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Fishing for Memories

Having graduated from university in late 2008 and being well and truly hooked on the notion of guiding internationally I set about the intricate task of worming my way onto the guiding circuit. In hindsight it was probably the worst time possible to achieve my goal; my emails of expressed interest were replied to with the common catchphrases “downturn,” “crash,” and “recession.” With the Celtic tiger a mere pussycat of its former boom bonanza, attaining any form of employment was a difficult feat. After nine months on the scratcher I had to bite the bullet and take a position in a local grocery store, my outdoor dream had suddenly turned into a trolleys and isles nightmare. My lowest point came when my cousin no more than eleven at the time, snapped a picture of me in full uniform behind the deli counter. He sent me the photo with the added text “fly fishing guide or deli dolly?”

Recounting a single moment or memory from those nine months is impossible, having no interest in my duties it was only a means to an end. So when a week passes like the one we just had I appreciate all the more the events and experiences that no doubt I and the guests will recount for years to come. Stories at the guide cabin can go back years, recounting in intricate detail individual fish, flies, guests, et cetera.

Guiding late into the evening at Kau Tapen Lodge can be very special, referred to by many as the “magic hour” your guiding takes on a whole new perspective; as the light fades your senses change from visual to acoustic. You find yourself in an almost trance-like state gazing into the darkness, head tilted slightly, and ear intently cocked for any telltale sounds of action. To the trained ear it’s possible to discern a good cast for a bad one. Instruction at this hour is futile, so as a guide you persistently want to hear the running line tap the reel, closely followed by a deft plop as the fly lands close to the far bank. Fishing close to the surface the initial take is unmistakeable, a crisp surge of water churning, one must wait for the clutch on the reel to click before you can be sure of a solid hook set. An elated guest may also confirm the same with one of the many hook-up phrases such as “fish on”, “ oh ya baby”, etc. etc. The next matter of interest is the size of the specimen hooked, usually denoted by the splash following a jump. Once the reel begins to click for the second time it is time to call your charges to the bank while you dash for the net. Mr. Sean Clarke and Edward Evans were my guests on Wednesday evening when the late night orchestra started and the scene just described repeated itself three times before it was time to hit the road.
Our guests experienced the best week of the season so far and managed to hook into an impressive 229 trout of which 166 were landed. Some of the better sessions in terms of numbers included Ron Clark’s Tuesday total of 8 fish. At 77 years old, Ron, with a group of American friends William Stoney, William Alford, and Harvey Bender, reminisced on how they had met and times they had spent together in Alaska over a period of 12 years. The many valuable memories had fused together in what William Alford described as their “final hurrah”. William Bush and David Blazes, complete novices with the double-hander, slowly got to grips with the task at hand and each accounted for a total of 19 fish.

Our friend from Ponoi, Francois Bocard, made a welcome return to the Rio Grande after a 15 year absence. The Muirhead’s joined us from the UK: Linda a non-angler embraced the tranquillity of the lodge and got through an endless number of books as well as taking walks to and from the river while her husband Sandy got to work on the river. An astute angler, he finished the week as our top rod with a total of 24 fish and received a new Sage Methodsingle-handed rod for his efforts. Gary Crossley joined us for the second season in a row and said that his desire to catch the “Big One” was the main motivating factor for his return. Never one to panic, Gary’s patience paid off when he landed the biggest fish of the week on his last session—19 pounds.
With extremely high tides and a forecast of mainly overcast conditions through the beginning of next week, hopes are high that we can continue to produce some of the best memories possible for our guests. Those who left this week certainly have shedloads.

Total rod catch: 166 Total hooked: 229 Biggest: 19lbs Average weight: 7lbs Regards

—Matthew Solon