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.


  1. Jesse,
    Catching up on your blog has been a treat during exam time. The scenery, and the fish, and all of your adventures sound absolutely incredible! Hope you'll be able to drag yourself away eventually, we can't wait to see you next summer! :)

  2. you are a poet my peach- reading this on christmas morning.