Tuesday, December 29, 2009


van is cleaned, packed, oil changed, clothes are (mostly) cleaned, etc, etc. rollout of ch'ch once again. it just started to rain harder. heading north and east then north and west, then south... maybe.

happy new year to everyone!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Wilson Family Christmas, and, Other Thoughts


christmas plans were finally made and after trips to the grocery store, liquor store and gas station, we left queenstown, right on schedule, around 3 pm. bags packed, boots tied tight, all seven of us hit the trailhead around 6?
the days are incredibly long right now. this allows for very late departures from anywhere really and also makes for lots of play/fishing time. it is dark around 10:30 pm. amazing.

our first camp was made and consumption began. camp foods of all sorts were brought out, made and shared. the vast majority of these foods consisted of pasta and/or sausage. so much sausage. the fire burned late into the night, stories were told, laughs were had. the stars shone bright.

eyes opened slowly the next morning but a fine day greeted us. some were off fishing early, others slept in a bit and lounged about the campsite. i made my way to a hut nearby to investigate and met two nice ladies Bretlyn and Shelley, fellow yankees. we chatted about our travels and they said they might stop by our campsite later.

an exploration hike by some of the crew yielded a camping site far greater than the great one we already had, so things were packed up quickly and dragged twenty minutes upstream where an oasis awaited. the site was worth everything. the most clear, aquamarine water you have ever seen came flowing out of a smoothed, worn gorge into a pool at least 20 feet deep. in the pool sat three very, very large fish. the fish hovered about in the sunlight, showing off their beauty for all to see. then the river widened and quickened as it went into another long pool holding a half dozen or more fish. a perfect leaping ledge offered swimming opportunities for everyone as well. between the whole group, approximately 2,000 pictures were taken of this stretch of river.
how many fish can you see?:soon after setting up camp the ladies joined us for the festivities, as it was christmas eve. consumption was the activity again as all sorts of appetizers, foods, candies, chocolates, bottles and stories were passed around the campfire from afternoon all through the night. the fire again burned late and a family was made.

gathering under Papa Wilson, the nine of us united as siblings. we welcomed christmas as if it were new year's, sang a bit and laughed a lot. merry christmas!
due to the surrendering of my tent to the ladies and the late night nature of the campfire, i awoke on christmas morning in my sleeping bag, on the ground next to the campfire. i had my mummy bag pulled over my head to protect me from the massive cloud of sandflies that hovered above me buzzing. merry christmas!

eyes opened a little more slowly this morning but soon all were smiling yet again. "breakfasts" were made and enjoyed. slowly i collected and put on the necessary accessories for some fishing and then set off on my own, not knowing or really caring how long i fished for. i was content. it was christmas!

the river winded this way and that with high banks and deep pools separated by long runs of small rapids. every big pool held fish but the ultra clear water, the overcast skies, winds and my hangover made the fishing challenging. i continued upstream after unsuccessfully fishing to fish in pool after pool, my frustration building but my urge to hook a fish growing. these fish were mostly rainbows, holding in fast, deep water. it was tricky to get flies to them.

i thought to myself that a christmas fish would be appropriate. just one would do. all i needed was a fish that i could work with, one in shallow water feeding, one that was just a bit easier than these other ones i was seeing. i continued upstream, around bend after bend, looking for fish, seeing some, casting to them and not hooking them. my hunger grew. i drank from the river and continued on. one christmas fish, that's all i'd like.

i approached a pool and saw a fish. i walked slowly behind the shape in the water, preparing to cast with a couple nymphs when i saw a sight that made my heart soar and me hit the ground in hiding. the fish made a huge side-porpoise, sucking down a bug off the surface of the water, about 6 feet off of the bank. oh my.

i watched. the fish came up again. and again, this time chasing a bug downstream. my hands were shaking as i cut off my nymphs and tied on a parachute adams. and then i waited for the wind to die down. for maybe twenty minutes or a half hour i sat on the bank on my knees, fly in one hand, rod in the other, staring at this feeding fish while the wind whipped downstream.

finally i realized that i just needed to cast. i cast. panic struck immediately as i could not see my fly on the water. then i spotted it and realized that it was right on the money, i had made nearly a perfect cast. in the split second that i saw the fly and realized that it was about to float right over the fish's nose, a massive pair of jaws came up from the water around my fly.

