Friday, May 4, 2012

Going Retro

With all of the change and transition occurring in my life right now, I saw it fitting to bring back the first post I ever wrote on this blog.  I'm going old school on you mo fos...  Enjoy!


Change is a funny thing.  It is as ambiguous as it is direct and final.  It is a process that can be out of our control but can also be chosen.  It can have positive or negative effects on our lives and it can be feared or embraced.  Individuals react to change differently, which is why each of us are able to carve out our own unique path and the different experiences we encounter.  In fly fishing, change never sleeps.  The river lives and breathes and is in a constant state of motion, never seizing, relentless.  We, as fisherman, must embrace the change laid out before us and adjust, knowing that failure will always linger, but serve as the all-knowing teacher of veracity and adaptability.  It is change that keeps the fire within burning strong.  It keeps us driven and coming back for more even if we are continually humbled by Mother Nature’s intricacies.   

But, change soars well beyond the confines of the river’s edge.  It is easy to see why change can be terrifying.  The type of change we cannot control haunts every one of us.  It is the shadow we will never escape, looming in the distance until abruptly masking our lives with blinding pain and sorrow.  From the worldly effects of war and terror to the more personal (and often most difficult) effects of depression, divorce, unemployment, foreclosure, sickness and death, change can often be a dish served cold and bitter.  Having experienced most of these already in my life, it is easy for me to understand why we as a society strive to remain stagnant, stuck in a rut of insecurity and fear of the unknown.  We are concerned not only about the pain in our own lives, but the effects of our decisions on the ones we love most.  Many choose to remain still, paralyzed by the fear that their insignificant ripples may spread and develop into capsizing swells of emotion.

For many people, however, change is a welcomed part of life and sought after.  Without change, life for these individuals is left bland and fruitless.  Curiosity and adventure rule their decisions with very little regard to consequence or expectation. There is a willingness to live life on the edge, try new things, to take the leap of faith with no comprehension of who or what is there to catch them other than hope and the inability to accept failure.  

I somehow straddle the line between the yin and the yang of change.  I have always looked to broaden my range of experiences whether it is trying new foods, traveling, learning new hobbies or dedicating my life to a specific skill.  I more recently have ditched a devout path towards medicine, pointed my compass west and enjoyed three years of Montana living only to get hired a year later as a fly fishing guide in Colorado.  What I have discovered about myself is that I love the results and rewards that change creates.  However, as much as I need change in my life, I do dread the transitional process involved.  My moves from Wisconsin to Montana, from Montana back to Wisconsin and now from Wisconsin to Colorado each initially left me feeling alone and overwhelmed by doubt and emotion.  I understand and anticipate the benefit and growth that will result from the process, yet I am abandoning everything that is good about the life I have previously known.  Why do I choose to continually leave, especially when it means leaving my family that I need by my side?  What is it that is driving me to desert the security of the present and seek the unknown future?  Curiosity is a difficult beast to tame.

At this stage of my life, I refuse to not take advantage of my youth and settle.  There are too many stones that are unturned in my life to allow myself to ignore what it is that calls to me.  I don’t want to be the man looking back on his life with regret wishing I had done things differently.  I have decided to take the path that my gut has dictated and embrace the changes, good and bad.  “What if?” can only be answered by exploring what it is in question and hoping for the best.  As we wade through turbulent waters, we can be blinded to the possible stepping-stones laid before us.  If we cannot dedicate our focus toward the other shore with a certain excitement, dedication and optimism, we risk being swept away by the relentless currents of negativity, further keeping us from reaching our lives’ true potential.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dynamic Duo: The Final Hours

