Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Feeling Nostalgic

It's been a brutal start to winter with no end in sight, as you can probably infer from the lack of posts recently. There are flies to tie and trips to plan, but that can wait. Today I'm content to fester and mope about the lack of open water, lack of funding for an exotic trip, and the end of duck season. As I was picking up the house, sifting through gear and organizing my book shelf (yes, it's that bad), I came across a tattered and torn pocket journal. It took me a minute to recognize it as a trip journal I kept during my visit to the South Island of New Zealand a few years ago. It was nice to revisit some details of the trip that I'd almost forgotten, and I thought I'd share a particular entry that you all might enjoy if you're feeling like I am today:

May 19, 2007

"... Five minutes out of town on route 6 we come to a left turn at Hansen Road. There is a sign noting that Lake Johnson is ahead. We turn up the gravel road and come around a corner to find a monstrous hill ahead of us. On either side there are wire sheep fences and for a moment I am concerned that access to the Lake is controlled by private property...

I quickly give up trying to pedal up the hill, but Tim powers his way past me to the top, only to find another beastly incline awaiting. I make it to the top and pause to catch my breath. Just as our hope of finding a hidden gem is beginning to slip I catch site of a Fish and Game sign announcing access to Lake Johnson via a gate at the end of the farmer's road. We jump the gate and hurry down for a look.

On our side of the lake the incline is steep with several sheer faces. At some points there is a 15 ft. vertical drop to the water below. The side of the mountain is tiered with sheep paths that provide the only routes down to the water. The water is not as I'd expected; clear, but holding a jade green rather than the now-familiar aquamarine blue tint. Quick glances reveal nothing in the way of targets, so we make our way down to an accommodating rock ledge for beer and sandwiches.

I take a slug of Speights Old Dark having more or less written off the chance of bagging a fish today. We sit in silence for a few minutes, admiring the view. To our left there are a couple of well-kept farm houses on top of the hill, at the East end of the Lake. Below them are a couple of old hunting shanty's and rusted old boats. A group of ducks root around in the shallows. Directly across the lake from our position the bank is more sheer and at the West end of the lake there is an open section of about 50 feet between willows that crowd the waters edge.

"Is that a fish??"

I put my sandwich down.


I put my beer down.

"Yes. It is."

I try to keep my composure as I string up my six weight but my excitement is teeming. In an instant I feel like our luck has shifted. I can finally taste my first legitimate shot at hooking up with a trout in New Zealand.

Tim stays up on the ridge to spot. I finish tying an unweighted damsel fly nymph to a 12 ft. 4X leader and make my way down to the water. The surface glare form my position makes seeing the fish impossible, so I call to Tim to help me pinpoint my cast. My first few attempts are sloppy and I'm lucky not to spook the fish. With the cliff face and trees so close to my back I'm limited to a long roll cast. With Tim's direction I finally unroll one in the target zone.

"Perfect, let it sit."

"He sees it..."

"He's on it..."

"Oh... Ohhhh..."


The line goes tight and it feels like my heart is being pulled out of my chest. I can't remember ever being this excited for one fish and my hoots and hollers seem to echo off the cliff face for an eternity."

May 20, 2007

"Slept 'til 9:30 this morning recovering from a solid night at The Buffalo Club. Celebratory Speights shared over adventure stories at the hostile and a 2-for-1 deal at the bar. It was a hangover I was happy to have."

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