyond the summit. Blue Pools was an interesting place occupied by a crowd of swimmers on a hot day in January. Many of the swimmers were fearless, as they climbed over the rail on the swinging bridge and plunged into the ice cold aqua blue pool below.

Swimmers Line Blue Pool on a Hot January Day

Once we departed the Blue Pools carpark, we traveled directly to Wanaka, our destination for the next three nights. We checked into the Wanaka Springs Lodge, and Fraser, the male member of a husband and wife proprietorship, gave us a thorough tour of the premises. Our Wanaka digs were superb, although they adhered to the developing trend of not offering air conditioning. The heat wave continued and actually worsened during our time in Wanaka. We looked forward to swapping the cold of a Colorado winter for the warmth of summer in New Zealand, but record heat was not in our plans.

Meat for Our Turkish Kabob Lunch in Wanaka (Jane’s Being Assembled on the Right)

Once we were established at the Wanaka Springs, Jane and I embarked on a walk to the beachfront area, where we ate Turkish kabobs for lunch. I first encountered this delectable food in Coogee Bay, Australia, and the Wanaka version did not disappoint. The kabobs were delicious and huge.

We returned to the hotel to change into our cycling clothes, and then we visited the Bicycle Lounge, where we rented two mountain bikes for the remainder of the day. We paid the half day rate and the shopkeeper, who later told us she just returned from twenty years of living in Lake Tahoe, provided locks in case we returned after the 5PM closing time. We quickly took off and cycled east to Waterfalls Creek, and then we reversed our path to the heart of town and continued west to Eely Point. We stopped at Eely Point, so Jane could wade into Lake Wanaka, and then we returned to the Bicycle Lounge and locked our bikes.

Getting Her Feet Wet As Usual

Wanaka Tree

After this bit of exercise and while still in our cycling clothes, we ambled to the Speights Ale House and quaffed beers. We sat next to brothers from Hamilton, MT and engaged in a brief conversation. One brother was a hot shot who spent ridiculous hours of overtime in the summer fighting wildfires. The other young man worked in some capacity for a craft brewer in Montana. Their vacation in New Zealand was a chance for the hot shot to enjoy summer without the hectic demands attached to a wildfire fighting job.

Our next stop was the New World Market where we purchased an Asian salad kit and smoked salmon. This combination became our tasty Friday night dinner and ironically one of the best on the trip.

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