Fly Fishing the Brown Trout Capital of the World

By TOM GALLAGHER

1,600 kilometers, 1 billion sandflies, 3 bags of chips, and the graveyard. That sums up our loop through New Zealand.

After leaving Christchurch, we began a 1,000-mile, one week loop South through Canterbury, Fjiordlands, Southland, Otago, and North to Kaikoura.

We camped along the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. Saw the giants, Mount Cook (13,000 ft.) and Mount Tasman. Fed the fish at the salmon farms located in the canals near Lake Putaki. We swam in the crystal clear waters of Lake Wanaka.

We made the journey around Lake Wakatipu to hike 9 km staying in a wilderness hut along a tremendous trout river. We stayed at Simon Chu’s legendary trout cottage along the Oreiti River in Lumsden near the self-proclaimed Brown Trout Capital of the world – Gore, New Zealand.

Following a bit of a wet summer in the South, the sandfly population has prospered. For those of us from the Northern Hemisphere well-versed in mosquito areas, sandflies are smaller, close in size to the head of a finish nail, but very efficient in their ability to irritate the human being. The distinguishing characteristic of all teeth might be the most accurate descriptor one can provide.

Despite the trillion or so insects covering my sorry body while Linda and Maddy retreated to the hut, I did find some amazing fishing one evening on this wilderness river. During a sparse caddis hatch, I landed one rainbow trout around 20-inches long.

It was a decent fish, but it was also the smallest fish of the night. The next two were hovering over the five-pound mark (yes, dry flies) along with two much larger fish who broke my leader following an extensive fight. One large brown was crafty enough to borough himself under a sharp rock while using it as a tool to fray and break the leader.

Gore, New Zealand, the brown trout capital of the world.

Gore, New Zealand, the brown trout capital of the world?

The walk into the hut was advertised at two and a half to three hours of hiking. Our party made it in four and a half hours. I was happy there was not a mutiny, but as usual, the girls handled it great. Yeah – sorry to report there have been other backpacking experiences with me where they’ve been asked to overachieve.

The fishing cottage in Lumsden was exotic in its décor. On the walls were fishing memorabilia from all over the world. It was great to see a photo of our friends Joel and Deb Thompson on the fireplace and a poster from the movie a “River Runs Through It.”

Additionally, a calendar from January 1990 was prominently displayed in the kitchen. The top pane was a picture of George Grant along with a narrative of his contributions to fly fishing through his work on Montana’s Big Hole River.

As we rounded our loop North at Dunedin, we stopped at the St. Clare’s beach, where a sign prominently reminded us that we were much closer to the South Pole than to our home in North America. Somewhere along the trip we crossed the 45th parallel for the Southern Hemisphere.

After a quick stop to see our friends Tony and Helen in Christchurch, we headed to Kaikoura where, after a night’s camping, we hooked up with Dave Lyons for a day of family surfing. Dave leads surf coaching classes, is a member of the NZ surf team, supports a family with three kids, and has three or four jobs.

Dave was great and we had an awesome time as all three of us were able to stand up on the board and surf in the beautiful clear waters of the South Pacific! He sent us home with a couple pounds of butterfish that he had speared while snorkeling earlier in the day. It was delicious.

And one more thing, as we entered the road to the beach, we passed a graveyard, thus the name of the surfing beach – the boneyard.

 

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Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: tomlinda@centric.net.