2020/2021 Season Summary

ALTITUDE BLOG

I want to start off this season's summary with a big thank you to all the Kiwi anglers who fished with me this past season. There has been some super tough times in there for guides around New Zealand. Each and every guide day booked goes hugely appreciated. Without you all, my boots would have definitely been hung up for the season. So again, thank you.

After such an amazing first full season guiding and instructing here in the lower North, I had bags packed ready for four and a half months of work at a saltwater fly fishing lodge in the Caribbean back in April. Covid-19 put the brakes on that pretty quick and the New Zealand tourism sector shut down effectively overnight. Guides left in limbo, lodges empty and Air New Zealand stuck on the ground. Wow, what a bizarre 12 months it's been.

 

I remember last winter a couple of months there where seldom did I sleep. Lying in bed at night till crazy hours wondering weather walking away from the business or sticking with it was the best move. After 8 weeks of lockdown here in New Zealand I think society was simply so eager to breath fresh air, get outside of their 'bubble' and in many cases throw some fly line and forget about C-19s disruption to their everyday lives. The best guides had a few bookings rolling through for the winter season here in the Taupo region. It looked promising with the trans-Tasman bubble in the making. If we could get through that winter then summer would be around the corner and our Aussie anglers possibly knocking on our doors. Not really the case as it turned out. Clusters popping up here and there restricting travel yet again. It quickly became clear that we were never going to see our new and returning International customers for the season. Servicing our kiwi anglers become of upmost importance to keep the industry afloat.

My focus this season was on local anglers looking to improve their angling skillset or start their journey on fly fishing. While we managed a few multi-day road trip/backcountry adventures, these 'tailored' fly fishing experiences were not going to be the bulk of the seasons work, but rather dedicated personal instruction and running clinics which I got a huge amount of energy from.

 

As much as it's hard to look for sometimes, the silver linings are nestled away somewhere within those hard times. Finding other means of work, building decks, pole sheds, fencing and other bits and pieces like operating a chainsaw. All bloody good skills I've wanted to learn how to do in life and things I never got taught in school - just like spotting trout!! Ha!

A good angling mate Jack Kos and I planned a backcountry mission to discover new water and push the limits out a little further. I think we got to the hut around midnight under headlamp after a big walk in. We both had three days of fishing up a headwater system I'd been looking at on maps for years. Things got real pretty in there. Stunningly clear water, prehistoric forests and beautiful brown trout in an amazing variety of mountain country. Really felt like we stepped back in time there......

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The lower North got absolutely hammered with consistent spells of bad weather. I can't really ever remember having to postpone many guide days in previous seasons. Between Mid October and January we had to postpone 11 out of 13 booked days, and those remaining two days were marginal conditions to say the least. New Zealand's weather and river conditions sure are demanding at the best of times. A client said to me this season 'we've just got to make the best of what we've got'. Anyhow we snuck pretty well all those days back in when things warmed up again and the fishing really was good. I'm still waiting for the next big series of floods. We haven't seen any turn up in over 4 years now. As a result, fish condition and numbers were just consistently solid in nearly all catchments and especially in the backcountry-style waters.

 

One new development with Altitude this season was working alongside Alpine Hunting a little closer. Alpine is based on the headwaters of the Rangitikei River in the Kaimanawa Forest Park. Access via 4X4 Can-Am bikes to world class rainbow trout angling in private water. Another unique experience for customers that want to target large unpressured fish especially on really big dries in peak summer. Amazing lodge accommodation is available also with the Quinn family who operate Alpine Lodge.

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As February rolled round we encountered some really top notch cicada hatches. Possibly some of the best in recent memory. Anything worked as long as it was big, black #6 or #8 and sported rubber legs. A fly that fits that description and really stood out to me this season was the Category 3 Fly Company woomfah. It's big profile stands out in fast water and floats super high so can suspend a couple of heavy nymphs if needed - especially in big water like the 'tikei. I really like how the body suspends below the waterline on the big grub hook. I feel fish can locate it easier on the lateral angle. Often a nymph below the woomfah aids in them eating the dry and this season one situation stuck out to me. Perched on a ledge with customers Myles and Molly we watched a very large rainbow feeding super deep on a sandbar at the head of a run. Myles pitched his woomfah/stonefly rig ahead of the beast sitting about 2-3meters deep. It slowly lifted in the water column seeming like a long time. I originally thought it was coming up to his stonefly but it kept on coming up and up and up to the big dry! Woomfah!! 8 1/4 lb baby!

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Good relationships with local farmers and friends providing off road transport in rough country so you've got more time on the water!

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Kiwi Nymphing clinics with Rob Vaz Fly Fishing 2020

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Hooked up in the absolute speak of Cicada season on a gin-clear mountain river.

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Great fun with the boys from Manawatu Hunting & Fishing

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Fresh Coffee stop while watching  a large brown feeding off the top.

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Among two legendary SI Guides Zane Mirfin & Tony Entwistle. Zane snags another Motueka Brown at the Nelson Euro Nymph Clinics. Masters of the game!!

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Bacon, egg avocado Pitas. Breakfast of champions baby!!

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2021 Euro Nymph Clinics Motueka, Nelson with Tony Entwistle's Fly Fishing

A Fantastic tailing king on a crab fly 'riding' and short tail stingray - Golden Bay, South Island

Hooked up at the end of the day near our campsite deep in the mountains

As I write this we're heading into the winter season for lake run rainbow trout in Taupo. Fish are starting to run up the Tongariro and adjacent streams for their winter spawn. Theres some amazing conventional nymph, euro nymph, and swing/spey action to be had. I'm only a phone call away so book some guide days up their and keep the winter blues at bay!

Now taking bookings for the 2021/22 season. Give me a call and lock in the best dates of the season before they fill up fast. I've already getting dates booked, so don't miss out on the best of the best.

I'm looking forward to sharing more great experiences and adventures with return customers and new anglers next season. The packs and boots are ready for you and already getting with drawl symptoms!

Johnny

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Join me for a walk into the finest trout real estate on the planet. Specialist guided adventures in New Zealand's Lower North island