A Coast Mentor

Winter nights by the fire, a glass of red and cogitation on a life-long obsession with fishing. A sip of shiraz opens the mind to thoughts on the importance of mentors. They’ve popped up at appropriate times and after cranking my way through threadlining and reading any fishing book I could get my hands on, there came a mysterious need for a fly rod.

Earnest fumbling with an old, green, screw together two piece and a bakelite alpha reel, which I still have, I almost caught my first trout. The rusty old Brown Fly sank to the depths of The Groynes on the South Branch of the Waimakariri, where a small fish nipped at it. Thrilling!

A neighbour described the Styx River as the place to go and there I met a young fellow who knew a thing or two. He became mentor number one – back with him shortly, but first a couple of key moments. Having learnt something about wet flies, a Mrs Simpson Yellow was tied on and allowed to drift down the Styx then slowly retrieved. Suddenly a fish showed interest, but with no more line to mend, instinctively I let the fly move about in the current, until the fish drifted back out and struck right at my feet. A tense battle produced my first fish on a fly, so next was one on a dry.

A late afternoon rise in a smooth section of the Styx invited my Coch Y Bondhu. I missed the strike; however, a second cast rose the fish again and it was played out, becoming my first on a dry. Now I thought I’m a proper fly fisherman.

“Not so,” said reality.

My Mentor number one began to enthuse about nymphs, a new term to this young tyro, as reading material in those times came from ‘Mother England’ and emphasised the “dry fly old boy.”

He was also loud in his praise of the Ashley, “plenty of big fish so come with me next Saturday.”

Good fish were clearly visible in the pools up above the gorge.

“You have a shot at that one,” he said, but the dry was ignored several times.

Then it was his turn and yep, first cast his nymph was taken and he landed the nice brown.

A slow learner, I persisted further with the dry, but when mentor number two appeared it was another learning curve. I worked with a chap who would walk around casting an imaginary rod, so the upshot was a fishing friendship between a very young and a much older man. When we visited the Selwyn River for a night fish, my dry caught nothing, while he went further up with a Streamer Fly, fishing it deep through the pool and around 1.00am, when I checked, he was releasing his fifth fish. Lesson learnt.

Away to Wellington for training, a posting to Southland to meet mentor number three. A seasoned fly man who enthused about tiny Black Gnats in the famed Mataura, where the rise can happen at any old time. So many rings appear making it difficult to decide which to target. Eventually we settled on the West Coast, where I encountered a slew of mentors, particularly for lakes.

Later training and experience in Adult Ed’ supported efforts to mentor others, so a last thought. Share what you know about fishing, not forgetting females either, it’s important for the sport and also good for you.

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