After we celebrated Zach's birthday in Queenstown, we slowly made our way back up to Christchurch to get Zach back in time for his flight back home.  We made a few pit stops along the way.  We took the long way home and stopped in Mossburn to fish that area once more as well as indulge in a meat pie from the local cafe in town.  If you ever get a chance to get to Mossburn, get a pie from the cafe across the street from the Four Square Super Market.  They sell chicken and venison pies served with an apricot and plum sauce.  We've had a ridiculous amount of pies while in New Zealand and this one takes the cake.  Congrats to them as they have truly outdone themselves.  We camped by the Aparima River just south of Mossburn and started walking up the river that next morning.  We didn't see a single fish, even in the areas that we had spotted fish on previous trips to this river.  After about a km or two, we see the aggravating site of fly line floating through the air ahead of us.  We immediately gave up on spotting fish and cruised up to this lone fisherman to find a woman flinging a double nymph rig in a not so type loop and slapping the water ahead.  I yelled with a chuckle, "No wonder we weren't seeing any fish...!"  She turned and we started chatting.  She was very hospitable and said there might be two guys up ahead of her but she wasn't sure.  She offered to let us walk up ahead but etiquette is etiquette and we told her that she was there first and that the water was hers.  Bummed, but glad we saw her as soon as we did, we walked back to the car to drive to some different water.  It turned from nice, clear skies to clouds in what seemed like a matter of minutes which really screwed our next fishing venture up considerably.  The Hamilton Burn, which is a difficult river at this time of year anyway became impossible to fish with little to no visibility.  So, after a couple more pies, we cruised down to the section of the Oreti River that flows through town and parked by the river.  Since we had just recently acquired a fresh case of beer we decided to test out some brand new Speights coozies we bought and put down a few drafts.  We came up with this game to make things interesting.  The game consisted of us going through our own iPods and playing artists that we didn't know.  If the other person recognized the song, the person playing the song had to chug the rest of his beer.  This game didn't last very long because, unfortunately, a while back, I acquired the Top Gun soundtrack as well as one of those infomercial Best of the 80's albums with a bunch of really popular 80's songs by a bunch of one hit wonders that I have never heard of.  Needless to say, I had two beers down pretty quickly and the game ended about as soon as it began.  The fishing was obviously a bust due to inclement weather as well as a fuzzy brain from our beer consumption.  One was obviously caused by the other.    

We also stopped in Gore to check out some water there, but the weather continued to be crap and we decided to count our losses and continue onto the east coast to say that we saw it.  We did stop and take the necessary photos of the giant brown trout, considering Gore is the "World Capital of Brown Trout Fishing".

We drove through Dunedin and decided to make one detour to a river near Fairlie to spend the next day fishing.  The fishing was pretty good, or at least we saw plenty of fish.  We tried hard to get Zach into one more fish before he departed but it wasn't in the cards that day.  I ended up hooking into two fish and blew one more opportunity.  Both fish were good looking fish in the 4-5 lb range that took a nymph dropper.

This was quite the acrobatic jack.

We made it up a decent ways and would've loved to continue on as the weather was really good up to this point.  However, a brutal north westerly wind, or, norwester to the locals kicked up and essentially made casting impossible.  When casting an 18-20 foot leader, that head wind can really mess things up in a hurry.  We headed back to the car through the treacherous wading conditions of this particular river.  There were deep, swift crossings as well as big, bowling ball sized slippery rocks to try and maneuver over without busting your ass.

Once back at the car, we cheers one last celebratory beer as that was Zach's last day of fishing while in New Zealand.  We packed up the rods and organized some gear before we made our last plunge towards Christchurch as the fearsome twosome.  As I said my good byes to Zach, I immediately started planning my next route to tackle alone.  The compass pointed northwest.  Murchison was my next stop.  I had only two weeks of fishing left and I wanted to make sure they were memorable.  Updates will follow.

Hold Strong...

Bit the bullet and went bungy jumping.  Here are some pictures of the day.  To anyone with the predicament of whether to sky dive or bungy jump, it isn't even a question.  Trust the rubber.

Check out the video here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


After Les' injury, our fearsome twosome named Drew and Zach, lost all momentum.  We were taking names and kicking ass up to this point, but it was difficult conjuring up the motivation to ditch Les and carry on with the mission of ripping faces of unsuspecting brown trout throughout the south island of New Zealand.  When we finally pulled it together and decided on a departure date, I was itching to get out of there and get after it.  A break here and there is alright.  But, two weeks, primarily cooped up inside, is enough to get you a bit antsy.  Needless to say, I was ready to fish, and fish hard for my remaining few weeks.

As I said in my previous post, we made a couple pit stops on the way to the Mokihinui trailhead.  The fishing was forgettable with only a couple small browns landed.  I unfortunately can tell that I have become a big fish snob and am potentially ruined for life.  Those small browns were all between 3 and 4 pounds and would serve as my big fish of the season back home.  But, it's all relative, right?  We continued on, gearing up with groceries in Westport and stopped at an information site, or "i Site", to check the weather for the week.  This particular drainage is very flood prone, so it is important to be ready for bad weather and the potential to be stranded at the hut due to impassable creek crossings.  On the 7-day forecast, three of the days called for scattered rain throughout the day.  Now, we've seen some wacky weather on our travels throughout New Zealand and we've learned not to fully trust the weatherman.  I'm not sure who in there right mind would choose to become a meteorologist in New Zealand.  The weather, in most places around the world is difficult to predict, but when you slap a small piece of land in the middle of the ocean, covered with beach, jungle, intense mountain ranges, vast valleys and everything in between, weather becomes a weatherman's nightmare.  Regardless, since I hadn't been to the west coast yet, I innocently asked the lady working behind the information counter whether when they forecast light rain, it truly means light rain or it has the potential for torrential downpour.  Out of a dark corner in the room boomed the most evil, maniacal cackle I have ever heard.  It honestly made me jump a bit as I had no idea there was anyone else in the room.  Sitting behind a card table stationed across the room, was an old lady, that if she was an actress in Hollywood, would definitely be type-casted as the evil witch or hag warning Caesar of the "Ides of March".  She was garbed in rags and sweatpants, wore her hair in long greying dreadlocks that draped to the middle of her back, sported only a handful of rotting teeth that were enveloped by a straggly salt and pepper beard and an impressive jet black mustache that would rival that of Tom Selleck.  After she was finished with her satanical display of gut-wrenching laughter, she let out a deep, mucous moving cough, most likely spawning from an eternity of cigarette smoking or years of inhalation from her steaming, bubbly cauldron where she conducts her spells and brews elixirs.  It was the type of cough that you not only hear, but are forced to watch, causing anyone unfortunate enough to witness such a spectacle to cringe and wish they could take back the last minute of their life.  When she was finished, she began indirectly ridiculing my seemingly worthless question and telling me that it never just rains in this part of the country, but instead pours until the entire coast is pleading for mercy.  This was very comforting news, however a simple, "It never really just lightly rains.  I'd prepare for heavy rain." would have sufficed.  But, thanks to this strange lady and her evil ways, I both became informed and officially frightened, ensuring years of nightmares and potential therapy.

