Of fish and birds in South­land

FOL­LOW THE READER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - PETER MAD­DEN

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.