Written by Jeff Loutit, CalTrout member
My first fishing memory is worm fishing with my Dad on the banks of the Tairei River in Central Otago in New Zealand. It seems sacrilegious based on what I know now about the amazing fishing in New Zealand but at the time I loved every minute of it: digging up the worms, baiting the hook, and then playing on the banks while my dad fly fished nearby. At age eight, I picked up my Dad’s split cane fly rod and cast it (although, I doubt anyone watching would have called it that) for the first time. I remember flogging the same spot over and over and somehow a four inch fish took pity on me and ate the fly.
My first fish on the fly and, despite airmailing it to the bank, I was enthralled. From that point on, summers during my teenage years were spent swinging wet flies (green and brown beetles with the occasional coch-y-bondhu) for brown trout in the same stretch of the Tairei River. We caught fish and I loved every minute of it, but it was not until I left New Zealand and the advent of the internet that I learned of the absolutely stunning fishing there is throughout New Zealand.
Nowadays, my Instagram feed is full of amazing brown trout currently being caught over the New Zealand summer — I am truly hoping the borders will open back up in 2022. There is nothing better than fishing with my brother, who still lives there, on amazing streams, rivers, and lakes, sight (only through the Guide’s sight) casting to large browns. Truly fish hunting.
I moved to the U.S. in my twenties to further my career with every plan to return to New Zealand, until I met my American wife. Unfortunately, I have not been able to convince her of the joys of catching fish, and so fishing took a back-seat during my thirties and forties due to work and a young family.
With the arrival of two wonderful daughters, came the opportunity to get back out on the rivers with them. I have been told you are supposed to get wiser as you get older and on this rare occasion it has been true. There is absolutely nothing better than going on a fishing trip with your daughter (with a Guide). I am not the teacher, the untangler, or the unhooker. I am the enabler, the encourager, the beneficiary. Those bonding experiences, whether we are in Northern California, Central Oregon or Montana, are priceless. The look of sheer joy when they hook, land and, release a fish warms the heart. And to do it together…what could be better?
So how do we keep this amazing legacy alive and allow my daughters to pass on healthy rivers and fish to their children? (I so hope I will be around long enough to go on a fishing trip with a grandchild — that would be special). This is where organizations like CalTrout, Western River Conservancy, Native Fish Society, to name but a few, come in. I came late to the game in finding CalTrout. They are an inspiring, focused and successful organization, and this is clearly outlined in their 2021 Annual Report. What is so inspiring is not only the depth of their projects but that CalTrout is clearly an organization that, to use their words, “rises to meet the challenge”. I wish I could do more but I am proud to support CalTrout who I have no doubt will continue to strive to ensure this amazing legacy is passed on to future generations.