28 February 2011
13 February 2011
John loves chuckin' meat. Browns love eating it.
Nnyep, 'bout on par for the course.
Back in Ch'Ch, sitting at a crossroad. John was delivered to the airport early in the a.m. yesterday, so once again it's just a coupla guys. We had a great time together, the three of us, but the van was tight no doubt. I really just wish we coulda turned the big guy on to a few more (big) fish in his three weeks down here, but hey, he caught more than I have since I arrived, so maybe I shouldn't feel so bad? Everyone's saying it's the worst season they can remember, but I needn't expound on that anymore. Being in New Zealand is enough of a consolation prize in and of itself, and in his time here John lived the quintessential Kiwi experience: chasing sheep, meat pies, Speights, Fergburger, sandflies, fish and chips, penguins and sea lions, Queenstown, tramping into huts, monster trout you have no chance of catching, whitebait, the beauty of Manchester after 10pm, some local color, and so on. So it's back to Montana for him, where I'm sure he'll proceed to freeze his bullocks off until April, when he has the distinct pleasure of flying up to the Yukon Delta in Alaska to assist his wife with evaluating over-winter survival of juvenile salmon in frozen beaver ponds, ie where he'll once again proceed to freeze his bullocks off again until... oh, maybe June? As fate would have it, I'll see him up there again around that time as I recently accepted a position for the crew leader on the Kwethluk River salmon weir. John and I first met on the Kwethluk two years ago when we both worked up there, and I can't say I'm terribly thrilled to be going back, but what it is. It's tough to turn down a good job offer when the one you're holding out for isn't a given... So it could be purgatory again, or it could be worse. Maybe not, I guess we'll see.
But what to do next? I need a ticket back stateside and that's hanging over my head. Should I stay or should I go? Who can complain about being in New Zealand for the winter not working? Who can't complain about one fish in two months and shitty weather and high water? I suppose I could be back in Maine freezing my bullocks off, shoveling snow for a paycheck, but obviously that's not appealing. But then I think about the tax man and the fun he's gonna have with me here in a few months and that might be even less appealing... I do love winter. I do love New Zealand. I don't like shoveling snow. I don't like not catching fish. I do like a little stability every now and then. I do like living on the road without a plan. I don't like rain and high water. I don't like waking up at 3am to plow heavy wet crud. Decisions, decisions. Perhaps this is just one of those instances where I just need to chill out as it will work itself out in due time. So until then, we shall fish.
|Meat me at Hope|
I'm not sure what direction we're headed, nor for how long we'll be out. We've got a handful of some backcountry rivers we'd like to get into and spend several days fishing each, all within reasonable distance of Ch'Ch, so I imagine that's where we'll start. It seems hardly worthwhile to travel too far when the desirable water south and west of here is receiving the brunt of the foul weather. La Nina; how I do loathe thee. Funny how just a simple letter would make all the difference in the world about my feelings towards you: Pac NZ = teh suck. Pac NW = the win. But I'm not skiing W3st Co@st powder, and you're not my friend down here.
09 February 2011
(From last week...)
Where to begin? Really I haven't the faintest, but for starters I'm just gonna reel off some endless rabble about what's been plaguing my thoughts, toying with my emotions, and working mischief in my life. I don't know what this will accomplish, but I guess it's a start and for some reason it seems like maybe spewing what I can into words will hopefully get me somewhere.
I feel as though my mind's been scattered a million different directions for months now. There's not much in my life that I'd describe as "concrete", "stable", or "secure", but it's kinda been that way for years now, and even though I'm here now in New Zealand, somehow the second year in a row on what is arguably the dream trip of a lifetime for many folks, I'm not feeling terribly settled. The funny thing is that by all rights I have less worries now than I did here last year, but that void seems to have been filled with utter, sourceless mayhem. Trip planning, travelling, working, preparing, taxes, holidays, women, friends, future work, family, fishing, moving, money, skiing, music, relaxation, and tension are just a few of the fiendish imps that have been tearing me in a million different directions simultaneously. Maybe it's the character that that trip has seemed to acquire for itself. Maybe it's that I've been a bit cavalier or too nonchalant about everything. Or maybe it's just the weather, which is seemingly equally unsettled. I think that's a lot of it, I guess. Well, at least part anyway. Regardless, nothing seems for certain, at least not enough to grasp onto and even take for granted with what little consolation that might provide.
