The Lure of Fly Fishing
The Lord of the Trout
By Blake Katchur
The soft hollow knock of my father’s fist on the wooden door wakes me up from a deep sleep. I stumble into the bathroom, the light of morning stinging my eyes, and jump into the shower, letting the warm water bring me to my senses. I realize that it is my last day in the fly-fishing capital of the world. My adrenaline slowly creeps through my body, and I feel ready for anything. I swing open the door of my room and walk toward the kitchen with an excited swagger to my step. Breakfast has been served and my dad has already started.
He smiles at me as he takes a sip of his hot coffee and asks, "You ready, Sport?"
I give an excited grin and reply, "I was born ready, Dad." As the last drop of orange juice rolls out of my glass I hear a knock on the back door; our native fishing guide Nigel has arrived and once again a chill runs down my neck as the adrenaline flows through my veins.
The rain hits the windshield with a soft patter followed by the squeak of the wipers on our Isuzu Bighorn 4x4 as we rumble up the dirt road toward a new hot spot. I look up into the rearview mirror, reading the sticker on the back window that I have read every day for the past four days, and every time not really registering the significance of the words. The sticker reads BACKCOUNTRY GUIDES--METHVANE, NEW ZEALAND. As I sit in the backseat, the early hours, along with the swaying car ride, nearly gets to me as my eyes begin to close and then it hits me. I am on the other side of the world, in a place I have only dreamt about. I am about to embark on the last day of fly-fishing the Southern Alps on the south island of New Zealand with my lifelong fishing partner and best friend, my father. It still does not seem real. It seems as though I am watching the Lord of the Rings while I stare out the misty window at unknown green mountainsides and crystal clear waters. As I am realizing just how special this trip is the truck comes to a halt, locking my seatbelt against my shoulder.
Nigel swings his head back and with a huge grin plastered across his unshaven, face he yells, "You ready, Mate?"
I smile and jump out of the car. As I leave the warmth of the car, the cool air accompanied by the mist of a morning mountain shower slams into my face like a brick wall. I walk around the back of the truck to grab my raingear, my face dripping with the sweet, cold, clean rain of the untouched southern mountains. "Nothing can dampen my mood today. I am walking on air," I think to myself. We begin to gear-up, piecing together hundreds of dollars worth of fly rods and stringing the fly line through the small eyelets. The anticipation builds as we slide into our bib-like fishing waders, getting ever so close to "getting the line wet."
The wet, brilliantly-green grass is like ice under our felt-soled shoes as we hike to yet another section of secluded, nearly untouched mountain stream that holds some of the biggest trout in the world. The low rain clouds hang, swirling around the snow-covered fourteen thousand foot peaks, giving a truly mystical aura about where we are and what we are doing. It does not seem real; we are truly alone in the middle of nowhere. A quick glance back at the turquoise truck sitting on the dead end of a major dirt road puts a perspective on just how huge the valley we are hiking through is. Its walls empty of ski runs and million dollar homes tower over us, seemingly mocking our minute existence. With each step, the crystal clear snake running through the valley gets closer, and with each step, the anticipation builds. The cold morning and misty air cannot wipe the smile from my face; I was born to experience this.
With the clear snake running barely fifty feet from us, we huddle together to form a game plan. This kind of fishing is not just normal fishing; this is more like hunting. These fish are smart and the water is so clear that they can see us on the banks if we are not careful. We creep up in a single-file line toward the river, like a stalking pack of wolves. As we grow close, our trained guide spots a five-or-six pound trout feeding not thirty feet away. Without a word, he grabs my shirt and points out the fish and where he wants me to stand. I take a step at a time, as though I am walking on glass shards, until I reach the rock that will be my casting platform for the next ten minutes. I slowly start pulling the gray line out of my fly reel, watching Nigel until he gives me the thumbs-up when I have the right amount of line in the water. With one quick motion that has been practiced thousands of times in anticipation for this very moment, twenty five feet of fly line leaps to life and becomes airborne, forming an elegant dancing loop behind me. With a quick but controlled thrust, I throw my fly rod forward, leaving the tip behind waiting to catch up. I stop at the ten o’clock position, and the tip is thrown forward now, trying to stop heaving the weight of the line. The momentum shoots it straight out in front of me and above the fish. The fly floats down like a drifting feather five feet upstream from the torpedo-shaped water beast. I strip in the excess line, trying to keep it straight. Then suddenly, the glass-like flow of the stream surface is broken by the nose of this beautiful rainbow trout. My perfectly-drifting fly disappears under the green nose, and I lift my fly rod up and back with great force, hoping that I will feel the weight of the water monster on the end of my line. The slack rips up through the water and the line jolts straight as the fish breaks the surface with such speed that he flies though the air like a bird, the sun reflecting his shiny, brilliant colors. I hook him. Then the quiet mountain valley erupts in noise. My reel is screaming as the fly line is being spooled through it by the pull of the running fish.
Nigel and my father are screaming with joy and haste as I hear, "Blake, you have to chase him!"
I get the message as I take off running in waders with huge waterlogged boots desperately, trying to keep my rod tip high. As I take off downstream I trip and slip on everything possible, and it is a miracle that I stay on my feet. Then, suddenly he stops and settles down in a pool below a small fall, tired like I am from the run. I reel in the line as I approach the pool, but as soon as the line becomes taught, he begins to fight, leaping into the air once more. I gain most of my line back as he runs toward the shore, and then he swims right into the net Nigel is waiting with at the waters edge. The battle is over. I did it. I landed another monster male rainbow trout in the streams of New Zealand. As I throw my arms up in the air, I am met by my dad with a huge hug of celebration. I hold up the beautiful-green backed trout and grin for the clicking camera. I then release the trout unharmed and thank him for the fight.
I collapse onto the green field for lunch, completely worn out from the fight .The adrenaline wears off, leaving me exhausted, but the smile stays behind. We celebrate with our chocolate bars, kidding about how it was a miracle that I stayed on my feet as I ran. I shake Nigel’s hand and give my dad a big hug, thanking him, once again, for the trip. As we finish our lunches, sitting in the valley like a couple of ants compared with the towering mountains on all sides, it hits me, again-what an experience. An event that has truly changed my life forever and one I will never forget. Being on the other side of the world with my father doing something we love in such a truly beautiful mystic place as New Zealand.