and i blew it. i pulled the fly right out of the fish's mouth. fish goes down, stays down, game over. one cast. i couldn't believe what had just happened. i sat on the bank, head in my hands, nearly crying, thinking about what had just transpired and the occasion and the whole scenario, everything. it was laughable but it got to me good. i stopped fishing and made the long walk back to camp, thinking about the fish the whole time. while in camp i shared the story and just stewed on the fish, thinking about it over and over again. add that one to the ever-increasing list of fish that got away, that i'll never forget.
the sisters and brother Al left camp late that afternoon and more consumption followed that evening from the remaining 6 brothers. the fire again burned late, Papa Wilson keeping an eye on us all. rain greeted us in the morning and after prolonging our dry-ness as long as possible under our tarps, we started the long process of packing up and packing out in the pouring rain. but not before the fishy brother Chris landed an 8 pounder right in front of the campsite. ha! happy i got to net this guy. six brothers loaded into the turbo diesel and the trip back to queenstown was made. many van laughs.
we were greeted by the sisters and Al back in queenstown with cold beers and a homemade cake. amazing. lots of laughs again that night.

lucas and i made the 6ish hour journey back to christchurch yesterday, picking up a seasoned traveler on the way. our conversation in the van really got me to thinking about my plans, when i'll leave here, where i'll go next, what i'll do. the longer i am here, the longer i want to stay and for a while i had been thinking that i'd extend my stay and push my return flight back. but, here's the thing: if i do get on that plane on february 16th, then i land in another amazing place, and the adventure continues. this may be a "glass is half-empty" kind of view, and i usually don't subscribe to that train of though, but it is a way to look at things: the longer i'm here, the longer i'm not somewhere else new. the travel bug has stung me good, that's for sure. these thoughts spiral in my head all the time and then i usually just end up laughing out loud, realizing that it's fruitless to try and plan this right now. but i do know this: at some point, i'll make a decision to either get on that plan on february 16th, or not. i'll make a decision then, right on schedule.

random thought: you can get meat pies in queenstown for $1.15. epic. brother Chris says that if he could have the power to pull any food item out of his pocket whenever he wanted to, it would be a meat pie. i think mine would be a burrito. what's yours?
thinking about that fish was too much for me. i had to go back. i suited up and walked for an hour stream to that hole where he was earlier. he was there. he was feeding. i watched for a bit then tried to cast. the wind was even worse and i could barely get a fly to turn over. i managed to get a good cast with a blowfly and the fish took a real good look at that but the jaws never came up again. walking back to the campsite again i felt strangely better than i did after leaving the spot the first time. at least i went out swinging that time i suppose. ha. oh well.
from here we'll be heading north, then west, then south. i hope everyone's well!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


merry christmas! we made it back to civilization with christmas properly celebrated in the kiwi bush. the sun's shining and we're about to hit the road, queenstown to christchurch, 487 kilometers. yeehaw! pics and stories real soon like!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the end of the world: what it is


christmas planning currently underway. those in attendance: the basstards (lucas, jesse), trippin' for trout (chris, kris), georgia (drew, matt, al). at some point between now, 11:31 pm, and roughly twelve hours from now, we will embark on a journey into the bush to celebrate christmas. plans in progress.

so lucas and i left queenstown and headed south and east. we fished a day here and fished a day there, then later fished a day over there. saw some fish. caught some fish. we also put a good size of kilometeres on the turbo diesel. saw some sights. caught some sights.

we went to the end of the world. and came back. my sandals didn't make it there. no pictures for the end of the world will be shown here. it's not what you might think it looks like. there is sheep poo there.

we woke up on a beach. there were waves there. there was sun there. there were millions of tiny, water-formed, spherical rocks. we wore no shirts. we jumped in.

we went to the deepest lake in the country. we climbed above it. we looked down and across and over and past it. we jumped in.

we went to the ocean. we drove through a tunnel to get there. we made some friends. we may visit them later.

we awoke to blue skies. the best we've seen in moons that we could not see. the water felt good on our legs and feet. whatup sun? hello fish. which delight from my fly box would fool you? how many pieces of candy will i send by your nose? how many casts will i make before i cast to you no more? 1? 20? a dozen? 3?
we went to a mansion.

blue skies seen again. came back. to queenstown.

tomorrow off.