It's been rough. We've had a few good days on the water, days where the sun shines bright and the water's clear and the fish are out and active and we're in high spirits and having a ball just living the dream. But those days have been few, and I'd say far between but they seem to come in spurts. We haven't had a spell like that for quite some time now. Instead, it's windy, cloudy, sprinkling, misty, or downright pouring. It seems like since then the water's have been blown out, murky. So it goes. What rivers we have come across that seemed in decent are pounded by other fisherman making the fish are extra spooky or just plain glum with lockjaw. To date, I've landed one decent fish and one okay fish, and a handful of measly peaslys. And one chinook parr, on a size 16 BWO softhackle. I'll take it, cuz right now that's all I've got.
I think everyone's heard the line from that Sublime song, "summertime and the livin's easy...". I think that's part of it too. It's summer down here, technically speaking, but it hasn't been very summer-like at all, at least not consistently, and in turn the livin' hasn't felt very easy. I think I need more of those cloudless days, warm temps and abundant sunshine to aid my not-so-sunny disposition. And I think it would help the fish too, which would also help me. Maybe cuz it hasn't been too sunny they've been feeling glum and are not looking up for big, juicy bugs to float their way. February's here now, which is essentially our equivalent of August, so things should start looking up, metaphorically and literally speaking, so maybe I just need to be a little more patient? I hope so, but either way the interim's been wreaking havoc inside my head.
So... As far as looking up: I've got a music festival to jam out to on Saturday in Queenstown with some new friends. Fat Freddy's Drop is playing, which is one of my favorite Kiwi bands, and I am very excited to see them play. I've got an interview with the US Fish & Wildlife Service in Anchorage tomorrow for a job I've been wanting a long time now. It looks promising thus far. Immediately after that I have to call the USFWS office in Kenai about a few positions there I could go back to for the summer. I don't want to be hasty, but it unlikely I won't be going back to AK sometime come spring. Treats! And of course, I've got the better part of two months left here to chase some more of the tail I've been so desperately craving. And those two months are "August" and "September", which any half-decent fisherman knows to be some of the best dry fly fishing months the year has to offer. So we'll see what shapes up.
30 January 2011
Fishing's slow. We've caught a few fish, but not enough to slake our thirst in this land of prodigious water and wise-guy fish. We're looking for more. Stuff to do, fish to catch, sights to see. All we hear about are the floods. Floods around Boxing Day. Great deluges of water that rearranged channels, scoured bottoms, washed out food and washed down fish. The evidence is astounding. Trees five feet across just tossed carelessly over roads, 15 feet or more above where the water now runs. The weather hasn't been terribly cooperative either. What few rivers seem like they might be worthwhile are overrun with guides and clients and other bums like ourselves. And our arch-enemies: Ze Germans. Those bastards. We've run into them before, and I'm sure we'll see them again. Time's are trying but we'll prevail. I hope/wish/dream anyway.
Nnyep, 'bout sums it up for now.
|What? We're just a coupla guys...|
17 January 2011
I wanted to do a little tribute to Wharariki Beach and an epiphany I had there almost one ago to the date. I was hanging out on the beach that day, listening to a band started by the lead singer of Tool, Maynard James Keenan. If you know me at all you know how much I worship Tool. Each member of the band is incredibly talented, genius even in my opinion. MJK has a way with words that is not only incredibly poignant but breathtakingly poetic and profound beyond measure. Their music and the message contained therein go as deep as you care to take it, and it most certainly has been one of the more influential forces in my life. But I digress...