This might be a stretch.

After our free lesson in west coast weather, we ventured on and arrived at the trailhead the following morning.  Having packed the night before at a nearby campsite, we were all set for a quick departure.  On our last extensive hike into the Electric River, my boots took a bit of a beating.  Two of the metal eyes that hold the laces snapped off, causing the boots to lace up improperly and the soles of both boots were severely separating from the leather.  I ended up buying a new pair of boots online from America and had them shipped here because outdoor gear in New Zealand is obscenely priced (New boots ~ $400+)  Unfortunately, even though I knew the boots fit (same company as my previous boot), I had no idea what type of boot they were. They looked like a similar model as the ones I had before, but when they arrived in the mail, I immediately noticed that they were extremely rigid and had very little bend to the sole, requiring a severe break in period.  Perfect!  I essentially strapped them on for the first time that day at the trailhead, and I could tell that this hike was going to be brutal.

The sign at the trailhead said 8 hours hike to the Mokihinui Forks hut.  Normally, we cut quite a bit off of that since we hike at a pretty good pace with few short stops.  I could tell immediately that I was going to struggle.  Within an hour, my heels were hamburger.  Normally, you get a grace period and feel hot spots that don't turn into blisters or, if they do, it's after many hours or even days of successive hiking.  With having little to no bend in the soles of my sparkling new boots, my heels had nowhere to go but up the back of the boot, causing steady rubbing from the get go.  As a result from the consistent sharp pain, my gait changed from vertical walking to kind of a side to side waddle.  With a 50-60 pound pack on your back, this unnatural movement causes your muscles to work harder and differently than normal, further progressing my exhaustion and strain at an accelerating rate.  After about 4 hours, my legs were officially gone and were prematurely cramping up.  My pace was absolute shit and I was expecting an 8+ hour hike.  Surprisingly, after a shade under 7 hours, the hut appeared ahead of schedule.  At that moment, when the hut peaked its head from amongst the dense foliage, all feelings of disgust and feeling like a pansy-ass vanished as I was spontaneously filled with adrenaline spawned energy allowing for a strong finish.  As always the relief and overall satisfaction of reaching a back country destination was overwhelming.  It's always worth it.

That night, we settled in, made some dinner and ate to the light given off by the quaint fire we were able to muster with the limited supply of firewood supplied by the previous temporary residents of the hut.  Not much was exchanged between the two of us other than expressing our satisfaction for our gourmet cuisine of dehydrated noodles mixed with canned chicken and discussing our plan of attack for tomorrow's fishing.

Drying off.
When I woke up the next morning, I felt as if I had been run over by something large and heavy and then the driver threw it in reverse and speed bumped me one more time just for shits and giggles.  Both of us were a little sluggish to get the day started.  As eager as I was to start fishing, my body was failing me.  When I finally did make my move around 9 am, I pulled my legs to my chest to find my exit out of my sleeping bag.  As I did, excruciating pain shot to my heels as they had officially scabbed up and adhered to my sleeping bag liner, ripping the thin layer of covering to the ping pong sized blisters off abruptly.  It was a great way to begin my day.  Once we made breakfast, geared up and strapped on the wading boots, we set off up the south fork of the Mokihinui.  We were told to bypass the first couple miles of water due to the silt and sand build up resulting in very unsuitable habitat for trout.  We walked for about an hour before we spotted the first fish.  It was Zach's shot at casting.  As he was approaching the fish to make his cast, we spotted another fish appear out of nowhere sitting amidst a large snag subsurface.  Fearing that this second trout would bugger upstream and spook the first fish we saw, I opted to cast to the lower fish to see if, one, I could hook him and pull him out of there so Zach could cast at the original target, and two, hopefully, if that plan failed, spook the fish down stream.  Well, neither plan succeeded.  We resorted to throwing a small rock at the downstream fish, but the commotion of the rock breaking the water's surface not only caused the fish to jet upstream, but also immediately spooked the original fish and both disappeared forever.

