When one conjures up images about fly-fishing in New Zealand, it’s perfectly fitting to imagine a grand adventure set deep in the rugged wilderness of South Island. I had been dreaming about returning to New Zealand for the past 8 years; the last time I was there the wilderness almost took my life. Prior to leaving, I spent a couple of months planning and packing for this one month journey. When planning an adventure that involves being flown in by helicopter and left alone in such an extremely remote destination, the first thing you think about is bringing gear that you can trust. Since 1996 I’ve had an intimate relationship with Sage fly rods. I remember not eating for days just to save enough money to buy my first custom Sage, which provided me more than a decade of amazing fly-fishing. Unfortunately after years of abuse and a severe rafting accident, it was buried it in the depths of the Yellowstone River. For this trip though, I picked up a new ONE and packed it in between my older RPL and XP rods.
During the heli in, images of large brown trout swimming in the crystal waters, sipping insects off the gin clear surface filled me with excitement. When the helicopter flew away though, I began to remember the feelings of isolation and fear that I’ve come to know on adventures like this one.
I quickly unpacked my gear and headed to the infamous Karamea River. This is a river that would have any professional fly-fisherman yelling obscenities to anyone willing to listen. I wandered along the water’s edge searching for the elusive monster. You know the one; the one that lurks deep among the boulders.
Finally, there he was, a large shadow rising in the current. After studying his behavior for a while, it was now or never. I started to slowly pull line and cast… feeling the rhythm of the rod, everything was in synch. As I got into position, I felt the smooth action of the rod and sent my fly through the air… landing it about a foot to the left of the rising trout… then suddenly and to my astonishment the gray wulff was engulfed! I pulled back and set the hook. He leaped high towards the clouds and the fight was on. I scrabbled down river – dodging logs and boulders and swiftly fell off an embankment. Fortunately, the fish had tired and I was able to bring him in for a closer look…