Puscifer is the third band Maynard has started, and it's perhaps the foulest of them all. He's done some pretty unorthodox stuff with it, and I'm sure to the casual listener it might even come across as tasteless and crude. Regardless, one man's trash is another man's treasure and I've certainly found some gems in his panderings. The particular song to which I was listening that day is called Sour Grapes. It starts out with a heavy orchestral tone, like one would hear before an epic battle scene in a movie. Before long a deep voice begins booming, telling a tale that one might liken to some "hellfire and brimstone" type sermon. I had always taken the song to be some sort of satire on this evangelical approach and left it at that. I had heard the song and the words before, but never had I really listened to it. And then it hit me. For some reason as I was kicking around in the sand, jamming out on my iPod, those words finally took root and bloomed before mine own eyes. I looked around me in awe, and as I listened to the rest of the song this is what I saw and heard:
Into the belly of the holy mother
A chamber black as pitch
But I felt no fear, only comfort,
For I was as a child in the womb
And she begged me
"Hear through yonder portal
Which looked upon the heavens,
And behold! a morning angel"
She ascended slowly from far beyond the horizon,
Her light like a heavenly finger pointing the way
And on yonder wall she traced for me a path
Which led me five directions, eight winters to east,
As my feet landed firmly
Upon the vital winter of the second storm
A holy virgin, the bringer of life and breath
And she spoke unto me saying
"Fear not the movement of the heavens above or the earth below
For change is what we are, my child.
Righteous are those
Who look up and sway with the wind,
Who look down and dance with the shifting of the soil,
Who swim with the movement of the tides
Who seek the truth around them
And discover that we are
And have always been in paradise.
The reflections of heaven on earth. Amen!'
And she spoke again saying
"Know, my child,
That there is no devil seeking
To cause guilt nor harm to men.
No evil, save blind faith, ignorance,
And the desire for the unprepared
To blame others for the devastation
Left in the wake of change
Change, my child
Change is in the heavens
Change is on this earth
Change is all around us
And if we
Are reflections of the divine
We must roll with these changes,
For we are these changes.
Eyes wide open,
We must look upon
The heavens as a mirror.
And when the shit comes down, my child,
You will be there,
A true and holy survivor
To inherit the kingdom of god.
You will rise above the rumbles of the unprepared
To greet the new day,
To drink from the sweet fruit of the vine,
The water of life, the blood of the risen Christ, my child.'
'Go now, son,
Tell them all.
The ignorant, the blind paw by dogma,
Blinded by faith, the doubters, the nay sayers.
Tell them all, child,
They can not see
The kingdom of God,
They can not see paradise
Unfold before them
They can not drink
From the chalice
Which holds the blood of Christ,
The water of life,
Until they get right with Jesus.
Until they get right with Jesus.
It's always gonna be
Sour grapes with you, boy,
Until you get right with Jesus. Amen!
Well well well, the first blood has been drawn. And second. And third. And fourth. And so on.
We set out last Saturday after dropping Justin off. After loading up with groceries on our way out of town, it was time to get some frickin' fishing done. We drove up towards Lewis Pass and stopped along the way for the afternoon, following the suggestion of a local in the fishing shop: Rumors of some Frenchman having bested seven, yes seven, DD fish. And that's double digit as in weight (ten plus pounds), not cup size, though either way it's the stuff dreams are made of... Absurd numbers we being thrown around in a sickeningly cavalier manner, 15, 13.5, 11, and so on. Granted this all purportedly took place last year, which was in a fact a mouse year, it was enough to convince us to take a look.
Upon arriving it appeared that the recent floods (I've heard different reports from 370mm to 1.3m overnight) had shuffled the rivers around a little bit. Apparently mother nature had new plans for the tributary as the entire channel had been moved about 45 degrees and now flowed exclusively through a big terrace of matagouri. I'm just gonna assume that confluence pool he was talking about ain't gon be dere no mo. We walked downstream several hundred yards and the trib was still a ways behind, and long ways off yet from converging. But we did what we could with what we had.
A fish was spotted on the way down, but spooked after a few casts. Oh well. As we were rapping that up I noticed a guy walking upstream towards us. I figured we had inadvertently cut him off, but we started chatting and immediately discovered he was from Jackson Hole, had grown up there, and knew my cousins. This family of my cousins' is proving to be an almost eerily common thread in orchestrating almost every connection made on this trip. Not the least of which was meeting Isaiah this spring, where I convinced him over keg beer and rounds of Crown that he should come down here. Later that evening we were on our way to visit the doctor that my aunt works for in Jackson, and of course, this new guy Ian we just met had run into the good doctor only moments prior a little bit downstream. So that makes three separate, mutually exclusive entities who all knew this family, the Watsabaughs, converging on not just a single river, but within a half mile section of it... Is it fate? Coincidence? Or Destiny. Yes, I choose destiny.