Disappointed in our lack of tact and stealth, we trudged on in search of another fishy looking silhouette.  We saw a couple more fish but they either were spotted too late or were sitting in areas that made it impossible to get a drift over them.  Zach did end up hooking into a nice 4 1/2 pounder that took a nymph dropper.

Good ol' buck.
We hiked all the way up to a couple of the tributaries to the south branch.  But this late in the season, there wasn't enough water for these tribs to sustain a population of big browns.  I would imagine fishing them earlier in the season at higher flows would be worth your time.  By this time, we were a ways away from the hut and night was quickly approaching.  We decided to call it quits and begin our disheartening trek home.  That night was pretty typical, though we had a bit more energy to go head to head in some games of cards.

The next two days we headed up the north branch, the first day on the lower stretch and the second day up into the gorge.  The north branch embodied a completely different character.  The lower reaches resembled the south branch, however, as soon as you walk exactly an hour, you run into a lone boulder the size of a minivan.  This marks the beginning of the gorge, which is gorgeous, no pun intended.  Unfortunately, the fishing was extremely difficult.  Because of the low water levels, all of the fish were sitting in the slow deep pools, belly to the bottom, cruising and eating nymphs flowing inches from the river bottom.  You'd think you got a good cast, anticipating the trout's line, and allowing enough time for the nymph to reach the bottom before the fish reached your fly.  As soon as the trout would approach your fly, the damn thing would take a rapid turn to face you and swim and follow your fly line to your feet until it bolted back down to the bottom, pectoral fins out like wings and wants nothing to do with you.  Each pool had at least one good-sized brown cruising the depths and of course we tried and failed to catch each one, further sinking into a rut of depression and frustration.  This continued for around 6 km of river when finally I spotted a fish that was actually in a feeding lane in the pillow upstream of a submerged boulder.  Even though, up until that point, I was downtrodden and doubting my ability as a trout fisherman, this was one of those fish where I knew would make its way into the mesh of my net.  It was one of those fish that was completely drunk with feeding and would essentially eat anything that even came close to resembling a fly.

I climbed down from the boulder from which we were spotting from and made my way to my casting position directly downstream from the trout's perch.  This was right at the head of a pool in a deep run so the water was moving pretty swiftly and deep.  I was standing in waist deep water and as I looked up to line up my cast and assess how much line I would need, I noticed a pretty nasty glare on the surface.  I made a cast and as I feared, I couldn't see my dry fly on the surface.  I yelled up to Zach to see if he had a read on the fly.  He couldn't see it either from where he was standing.  I did notice the fish was feeding mostly to his right and fortunately there was about a foot wide line to the fish's right where I could see the fly and as a result, detect any strike on the nymph below.  I kept pounding that line over and over.  Since the fish was feeding so aggressively, there was a good chance he wouldn't see my fly or could be swinging in the opposite direction.  In most cases, in New Zealand, when you make one or two good casts over a fish and he doesn't eat or spook, you immediately switch flies.  Since this particular fish was in such a frenzy, I assumed fly selection was irrelevant.  The trick was to get the trout to see the fly, and in this case, persistence paid off.  On about the tenth cast, my parachute adams was dragged under, I set and the line went tight with life.  This fish gave me a run for my money and tore up and down the river, weaving in and out of boulders.  It was quite the task maneuvering through this deep section of river to land this trout.  Finally, after a nerve racking session of fighting the fish standing directly upstream of him, trying to drag him into a back eddy, I managed to net him after an unforgettable fight.  It weighed in right at 5 lbs, but goes down as one of my more memorable fish and made the hike in worth every painful step.

Pretty fish.
We spent another day exploring a bit more water but ended up cutting our trip short.  After what we equated to be 28 hours of hiking, we landed two fish.  We saw some absolutely beautiful country and I guess that makes it all worth it in the end.  But let's be honest, a few more fish in the net would've been a welcomed highlight to this adventure.  We could have done without the ridiculous amount of sandflies as well.  But, I've gotten as used to them as I am going to get.  They're still bastards and I hate them, but I am always ready for them.

Tiny demons.
We hiked out after our fifth night at the Mokihinui Forks hut.  What took us a shade under 7 hours on the way in, only took us a little over 5 hours on the way out.  As bummed as we were to not have as good of fishing as the area has the reputation for, we still had a great trip and saw a breath taking part of the world.

