Due to some circumstances in life, I had been away from New Zealand for some years though this has always been for me the paradise on earth, the one great travelers of the 19th century have always dreamt of.
Coming back to the South Island has meant for me finding the country I left behind some years ago, so uncontaminated, orderly, almost uninhabited and above all – for reasons that have to do with the terrible upheavals of the earth which occurred millions of years ago – rich in magnificent sceneries like very deep theatre wings.
Perhaps only western Canada recalls something like that, but the variety of colors and perspectives in New Zealand are unequaled. That’s nothing different from the magnificent landscapes of the “Lord of Rings” Trilogy, which was indeed totally filmed on this magical island. Actually, reality goes way beyond cinema fiction and any Photoshop artifice.
Chains of red, white and yellow rock mountains skirt rainy forests as thick as in the Amazon and follow gravel beds of rivers as large as motorways, ending up along sea coasts in a spectacular and unusual manner. Green uplands are abruptly interrupted on the edge of high cliffs reclining not too steeply towards large white beaches and the sea, thanks to the slow slope towards the ocean’s abysses, breaking into very long waves at some distance from the sand.
However, what impresses you most is the feeling of primordial solitude, the noise of the wind and the calls of the animals accompanying this immersion in a territory with endless spaces and perspectives, seemingly devoid of human interventions and interferences.
That’s it, New Zealand is man’s prime territory and, thank God, it has always been free from dinosaurs or dangerous beasts which used to make the world an inhospitable place.
There is no art and no ugliness. The marks of man can be seen in the vaguely anonymous respectful settlements which are in some way the legacy of the golden age of immigration from the Anglo-Saxon countries. It is not fundamentally different from what Captain Cook found before himself in the late 18th century during his first inspection, done with the help of a Tahitian native called Tupaia.
Cook wrote in his diary:
« …I got so near the shore that I could distinguish several people on the beach, who appeared to be very dark or black, but I don’t know if this was the true color of their skin or that of the clothes they were wearing. »
The journey to get here lasts an eternity, so be prepared, whether you come from east or west. This time I opted for a stop-over in Sydney, an incredibly well-built cosmopolitan, lively and contemporary city where the quality of life and green areas are respected everywhere. I spent a beautiful day on the surfers’ beach in Manley, eating fried crabs and dissolving the jet lag (12 hours, the longest possible on earth) in the pleasant warmth mixed with sea breeze!
When I landed in the small airport of Nelson I found my guide, John Gendall, waiting for me smilingly; his small lodge is a gem situated near Saint Araud, an hour and a half from the airport, in the region of Marlbrought. There are a lot of rivers here: the Motueka, Owen, Wairau, Wangapika, Buller. The lakes are light blue like alpine lakes, Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa.
It was pure joy to slowly enter the crystal clear water and to feel the stones, the cool water and the rising current under my shoes…yes, because in New Zealand, with good weather, “we wading wet,” that is, waders are left at home… It was pure joy to drink the water of the rivers, and “hook and land a 9 LB BT” (catch a 5 kilo brown trout) in John’s Secret River, and maybe I am not exaggerating if I say that our day on the Goulter River in the Richmond Forest Park was equal to a legendary day on the Mystic River!
My second destination on the South Island was the Western River Lodge in Spring Junction, two hours away from Christchurch. The rivers are numberless here, too and names are still those formerly given by the Maoris: Waiau River Marauia, Inangahua. Barry – the boss of the place – is a born explorer, sure enough he immediately suggested a “wilderness trip” to the lower stretch of the Waiau River, with the aim of crossing a mysterious Gate on the way to Christchurch. “Experimental” is the magic word pronounced by Barry, and our adventure was truly “experimental” indeed!
The river is wonderful and crosses a 50 km valley among narrow canyons and thick Manuka woods. It’s very hard to get to the banks, the trout are sly and elusive. Arriving in the Magdalen Valley was beautiful, a coup de theatre, and the Spring Creek, a river coming out of the bowels of the earth, astonished me and made me so happy to admire such a beauty!
My guides were actually old friends of mine and, as it often happens in New Zealand, they are much more than ordinary fishing guides: here you fish at sight, you slowly go up the rivers, crossing them from one bank to the other, and nature is sovereign, with its oak woods, moss, ferns, birds singing all day long, and Manuka woods, that turn white when in bloom and already exude a scent which is as sweet as the honey that will be produced.
Guides are a real help, they prepare the crossing of the oak wood, sometimes by means of a machete. They help you get through impenetrable bushes, forests, and currents which are sometimes impetuous. They lift you on arduous hills, change your flies and guide you with precise signals when a Brown Trout is so big that you have to run through the river to catch it on the other side. Guides seem to be endowed with special sight and inspect, discover and lead you to places invisible to your eyes.
Thank you Barry! Thank you John!
Raimonda’s advice for your fishing trip in New Zealand.
Luggage reduced to the minimum
1 9#5 rod
1 9#6 rod
1 reel with excellent clutch (with spare spool)
5X 9 feet leaders, if the water is low add 2 feet of 4X monofilament
1 box of flies :
Klinkhammer Olive 10 12 14
Parachute Adams 10 12 14
Blue Duuns 10 12 14
Black Gnats. 10 12 14
Royal Wulffs 10 12 14
Hampies 10 12 14
Weighted Hare & Copper 8, 10, 12, 14
Gold Ribbed Hares Ear 8, 10, 12, 14
Pheasant Tail 12, 14, 16, 18
Caddis (white & green) 10, 12, 14
Don’t forget to bring excellent shoes with you. Raimonda has invented an excellent model which will be called Raimonda for New Zealand, that is Hiking Boots on which a canoeist’s sole has been adapted!!!
by Raimonda Lanza di Trabia
Contents NEW ZEALANDSOUTH ISLANDFEBRUARY 2012WEST OTAGO NEW ZEALAND New Zealand’s South Island is practically uninhabited; today, in an overpopulated
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