merry christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Right on schedule

greetings from queenstown! lucas and i awoke on some floors a short while ago. the blinds and windows are open and the sun is shining. the room in which we sit has a view overlooking lake wakatipu and you can see most of downtown queenstown. which consists mostly of stores, restaurants and bars. supposedly there's a kick-ass donut shop down the road with fried donuts for $1.50. yes please. last night for dinner we went to ferg burger. i got the "big al": two half pound patties, two fried eggs, two bacons, lettuce, onions, beets, tomatoes, etc. it went everywhere!
so we've been in the southland for the past while, spending out time in and around te anau, the milford sound area, doubtful sound and queenstown. after the last check-in, the weather has done everything imagineable. just in the last 48 hours, while staying at a hut on a river, we saw blue skies, light winds, high winds, rain, snow, lots of clouds and then, on our hike out, hail. last night was pretty chilly for "summer," as i think it must've been below 50.
our cruise in doubtful sound was stellar. the scenery was something we had never seen before and a leisurely cruise through the coves and sounds allowed for a real good look around. the buffet style meals were gladly accepted. we met a cool cat from cork, allen, and the three of us were the last three awake on the boat. up at 6 to catch the fiordland sunrise. sweet. words can't describe the place, so i'll let pictures do it. also of note though was the lake we crossed to get to the sound, whose max depth was 444 meters!
before the above mix of weather, we had a good three days of mostly rain. this brought up just about every river or stream in the near area and also turned them off-color. the combination of high water levels and poor visibility makes sight fishing difficult, as you might imagine. add that to days of little sun and it's been a tough go as of late. two days ago i fished to three fish, spooking two and breaking the other one off immediately. i also spooked two other fish before fishing to them. yesterday i fished to one fish, taking two casts, the second spooking it. it's been tough.
we had one day of good fishing conditions before our cruise and lucas and i both stung nice rainbows that we spotted and fished to. the one i landed i think i put a dozen casts in front of, changing rigs about 5 times. while tying on my 5th two-nymph rig, lucas said, "ok now you're gonna get him." next cast, indicator down, fish on. we had a good laugh on that one. you can see the fish upstream of me in this pic below:
the tough fishing conditions makes deciding where and how to fish difficult, which results in a lot of indecision which results in me getting anxious occasionally. after finally deciding to swing streamers at one particular river, lucas and saw another toyota townace pull up into the car park. on the hood of this vehicle was a sweet red deer mount, covered in christmas lights. the deer had sunglasses on. we were greeted by a couple younger fellows about our age, carrying american accents as well. after introductions and "where are you from"s, we ended up just sitting around talking about fishing and traveling for close to two hours. our case of indecision was ripe in them as well. after we had had our fill of stories, the four of us, lucas and i and chris and kris, from denver, took to the river. it appeared that these guys are up to pretty much the exact same thing as we are, so it was no surprise that we got along immediately.
rain and winds came that night so we pulled the two townaces next to each other and rigged up the tarp. a ridiculous bouillabaise of cheap camp food was prepared by both parties, bottles were passed, tunes were played, laughs were laughed, night was burned and then we retired under the indecisive kiwi sky. on and off rain through the night and morning led to us all sleeping until about 10. the variable weather brought more indecision and we all possed around camp, trying to decide where/how/if to fish or come up with another plan to fish somewhere else. the indecision ended right on schedule at mid afternoon and shortly thereafter we were on the track towards a hut downstream from us.
kris and chris are some fishy fellows and they have been having very good luck on the river. lucas and i had combined for two takes in the last three days of fishing. chris landed two 7+ pound fish over the last few days and kris landed an amazing twelve pound fish. much yelling and dancing when that fish made it to the net. twelve pounds. wow.
so we stayed a couple nights at that hut, the nights spent scheming over christmas plans of a absurdly large feast in a different hut on a river somewhere. the day out, yesterday, we followed those guys up to queenstown, where we are now, checking back in with civilization. we'll head back to the bush tonight or tomorrow. a few days ago, while sitting in the van in the rain, i wrote the below, in regards to how we're moving around. i hope everyone, wherever they are, are happy and well. it's amazing to us that christmas is 10 days away! it's time for this cat to get in the shower... i haven't had one since november!
written on 12/12:

i have come into some kind of pattern in my travels. i find that i'm out fishing for 5 to 10 days, afterwhich i'll come into a town and check back in with civilization. these check-ins last anywhere from 1 to 6 hours, during which i'll usually splurge on a meal, get some foodstuffs i'm low on at the grocery store, check email, phone home, charge the phone, cameras and ipod, sometimes check in with the local information center and then maybe walk around the town a bit.

