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!


  1. jesse, and all else involved, this all is wicked awesome. wicked wicked awesome.

    roast beef sub with extra mayo

  2. I can feel how you felt after losing this fish...your story reads like a fly fishing/travelers novel. Be well my man!

  3. These pictures are amazing amazing amazing. Sounds like you are having a blast. Happy 2010!