If you read my article about the Rawah Guest Ranch in Colorado, you know that I became hooked on fly-fishing in an afternoon lesson with Carl. Ever since, I had been looking for another opportunity to cast my flies over the waters, and I found my chance when I visited Queenstown, New Zealand, and discovered Born to Fish Fly Fishing Adventures.
Let's see how he does . . .
We opted for the "Introduction to Fly-Fishing," which is a four hour tutored fly-fishing lesson at a local scenic lake. Stu picked us up at our hotel, and drove us up through some of the most gorgeous country New Zealand has to offer. After investigating several different watering holes, we settled on Moke Lake. Stu took an hour or so to lead me through the equipment, showing me different types of rods, reels, lines, leaders, and more stuff and names than I can not remember. Like many sports, fly-fishing is a great excuse to buy more toys, and Stu has the best including, Sage rods, oodles of flies, and reels for beginners and experienced alike.
Then we stepped into hip waders and waddled down the road. I loved these hip waders not sexy, but warm. Stu also gave me a pair of polarized sun glasses, which made all the difference in being able to see the fish and not. He showed me where the fish were likely to be feeding, and talked about what fish like to eat and how the flies should mimic what the fish are eating that day. It was quickly becoming apparent that fly-fishing would be an exercise in life-long learning.
Stu also taught me the basics of casting, which turned into a graduate level course as the weather deteriorated. The wind shifted from a breeze to gale force and back in seconds, rain dripped and dried. By the time I was done, I had cast in every direction, into the wind, down wind, across wind, through the rain. If I get to fish on a calm day, I wouldn't know what to do! Still any day fishing is better than any day working, and I was thrilled.
Stu worked patiently with me. While I had felt like a prodigy at Rawah Ranch, the weather sent me back to square one in New Zealand. Patiently, Stu kept after me to "power . . .stop; power . . . stop; power . . .stop." I knew I was doing it wrong when I finally confessed that my arm was turning into a noodle, and I needed to call it a day.
Back at Stu's truck, he had thermoses of hot tea and coffee, and nibbles to keep us going. We headed back to town, I was happy that I had another few hours of lessons, even if they fish weren't biting.
Stu says that fly fishing has been a passion for him since he caught his first brown trout at the age of eight. He has won many fishing competitions, and has traveled, fished and guided extensively all over the world. When he's not guiding or fishing, he can be found at his fly-tying bench, designing new flies. Some of his designs are mass-produced and are available throughout New Zealand, and through his web site. Stu is a member of the Fishing Guides Association, Feather Merchants Pro-Team, and he holds an Adventure Tourism First Aid Certificate and carries a personal locator beacon. His policy is to help you create memories, leave only footprints, and catch and release.
Be sure to ask Stu for stories. He guided safaris in Africa before coming to New Zealand, and has a professional interest in tribal and modern body piercing. He grew up in Scotland, has traveled the world, and has guided for some of the most well-known celebrities (although he doesn't name drop).
Because of his sunny nature and excellent teaching skills, many of Stu's clients are repeat customers from the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Japan, and other places. Lots of his clients call ahead and book their entire vacation around his availability. So if you want to go fishing with Stu, it's best to call ahead and make a reservation.
OTHER BORN TO FISH OPTIONS
In addition to the half-day we took, Stu offers full-day guided tours near Queenstown. For the more adventurous, you can hire Stu to take you out for 2-14 days. On these trips, 4x4 transport will take you to rivers, creeks or lakes to look for brown or rainbow trout. Non-fishers are always welcome and can come along, too.
So, does Stu live up to his promises? You bet. I learned a lot, used great equipment, and felt safe and in the hands of a well-trained professional. Best of all, I had a terrific time, and look forward to applying what I learned to my next fly-fishing adventure.
Feature and photos by Cymber Quinn, Hawaii Correspondent.