I’ve been to Poronui before and remembered it as one of those perfect places – no little glitches with the hospitality, the experience or even in getting there. But that was mid-winter, when the fishing season was quiet and the guests were there for other reasons like hunting, horse-riding or just for some time out.
This time it was early summer, the lodge was full, the fishing season was well underway, and the weather had risen from its winter bed, giving us a balmy breeze and rising water temperatures. I had come to Poronui to learn to fly fish. Why not start at the top?
Experienced and novice fishermen and women come to Poronui from around the world to sight fish the legendary beats for wily brown trout. It’s one of New Zealand’s most quietly well-known fishing lodges and one that keeps these guests coming back year after year. Helicopters are used a lot to get out to the remote spots, and there’s a criss-cross of old forestry and farm tracks throughout the vast property allowing access to large chunks of riverbed. You won’t see another person on your day on the river.
Guide, Marcus, was the lucky guy who got to take me out on the river. Young, very tall and a passionate fisherman, he also had the patience of a saint and total confidence that I would have no trouble learning to cast to a fish on my first afternoon.
When I first arrived at the lodge he had taken me out to the Safari Camp to see some of the other accommodation. The Safari Camp is a remote, very comfortable, tented camp beside a wonderfully noisy rapid on the Mohaka River. Sleeping 4 people in two tented cabins and with a full kitchen and bathroom, it provides an excellent outback stay. You can self-cater or have a chef cook for your group. All you have to do is fish each day and sit around the fire at night. Blake House is another accommodation – a large, beautifully appointed home well away from the main lodge, and the perfect venue for a group or large family stay.
Now it was business time. I was kitted out with waders and boots, water and snacks, and we were off. Twenty minutes later we were several valleys away from the lodge. Marcus set up the rod and we spent the first half hour learning the rudimentary strokes of casting in a grassy area by the river. I learnt quickly, enjoying the swish and flick of the line as it arced from one side to the other. In no time I was casting to a small brown weed, imagining it to be a tricky trout.
Then it was down to the river to put what I’d learnt in to practice. It was a magical experience, wandering slowly along the waters edge, looking for a trout lying quietly in the current, barely visible in the low light of late afternoon, but oh so sensitive to our movements. As Marcus said, “They get spooked as soon as they see you, so move slowly, carefully.” We saw several fish that first afternoon. I loved the motion of casting the line, the swish as it flicked back and forth, and that moment of anticipation wondering if the trout would be drawn to the fly.
I didn’t catch a fish that day, but I had learnt so much, and really enjoyed the quiet and solitude of where we were, way out on the river, surrounded by forest and a big sky. There were native birds chattering nearby and paradise ducks tending their young on a backwater. I could see how a few days spent fishing on a remote river, in a beautiful setting, with these very challenging trout, could become quite addictive. There was a meditative quality about it that was refreshing and very satisfying. I could do this more often.
Thanks to Eve and the team at Poronui!!