Unfortunately, I can't un-see or un-experience the hag at the i Site.  She was truly terrifying.

Friday, April 13, 2012

They'll Ruin Your Week-a

After we said our goodbyes to our hobbling, USA-bound friend, Les, we hopped in the Dirty Dog and headed west toward the coast.  Because we had had such an extensive sabbatical from fishing, I thought it would be a good idea to put in a couple days of car camping and fishing a few rivers on the way before we headed to the trailhead of our extensive hike into the Mokihinui River drainage.  We were recommended a few rivers near Lake Brunner, so we set up camp at a little turn off on the Orangapuki River, which is centrally located amongst several rivers and creeks that supposedly hold trout.

We began the monotony of assembling tents, blowing up sleeping pads, pillows and pulling out our sleeping bags when Zach yelled, "Holy shit!  Did you see that?".  Not sure exactly what it was, he said it looked like a cat of some sort.  I came over to investigate, only to see nothing and to become skeptical of Zach's sanity.  Just as I was about to really unleash a tidal wave of ridicule, we heard some twigs snapping behind us and spotted a brown tail end of a cat-sized animal disappear into the briars.  Still unsure of which branch of the animal kingdom this creature belonged, we looked into it further.

Previous to this mysterious encounter, we were at the visitor's center up on Mount Cook and were doing some reading on a problem with feral cats in the area.  Not your fluffy house cat named, Whiskers, but a big, "I'm gonna tear your face off", feral cat that I want no part of.  Having this in the back of our minds, we approached the situation gingerly.  As we crept up to this animal's den, we could see its silhouette in the shadows.  We sat and watched for a minute as it rustled around in the bushes when finally, it poked its head out and stared at us with a look on its face as if to say, "Do you mind? I'm rustling here!!"

It wasn't a cat.  It was a stupid looking flightless bird, about the size of a chicken, with red eyes, a long broad beak and a sense of entitlement written all over its face.  At first, we didn't mind the newly welcomed guest.  He would walk the perimeter of camp, displaying a boldness and curiosity not usually seen among normal, wary, skittish birds.  It wasn't until we began setting up for dinner, when my acceptance for this feathery asshole started to dwindle.  When food was presented, I swear I saw the bird's eyes get wide as it scurried into the bushes.

If you paid attention, you could hear the slow creep along the bush line nearing the bins of food.  Fully aware that the bird was coming, I stood there waiting both in preparation to jump and wave my arms like a crazy person to dissuade it from stealing our food and in curiosity, just to see what this bird was capable of.  Sure enough, without even acknowledging my presence, it appeared out of its cover, head bobbing like a chicken, fully preparing for unthinkable acts of thievery.  Before it was able to snatch anything, I charged it, removing the bird from its trance and scared it off.

I thought that, like most animals of instinct, this encounter would have triggered its survival lobe in the brain to say, "I just learned from this fearful encounter, that if I pursue that plastic receptacle filled with food, then that giant animal, which I believe to be a human, will attack me, causing me much stress, potential bodily harm or in worst case scenario, loss of life."  I'm sure those are the exact thoughts that flood an animal's brain when faced with a severe fight or flight situation.  This bird continued to pester our food stocks and tested our patience. Soon enough, Zach and I were forced to up the ante and tested our aim with rocks.  To my surprise, this bird wasn't fazed.  In fact, every time we missed it with a rock, he chased after the rock as if it were food.  I've never in my life seen an animal so instinctually lacking, that even after being struck with a golf ball sized rock, will continually present itself broadside and still think we're hucking food at him as hard as we can.

There was one encounter where this bird flanked us to the east, demanding both Zach and my attention.  With rocks in hand, we turned to follow to teach this bastard a lesson.  As soon as we were pulled from our posts near the food bins and engaging our new enemy, we heard the sound of rustling plastic.  We turned around only to see a second bird running back to its cover with ziplock bag in tow soon to disappear into the briars.  Since our food was latched in our big tupperware bins, I was confused as to what it stole.  I turned to Zach perplexed and all he said to me was, "shit shovel".  The asshole stole our spade that we use to bury our shit.  Even though that is a useful tool for us and we obviously use it everyday it was almost satisfying to know that the bird was eating our shit.  I think I even yelled it at one of the birds at least once, "Eat Shit, Bird!!!!", as I hauled a rock at its face.  And that's exactly what he did.  Good on ya, mate.

As soon as we thought we were finished with this pest, as I guess they return to cover come evening, we were startled awake, point blank by its squawking back and forth.  Normally, when you hear birds calling, it's in a call and response manner, usually from across a valley or a other great distance.  These birds were right next to each other, both essentially screaming in each other's ears as if it were a contest of volume.  It happened again at day break, right before it snuck under my vestibule and pecked at my face.  I've never wanted a gun more in my life.  I'd shoot that smug look right off its stupid, feathery face.  The problem is, if it didn't die or you missed he would've thought you were shooting food at him and continue ruining your life.

