Hoggie on the FlyLife forum has the following tagline, “New England…..the new New Zealand”. Others have described the New England area as the “Poor Man’s New Zealand.” Before I fished New England in April 2011 I hardly even knew it existed, it wasn’t even on my radar, but wow it is now!
I stumbled onto the Moffat Falls website after getting my fix of fishing porn from Catch Magazine, the great US online fly fishing photography magazine. One curious mouse click led to another and somehow I’m back on an Australian website promoting a cottage next to a trout stream in New England. Being essentially lazy in nature I thought “stuff it that will do, there’s my next holidays sorted”.
It was hard explaining to workmates that I was going fly fishing for trout about an hours drive from Coffs Harbour; I found it hard to believe myself.
The first night we stayed at the Urunga Heads Hotel. It was a simple plan; counter meal then bed and an early start the next day. Unfortunately the cover band started at 9pm and the last version of Cold Chiesel’s Khe Sanh didn’t finish to well after midnight. We were then woken up at 5.30am by a bunch of guys getting up for a day’s golf banging on each other’s door and yelling out. My partner got up and ticked them off, she found them wandering around the hall in their underwear. They sheepishly went back to their rooms and kept quiet, she has that effect on grown men wandering around in their underwear.
Finally we got to the cottage after the obligatory tourist stops along the way, how many waterfalls and rainforest walks can you cop in one day? I had just enough time to catch the evening rise and I found rising fish, but they weren’t rising to the usual flies I chuck at fish on the Goulburn River. On the last throw of the dice, when I was winding the line in, a fish snatched at a dun pattern as the fly dragged on the surface.
The next day one of the owners of the lodge rattled off a long list of flies that work, all I really heard was Royal Coachman and Red Tag. From then on I didn’t look back. Every time I went fishing I caught fish. This is almost unheard of in Victoria.
One of the highlights of the trip was watching my partner catch a pound and a half rainbow in the Barwick Creek. Later she missed a bigger fish. It was classic dry fly fishing. We sighted a nice fish sitting behind a deflection from a log. She struggled to get the fly out to the other side of the creek. Finally the fish notices the offering and refuses. The subsequent cast is pulled off the water to quickly, “pop” and the fish darts for cover.
My personal triumph was snagging 10 quality rainbows in the Barwick Creek*. Beautifully conditioned fish that had me dancing in circles as I tried to pull them up with my 3-weight.
http://www.scribblemaps.com/#id=c46qBDedd3 | http://www.scribblemaps.com/maps/view/c46qBDedd3
The water reminded me of why I got into trout fishing in the first place. That first trout fishing trip with my old man on the Buffalo River and my first solo trips to the Mitta. The magic of fast water, the knowledge that there’s a fish under that ripple, the anticipation of the take, the disappointment when you miss or the when the fish doesn’t rise. “Get stuffed, there has to be a fish under there”. But finally the reward when it all comes together, “you’re on”, and then another beautiful fish is gently released back into the water. Sometimes I let out a little boyish yell mostly I just quietly savor the moment as I slowly get my rig ready for the next cast or walk to the next pool.
The fishing I experienced in New England was fantastic, it made a mug like me actually look and feel like an accomplished fly fisherman. I’ve since been reliably informed that there is better water up there with bigger fish that are easier to get at. Suddenly the claim of being the “Poor man’s New Zealand” is making sense.
On my first fishing trip to New Zealand someone threw a full beer bottle at me in Christchurch. Now that’s something that would never happen in New England. No Australian would throw a full bear bottle at anyone, even if they were staggering out of the Urunga Heads Hotel at 1am singing Khe Sanh.
Golf is a stupid game. Also the only thing on the pub’s television was a rugby league match, Jesus talk about having to suffer for your art.
*I found these great photo’s by Paul Earl of Barwick Creek on Flickr his website is http://misteree.redbubble.com/.