Let us contemplate, for a moment, the magic of boarding a plane in the middle of winter and, a day or so later, de-planing on another in the middle of summer. This is an experience that I have had the pleasure to enjoy many times, but it still has not lost its wonder for me. Since I retired as of the first of June last year, my job no longer takes me around the world, so the opportunities for international travel come much more seldom, but we do love to visit Kat and Berit in New Zealand around Christmas/New Year. This year we staggered our visits for the first time; Kristi flew down on Christmas Eve, but I delayed my flight until January 7. This still gave us a week and a half with all of us together, but cut down significantly on the amount of time that the house would be empty and that we would have to board Limo; this was particularly important because it would be his first extended boarding without the companionship of our beloved Fern, who left us in August. This way Kristi and I each had a little over three weeks with the girls, and this let them concentrate a little more on each of our particular set of interests. Kristi worked on a project to refinish a table in Kat & Gary’s garage, among other things, while I built bottle-drying racks and trays for tasting glasses for Gary’s and Gavin’s home-brewing hobbies, went up the east coast of the North Island for snorkeling with the four of them, and had a day of trout fishing with a mutual friend. It’s this last activity that I’d like to tell you about. But first a little background…Kristi had great luck with weather for the whole time that she was there, having had a slight drizzle for only part of one day and clear skies & sunshine for the rest. She flew back home on January 17, and the very next day the skies clouded over and the rain started, as a pair of back-to-back minor cyclones approached the country. It then rained every day, mostly all day, for at least the next six days. My fishing excursion was planned for that sixth day, January 23. My fishing buddy, Nik, picked me up a little before 8:00 am—rather surprisingly late for a one-day outing, but we had to get me a license and stop off for me to try on a spare pair of chest waders to see if I’d be able to fish without getting my feet wet. Luck was with me, and they fit well enough, only a little snug. It had rained all night and it was still coming down steadily as we drove southeast for a bit more than two hours, from Auckland to near Lake Rotorua. During the drive, Nik reviewed the various possibilities of potential destinations, and we decided against smaller streams that wound down from higher country because they’d surely be swollen and turbid with all the runoff, so we settled on Lake Rotoiti for a first go.
It lies to the east of Lake Rotorua, and Nik has had days of considerable good luck there. We drove eastward around its southern shore and stopped at a public rest room to get shelter from the still-constant rain and into our wading and rain gear. He then parked at the beginning of a small path that led along the shore a steep and rocky point, navigating the tricky footing like a seasoned mountain goat. I followed, much more carefully. When we reached the end of the point, he graciously offered me the first go at the water around the actual point. I gingerly stepped out toward the edge, where I could see the water dropping off immediately into obviously serious depths. At first there was not too much wind, but it was coming straight onshore and picking up gradually, making casting our flies tricky at best. We were using sinking lines to get our flies down deep. I was extremely interested in keeping my balance in careful check at all times, so I maneuvered around until I found a spot where I could wedge my left foot into a crevice and lean my left calf snugly up against one of the adjacent rocks, which permitted me to position my right foot a little more precariously out on one of the others closer to the water. Nik, meanwhile, disappeared around a corner to try a different spot. I kept trying for maybe half an hour, but the wind gained strength by the
minute, and soon I was afraid I’d be hooking my jacket or my ear during one of my forceful casts. So I retreated to safer ground and gladly (and gratefully) relinquished the prime spot to Nik. He is very experienced in doing whatever needs to be done to access the best spots,
and he wasted no time at all trying to find a secure foothold, but rather perched himself right on the peaks of the rocks. I had visions of trying to land a much larger catch than I’d been dreaming about, but his confidence proved to be well-founded, and he fished for
another half-hour or so before the wind became so strong that he was also no longer enjoying the challenge. And so we agreed to move on. Our next site was the river that flows out of Lake Rotoiti, the Kaituna. I had fished this river before, but Nik showed me a favorite spot of
his that was new to me, and soon we were standing nearly waist-deep in the fast water, casting upstream and into the main current, using an orange wool strike indicator about 5 feet above a wet fly, from which another fly, a small nymph with a heavy-ish gold bead head was suspended (New-Zealand style) on another two-foot-long length of tippet material tied to the bend of the hook on the upper fly. Within just a few minutes I had my first strike and
landed a nice hen rainbow of about 14 inches, which I promptly released. Soon after, Nik landed another, and the fun kept on for the next couple of hours. Each of us hooked at least one (obviously) magnificent fish that would have weighed several kilos, but they managed to escape; more power to them! Still, I landed seven trout and Nik five—by far the best we’ve ever done when we’ve fished together. I had asked the girls if they’d like me to bring one home, should luck be in my favor, and Kat & Gary had declined, as Gary has no interest in seafood of any kind; but Berit and Gavin said they’d be happy to have one. (Berit is, of course, still a vegetarian, but has nothing against a fresh trout caught by her dad!) And so we kept one of mine—not my largest of the day, but the close-second; the photo shows my day’s
prize, just before its release. On our way back to Auckland, we stopped in Matamata (very close to the location of Hobbiton in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings) for a very nice curry feast in a Thai restaurant, that we rather surprisingly had nearly all to ourselves, then continued back to Kat & Gary’s, in the continuing downpour. Our spirits not dampened in the least—quite the contrary, we happily reflected on a wonderful, wet, memorable, and magic summer’s day, and its memory still keeps me warm and brings a big smile!