Given the nature of my role at Manic I’m in the slightly weird position of living vicariously through New Zealand and Australia's best, busiest and most passionate anglers on a daily basis, acting as the conduit between their exploits and showcasing it to you guys in the digital world.
On one hand it’s a very cool spot to be in, as you see and hear about all of the amazing things happening out on the water first, hear the stories straight from the horse’s mouth and share in the moment with them which is indeed a bit of a privilege. On the flip side it can, at times, be a bitter pill to swallow because you just want to be out amongst it and getting it done yourself, and I’d be lying if there wasn’t the odd moment of envy popping up from time to time as I’m regaled with the story of the best day / eat / rise / fish ever. So, as you can imagine this year has been a particularly torturous one given the sheer numbers and size of some of the fish being caught down south, if ever there was a season to have your nose rubbed in it, it’s this one. With that said, I wouldn’t have changed my season highlight for a single one of those fish, it’s not even close.
Almost a year ago my best friend Tim, underwent what can only be described as a life changing and massively arduous back surgery. It’s been a long road to recovery for him and if anyone has a legitimate complaint about having to sit around watching other people fish and hunt, it’s Tim. But thankfully now he’s starting to reap the benefits of the process and can get back on the water and enjoy a full day out fishing which is massive. Tim and I started fly fishing together on the Tauranga Taupo and have logged a fair few kilometers on the river over the years. It’s been the place of us getting to grips with fly fishing, my first trout and endless stories of stupidity, victories and losses all punctuated in hilarity, and a little bit more stupidity. As these things happen over time we’re both now far less flexible in time availability than we used to be. Gone are the last minute texts to meet at Waitetoko that night for a few days of non stop fishing days coupled with non stop late nights. Now we have wives to consider, mortgages to pay, kids and dogs to look after and late nights seem like a waste of precious, precious sleeping time. Funny how life sneaks up on you like that, but neither of us would change a thing.
So, to have a full day on the river with Tim recently felt like we were back in the days of old. Packs full of beer with only two goals in mind, to fish our way up to the Rangers Pool enjoying the freedom of being back on the river again and hopefully snag a couple of fish along the way. It was a typical late summer Tauranga Taupo. More than enough fish around to keep it interesting but they were either feeding on those bastard lace moths which, even if you have a good pattern on hand, seem on the day impossible to catch, or they were big browns laying doggo out in the open with mouths clamped shut. I’ll spare you the long winded details but to keep it succinct I’ll just say it was hands down the best days fishing I’ve had in sometime even though we only managed a few to the net. Tim is a Rangers Pool magician and I can honestly say he always manages to pull one out of there, even better when I’m just sitting back on the beach with a beverage in the sun and enjoying the picture perfect scene in front of me. My big win was getting one of those browns to actually yawn long enough for a fly to sneak in its mouth and coming in at a decent weight it was the reminder I needed that hey, sure it’s happening down south but it’s also right here on our doorstep too, and not another person in sight to ruin the day for us.
A year ago Tim was about to go into surgery and what his outdoor life was going to look like on the other side was a bit of an unknown. It’s been a long, painful grind for him and his family to get to this point but, from my perspective at least, I think we can safely say it was worth it ten times over and we’ll have many more years of this to look forward to. As they say, these are the good old days.
There’s a myriad of ways we can wax lyrical and romanticise the fly fishing experience so I’m going to do my best to avoid the clichés of “it’s not about the fish, it’s the experience” or “fish size isn’t everything” because let’s face it, those are usually the quotes we recite amongst ourselves over a fish après beverage as a sort of deep, introspective booby prize after a tough days fishing.
But this was one of those days that had it all.