So we decide the three of us to work our way upstream together. I mean it's practically like we know the guy already and we all start chatting like it's been for years, too. I spot a fish. It's my turn in the hotseat. It's my time to shine. This is the moment for which I've been soo patiently waiting. He's active, and he was spotted before we were, so the odds were looking in my favor. I gingerly enter the water and get into position. I've got a blowfly on, and I nail the cast first shot. Drift. Drift. My bug's locked in my crosshairs. Drift. "Oh, he's coming up!" from Isaiah on the bank. Sip. Hairpin trigger and, Yoink! Staight. Outta. His mouth. Nnyep. So New Zealand draws the first blood. Dammit. Yeah, it sucks, but you know what? The I was just happy I made the cast and he came up first time, that was consolation enough. Feels good to know things appear to be in shape, ya know, aside from the obvious. Fortunately after that we didn't go more than fifty feet before we spotted another fish.
Isaiah's up, and on his way down the bank he even spooks another one out even closer still, so three fish close. After a few drifts and some fly changes it appears this guy's keen to us. Better news yet is that in the meantime Ian and I have spotted another active fish just a few meters upstream at the head of the pool. From our vantage point it looked bigger, but nothing's certain until you get them both on the scale, and that just ain't happening. Two casts later and BAM! He turns on a little beetle pattern and falls prey to the old bait and switch. Appears Isaiah's timing's a bit sharper than mine... The fish didn't give him as much of a workout as I was anticipating and we soon had him in the net. Again, the scale was up on the bank and not deemed worth the effort, but it a solid six pounds either way. Great success!
In the process of the whole grip-n-grin photo time I was readying one of my cameras for shooting the underwater release when PLOP! Somehow my strap slides free and off my neck into the drink falls my new Canon G12. Sure, why not? 'Bout on par for the course. New Zealand: 2, Me: 0.
So we continue on. We fish some water here, we fish some water there. All the while the endless pursuit of fish. I am fishless yet. We find some small water up a remote valley. It's small. Skies are overcast. It's just small enough though that we can still spot. I've seen some nice fish come from waters like this, so we remain optimistic. Walk. Walk. See some good looking holes. A willow over the water that looks enticing. "Whoa whoa whoa!" from Isaiah. "Brownie right there." I freeze. Just as I see him he comes up and feeds then banks hard downstream. Spooked? Hard to tell, maybe? I slide downstream while Isaiah's on lookout. "He's feeding man, I've seen him come up like three times now." I can't see squat, so I take his word. Apparently he's just cruising a tight circuit, making the rounds, swallowing everything in sight. I send a cast up with a Chernobyl ant on. "He just turned and sped downstream, did you cast?" Shit, did I spook him? "Yeah I cast." I watch. Then I see: the JAWS. That perfectly triangular shape emerges from the water and the soft cotton inside of the vomer. SET!!! I feel the strong pull of a fish that's hooked on the end of my line. Bliss. Ecstasy. Euphoria. Whoops and hollers! Take it easy, pal, it's not done yet. But it was. He dove for the bank once but I was keen to his tricks. The rest of it was textbook. First fish in the bag. Now I can revel in the sublime satisfaction of my success. That's all I need. That's all I've wanted. I didn't think I would get skunked this trip but that's not to say the thought didn't cross my mind. Everything's just gravy now that I've got that stigma out of my head. Great success!!! Me: 1, New Zealand: 2.
North to Golden Bay to catch some rays for the weekend. We kick around at a reservoir for a coupla days first. Fish the the trib one afternoon despite fickle weather. Spot some active fish, spook some more. It was a unique little river that flowed through a gorgeous valley close to the Karamea system, its character changing completely about every half mile or so. Gorgey down below, plunge pools and pocket water. We see some nice browns but to no avail. Then it opens up in the valley to more glide/riffle/run-type water. Walking along through one run when a fish rises right in front of us, like no more than a few meters away. I figured the pooch's done gone been screwed already, but I step back behind Isaiah and flip a green beetle up his way. Plop, float, SMASH! A frisky little rainbow torpedoes out from behind a rock and crushes my bug. I giggle. He comes to hand, I pop the hook, and off he goes. At least we won't be skunked by this river any more, great success! Me: 2, New Zealand: 3. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention how on the drive up the windy, dirt road my camera, which I so diligently worked to dry out and get back in working condition, took a spill off the dash and smashed the screen. Treats. I'm just a guy, doing what I can to catch up and even the score.
