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I've travelled far and wide for many reasons during the earlier stages of my life, mainly chasing big storm systems – surfing places as dangerous as driving through the wrong part of Cape Town at night. A lot of that time in between was also filled with fishing and diving, all over these places around southern Africa. Travelling smart, I was lucky to get away with my life, as I was taught to be street wise and to know how avoid trouble before things got potentially life threatening. For raising my own awareness of what’s happening around me, all those years – it has taught me to think somewhat more like an animal, to have eyes in the back of your head, where survival of the fittest, truly is a modern day thing for us domesticated urban roaming creatures.
My point being, if you don’t travel with awareness you won’t make it and how could you appreciate what life is showing you? Travelling smart makes us all happy – a sense of achievement of getting somewhere – there is no denying that this is why we travel and why my next travel adventure was my most daring yet, as it took me to a completely new country where being street wise might help in the city but everywhere else, it is the remoteness that can/will get you if not prepared.
During the summer of 2007, I immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa. Trained as a civil engineer, experienced from working and travelling abroad - I applied for a job at an engineering firm in Marlborough and from there, it all started, as I got the job. I was on my way from Auckland International, in a night bus, I made my way down to Wellington the capital of New Zeeland, crossing from the North to South via the Interislander ferry – I was not sure what to expect, but what I found was literally, to die for.
As we crossed the Cook Strait that following morning, entering the Tory Channel, I recall thinking to myself; “this is wild” - almost as wild as Africa! It was like something from Jurassic Park – everything was beautifully rugged, wild beyond your wildest dreams and it felt like I was actually going back in time…
Being from a third world country, but having travelled Europe on my placement years for working experience, I had seen and heard of New Zealand. I even met some Kiwis on the way, whilst surfing through France, Spain & Portugal – but nothing could have really prepared me for what surprises awaited me… I was so happy for this new start, “a new life”, in a country safe from crime, minimal poverty, with an amazingly high currency and a much higher standard of living - totally surpassing anything I have experienced as far as lifestyle was concerned…
Well 'impressed' would've been an understatement at that time, and it just got better as I learnt over time. Adapting fast and stepping into this new culturally rich land, with its young history, booming with natural progression – it left me dreaming and living this dream simultaneously. “Living the dream”, as some of my friends refer to it, in a location free with no bounds to its extent.
Marlborough, the region itself - not including the Sounds area - has long been a prime destination for wine makers. Connoisseurs, who visit the region for its natural beauty and diversity, but mainly to go drinking good wine - experiencing a slice of heaven by visiting the most popular cellar doors!
A highly regarded region for its magical status, the Marlborough Sounds is at the very top of the South Island closest to the capital. It’s also fittingly renowned for its incredible hunting and fishing amongst most Kiwis, an untapped sports fishery with unimaginable opportunity.
Who would've known there are man-made habitats, great underwater structures, like endless rows of mussel lines – feeding an ecosystem – replenished with nutrient rich cold water from the southern ocean? Hell –this is fishing heaven. No-one told me anything like this was here. So, I was off searching far and wide – often getting skunked on my road to discovery. I went out exploring every free minute I was able to, and what I’ve learnt to date, after living among-st it, experiencing it first hand, I must say it’s something to behold for your-self.
So four years ago in 2010, I decided to change a pretty good lifestyle, into an even better, salt fly lifestyle, and for these last 4 years, I have operated my unique service based from here – growing from strength to strength – totally unnoticed by the rest of the world. I‘ve learnt where and how to successfully catch most these fish here on fly from season to season. Reading forecast charts – interpreting them, and then predicting angling outcomes is very hard but not impossible. This is made difficult due to the region's special micro climate and ever-changing four seasons in a day type scenarios.
I was browsing social media posts and came across this short piece on Marlborough, written a by visiting fly angler who loved it so much - he wrote a short story about it in his blog – which inspired me and reminded me of how it all started. He just couldn't stop raving on about heading out prospecting with his fly gear nor with his guns… I was astounded with his passion for getting out there doing it.
I got to meet him, prior to him writing this blog – and it was incredible to see the enthusiasm in his eyes as if he was just gifted something so valuable – just like that of the time when I realised my infinite opportunities, and hearing it in his voice – I mean I thought I was crazy about it, but it seems I might have gotten a bit to accustomed to how good life is or has become. We got talking and he on the one hand was so fascinated with the fresh water trout fishery – then one the other hand, he got side tracked & started talking about the salt water (my forte), and then on another hand, the hunting – wild pigs , deer (all sorts of deer) – almost frothing out the mouth, as he could barely contain himself. It was great to meet and greet him – and totally happy he had such a wonderful time right here in Marlborough, my home – we never ended up angling together but I’m sure in the future he’ll be back.
The one thing most visitors like him miss though, is the diving, both scuba and free diving, probably because it’s not warm like in Australia – but here selective spear fishing is one of my other highly regarded and preferred hunting techniques…it keeps you fit and yet people rarely want to go hunt fish underwater, it's easier than getting a rifle and gun licence.
I‘ll leave that at that for my next article, as selective spearfishing and salt water fly angling are my two most desirable & sustainable methods of living this lifestyle here.
