Sabbatical is over and it’s back into guiding for the upcoming 2016-17 season
Our sabbatical is over and it is time to get back into guiding mode again. Our year ‘off’ was a lot of fun but I’m excited now to be back in the business of taking bookings for the 2016-17 fishing season and hatching plans for getting out on our beautiful rivers to chase some wonderful trout with anglers from all over the world.
The year’s break from guiding was definitely good for the soul and Sharon, Bruce (our Labrador) and I enjoyed exploring a heap of new places, catching up with old friends and making many new ones. We didn’t really travel very far spending our time around the South Island in various areas, mostly camping out in our Austrack Camper. In fact there were so many places we wanted to see but didn’t as we simply ran out of time and we still have plenty to do on future adventures. If there’s one thing we learned it’s that “a plan is only a reference point to see how far one can deviate from it’ … some of our most enjoyable times were when circumstances conspired to lead us slightly astray.
The highlight of the summer was spending time saltwater fly fishing for southern yellowtail kingfish in Golden Bay. It was a spur of the moment adventure with friends Josh Gallivan and Bob Bourdon, when we decided to take a break from chasing trout and wade the sandflats instead. Josh’s previous saltwater experience proved invaluable in getting us on the right track even though our equipment and fly selection was a bit limited. Early successes were hard won but as we grew in understanding, so did our success rate.
Kingies may not leap but they are brutal ‘street-fighters’ who simply don’t know when to quit … there are few things in fly fishing as exciting as being hooked up on 10-20 lb kingie that peels 100+ yards of backing off your #6 weight on their first run! Whether this exciting new fishery expands or not will be interesting to watch, but if local summer sea temperatures remain higher than the historical average there’s a good chance that there will be more saltwater fly fishing fun to be enjoyed over the next few seasons.
My greatest frustration for the summer was timing our break with the poorest run of salmon ever. Modest runs of quinnat (chinook) salmon run up many east coast (and a few west coast) rivers here from late November to April … nothing on the scale of Alaskan or Canadian runs but fun nevertheless. As a kid growing up in South Canterbury I chased salmon with my father and his friends on the Rangitata River, landing fish from 12 – 30 lbs on spinning tackle. On a quick trip home in January 2015 I managed to catch my first salmon in years and set my ultimate goal for the ‘sabbatical’ to land a fly-caught salmon on my two handed ‘spey’ rod. It was humbling getting back to basics and learning a whole new way of casting and fishing and while I’m certainly no expert yet, it was very satisfying as new skills evolved. However after two, week-long trips in January and again in March, my goal remained unaccomplished … such are “Promises of Silver’ sometimes. I know I can’t wait another 35 years for the next sabbatical!
For a full visual record of our summer on the road check out the “Sabbatical Year 2015-16” photo gallery, but some of the many highlights of our time away include: a 20lb rainbow trout on #14 nymph and 4X tippet from the hydro canal system near Mt. Cook; helping my guiding mentor Gary Joll to his first dry-fly fish from the Macauley River (at Lilybank Station where the seeds of my guiding career were sown 40 years ago); watching my lovely wife develop into a confident spin angler and occasional fly-fisher and being able to spend time with friends and family, including a series of weddings (especially our eldest son Nick’s in February).
And so now … back to the guiding
I’m now taking bookings for the next 2016-17 season and it is very pleasing to advise that the calendar is filling fast. January and February are now completely booked and December has only limited space available.
Typically with an election year in the US, bookings from the States are slow prior to the election. However with fewer anglers coming to New Zealand in the first part of the season there is an excellent opportunity for those willing to travel early to have more water to themselves … “first in, first served”.
As an early season ‘sweetener’ check out these two budget opportunities:
October 12 – 15 or October 18 – 21
4 Days Guided Fishing … 3 nights accommodation and food … NZD$3650.00 (1 or 2 anglers share).
As many of you will attest, our trout fishing can be challenging enough at times even with a guide … let alone without one. It simply makes no sense to me for anglers to go to all the expense of coming to New Zealand and expect to be able to hire a guide ‘by chance’ when they arrive. But it happens a lot …
Already there is considerable interest in our fisheries after Christmas and I would sincerely urge those of you wanting to fish here to make your arrangements as soon as possible, especially for the guiding. There are still some good spaces in October, November, March and April.
Following another significant beech-mast event again this last summer the Department of Conservation is expecting another year of abnormally high rodent numbers. After the beech-mast of 2014 and the ‘Year of the Mouse’ in the 2014-15 season, it is unusual (but not unknown) to have another beech-mast event again so quickly. It maybe that these events become more common with global climate change, but whatever the reason, if the rodent population does expand, it will definitely benefit to anglers with another year of big trout in many of our rivers. The 2014-15 season was exceptional and it is exciting to contemplate the carryover of some still very large trout in our rivers again gorging themselves on a diet of furry protein pellets!!
