This is what makes New Zealand so unique and special: the backcountry, and the chance of finding the fish of a lifetime in a small stream. After a 3 hour hike, covering 7.5 miles, I reached the wee headwaters of one of the local rivers. As I first started stalking the banks there was not much sign of life, but I remained optimistic. Eventually I found a juicy looking pool and as I approached I spotted an enormous shadow swinging back and forth in the heart of the pool. On my second drift with my cicada the fish turned, rose and began to inhale the fly; and with all my adrenaline I yanked the fly out of the monsters mouth. After regaining my composure, I tried a few more drifts with different patterns but the fish was spooked. I headed back to my camp, with that pool bookmarked for the next day.
The following morning I headed up stream. After walking a few miles without spotting a fish I had reached a turnaround point. At this final pool I made a blind cast into the riffle and was shocked to see a fish inspect my fly. Instead of recasting, I sat down, changed to a smaller tippet and fly and went back for another shot. On the first cast I lost the fly in the shadow, I noticed the tail of the fish move toward the surface, and set the hook. After chasing down the frisky rainbow 50-75 feet downstream, I eventually steered the 6-8 pound beauty into a slow enough spot to land the fish.
After breaking the ice, I headed back downstream to try and fool the fish that schooled me the day before. As I approached the spot, I noticed the enormous shadow was still there patrolling the pool. My first drift was with the fly that enticed the first fish, but no response. I switched to the cicada that he chased the day before, but was not interested. I then decided to give him a rest, ate a snack and figured it would be worth a shot with a nymph. After re-rigging, I ran the heavy pheasant tail down the center of the hole. At first I thought that my indicator had been sunk in the splash of the riffle, but my instincts told me to set the hook. The line came tight and I could feel the weight and power of the trout pulsing through the fly rod. Instead of running downstream, this fish was so powerful that he ran upstream about 50 feet into the next pool. Finally, I was able to corral the monster rainbow, barely able to grip him around the tail. Before I know it, the fish flexed its muscles again and I watched him swim away. The perfect rainbow had to be pushing double digits and is definitely a personal best for that species.
Satisfied, I headed back upstream towards my camp. As I walked past the next attractive pool, I figured it was worth “one last cast.” On the first drift I saw the sway of the fish and my indicator disappear. After a quick fight, I landed this beautiful 4-5 pound rainbow and it was cordial enough to cooperate for a few pictures. Regardless of pictures, I will have these great memories to take home in a few weeks.