The best point highlighted to all you readers is that there is so much more to fishing this destination than meets the eye. The region has a unique micro climate and an intricate coastline shaped with seriously strong tidal movements, which already makes for exciting sports fishing and diving. Modern day anglers all know fish like fast water; wicked fast tidal movements results in big fish. I say “wicked” because it is truly dangerous at times, especially if you don’t know what you are doing out there.
The micro climate can cause swift weather changes where the conditions can go from pleasant to not so much fun, pretty quickly. Don’t let that hinder you though, as summer time usually brings with it, less rough patches – but one thing that should be mentioned is that when the condition suit, algae can be a problem. Algae blooms are no good for fish and towards the end of summer these instances are one thing we avoid at all cost.
This abundance in fish life was not always as good as it is these days, I mean, go back 20 years and locals would paint the complete opposite picture to mine – over fishing and bad commercial management of resources was seriously destructive on stocks in the 80s, bringing the entire process of commercial fishing industry to a halt & under heavy scrutiny from recreational anglers – forcing cuts on all commercial operations…
Thankfully, someone smart suggested marine reserves were to be put in place, in order to recover stocks in easily accessible habitats. These were to be” no take zones” for the fish numbers to slowly but surely recover. Currently marine environments struggle with habitat loss due to the unstoppable forestry industry, which leads to major erosion and settlement of masses of sediment via runoff in low flow areas, like deep within the sounds. Inner coastal habits are becoming more clogged over time as the Forestry industry never stops harvesting areas throughout the region.
Stocks over time recovered so well during the last 30 years to a state, where now the fishing has created a market for me to target species like the acrobatic kahawai from the shore. Kahawai stocks back then were literally almost decimated, and ill-treated for its volumes as a species in plagued proportions. They were used for cat food, which unfortunately still is the sad case in some commercial instances – but let us hope the managing of these great sports fish are kept to a high standard of sustainability.
Kahawai is a strong fish, a high quality fish species as good as tuna for angling & eating purposes. They seem to be looked after reasonably well otherwise I won’t have been as successful at setting up a sports angling venue focussed purely on them – which in turn feed a ferocious stock of fast moving kingfish – these species are the main predators of the kahawai and the pride and joy of this venue. They are a great attribute to my Marlborough destination – a highly regarded sport fish pound for pound.
This better recent management has led to greater awareness amongst most and the latest new trends these days in society is not about going out on a fully maxed out charter vessel for a day to catch your limit. No, there is way more to fishing in New Zealand waters, than just using stinky baits with a miserably boring skipper.
In my opinion – it’s about being land based, stalking exotic salt fly targets on artificial fly, imitating specific "hatches" - (yes, "hatches" do happen in the ocean too - not just in rivers) - and using specialist sports gear with fine leaders, for maximum improbability to land any fish in the marine environment. To me it’s about challenging your fishing capabilities and patience, hence the term angling. Otherwise we go from a boat where we also target fish on swallow inshore reefs – the possibilities really are endless.
This is where I come in and why I love developing greater knowledge for the sport of salt water fly. It is not a sport everyone has time for but for those in the know – know exactly how much fun this is - challenging yourself to the max. If you are reading this, then you are on your way to becoming curious enough to go find out for yourself…
Marlborough is my home. It’s listed as my top-most requested destination available during the summers in the southern hemisphere, widely renowned for its prime geographic location situated in the Southern Pacific ocean. This has been my remote home for eight years and when you look at it, you will see exactly how much coastline is available to go cast a fly at. This combined with my experience, knowing where and when to go, is essential.
This is when local guides like me, all around New Zealand become super useful, not necessarily to take you immediately to the best spot out there, but to the spot which is best suited on the day that you want to go out on. This is an island with lots of variables, which dictate whether the fishing will be on or not so choosing your spot is essential. Luckily for our guests, we have access to helicopters, float planes and live-boards for more convenience.
We encourage more international anglers to uncover & grow our sporting prospects with us - without you; we are not developing. Along with the continuous support from big industry players we intend to make this a lifestyle choice for those who can. We seem to have a good foundation for building mega networks with top guides available throughout the year to accommodate for growth within our unique sector, so come along.
Throughout the year we catch a wide range of sports fish - all worthy advisories for the fly so, whether you have or haven’t casted a fly rod, or would like to, the possibilities have just become even grander.
We definitely won’t want to waste time when the tides coincide with dawn and dusk so be in quick. Targeting these prime exotic species in the salt water environment is really what motivates my effective techniques and approach to hunting them with stealth, on a fly. Salt flies are where it’s at and I construct my own specific patterns for specific fish! Other methods might seem effective but it’s not until you've tried the fly that you'll realise the true sportsman inside you.
New Zealand is such a tiny island destination with huge sports fishing potential. This is due to its unique geographic location – positioned way south reaching far away latitudes, where the coastlines have been shaped perfectly over millennia… If you have a strong sense of adventure combined with a passion learning about salt water fly fishing, then visit New Zealand - you won’t be disappointed, Marlborough especially. Here you can enjoy your quality time abroad with friends, fine dining and wine tasting – the rich flavour the land and sea can produce.
An ocean minded guide service specializing in saltwater-fly, wave riding & spearfishing some of the best destinations in the South Pacific, New Zealand.
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