Oh, since this is a fishing blog, I should comment on the fishing.  It was marginal at best.  However, there is a spring creek that held some really spectacular fish, but it winds through a farmer's paddock and we couldn't find him to gain permission.  Hopefully, on our way back.

As we continued on our way to the coast, we stopped in Greymouth, enjoyed a beer at a local tavern and then ate at a place called Billy-O Burger.  Best burger by far in New Zealand.  We were directed to a campsite by some girls that worked at the restaurant.  The campsite was right on the beach.  There really weren't any good sites to pitch a tent so we decided to sleep in the front seats of the Dirty Dog.  It was pretty unbelievable to have a fire on the beach with good company, some beers and tunes.  Plenty of drift wood which made for a pretty stellar beach bon fire.

The next day, we got some breakfast and continued onto Westport.  This drive is unbelievable.  I've never seen to much virgin coast before.  In the States, every inch of beach frontage is built up with homes or high rises.  The west coast of New Zealand is untouched and goes on forever.  Truly stunning.

When was the last time you saw a road just continue right onto the beach?
Could have driven for a while before hitting anything.  And the funny thing is, you would probably hit a cow before a building.  Unreal.
We made a pitstop in PunaKaiki to see the Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes.

It was definitely a site to see, but let's get back to the devil bird I mentioned previously.  As I was walking back to the cafe from the bathroom to finish the rest of my delicious peppered steak meat pie, I noticed a piece of paper with a photo of this menacing bird that had been terrorizing our lives for the last few days.  Its called a weka (Week-a).  The hanger described the weka, its traits, behavior and characteristics.  It pretty much nailed this bird on the head with what we put up with at camp.  We had to laugh at this new information.

When we finally reached the town nearest the trailhead to the Mokihinui, we made camp at an established campsite about 15 minutes drive from where we begin our journey.  Once we had everything set up, we began packing our packs for the next days 8 hour hike in.  Packing strategically for a week in the bush is always a bit of a cluster and definitely takes some time.  Due to the fact that this area floods rapidly after a storm and usually takes a couple days to clear, we had to account for a few days of extra food in case we got stuck.  What looked like a small creek to cross on the way in, can very easily turn into an impassible torrent after a good storm.  Not much you can do until it clears.  Meanwhile, as soon as all of our food came out, you can guess who joined the party: WEKA.

In the middle of this process, there was an impressive sunset over the ocean.  Zach and I both grabbed our cameras to try and capture this unbelievable span of scenery.  When we returned to camp, we continued packing only to find that Zach's roll of summer sausage was missing.  We searched everywhere, but with no success.  There was only one explanation:  WEKA.

Can't beat this.
I often wonder how a bird like this can survive in such a harsh and unforgiving environment called Earth.  I would have put the weka on the extinct list right beside the DoDo Bird if I didn't know any better.  I guess persistence pays off in the end.  We could all learn a little something from our feathery little friend.  If at first you fail, keep trying.  And when this world begins to throw rocks at you, don't dodge them, embrace them.  When the world wants you dead and gone, just wait until a beautiful sunset, then steal its summer sausage.

WEKA:  They will truly ruin your week-a.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I'm not sure I know anyone who enjoys a good hiccup session.  Hiccups are bad.  Hiccups are annoying.  A bad case of hiccups can ruin your day.  Depending on who you talk to, there are countless cures of hiccups.  Drinking water while upside down.  Spelling HICCUP forwards and backwards.  Breathing in repeatedly until it hurts.  Scaring someone when they aren't expecting it.  And I could go on.

Recently, our trio had a hiccup, only the cure for it was a trip to the emergency room, surgery, 6 weeks in a cast and who knows how much rehab.

We were fishing about a half hour outside of Geraldine and came to a hole that seemed bottomless.  In order to get a better view, our nimble friend, Les, volunteered to climb an overhanging tree to get an aerial view of the water to see if an leviathans lingered in the depths.  To get the best view, he positioned himself on a questionably thin branch when "CRACK!!", the limb broke, sending him and the branch plummeting twelve feet to the unforgiving cobble rock below.  It all happened so fast that we didn't know quite how to react.  Well, I actually know exactly how I reacted because I remember giggling at the situation, ready to point and escalate my giggling into full blown demeaning laughter.  However, I was completely oblivious to the severity of the situation.  When Les didn't react and lay there in silent excruciating pain, all of us knew that he didn't land right.

This is a tree similar to the one Les climbed.