End of an Era … A mate moves on
It’s probably no coincidence that my two best trout this season were caught in the company of guide-mate Peter Carty … the first on my first day out for the season and the last … well on my last day. Carty has since moved on from Murchison up to Turangi (Lake Taupo), and I’m going to miss ‘the ol’ bastard’.
Pete joined my guiding company (then Nelson Lakes Guiding Services) back in 1985, when the Nelson/Marlborough fishery was just starting to excite visiting anglers. For a few years Pete worked for me as an assistant guide and became my Chief Guide from 1995-1998 … but mostly he has been a great mate and fishing companion. We shared many evenings recounting our day’s guiding adventures and conspired in the downfall of many unfortunate trout. Undoubtedly among Pete’s greatest guiding triumphs was a large trout which we simply referred to as “The Great Unknown”, because the scales weren’t big enough to measure it. For many years we said it was ‘over 15lbs’ but with subsequent experience of many big fish landed it was clearly bigger than that!
Pete’s contribution to guided fishing has been immense in helping popularise our fishery and develop our industry … his professionalism is impeccable, his guiding skills outstanding and his fly-tying skills sublime. Hell … I’m actually going to have to get back to tying my own flies now! Life here is going to be a whole lot poorer for Pete’s moving on. I wish you all the best mate … it was a great adventure and your help has always been greatly appreciated. Those North Island trout should be trembling in their boots. Thanks for everything big guy!
I’m looking forward to this next season and October 1st can’t come soon enough for me … I’m particularly excited at the prospect of joining many of you back on the water. In the meantime if you are lucky enough to be getting out onto the stream with the start of a new season in your part of the world … I am very envious .
As always please check out my website for details on the Features of our Brown Trout Fishing, Guided Fishing Options, Available Guiding Dates, Guiding Rates and Conditions of Booking and Payment.
“If fishing were simply a matter of catching fish or forming and testing angling theories, I think I should have given it up long ago. Nor is it simply a matter of exciting and beautiful surroundings, the splendor and loveliness of running water and the attraction that rivers have for creatures of all kinds, including man. These are a large and important part of it all, but one can enjoy them without going fishing and I often do. Perhaps the lasting charm of fishing is in the pace of the sport and in the fish themselves.”
Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman’s Fall
Sabbatical … 2015-16
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘sabbatical’ as:
sabbatical: a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.
‘Word on the street’ of my retirement from guiding is premature, sparked no doubt by misinformation from a few mischief makers. They’d be better off going fishing, because that is what we’re doing this coming summer! When Sharon decided to take a ‘gap’ year from full time teaching, it was an opportune time after 35 years of guiding for us both to recharge ‘the batteries’, refresh our own angling skills and enjoy the beauty and wonderful fishing opportunities that New Zealand provides us … a time to smell the roses.
In August I had a brilliant trip with friends from the Nelson Trout Fishing Club to the Tongariro River flowing into Lake Taupo. For years I had made the annual pilgrimage to fish for winter run rainbows, but had missed a few seasons as the fishery fell on hard times and the size and quality of the fish plummeted. The word was out that the fishery had bounced back this winter … and so it proved to be as between five of us we landed over 300 fish for the week. (For a summary of that trip check out this link to the Nelson Trout Fishing Club’s September Newsletter.
Bad weather on our local rivers welcomed us on Opening Day, October 1st. I was headed south to join some friends in the upper Grey area, but stopped off for a fish with old mate Pete Carty in Murchison. As the rain eased for a bit we found a good number of fish on the feed not far from Pete’s base and enjoyed a lively three hours of fishing together … something we have done far too little of over the years due to solid guiding commitments. Between the ‘bull and banter’ we both managed to bring a few modest but fit and feisty fish to the net. As the weather threatened to close in again, I wanted to fish one last run where clients had taken a couple of nice 8 pounders over the years. Third cast fishing blind saw the indicator stop and my strike came up solid against the bottom … that is until the bottom moved! After a short but solid struggle PC slipped the net under a battle scarred 10.5 pounder (nice to have your own personal ‘guide’ on call at times like this). It was a personal best for me on any opening day and a great way to finish … a DD on the last cast of the day. A small scotch was totally in order. The next few days also provided some good sport as I joined Christchurch friends Niall Coster and Brian Thompson, in the upper Grey River where there were a good number of fish showing (and eating) despite the river running high and coloured. A wonderful few days fishing with mates … and a hell of a good way to start a season’s sabbatical!
So … sabbatical – also defined as: any extended period of leave from one’s customary work.
Yep … that’s us … research … recreation … and a little film-making along the way. I’ll be back guiding next season … in the meantime wish us luck. We’ll keep you posted.