How I Got Hooked
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
A little over a year ago I decided that for my senior year of college I wanted to take a semester and study abroad in New Zealand. Before my departure it was quickly understood that the country was not only a top tourist destination, but also renowned for its insanely epic trout fishing seasons. At this point in time I had only been fly fishing for about a year but that wasn’t going to stop me from packing my waders. The skills and knowledge I had acquired while fishing in Colorado only scratched the surface of ‘beginner’ and with that, the playing field was about to change even more. So not knowing what the hell I was doing or how to even be transported to a river, I did the only thing I thought to be of aid; log on to social media and google away. Eventually I came across a few different fishing pages, as well as some profiles of kiwis (people of New Zealand) who were mad keen fly fishermen. One person in particular, a local from Gisborne named Connor Andrew informed me of an event called the Winter Fly Fest which was coming up and would be held in the town of Turangi. So without knowing a single soul or anything about the destination of the trip, I jumped on a 6-hour bus ride from Wellington to the middle of nowhere all for just a chance at catching a trout on a fly rod. I think I saved my mother a few gray hairs by waiting to tell her about the weekend only after I had returned in one piece.
Once having arrived in Turangi and settled in, it was time to head over to the pub for a feed and a chance to meet up with some of the local legends and others attending the fly fest. To tell you the truth, being one of the only girls there (and knowing very little about fly fishing) compared to the room of men who had 20+ years’ experience, one could say I was pretty intimidated. But not long after walking into Spuds was I welcomed in as just another angler. Throughout the course of the evening everyone enjoyed some drinks and a wonderful meal while sharing stories of double-figure brown trout sipping on dries. For some there, it was just another night having a beer and catching up with old friends, but for me it was a surreal experience getting the chance to sit next to some of the most skilled and knowledgeable fly fishermen I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. That night plans were made for the following day and it was only fair that the person responsible for my being in Turangi take me out on my first foreign expedition. Early the following morning Connor and I packed up our gear and made our way to a river not far from town. We started out by Czech nymphing (a method of fly fishing) the deep and fast-moving pockets hoping to find ravenous rainbows working their way upstream. For myself, it was the first time ever using this technique and just as I started to get the hang of it BOOM! A feisty trout inhaled my rig and shot upstream. Remember how I said I was still pretty new to fly fishing? Well it hadn’t occurred to me to set the drag on my reel being so used to only catching 8-inchers, so this fish had plenty of room to shoot straight under a log, breaking me off in seconds. I had learned many lessons that weekend, but I’ll certainly never forget to check my drag again. After recovering from my semi-embarrassing moment, I got my line back in the water and it wasn’t long before I hooked up once again, landing my first fish of the trip. Others fishing nearby must have been either slightly concerned or just annoyed because as soon as we got it to the net there was no containing my excitement. You could say that the experience of catching my first New Zealand rainbow trout (although considered small by local standards) was beyond a special moment, but not without trial and error. I had just accomplished exactly what I had come there to do, and up until that point I believed was just wishful thinking.
As for the rest of my time in Turangi, the Fly Fest continued on with the next set of events being better than the last. Casting tutorials and other presentations were held at lunch and it was at this time I had the chance to work on my own casting style while receiving tips and advice from the pros. A dinner was held that evening at another local pub for everyone attending the event and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t proudly carry around a picture of my magnificent 2-pound trout for all to see. It was an experience I’ll never forget and those same people I encountered that weekend have continued to influence and inspire me almost every day since. Of course, there’s more to the story and plenty of inside jokes never to be forgotten but I’ll always be looking forward to the next winter season in Turangi.
First NZ rainbow caught on August 11th, 2017