Team Tuesday - Leo Thomas

My name is Leo Thomas and I love fly fishing. I’m 16 years old and although my fishing has been slightly patchy over the years, I soon discovered the fine art of fly fishing (thanks to my big brother Kris Thomas) and have now stuck with it for about four years. I grew up on a small life style block just out of Tapawera.

Tapawera is a little town 45 minutes south of Nelson city situated next to the upper Motueka River, prime brown trout waters no doubt. There are a lot of great rivers around here, but one that sticks deeply in my mind is the Wangapeka, which I am very fortune enough to have been living on the banks of it all my life. My Dad (Jeff Thomas) has always been into the vast sport of trout fishing, long before I was born into this world. He used to troll and spin fish the lakes and rivers of the Bay of Plenty region, especially Lake Tarawera where the black and gold toby was (and still most likely is) a lethal weapon. “I bet to this day I could still go out and catch a fish on that lure!” Now having my parents moved down to the top of the south, dad soon taught my older brother Kris how to spin fish, no doubt with a black and gold toby of course! Long story short Kris ended up loving the sport and was addicted. Our neighbour on the other hand just happened to be a fly fishing guide called Graham Brunwin who was reluctant enough to give Kris a few fly fishing lessons to get him started. Once Kris was getting the hang of casting the accuracy lesson came in, “come back and get me when you can put the line on the tin”, I’m sure we’ve all played this game before where you ‘pretend’ the object in the paddock is a fish. It’s the best practice.

A few years later when Kris was an accomplished angler, he put a 9ft 6wt Fly rod in my right hand and began teaching me. I remember casting for the first time beside my house and he was simply laughing at me because I was a natural at casting and he hadn’t quite seen anything like it. Sure, I wasn’t throwing 100ft casts with tight loops but, I guess the word for it was casting like your ‘average’ fishermen. A few days later we set off for our first fishing mission down the Lower Motueka River where there were long runs for me to fish. Kris picked a good spot and rigged up the rod with a basic indicator nymph combo and discovered we had no floatant, which is a minor problem. I soon caught my first fish on the fly and was hooked for life. That is how I got into this awesome sport of fly fishing and it was pretty awesome to have a big brother teach you the ways. Over my time of fishing and exploring, I’ve fished a lot of different waters and techniques but the one I love the most out of them all is back country brown trout stalking. The best part I like about this is strapping on the pack with your accommodation and walking through beech forests for a few hours to reach your chosen destination where cars cannot access. Crystal clear waters, mountain backdrops, thick beech forests and the wild trout that rule the rivers are all just some of the reasons I enjoy the back country.

As Matt Jones stated in the last Team Tuesday, terrestrial dry fly fishing at the height of summer is hard to beat for sure, I know I certainty enjoy it, especially in the back country! Late season though, now that is my favourite time of the season to be out on the water. I love waking up early in the morning in the tent to a crisp cold air with bird song and clear skies. Also, great mayfly hatches occur often during the day and are most active in the afternoons. If we’re talking hatches here though, nothing compares to the mighty Mataura in Southland. I have not ventured off to fish this river yet but I’m coming down to stay in Queenstown over Easter and hopefully I can spend some time on this gem. My goals for fishing are to catch the big one. I haven’t quite got there yet and I don’t plan on fishing on purpose just to catch a 10lber, I just like to fish and enjoy my time on the water and maybe one day the big one will come to the net. Well that pretty much sums it up about me and I hope you enjoyed the read. If you ever see me on the water be sure to come over and say hi, I’m always keen to meet new angler friends and hear cool stories from the past.