Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe
Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
March 12, 2007 - Queenstown, South Island
I've done a bit of driving and not enough fishing recently. Here are the highlights:
Any fisherman that visits the Bay of Islands really should stop by the Swordfish Club in Russell. Aside from having cheapest beers in town, (which in itself is a reason to stop by) the club has many amazing fish adorning its walls. While I personally would never kill any of these magnificent creatures, this is probably as close as I'll come to seeing an 800 lbs. Swordfish or a 1000 lbs. Blue Marlin. It was there on the patio overlooking the serene harbor that I happened to meet a salty captain named Geoff Stone. Geoff's clients have set a handful of the Swordfish Club's record. We got to talking and, to put a point on a long, rambling conversation, I decided I'd like to go out and try to catch a Mako Shark. (A bit of background: It was in the Bay of Islands in 2004 that I spent 50 hours out on the ocean over the course of 4 days without catching a damn thing. This, in turn, started what I believe to be a big game fishing curse (Peter Morse called it "bad mojo") that has stuck with me ever since.)
So we meet up at 8 a.m. and the first thing Geoff says is "The water is green today. That's bad for visibility. We'll have to burley ("chum" in this part of the world) them up through it." Right then I should have realized the manner in which things would unfold that day and just cancel the trip right then and there. However, optimism got the best of me and I just nodded in agreement. As we motored out to sea I rigged up a 12 wt., 14 wt., 16wt. and 20 wt. rods for the sharks and anything else we may see. Optimism was obviously running rampant at this point.
Joining me on this endeavor were Josh and his dad Bruce. Talk about ideal fishing partners! Relaxation was so thick I could have cut it with a knife. For the first couple of hours Josh and Bruce took turns reeling in beautiful Kingfish (our Yellowtail) and a few Snapper as I waited patiently for the ever-expanding burley trail to bring up something to cast to. At one point, we weighted one of my flies and sent it down through the green water. The problem was it took the entire length of running line to get it there. That meant I was trying to strip in the fly using the 50 lbs. Spectra backing. It was a delicate balance of stupidity and impossibility. After about 10 minutes I decided to return to the stern and re-take my position atop of one of the coolers, gazing out at the extensive spans of ocean. An hour or so later, Josh hooked something that was either a Bronze Whaler shark or a Stringray and it took him 45 minutes to reel it up and prove it to be the latter. That was the most excitement of the day.
Although it was pretty much on decline from the second hour, my once-brimming tank of optimism was pretty much on empty by about 3 p.m. When the captain of your charter starts offering unsolicited beers, you know things are bad. At exactly 4 o'clock, the lines were pulled and we left behind about 20 square miles of burley trail. If it were crude oil rather than fish oil and parts, it would have qualified as an environmental disaster area. At least it showed that we gave it a good try! Anyway, the moral of the story is that you always have to remain optimistic, even when things are looking down. That and don't agree to a fishing charter after a dozen beers or so.
On the way back to the South Island I stopped by to see my friends Roger and Kathy Duxfield. Roger's careers as a big game hunting guide and marine engineer have taken him just about everywhere in the world. Equally impressive, Kathy is the 8th-ranked female barefoot skier in the world and is quite possibly the strongest and toughest woman I have ever met. They make a rather dynamic couple. Roger was kind enough to show me around Rotorua and to help me complete a few electrical projects on the truck and trailer (he's an electrical engineer to boot!). Big thanks to Roger and Kathy!
Sadly, I am almost done with my 3 months in New Zealand. It has been downright disturbing how quickly the time went. While I was not able to properly fish Australia because it's so damn big, I find myself in the same situation in New Zealand because there are just so many damn places to fish! While I find it rather depressing to leave New Zealand at the end of this month, my next destinations are very exciting. While the truck and trailer are in transit to Vladivostok, Russia, I will be spending a couple of weeks in New Caledonia and a couple of weeks in Vanuatu. I don't know what I am going to catch there, if anything. Okay, okay……. I do but I don't want to say it for the chance I might jinx it! (I still have that "bad mojo" to deal with) As someone once said "Being superstitious is bad luck."
I'll squeeze in another update soon. Thanks and have fun!