Fishing, when it’s done right, brings you close to nature. Fishing is certainly a different experience for different people, you don’t have to look far to find a fly fisherman (for semantics, fisherman refers to the male and female version of the two-legged, pole wielding human) who will scoff at a bait fisherman. But it’s a big planet with plenty of water to fish; we can all get along. Fishing often means getting out of bed early, usually before the sun rises. The advantage of this is several fold. In many cases, the fishing is better in the early morning. It also means you can spend more of the day on the water. And, you get to see sunrises. And what a sunrise it was in Wanaka on Sunday morning!
Wanaka is a small town about 300km Northwest of Dunedin. It is, in the winter, a ski town, and in the summer a place to rest in between hikes and bike rides through the beautiful countryside. It is primarily a tourist town, much like our own Lake Tahoe. Most of the 7000 residents of Wanaka work in industries and jobs to service those who travel there to experience nature. The commercial part of the town is small, not more than a city block in size and it has a distinctive alpine feel. Ski shoppes outnumber hair salons four to one. Restaurants face the lake, with inviting outdoor seating warmed by heating elements (and lots of beer). Almost as a reflex, as you drive through the town you find yourself saying, “What a cute town.” And it is. I only spent a few minutes in the town, venturing there to pick up a bottle of wine (a Central Otago Pinot, of course) to bring to Ian and his partner Jill, who had invited me to dinner at their house after fishing all day Saturday. For the record, three wine stores and one hair salon. My kind of town.
As adorable as Wanaka is, you only spend the evenings in the town. You go to Wanaka for skiing or snowboarding, fishing, tramping (the Nz word for hiking), biking or kayaking. I’m sure I forgot a sport, and if it’s yours, forgive me. You are surrounded by mountains which rise thousands of feet straight up from lake level, offering any one of many adventurous pursuits. It’s difficult to describe how beautiful it is there.
Wait, how did that fish picture get in here?
Every turn around the winding roads in this area brings into view another vista more beautiful and majestic than the last. You really have to be careful driving, because it’s hard not to be drawn to the scenery. And Lord help me if there is a river near the road. Every chance I get I’m peering over the side of the road, search for pools where trout would likely linger. I have been known to drive just a little too close for comfort to the edge of the road trying to get a better look at the river (I was always comfortable; the others in the car, less so). I’ve been told of a number of great tramps in the area (hiking to the tops of mountains, looking at a glacier, finding colonies of birds that nest there), that the biking is phenomenal (both mountain biking and road biking) and that the kayaking is unbelievable. There were several weeks’ worth of things to do in 48 hours. Good thing I kept it simple and just fished.
But I’ll never forget wading along the small stream, feeling the push of the crystal clear water against my waders, and smelling Spring. You can pause life for a minute when you’re fishing. You know the world is moving ahead, the water rushing by you reminds you that is true. But you can pause. You can breath in air so pure you feel its energy. You can sense the power of the Earth, as it pushes the mountains surrounding you up just a little higher in the sky every year. And because it’s Spring the birds will fill your ears with music even sweeter than a John Mayer ballad. You might, or might not, have felt the tug of a trout at the end of your line that day. But it matters less this, than the fact you were fishing. (OK, it matters a little).