during the time from when i leave my last campsite or river to when i leave the town, destined for my next spot, there are a medley of emotions and feelings that come over me. when first leaving my previous river i am grateful for the amazing trip i have just been on. i feel like i've completed something significant and noteworthy. i have usually fished a number of new rivers, seen some incredible, new places, met new people and have had caught some fish. spending 5 to 10 days at a time in the kiwi bush lets me forget about everything besides the task at hand, which is fishing and simply living. the nature of my trip allows, and requires, i spend these amounts of time in the bush. it is sometimes not easy. weather is unpredictable, and fishing is certainly not always catching. there are many days i have fished early to late and have had no fish in my net for the day. but one thing that is certain is that i have enjoyed myself. so as i am leaving the campsite or the river, headed for a town or small city, i am happy, humbled and proud that i have been "away" for some time, doing what i love and loving what i do. i feel that i have accomplished a noteworthy task. my intentions for this trip were to travel and fish, fish and travel. when i am headed for a town after being in the bush for a while, i feel that i have been successful in my hopes for the trip and my mind is a blur of all the sights i have seen, people i have met, things that happened, fish that i caught and, more likely, fish i didn't catch. when i am headed for a town after being in the bush, i am still riding the high of the trip.

as town approaches, or shortly after i enter the town, a wave of sadness comes over me. the trip is over. i'm not in the bush anymore. there isn't a pool around the corner with a feeding trout in it. i can't look in all directions and see only wild, natural beauty. there are people everywhere. human noises. lights, smells, trash, pollution. this is not why i came to new zealand, to walk around towns and little cities full of people and no fish. no campsites, no fire rings. no sound of running water. i feel that civilization is weird. i feel out of place. i feel uncomfortable. things that are not necessary are everywhere in civilization, which is not entirely the case when you're in the bush. but these un-necessities are also luxuries.

i gather my laptop, cameras, ipod and respective cords and plugs, and find some sort of internet cafe. i usually buy a nice baked good, maybe a brownie or a sandwich. a soda, usually fanta or ginger beer. i crack my knuckles and enter the world wide web. i check my email, check and post on the blog, look at ESPN, look at some news for a second, look at some other blogs. maybe get another brownie. chat with the waitress. smile at a cute girl that walks by. i'll chat with friends online. call home. i'm back in touch with friends and family across the globe. walk around town, window shop. go to the grocery store and pick up things i'm in need of. bread, cheese, salami. cookies. beer. i'll go to a pub and get a hamburger. civilization is quite nice, i think. in a short period of time, i become accustomed to it. want something? go buy it. simple. civilization is real nice.

soon enough, i've done all the things came to do in town and i know it. i stay online a bit longer and chat, knowing that what lies ahead is not as comfortable or as easy as what i'm doing right now. but i know, for the time being, i've exhausted the amenities of this town, for my current purposes. it's time to move on. rollout. but now, i'm used to civilization, to the people and the noises and the things around. as i pack up the van, yet again, it feels strange to leave civilization, even though i've done it more times than i can count at this point. it's a feeling i don't consciously make, but for an instant, i want to stay in the town. life is easy in town, full of luxuries and goods. but i'm not here to live in a town. it's time to go.

when the van is packed and i'm actually ready to drive away, i often don't know where i'm going. so i must determine the next locale. this involves consulting the atlas, the road map and the south island trout fishing guide. the atlas is full of circled rivers, the trout book detailing access and other rivers nearby. i look at the atlas, the town where i'm at and look around in all directions to see where there are some rivers circled that i have no fished yet. are there several rivers in the area? are there any trails, leading to huts? how far away is it? where could i go from there?

i quickly realize that the task of deciding where to go next is not easy. there are too many places to go, rivers to fish. there are rivers in the area i just came from that i didn't fish. should i go back there? looking at a detailed new zealand atlas, focusing on rivers is staggering. there truly is more than a lifetime of water here. a wave of confusion and frustration comes over me. in my indecision on where to go and what river to fish next, i feel as though i may never come to a decision and that it's seemingly fruitless to try. how can i pick one river out of a million? this one supposedly has bigger fish, but this one is supposedly exceptionally beautiful. the task is far from easy.

but then i realize and remember that i'm not going to fish every river in the country. i can't possibly see every bend of every stream. i won't cast to every fish. there isn't a correct decision where to go. my intentions are to travel and fish and, i now realize, it doesn't make that big of a difference in which way i do that. i find a river and decide to fish it. i'll drive there now, camp tonight and fish it tomorrow. the plan is made.

seemingly instantly, a wave of excitement comes over me. i'm on the road again. the turbo diesel is roaring and i'm on the way to the river, to seek the freedom of the water. there are fish in this river and i will soon see them. we will dance. the water is new, i have never seen it. the campsites are new, the views they have, i have never seen. i will take a deep breath in the fresh, kiwi bush air. i'm on the road, to the river i have chosen. after i fish that river, i will fish another i have never seen. there will be fish in that river. after that river, i'll camp at a different spot, see the stars and then fish another river. and so on. i'm on the road and couldn't be happier.

soon i arrive at the river and find a suitable campsite. i'm in the bush again. it's possibly late afternoon or evening or maybe even dark out. maybe i'll fish a bit this evening. or i can crawl into my sleeping bag and dream about the fish i'll cast to tomorrow. or i can sit in my chair, look at the stars and the river and think about home, friends and family. i can think about tomorrow. i can think about today. i'm in the bush again. the river is near, the freedom of the water all around me. i'm in the bush and it's all good.


