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OCEANIA FLY FISHING CHAMPIONSHIPS

By Kurt Finlayson   

              

Here are a few photos from my trip to the Oceania Fly Fishing Championships in Australia followed by a trip to New Zealand .  It was a great trip with some awesome fishing and new friends. Our team took 3rd place in the competition. It was the adventure of a lifetime and I was honoured to be invited on the team.  Thanks for your support.

The Oceania Championships are held every other year alternating between New Zealand and Australia . This was the America ís first attendance at these games.  The team was made up of 3 current US Fly Fishing Team members; Devin Olsen, Scott Robertson, and Riley Cotter. Other US team members were invited but declined and so Loren Williams and I were offered a great opportunity to be a part of this team.

We flew into Sydney over the recognizable harbour and opera house en route to the island of Tasmania off the southern tip of Australia  

       

Once we got to Tasmania , quarantine officials checked all of our gear for bird flu, rock snot and other nasties. Their thoroughness should be an example to other agencies that are dealing with invasive species.

After hours on planes and in airports the smell of fresh air and eucalyptus trees was overwhelming. Trying to get used to cars coming in our lane was also a new experience. Anytime we crested a hill and saw a car coming towards us we all jumped.

On our way to the practice waters there were unfamiliar critters (platypus, wallabies, possums) and birds everywhere. This is a baby wombat raised by a local gas station owner.

           

The first fish we saw was this brown caught by one of our invaluable hosts that helped us during the trip. Unfortunately, this brown turned belly-up from the 74 degree water temps that plagued the lake fishing in Tasmania .

I caught one small lake brown during practice and this was my first Tasmanian river trout. The small rainbow and brown trout were familiar but some of the bug life was pretty amazing. This is a Tasmanian stonefly (notice the light band running across his wings) and a daddy (crane fly). We found a huge NZ dragonfly that looked like it could carry away a dog. Our team members also ran into a deadly snake and found a deadly spider under a bed.

    

Bad water or food took a hard toll on some of our team as well as other competitors. We are indebted to Scottís wife for putting up with us during those days of sickness. The first few days found us hovering near toilets and drained from dehydration. However, the night before competition we were feeling better and tying until the wee hours.

One of the greatest things about competitive fly fishing is the friends that you make. While you are angling against them, there is a camaraderie that develops within your competitive grouping, especially when the fishing is tough! These are my mates from New Zealand , Australia , and Canada . Cagey ol' blokes.

         

Even better was my group of US team mates (Devin, Scott, Loren, Riley, Kurt). We started the event as competitors from the US Regionals and Nationals but we quickly became a team, laughing and sharing information. At the end of the competition we had secured third place, with our captain, Scott Robertson, capturing second in the individual standings! While the fishing was tough, our team worked well together. I was honoured to have been selected to be a part of the team but I was even more honoured to fish beside my team mates. There really is nothing like being on a team of highly skilled and motivated people that want to do well and have fun.

With the competition over we found a half-day to pack and sightsee. We went on a short hike and saw huge ferns and unique trees. Parrots flew among the trees and birds raucously squawked at us as we walked through the jungle.

   

The second part of our journey was a scouting trip to New Zealand . NZ will host the 2008 World Championships and scouting the water might prove valuable. Of course, flying over NZ without fishing it on the way home would be completely unacceptable. We found the inspections and security requirements constantly changing on the way to New Zealand . We watched as our rods and reels got put in with the cargo and cattle and wondered how many of us would be receiving new 9 piece rods from the plane. Not to worry, landing in NZ everything was good to go and we were blazing to our next destination, Rotorua on the North Island .

With our expectations grounded in reality from the fishing in Tasmania , we were cautiously excited to wet a line. No problem mate, the first river produced big powerful fish. We quickly realized light tippet was not needed and would not work on these fish.

     

Most of the fish in NZ were rainbows. Dry dropper seemed to be the best technique and fly patterns didnít seem to matter much. The fish were very willing to eat. Even in high pressure areas (this is in the middle of town) the fish were not too selective.

New Zealand is a very interesting country, far different than my expectations from Lord of The Rings. The climate and scenery is very tropical, more reminiscent of Hawaii . The native culture is Polynesian and it heavily influences the landmark names. We fished the Ngongotaha, the Rangitaiki, and one day we were a little lost on the Where-arewe. The animal life was also very different. There are very few native mammals in New Zealand and the introduced mammals are very concerning. The Red Stag were penned to keep from overpopulating and the possums were killed as pests. Even the trout are introduced species in NZ. Luckily, there are plenty of them as well!

    

knowledgeable guides. We split into two groups and had the time of our lives! The fishing and scenery lived up to our wildest expectations of what NZ should be. We got back late and enjoyed trading fish stories and checking out the lodge. Patís tying room overlooking the lake and fishing antiques made us green with envy. From one of the showcases I noticed a spool of line that may explain my unusual passion for fishing.

 

Our time went by too quickly but we were all missing loved ones from home. During the trip things happened fast and went by without contemplation. It wasnít until the final days were approaching that they really sunk in.

It was an experience that I never thought I would have. I had the opportunity to fish with some of the best anglers in the US and the world. I also fished in New Zealand for great big rainbows. Now that I am home and driving on the correct side of the road I have lost the Australian accent in my thoughts and canít help but miss the sweet smell of eucalyptus... I canít wait to go back!

Kurt Finlayson March 9, 2007

 

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