Into Takaka. Up to Wharariki Beach. We enjoy the sun, try to stay out of the wind, watch some seals, just taking it easy. What? It's not like we've got somewhere to be... Except the Mussell Inn. Off to there later that evening, which is only my favorite bar anywhere everywhere ever. They serve only their own brews and we spend the night drinking Captain Cooker's manuka beer, Apple Roughy feijoa cider, Golden Goose lager, Heat Rash chili beer. Mmmm mmm mmm mm mmmmmm. Love it! We met a guy from the West Coast who invites us to sit down and starts chatting us up. He happens to be a chopper pilot, and happens to have a private hut on a sweet piece of water, and happens to know lots of other chopper pilots and jetboat captains. We exchange numbers and make plans to drink beers again soon when we make it over his way. Fortuitous? Beyond measure. A sweet little bluegrass band rocks the stage long into the night, Fossett and Badger, and people are letting loose and bustin' moves on the floor.
Holy hangover. I 'ruggle. Isaiah drives us into town (What? It's not like we slept on the side of the road next to the parking lot...), buys us some sausage rolls, and I pop a coupla Excederin, wincing every time I even try to think. I take about two bites and realize even that's pushing it. We drive to a beach to find a shade tree and I pass back out in the van. A little while later I wake up, realize I'm not aching everywhere and demolish my remaining rolls. Wow, actually I feel pretty good. Great success! After a few minutes of putzing around we decide to roll back towards Ch'Ch and get in the van to make the eight hour journey. A little ways down the road we pick up a hitchhiker, Julian from Germany, who rides with us all the way down and even stays for the night.
And here we are, back at the Vanderties resting, recharging. We picked my friend John up a little earlier today, fresh off the boat from the States via Melbourne. I met John in 2009 while working on the Kwethluk River in Alaska. I was running the salmon weir there and John was working for his wife upstream doing research for her PhD from the University of Montana. He's here for about three weeks, and depending on what happens with this weather system coming through, we'll be out on the road looking to score him some Kiwi tail tomorrow or the next day. Only good things are to come!
08 January 2011
We're just a coupla guys, tryin' to get by day by day. But we make the most of it, cuz we do what we can with what we got. And we've got enough to get by well enough, that's for sure.
And so Justin, Isaiah, and I set out in search of our destiny, which for this week was fish. What we ended up doing was searching for water. Not that the water we found didn't hold fish, because I know for a fact that it did. But good ol' Mother Nature had it out for us: Nor'wester Sunday. A freshet of 370 mm Sunday night. Chocolate milk Monday. Improvements by Tuesday, and a few fish caught, but nothing to write home about. And of course, when the stars were looking like they just might align in our favor, crowds on Wednesday. Don't get me wrong, we had some great days; sunny skies, warm temps, not a whisp of wind in the air. It certainly contributed towards our light-hearted disposition, but didn't do much to alleviate the runoff staining the rivers like a cold, delicious breakfast beverage. Being Men of Destiny we did what we could with what we had, which in that case was some sink tips and a handful of big, ugly bugs to try and draw some fish out from the banks. Otherwise, we mostly dicked around. And I will say, we had a pretty good time at it.
And then there were two. Isaiah and I dropped Justin off at the airport at 5:30 this morning to return to Wyoming and his last semester of undergraduate courses. I'm sure it goes without saying that I'm not jealous. Laramie in the winter is a frigid, windy whore. So now it's really just a coupla guys, about to get back out on the road and get serious about this fish catching business. This time west, and perhaps north? Our immediate plans are to go meet up with a doctor my aunt works for in Jackson, Wyoming. He and I were actually supposed to be on the same flight out of LAX to Auckland, but blowing snow tossed a plane off the runway in Jackson and they shut the airport down before he could sneak out. The weather looks nice, and I know there's some damn good water where we're headed, provided it's fishable, of course. But our spirits are high, and more than anything we really wanna tag some fish. We've got that itch. Our heads are in the game. We've got the lolly-gagging out of the way, at least for now. So there's nothing left but to bring it on!
01 January 2011
Happy New Year folks!