This is what December looks like?

Monday, December 7, 2009

plans = none

after a day of fishing between Te Anau and Milford Sound, we awoke to heavy rain and a forecast for two more days of the same. after consulting the books (atlas, road map, lonely planet, John Kent's 'South Island Fishing') we are back in Te Anau for a bit. stumbled across an overnight cruise in doubtful sound, departing tomorrow, so we'll do dat. word!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

southwards & alien anglers

so Lucas and i have been heading south. after departing Christchurch, we drove through Geraldine and fished a river that i fished a bit before, in which i saw a good number of nice fish. shortly after our arrival, we were greeted with a run holding no less than 6 surface feeding fish. quite a sight. we took turns casting dries to the fish, the turns changing when one of us had hooked one or had a take. from this one pool, i had 3 takes, of which i hooked 1 fish that i lost soon after. Lucas did well, hooking and landing 2, the largest 4.5 lbs. Lucas' first NZ trout:
from there, we turned inland slightly, but kept the southerly direction, passing through some amazing scenery while on our way to another river we intended to fish the next day. glacial lakes:
glacial lakes with flowers:
the next day was a scorcher. both of our angler tans (brown tops of hands fading to white bottoms of hands and palms) are coming along quite nicely. freedom beard looking good although i think very soon mine will be trumped by Lucas'. we picked up a good number of rainbows while blind fishing the next day. very pretty fish:
scenery of the river was moderate as well:
we made quick passes through Wanaka and Queenstown. the drive to/from/around these spots is nothing short of epic:
the next day we fished a very tricky river, leaving both of us skunked. here is our sweet campsite right next to the river (Lucas on hors d'oeuvres duty):
the next day we fished with Stu. Stu is an amazing guy. an ex-scot, hailing from near Stirling, where i studied abroad, Lucas and i got along with him instantly and we all had a great day. we saw a ton of fish that day, i landed two and Lucas landed one. some sweet pics from the day:
after enjoying some post-fishing beverages with Stu, we headed west, and elected to fish the upper stretches of the same river we fished the day before. so, here's one: every autumn since my freshman year of college, my mum has sent me this weird, somewhat eerie halloween mask. i'm not sure if i've ever actually worn it for halloween, but i have received this mask every single year, even while abroad, in the mail since fall of 2002, and at some point i either send it back or leave it at home when i'm there. once, while on a road trip back from nyc, someone was wearing the mask and it got ripped off by the wind and blown out the window. tragic. then, somehow, mum found an identical one at reny's and the tradition continued. ok, so, when i left the USA i did not bring my fly vest because i didn't think i'd want it. that was wrong. so i asked my folks to send it to me and they did. it came a while ago. a little while after it arrived i was talking to my parents and mum asked if i got the mask. i was confused as i didn't see it in the package and had no idea that it was in there. we were both confused as to how the mask could've been lost in the mail or wherever. so, several days ago, Lucas and i are getting off the water and i notice this neon green color coming from inside my vest. sure enough, it's the mask. apparently mum had stuck it (read in derek zoolander voice) innnn the vest. so Lucas and i decided that it would only be appropriate for my next fish caught to be photographed with the mask on. so here it is. turns out the fish was a biggun, just over 8 pounds:
big boy:
we are currently in Te Anau. we spent last night at a sweet hut in the Mavora Lakes region:
we met a crew of Kiwis who were camped there for the weekend as well. the fishing was poor for us at this spot, but the socializing was great. last night's fire died down way past dark. hands were shook, drinks were drank, stories were told, laughs were laughed, memories were made. nice.

we'll be in the Te Anau area for a bit, fishing some rivers here and there. i hope everyone's well back home or wherever you are. here are some more pics from the past week-ish. Lucas and Stu:

fly change:ayuh:
EPIC. we were camped just next to here one night. that bright spot is the moon. this picture was taken around 10:30 at night. Lucas took it: