Presidents Quill

First Cast February 2021


This started life as a musing story, but its congruent with the club message so here it is:

Fishing over the summer has been the same story as the preceding months. Nada. I haven’t made enough effort. I don’t know why, and this is a fairly public attempt to think about that.

I love fly fishing; the rig, the gear, the thrill, the promise, and the scenery. I hang out in fishing stores like an addict on a street corner waiting for the dealer.  But that’s not why I fish. It’s a bigger story. I like lakes, but they don’t thrill or engage my imagination in dreams of discovery like flowing water does. There’s real attraction to rivers. Preferably clear, cold, dimpled and sparkling, wadable, not too slimy underfoot and alive with rainbows and browns.

There is magic in any river. Magic that only communicates itself to you after hours alone with it. It occurs to me now, that that’s why we are so pleased to find the river empty, and experience a tinge of regret when we discover others before us.

Ultimately flyfishing is a solitary pursuit or sport, and sports where one  doesn’t compete directly with other participants are rare. Hunting is the closest cousin – but unlike shooters, fly-fishers don’t kill the game – well, 95 percent of the time anyway. I haven’t thought of this in such terms before. Bear with me – this is new to me too. I would not have classed myself as a ‘loner’ necessarily, because, in truth, I the love company of others. When I’m casting I enjoy knowing that my companions are nearby, but, and here’s the rub, not close in or right beside me. I’m also happy to watch others cast and catch too.

So what do I look for as a measure of a great trip? I think I can safely say that my three preferences for a fishing trip don’t immediately create more success, they tend more towards the value of the experience.

This is what I like, in ascending order of importance:

3. Companions who understand that I am likely to wander off quietly for an hour or two, and not fret about it.
Friends who are as happy about my catch as I am and not overly competitive or given to psychological gamesmanship.
Friends who will understand that I am as chuffed as they are when they hook up, and know to ask if they want a net, or to be left alone if that is their preference.

2. I need to know the local gen, what works and when, the weather, good or bad, and what method is producing. I do not have so much time that I can afford to find out for myself over the course of a week-long tour. If I’m driving for 5 hours there and back, I have about 8 productive hours on a Saturday and 2 or 3 on a Sunday before another 5-hour drive; so I prefer to find fish and hook up.

1. I want to fish a river that has fired my imagination, that someone has recommended and knows some of its secrets.
Wilderness is preferable, dark water with wadable reaches, little to no road noise, and sometimes a cup of billy tea and a scrunched-up sandwich, sitting with sun and riffling water and a questing companion at the head or round the bend.

I love the intensity of the Tongariro, the stealth of the TT, and the Mohaka’s big, lonely curves and runs miles from phones, radios, and noise especially.

I recently had the pleasure of fishing the Rangitikei, with success coming in the perfect tributary river, the Whakaurekou – made especially satisfying hooking a beauty, when the guide thinks you’ve cocked it up and has stalked off after calling you unprintable terms.

I am keen to discover the Waioeka which I rode past recently, and of which John Stevenson’s trips are the talking points for months. The Motu also looks most explorable, and the Whakatane, too, is North island virgin water to me. Fortunately the club trip to the Waioeka is coming up again this year and this time I am not going to let work stand in the way of being on that trip!

So to finally answer the question of why I haven’t fished as much as I could have?

It’s too easy to let the days slip by, because we have chores or things to think about, or problems and dilemmas. But we all know that just a few hours fishing is enough to restore our energies. As Calvinist kiwis, we seemingly have to believe we’ve earned the right to go fishing. But I think it’s important to remember that fly angling has a more strategic place in our psyches than mere recreation.

Perhaps I’ll put it this way – Every so often we get sick and the body cannot throw off the malady without antibiotics. But we know that antibiotics destroy gut health, so we need to actively put back the bacteria and flora that will restore our bodies to full functioning.

Flyfishing is to me a probiotic of the mind, a restorative that allows better functioning, decision making and allowing a calmer perspective on issues.

I live better when I fish – simple as that – and I think it may be common to all.

John Stephenson (and info on our terrific AFAC trips) can be found at club nights at Rod and Reel, Newmarket, or on email:

 Please remember that we have the saltwater fly Houhora Trip coming up in February.  Secure your place now. (as above)

Also, if you have not paid your subs yet please do so, we have discovered that a number of members have lapsed without intending to. It’s the cheapest club in town and the Christmas dinner subsidy alone reimbursed the cost last year.

Turangi Lodge is continuing to be upgraded with new curtains being made for the house in the next month or two. There will be a new load of firewood delivered shortly and I’ve cleaned out the drying room. As a general rule, if you’re using the place take everything home with you, including those old boots that you think someone might desperately need one day. Tackle shops are there for emergencies.

We welcome Damon Scott on to the Committee and look forward to working with him this year. There may be further developments in committee shortly.

We will be discussing the future of the club at Rod and Reel on the 15th February, so come along for a sausage and beer and chat with friends and fellows and have your say in our future direction. We will run a simple meeting and report back findings and action points as we develop your ideas and wants.

Any club is only as strong as its members – please help keep AFAC strong and valued – pay up, speak up and hook up.

Peter Elliott

President, AFAC