Being in one of the first countries to celebrate this joyous occassion, I'd like to welcome you all to 2011! Yes, I woke up this morning and found myself in New Zealand. Ok, no complaints there. Actually, I can't think of a better way to start things off. A new year full of promise and potential, and it just so happens that this January 1st is also my first full day in the country. I finally arrived here yesterday after roughly 44 hours of straight travel, initiating in Boston at 4am the morning of December 29th. It was long, at times brutal, but now that I'm finally here it goes without saying that it was also entirely worthwhile.
That being said, I did meet some incredible people along the way who definitely helped to soften the blow of the whole tedious process. I met a fellow CSU Aggie at the airport who was on his way here for the first time. We talked fishing and made tentative plans to meet up and hit the river together. I met a generous Kiwi on the plane who gave me his dad's contact information in Christchurch so he could take us out fishing and show us around. I met an amazing woman in LA who helped to kill a good portion of my 12 hour layover and more than a few drinks at the bar. She pitched the idea of starting a fishing show together and said she might have some connections to get the ball rolling, but more on that later. Regardless of what becomes of that, thanks Jennifer! I look forward to our next rendezvous...
Upon my arrival, Isaiah and Justin picked me up at the airport in the Grey Ghost. It's an '86 Toyota Townace, 4wd. Funny, cuz last year Jesse and I drove an '86 Toyota Townace, affectionately dubbed the Silver Fox. The similarities are frightening, especially considering Isaiah never even saw our old rig. Our first stop was the Hotel Vandertie, our wonderful and gracious hosts from last year. What a relief it was to have landed, be able to drop my bags for good, grab a shower, and actually relax. I cannot say enough, I love these people. They've fully embrace the Kiwi trademark attitude of generosity and hospitality, and then taken it to the next level. After freshening up, the Vanderties took us over to a friend's bbq for the evening. We cooked food, played games, and counted down the final seconds of 2010. And here we are now.
Justin is in the unfortunate position of having to return to the States in only one week's time, so we're gonna get after it and hit the road immediately in search of eager fish, with hopes of tying him into a few more dandies before he departs. Our general direction, south to Otago, details to be threshed out later. We'll catch up more then...
26 December 2010
Well, yet another Christmas has come and gone. I've been back in Maine for almost two months now and everything there was to look forward to during my stay here, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc, has passed in kind. There is but one thing left on the horizon now, and to be honest it's only ever been the one thing. Though my time home has been great, it wasn't ever so much a destination as a stopover on my way elsewhere, somewhere to warmer climes and hungry fish. That somewhere is New Zealand. Many other feasible options that easily fulfill those requisites were carefully considered, such as Patagonia, Panama, Baja, but the deck was stacked from the beginning, ultimately before I even left there in the first place. And so it is. I fly out in less than four days.
I've been pretty excited off an on, but more than anything I've been preoccupied with other stuff. Though I'll be happy to get there, I have a feeling I won't get super giddy about anything until I see that first fish feeding. Or maybe the night before that, when we're sitting around a campfire drinking Speights and whiskey, figuring out what to rig up for the next morning. Making sure the line is stretched, leaders straightened, tippet measured and tied, knots carefully tightened. Laser sharp focus as the boxes are examined and the exact fly selected. All the while the dialogue gets you even more fired up as everyone builds off each other, hypothetical scenarios back and forth of ideal conditions and success of epic proportions. But no, not even that will compare to that first dimpled surface, that little bit of nervous water that you recognize as the tell. And then your confidence implodes and all hell breaks loose as you feel your stomach tighten, that nervousness like when you're about to go ask a hot girl out. You're hands get all sweaty and you start to shake a little bit. Your heart's pounding in your throat when that voice pops into your head: What is that, 40 feet or 45? That drift looks pretty tricky...Should I go down to 5x? Sheesh, this breeze isn't doing me any favors. The inner monologue almost tries to convince you out of it, but you want to do it, you know you will do it, cuz if you don't you're definitely not gonna get any tail. You just know that pulling the trigger on this means actualizing the outcome of those scenarios played out in your head, and some were equally as crushing. But it's New Zealand, and you brought your A-game. And you've been waiting a looong time to get down here. And you really, really want a piece of that tail...
I'll let you know how it goes.