Les climbing a tree.  Not documentation of actual tree climbed.
Les dangling from branch a little thicker than one that broke.
When we reached Les, he appeared to be in shock.  Immediately ashen and sweaty, his hands were shaking and he kept repeating that this was the worst pain he's ever felt.  Thankfully, we were still close to the vehicle.  Zach sprinted for the first aid kit and wrapped his ankle over his boot as best he could to minimize anymore movement of the foot.  We carried him the short distance to the truck, set him in the back, propped his foot up on the middle console and started making our way to the nearest hospital.

The nearest town of any size was Timaru, which was about an hour and fifteen minutes away from where we were fishing.  When we got to the hospital, everyone was great.  The care Les received was top notch.  On top of this, the only thing Les paid for was the $12.00 for what would cost at least $500 back home for medication.  Anyone who claims that a socialist country has shitty healthcare would be blown away by the quality of care Les received while in Timaru.  But I digress...  One humorous thing we encountered was the terminology Kiwi physicians used for a broken bone.  Munted.  Once we heard this term, we obviously tried our hardest to use the word "munted" as often as we could.  "Oh, you totally munted it." or "I'm not sure I've seen an ankle that munted."  "Could you feel your ankle munting when you fell?"  In a situation such as this, humor seems like the only thing that seems right or at least has the potential of easing the tension, taking Les' mind off of the injury.

The doctors took some x-rays of his leg and they couldn't find any broken bones in his ankle.  However, every time they pushed on his knee, it popped.  They ended up taking an additional x-ray of his upper leg, around his knee and found a spiral fracture of his fibula, just below the knee.  In addition to the break, he tore just about every ligament in his ankle from the surrounding bones which required surgery.  In the end, Les was admitted and ended up spending 5 days in the hospital.

Very similar break to Les'.  Spiral fracture of the fibula.  Yay Google Images.
It was a huge blow to the morale of the group to lose Les to a freak accident like this.  We're thankful that nothing worse happened and that we were near help.  Had we been out in the bush... Nah, I don't even want to think about it.  All in all, Les' trip is over and is heading back to the states shortly.  No one is more bummed than Les.  Most of the success and planning of this trip can be attributed to him and for that we are all appreciative.  Again, it is a huge loss to the group and we will miss his company, his knowledge of the area and his overall ridiculous fly fishing prowess that he brought to the table.  It is now our turn to step up to the plate and pick up the slack.  It has been a few weeks since the accident and not much fishing has occurred since then.  Our momentum was lost, but it's about damn time that we get our asses back in gear and start fishing.  We've got some good stuff ahead of us.  I can't wait to tell you about it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pay It Forward

After we reunited with the other guys after our epic backpack trip, where we caught a ridiculous amount of big fish, we found out that their trip was a bust.  According to them, they caught one 3 or 4 lb. fish and had opportunities at only one or two others for the entire 4 days.  As we were finishing up our hike out of the river, we saw the dirty dog pulling over the bridge and I would imagine it looked as though we were skipping with an incredible bounce in our step after such a fun few days.  Even though it felt good to know we had the better beat of water, it sucked to know that Matt, who again was only here for just under two weeks, had wasted 4 of his fishing days on shitty fishing with poor conditions.

Our next stop was in Reefton.  The night before we stayed at a motel for cheap and had a pretty stellar night with some kiwi guys working at a mine nearby.  They claimed that there were eels in the creek running through the property.  Of course, we played devils advocate and called "bullshit" on their claim.  Immediately, one of the guys ran inside his room and came back out with a can of sweet chili flavored tuna and said, "Follow me".  We did and sure enough, as soon as he plopped the entire can of tuna into the water, an eel appeared, snaking up through a riffle below to investigate the delicious scents in the water.  Before we knew what happened, Matt had charged into the creek, looking to noodle up some eel.  With all of us heckling him from the bridge above, he made multiple attempts at grabbing it, but each time the eel either slipped out of his hands or Matt recoiled back in fear of getting bit.  Either option didn't bode well for him, as he was getting ridiculed for both.  We didn't receive any eel sushi that night, but overall it was pretty stellar entertainment for all of us watching.

