.He is new to both fly fishing and the land of the long white cloud. New Zealand-based Gerhard Uys gets schooled by a local veteran. This is fly fishing in New Zealand: a crash course.

fly fishing in New Zealand
Gerhard Uys on a New Zealand river. Somewhere nearby Neil Hirtzel was judging his casting.

I would call it a routine, a grand spiral of hope and disappointment. It starts with a hell of a lot of YouTube videos of some guy slaying it on New Zealand rivers, catching ‘monster’ browns. This is followed by e-mails between myself and my mate, Friedrich Fourie. Somewhere in-between I visit Auckland fly shop, Rod and Reel, to spend a couple of bucks on stuff I ‘need’. After that the stoke builds fast and it becomes hard to concentrate at work because I know we are in for one hell of a weekend.

Fly fishing in New Zealand: a crash course

At this stage I usually consider buying a GoPro so I can film all the action. But you know, life is difficult if you move to a new country, decide you must give fly fishing a bash, then get completely addicted, only to realise you really really suck at it.

Like that one weekend on the Waihou, a river famed for a study that showed it held 700 – 900 trout per kilometre in its spring-fed blue waters, where I didn’t manage to get a single fish in over two days of Czech nymphing.

That weekend it dawned on me… ‘I hate fly fishing.’ I had been standing around for hours, with not a bite to show for it. ‘All this expensive gear. I am going home’.

True story.

But then one day, a really hard old bastard decides not only does he not like me, but he dislikes my ineptitude with a fly rod even more, so he will attempt to teach me to fish. Neil Hirtzel, a real old biltong of a man, and one I am shit-scared of, has saved my arse a few times.

That weekend it dawned on me… I hate fly fishing.

On arriving in New Zealand I scouted the internet for spots to fish. I also asked around. It was chaos. See, the thing is, most Kiwi’s don’t move their lips when they speak, and when they say something like “Ohinemuri” or “Waihou River”, you smile, nod in panic and look like you understand them. A visit to the Google machine (after such an alarming dialectical incident to find the river in question}, is useless.  Just say Ohinemuri without moving your lips and then Google the sound that comes from your mouth, and you will understand.

After another day of pure suck, I decided to give up and join the Auckland Fly Fishing Club on a trip.

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Friedrich and I met a group of real old blokes from the club one cold Saturday morning in a car park in the Karangahake Gorge, two hours south of Auckland.

Everybody was sipping coffee alongside their bakkies. Then the oldest of old blokes volunteered to take me and bro’ Friedrich out for the day.

fly fishing in New Zealand
Veteran New Zealand fly fisherman Neil Hirtzel

“Show me how you cast,” Neil said to me. I had barely lifted my rod when a “No, what are you doing,” echoed through the empty car park. To that, I didn’t know what to say. I had barely lifted my rod.  The other grey heads from the club looked at me, faces blank, and continued sipping coffee. No sympathy there. Friedrich took a step back.

Neil Hirtzel and Friedrich Fourie with a rainbow from the Waihou
Neil Hirtzel and Friedrich Fourie with a rainbow from the Waihou

“No, no no,” Neil said when I lifted my rod again.

We were definitely in for a challenging day.

I received a decent amount of abuse for the next couple of minutes. Then Neil pointed to his bakkie, we jumped in and he drove us without word to introduce us to the Ohinemuri River.

After we’d put on waders, Friedrich pulled me aside to give me a “what the fuck” look. The look lasted about two seconds but, when we turned to follow Neil he was already on his way to the river and had cleared 20 metres of rough terrain. We spent the next ten minutes trying to catch up. Impossible. He was flying over undergrowth like it was a tar road.”

Read the rest of the Gerhard’s story about fly fishing in New Zealand in The Mission Issue 22 below, for free.


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