Of fish and birds in Southland
FOLLOW THE READER
MAFFRA, VICTORIA WEare in New Zealand poking about the small town of Manapouri in the southwest of the South Island. On a side road, we find the sign to the famous Kepler Track and we soon come to a substantial suspension bridge across the mighty Mararoa River.
The track is lined with ferns of seemingly every kind and the beech forest provides a dense canopy. I’m enchanted by strange bird calls from overhead.
We follow the track down to a secluded beach where the river empties into Lake Manapouri. Thousands of sandflies go quietly about their business of tormenting us. They are a surprising omission from the tourist brochures that extol the attractions of this paradise.
A young chap in full fishing garb comes bounding along the track wielding a fly rod, boggle- eyed with excitement. He tells us he is Irish and is full of chat us about the ‘‘huge’’ trout he has just lost. He simply could not stop its run and it stripped all the line from his reel before snapping off.
He says he has caught and released a number of four and five-pound fish (1.8kg-2.3kg), but this monster would have been well over the 10-pound mark. It is somehow comforting to hear someone refer to fish by their imperial weight.
Just after this jovial young fellow leaves us, his fishing guide comes along, smiling broadly.
‘‘I suppose he has told you all about the fish he lost,’’ he says.
‘‘It really was a big fish — probably 15 pounds, a beautiful brown trout — and we both got a few looks at it. He will buy drinks with that tale for many a day to come.’’
We meet them later back at the suspension bridge and they point out a number of big fish stationary in the current below. The water is crystal clear, but it takes a practised eye to spot these beauties as they blend against the gravelly bottom. They tell us the fish we can see are all four or five pounds; there are no small fish in this river.
As we are talking, I again hear a striking bird call and ask the guide what it is. He listens for a moment and says it is the suspension bridge squeaking. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive a Lemnis Pharox Solar Kit. Ideal for outdoor adventures, this nifty device is both an energy-efficient portable light and a charger for devices such as phones and iPods. Charge via electricity before you leave or on the road with the included mini solar panel. $49.95. More: 1300 LEMNIS; lemnislighting.com.au.