The main reason we moved to New Zealand for 6 months was to fly-fish. You wouldn’t know it from the majority of my posts about New Zealand, but we’ve been doing a serious amount of fishing since we arrived. While I’m leaving the technical fly-fishing in New Zealand post to the Southerner (who has promised to guest post soon), I wanted to contribute some thoughts from a beginner’s perspective.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while you know that I’ve been learning to fly-fish for about a year now. This is big for me. I’ve never stuck with any sport for longer than 6 months. After a stint on my 4th grade basketball team where the only basket I made was for the other team, my little 8 year-old self gave an inner Fuck Sports fistbump and assumed a state of total apathy and disdain for all sports for ever. Until fly-fishing.
While fly-fishing is more like an art to me at this point, it definitely requires athletic ability. Specifically in New Zealand, where you’ll often find yourself trekking thru miles of thorny bushes, hopping electric fences, and wading thru waist-high water to find the fish. Where stealth and precision are prerequisites (and they actually let me near the water). Where it is also NOT acceptable if an eel bumps into your leg while fishing to scream like a little girl, drop your fly-rod and hightail it back to the car.
In Montana, most of our trips were guided raft trips down a pristine river with picnic table lunches and cold beers provided. Guided trips in New Zealand are more like what you would expect if Bear Grylls suddenly decided to become a fly-fishing guide. Hard core. We recently took a 6 day fly-fishing “vacation” in the Mt. Manganui area with guide, Miles Rushmer. I say vacation jokingly because after an 8-hour day of fly-fishing, you can barely lift your wine glass at dinner before you slump over and fall asleep on your plate. It wears you down and tests your stamina. It also tests your ability not to complain or poop in your waders, especially when the rain starts coming down and you can’t feel your fingers anymore, and you’ve been holding your poop for 6 hours. Try walking through the forest with a 9 foot fly-rod concentrating on not getting it tangled on anything AND holding your poop at the same time. I’m proud to say that I’ve successfully managed this gargantuan feat a dozen times now.
One time I couldn’t hold it for another second and I had to shit in a cow pasture with cow dung up to my ankles. After I finished I gleefully shook my foot at the guide while saying “Look, I pooped on my shoe!” “Remind me, why I’m doing this again?”
I realize that I’ve probably just scared you off from fly-fishing for good, but after fishing in New Zealand I feel like a better person. Stronger and more capable. Part of a community whose members can be found all over the world. Like the Masons- especially since most of the members are rich, white, old guys. I speak a new language with terminology that reeks of sexual innuendo: rods, flies, stripping, hit it, boobies, blown. I can read the water and I can finally see the fish. (And no, this is not the point where I get all inner-eye cosmically weird about fishing. I can actually SEE the fish. This has been one of the hardest skills for me to develop and one of the most important in terms of my improvement. If you don’t know where the fish is you’re casting blind and you’re wasting time.) My favorite drink of the day is the 1st beer opened in the car after removing my waders and boots. It must be some inexplicable maxim shared amongst fly-fishing guides, but every single one of them has let us drink in the car without so much as a backward glance.
The other truly awesome reason to come fish New Zealand’s north island: guide, Miles Rushmer. We’ve been lucky to have some amazing guides over the past year, but Miles really stood out. He took us to dinner, rented us a house on a lake for two days just to mix up the trip (where his partner made us dinner each night and they both stayed up playing Cranium with us while polishing off three bottles of wine), AND he likes to talk about food just as much as I do. But most of all, he shouted encouraging Oprah-esque phrases at me while fishing like “OWN IT!” and “CONFIDENCE!” that worked wonders in actually improving my self-confidence on the water. He never lost his patience, even after he kept having to repeatedly yell out “YOUR OTHER LEFT!” to me, as he rolled his 50th cigarette of the day :). Thanks, Miles.