He stood in a half crouched in the early morning sun, totally oblivious to the chilled morning air. Moving carefully forward over the smooth river boulders he searched the ripple again for the movement that had caught his attention a few moments previously. The young man tensed with anticipation. There! A rise on the edge of the ripple…. He crouched again, his body tense and knelt down with his bare knees resting his weight on the river rocks. The fly, a crude beetle pattern was a legacy from the previous evening and he picked it of the ring of his rod, pulled some fly line out of the rod tip and started to false cast. The clumsy old fiberglass rod came alive in his hand and the grace of its movements sent the fly line up the river, flashing in the early morning. He judged the distance with a practiced eye and made the delivery, the fly alighting just beyond the point he had indexed in his mind’s eye. His eyes were fixed on the fly dancing merrily on the ripple, floating back towards him and in a flash and a swirl it was gone. The rod whipped up and the line tightened as a good size rainbow took to the air. The “whoopee” he yelled to the sky was spontaneous and totally unrepressed and in short order he had a fat chunky rainbow resting on the stones in the water. He released it and watched with evident satisfaction as it swam away, washed his hands in the chilly water and stood up.
At about this point he became aware that he was not alone on the riverbank. His friend had been woken up by the war whoop and now stood staring in total disbelief at his friend, who apart from his fly rod was clad in only a pair of socks and his wristwatch. He had arisen to answer a call of nature and while so engaged, his scrutiny had been diverted to the subtle movement of a single rise of a trout in a distant stream.
Water, in all forms has always fascinated me. I started to fish at the age of six. Trout were not my intentions at that age, even if I could have known the difference between fresh and saltwater species. In my young mind, fish were fish and therefore worthy of capture. Size and species are never relevant to the young; only the pursuit and capture are. Size and species is an adult expectation.
I bought my first fly rod at the age of thirteen. A kindly but somewhat misguided relative had bought me a Christmas gift about fishing in the UK. It contained text and line drawings about all sorts of fishing there. There were things called Barbel, Pike, Roach, Chub and Dace amongst others. But the chapter I kept going back to was on fly- fishing for trout. I became fascinated with the possibilities of catching some fish without bait attached to the hook. The pictures of the artificial flies held my attention. I had no idea if these would work here in New Zealand, but I was resolved to find out. A few short weeks later, I had answered an advertisement in the local paper for the sale of a fly rod and reel and became the owner of a fiberglass fly rod and a Hardy Perfect fly reel with a spare spool. I did not know or even care at that time of the lineage of that reel. More important to me, was the old Greys tobacco tin with the piece of felt lining. Embedded in the lining was a range of flies, some blue, some yellow, some red and some with all those colors. They were lined up in rows and they were just perfect to me. I had caught Kahawai with flashing spinners and pieces of red cloth attached to the hook, so this looked as if it was just a matter of finding a trout and showing it one of these masterpieces. One snag however. I could not work out a way to thread the thick fly line though the eye of one of these flies. I must have been an inventive child because I solved that problem with a length of twenty-pound nylon off my faithful old snapper reel. Now off to find a trout! It said on my licence that there was a limit bag of trout of a fixed number per day. On one stream it mentioned that there was a combined limit of rainbow and brown trout. I figured out that twice the species, twice the opportunity. I may have mentioned about being an inventive child…. I do recall badgering my poor hard working Father, into taking me to this stream and I remember his stern admonishments about being back this particular place at the prearranged time.
I have come to learn over the years, that anglers of any age have no concept of time and children who fish, with this in mind are usually a lost cause. You, as an angler should never say to anyone at all that you will be back at a certain and prearranged time. For if the trout are on the rise, you will surely not be there to keep that appointment. You would be far better off to say that you will in fact be there…..later…and in some cases, much later.
So it was that I picked my down though emerald green grass with the hot Taranaki beating down on me and the graceful slopes of Mount Egmont that was to influence my later life so very much, over my shoulder. Some distance down through the lush paddock I eventually found my way through the blackberries that seemed to line every Taranaki stream, a magic river. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. In the middle of this cold clear mountain stream was an exposed rock that I though might make a platform from which I might cast. I waded out into the freezing water, up to my chest, with absolute resolve to get there. I climbed out on to the warm friendly boulder. Of course my rod was already set up, with a piece of the 20-pound nylon on the end of the line and a bright red fly. I recalled at about this time, that you had to wave the rod about your head in some mystical, magical manner. I was not too sure as to why this was. Perhaps it was to mesmerize the trout in some way. In due course, I had securely embedded my fly in the blackberries on both sides of the river, and even if I could have broken the trace, I was not prepared to loose any of my precious flies in this way. Retrieval of my fly involved plunging back into the icy, chest deep water several times. Eventually, I got the whole sorry mess into the river where it was swept down stream. I stood on the rock in the warm sunshine, looking at the mountain and the cows and wondering what to do next. It did not say anything in the book. So I was lost in my reverie with my mind wandering as often happens when one is fishing, when my drifting thoughts were shattered with the staccato tug on the end of the line. Well I had caught plenty of fish off the wharf and even surf casting off the beach to knew that feeling only too well. With the best-approved marlin fishing techniques, I set the hook, only to launch a hapless rainbow trout of about half a pound, over my shoulder and into the blackberries beyond.
I still recall the wriggling little jewel of the trout and at that moment I became a fly fisher.