The next day, since we all wanted Matt to get into some fish, we drove him and Les up a track up the Waitahu River just outside of Reefton.  This track is a 4WD road that eventually is impassible due to a washout across the road.  It essentially got them half way up and the rest of the way was a pretty easy hike along the road to get to the hut about 7km away.  Zach and I had a good list of water we wanted to fish, but first went back into Reefton to gorge ourselves on meat pies and coffee.  We then got back in the car and drove the half hour back to Springs Junction, found a camp site, set up camp and then departed for the river.  The stretch of river we chose was supposed to be pretty solid with plenty of fish and decent access.  We drove to the end of the road and found another vehicle parked there.  We cursed at the truck, kicked some dirt at the tires and then ventured back up the road in the direction we came from to find some access well above where they were parked.  We found a good pull off about 6km upstream of the other vehicle and dropped down to the river.  After plenty of rain the previous couple days, the river was clear, but raging.  After scanning the river for a safe place to cross, we found our route and committed.  The water was freezing and deep.  The word "shrinkage" doesn't quite do it justice.  We fished for most of the day.  We saw plenty of fish but because the water was so high, most of them were unfishable unless you waded chest deep and didn't mind dying.  It then started to rain and the fish spotting went to shit so we bushwhacked back to the road and walked the 3 or 4 kms back to the car.  We drove back to Springs Junction to a cafe and had some dinner.  Not knowing what else to do, we sat in the car, listening to music, watching the rain slowly ruin our fishing for the next few days.  It felt as though we both had this realization at the same time, but we looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, "I think the bar is still open in Reefton".

Relieved and excited for a warm establishment with a tasty brew, we drove back to Reefton, accepting defeat on the river.  It was Friday and that means Friday Night Rugby.  The bar was packed with an elderly crowd that night with a couple younger guys and what seemed like their parents.  Since we are still unfamiliar with the rules of rugby, we were asking the younger guy, who turned out to be a stud rugby player who played for a New Zealand national team in a tournament over in the states, about the rules of rugby.  They were really nice about it and definitely took the time to explain as much as they could.  After the game, we started chatting with them about who we were, where we were from, what we are doing here and all of the other friendly conversation topics.  It came up that we were heading back to Springs Junction and sleeping in tents in the rain and the mom offered us a bed at their house for the night.  The first offer, we politely declined but thanked them for offering.  However, as the night went on, the rain started pissing harder, they offered again and Zach and I kind of looked at each other, shrugged, as if to say, "why not?" and this time accepted the offer.

We followed them to their house, which was a beautiful home and they took us in like we were their own.  The stud rugby player turned out to be their son and we met two more of their kids once at the house.  They gave us a queen size bed and then brought in a blow up mattress.  It may have been the best night sleep I've had in a long time.  When we woke up, we were shown where all of the breakfast food was and as I was fixing up some breakfast, the dad, Malcolm, said something to me.  Now, what I have discovered about myself while spending time in New Zealand, is I am really bad at understanding English with an accent.  All I heard from Malcolm was, "mumble mumble mumble mumble trout mumble mumble mumble...?".  This probably isn't the best way to answer someone when you have no idea what they are saying, but I answered, "Sure" because it seemed like it was a question.  I thought he wanted to show us more pictures of trout he had caught.  When I was finishing up breakfast, I heard him say, "Are you about ready boys?".  When I heard this, I thought he was heading to work and wanted us out.  I went to Zach who was brushing his teeth, and told him that we should leave.  When we were all packed up, we loaded the car and went to go thank Malcolm for having us and that we were going to head out.  He looked at me confused and said, "You guys don't want to go see the Waitahu?".  I answered him, just as confused, "Oh sure, that'd be great...".  We hopped in his truck and drove about 5 minutes to a large warehouse looking building.  We thought he was just dropping a battery off to be charged and from there we would drive up the Waitahu River.  But, then he said "Follow me".  We did, not knowing what was going on.  We walked in and there is an entire garage of nice vehicles including a refurbished 1950s Ford 100 truck and a 60s Shelby.  All in mint condition.  We keep following him through the warehouse, he opens the back doors and reveals an even bigger room housing three helicopters.  Having found out the night before that Malcolm was a helicopter pilot, Zach turns to me and mouths the words, "I think he's taking us up in the chopper!".  Sure enough, he starts checking the helicopter, has us help him tow it out to the landing concrete area and told us to hop in.  At this point, we were aghast at the luck we were having and couldn't believe we were going to be taking off in a helicopter.  Honestly, we had no idea this was happening until we walked into the helicopter hangar.  We would have grabbed some cameras and documented the experience, but because of my damn inability to understand the New Zealand accent, we both left the cameras in the car.

We took off, and Malcolm showed us the area and the surrounding coal and gold mines in the hills.  He then took us up the Waitahu River and hovered above the hut our buddies were staying at to see if we could see them, give them the finger and possibly moon them.  When we talked to them after they returned, they thought we were a guide service that was jumping them on the river with fishermen.  This was exactly what I was hoping for.  It was one of the more unbelievable experiences I have ever had.  When we returned back to their home, we thanked them as much as we could and then parted ways, only to return later with a thank you note and a case of Speights beer for Malcolm and whoever else wanted to indulge.  We figured, since we met them in a pub, it was fitting to gift them with beer.

We are continually blown away by the hospitality the folks in New Zealand have shown us.  There is definitely a "Pay it forward" mindset here and it makes me want to bring that back to the States.  If the family that took us in is reading this, we thank you again for showing us such great generosity and hospitality.