Home' Fish and Game : August 2015 Contents bit, stirred up a little mud, jumped, struggled, then
I skidded it ashore. A brownie, about a kilogram in
weight. I was about to put it back when I said: “Ah,
why not, last day of the season, I’ll eat it.” I went
home after that, cleaned the fish, decided I wasn’t
a completely useless fisherman after all.
I’m at an age where, if I haven’t a pretty good
idea of what makes me function, and where my
foibles and flaws have sent me, I ought to. I accept
that, in respect to most things, I’ve never managed
to find the will and the energy to be as good as
I might have been. But -- always there are ‘buts’
if I had not discovered nature’s
“astonishing capacity to bring peace
to troubled minds”, as George
Monbiot put it when reflecting on
Michael McCarthy’s beautiful book
The Moth Snowstorm, there’s a good
chance I’d have ended up a right cot-
Monbiot says McCarthy believes
we have “a capacity to love the
natural world, rather than merely
exist within it”, and it seems likely
that no other creatures have that
trait. McCarthy and Monbiot incline
to believe that we’re “wired” to relate
to nature that way.
There’s a catch to all this, a blockage, as they
the sheer storm of distraction we’ve created, the
flak that arrives with techno gizmos, links, apps,
videos, leaflets, disposable this and that... We’ve
become a species of rabid have-to-have-the-latests
of everything that’s going, or we feel deprived, feel
that we’re missing out on what we’ve a right to. It’s
More and more, as time’s gone by, I can see that
trout fishing especially has enriched me. I wander
and wonder, explore and ponder, go searching for
whatever we mean when we express a wish to be
free. Fishing helps me experience joyousness. As
much, if not more than anything else, it has played
a major part in my realising that I’ve done things
that most have only ever dreamed of.
Fish & Game New Zealand
WITHEROW AND I SPENT
a Lot of time in the raw and rugged country to
the north and west of Manapouri and Te Anau;
and in the Lochy, Greenstone, Von, and Caples
west of Queenstown; and in rivers that flow into
lakes Wanaka and Hawea; and so on. We climbed,
scrambled, scurried, cursed, laughed, and had
some of the times of our lives. We weren’t young,
we weren’t old, we were in between, and party to
or witnessing some things that fell apart, and some
that didn’t. I learned a lot about myself and this
country I was born to, and which Witherow adopted.
We put ourselves and others under
pressure. Some of it I wouldn’t have
missed for quids; some was hellish, but
eventually one starts to listen harder
for the sounds of drums one can more
comfortably march to.
This season past, mostly for
reasons beyond my control, I did less
fishing than I’d wished. But the times
I had were satisfying, interesting.
Occasionally I came home feeling I’d
been adept, not inept. On the second
to last day of the season, I went across
to the Manuherikia in the gorge below
the Falls Dam. I clambered down a
steep and crumbly terrace, picked
my way through a mess of briar and matagouri and
other irritants. The water was a bit murky, the wind
blustery. I spent half an hour searching, casting,
slinking, scrambling, peering. I saw nothing,
touched nothing. Time to get out of here, I
decided. I looked up a very steep face above me and
thought I could see a way up scree, short tussock,
and through tough scrub -- a short-cut. I’ve climbed
trickier faces than that when mountaineering. I got
about two-thirds of the way up and was sweating
and fighting not to slip, slide, and and fall off.
Shit! I was about on the limit -- the rock was brittle,
scree slithery, and the foliage inhospitable, spiky,
grabbing my vest, catching the eyes of my rod and
the line. “You stupid bastard,” I said. I took some
slow deep breaths and told myself not to stuff up.
Gritting and grunting and inching and sweating
and at times teetering, I found a way, just, scrambled
up and crawled out the top of a chute.
I walked back to my vehicle, put the rod in the
back, sat behind the wheel for a bit, started up and
drove slowly away. Five minutes later I decided to
have a look at the river about 7km downstream.
I scrambled through broom and gorse for a
few hundred metres below where I’d parked, then
waded upstream slowly. Too much shine on the
water for half of the way across. Oh well... I spotted
a fish, and plopped a beadhead near it. It turned
drifted back and across, looked closely, turned
away. I tried another two nymphs, which the fish
ignored, so I moved on. I spotted a rise. Taking an
emerger, so I thought. I tied one on. That didn’t
work either. The fish moseyed away. A bit further
up, I saw another fish. This one looked about 2kg. I
presented a Hare’s Ear. It mouthed it, so I thought.
I lifted; a small twirl and wiggle and it shot off.
I drove back to Oturehua. Next day I wandered
down to the Idaburn dam 2km from my place.
For months it had been half empty. It was being
refilled. I sat on a rocky outcrop about 10 metres
above the bay where the Idaburn was flowing in.
After five minutes or so I spotted a couple of swirls.
Could be a fish, I thought, so I climbed down and
waded across, watched. There was certainly one and
maybe two fish working away. I tried a #14 Pheasant
Tail, then a small Hare’s Ear, then a imitation water-
boatman. I tweaked it. There was a small kerfuffle
and I struck. Hooray. The fish rushed around for a
Anglers have a capacity to love the natural
world, rather than merely exist within it
The backcountry sees far more
anglers today than decades ago
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