Josh Gallivan

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Hard work pays

Two days ago we emerged from the woods after spending 6 days in one of the most remote places in New Zealand. We Hired a helicopter to drop us off in this remote area so we could spend our time fishing two rivers that were high on our list. We got flown in last Monday morning at 7 am, a day ahead of most of you, and got picked up Saturday night at 6, Went straight to the bar and guzzled a few ice cold beers, and had a feed fit for kings. The trip was incredible. Conditions were perfect, not a single drop of rain, and a lot of very happy fish.

The day came early the morning of the 16th, as we all had our alarms set, gear packed, a bit nervous not knowing what to expect, hoping we had everything in its place. Alot of time and preparation (and money) goes into a trip like this. (Although I do love that nervous anxious feeling you get when your about to do something big, it makes you feel alive.) I woke 15 minutes before my 6:00 alarm and was then calm and ready. I woke the other boys up and we suited up, and didn’t speak a word to each other, just thought about hopping in the chopper and getting there and making sure to do it right. We arrived at the hanger at 6:50, and the pilot was there fueling up and we went over some last minute details like where to pick us up at, we then threw our gear in and waited for the windows to defog, The pilot had shown us where the fire extinguisher and the ax were kept, and told us not to walk behind the chopper, cause we would get cut in half. We jumped in and put on the headsets, put on our seat belts, wrote down our names and weights on a piece of paper and took off. The sun was shining and the sky was red, there were also low lying clouds that lingered below us to add to the omniscient feel of flying. During the flight Our Pilot Wayne, took us to see a shammy, which is a type of high country goat, sure enough in minutes we were hovering over a pair steep on the mountainside, far from anybody’s view down below. The flight was only 25 minutes in, so I had to cherish every second. When we finally got to our destination, it was only a few minutes of shuffling around grabbing our gear, with Wayne yelling at us to hold on to our loose thermarests, so they don’t get caught in the rotor. With a wave and “good luck” he was gone. We went from the center of town to one of the best brown trout fisheries in the world in under a half hour. The chopper took off and we were quiet for a minute then that was it that’s the place we wanted to be, we knew there was no one around and that we had the river all to ourselves. We put our packs on and started the trek upriver. We were prepared to spend 3 days on this river, so on the hike in we started slow, and immediately started seeing fish, one pool had 5 fish in it all between 4 and 6 pounds. So we rigged up and started fishing and casting to the occasional fish with our 40 pound packs on, which is never that productive. We continued upriver all day fishing the good water well, and always keeping in mind a spot to set up camp. During our trek in we walked into a beehive, Sky got hit 4 times and James once, I ran out of there and luckily didn’t get stung. 2 hours later Sky was climbing up a steep sketchy bank and fell backwards 5 feet on top of his fly rod, and broke it in half. Not a great start to a trip…Luckily I was prepared with an extra, and let him use it. When we finally found camp, we were all ready for it, and put down our packs, had a snack, and laid out our things. I immediately spotted 2 fish in the pool that we were camped at. Without hesitation or noticing whose turn it was I laid down a cast while the other two were watching, and to my surprise caught a 5.5 pound brown. When we got it to the net I couldn’t believe the size of the stomach on this fish, He must have eaten a few mice or a bird recently…

Moments later after a few pictures then watching him swim away, the other fish I had spotted was still there, I didn’t think he was going to eat and didn’t even think twice about my cast, but to my surprise again, the fish ate the same dry fly the other fish had eaten only a minute later. Normally in New Zealand when you catch a fish in a pool the other fish in the pool will spook, but not today today was a good day. This 6.5 pound pig ate the same Cicada as the mouse eating 5.5 pound fish…

I truly couldn’t believe I would catch 2 big fish in 2 casts. But after that happened we immediately started moving, and found a pool right up from our camp where there were 4 fish feeding, I had just caught two so gave a few turns up so the other boys could get some.  Sky hooked into a pig and actually broke the hook on the fish. By that point it was getting dark so we decided to head back to camp, and cooked up a mean feed of roasted garlic, onions, peppers, bacon and red sauce pasta. We went all out that night as it was a celebration night. After a long summer guiding for me this was my payback, I had been looking forward to this heli trip for months, so we rolled out our sleeping bags and went to bed early.

We woke to the sound of a Helicopter the next morning, We ran out of our tents to wave them off, but they did not see us. The heli disappeared into a clearing 200 yards downstream, and we thought there was no way they didn’t see us. Sure enough 5 minutes later a guide and his clients emerged from the bush, James let out a yell, and the guides body language totally changed, he looked up and saw us camped right in front of where they landed. He started walking towards us, so we met him half way. Now you never know how these things will pan out, since we were in front of him we had the river and it would not have been fair for him to drop in front of us as we were there first. I could tell he was a bit frustrated, although we were camped out in the open, and when we heard the chopper made our way out to the middle of the river to wave them off, they just weren’t looking. So he was a fair and honest guy, and said we were in the wright and he was in the wrong and he would use the satellite phone and have the chopper come back and pick them up and take them to another river. I’m glad it went smoothly, I could see it not going as smoothly as it did if they would have dropped a bend in front of us. After that we went fishing. And started spotting fish, I gave James and sky the first two fish we saw, (cause we take turns here in New Zealand to be fair) Both of those fish spooked and it was my turn now. I spotted a fish and made one cast with the same cicada the 2 fish had eaten the previous day. After a big fight James netted a trophy fish for me, an 8 pound brown, biggest I have ever caught! This was too good to be true, an 8 pounder on a dry fly first thing in the morning…                               

Pretty decent 8 pound fish to start the morning. The day didn’t slow down much after that. We all had some of the best fishing of our lives, and didn’t stop for lunch. Sky went through a streak this day, like I have never seen, (although I had a similar streak 2 years ago in NZ) He broke off six fish before he was able to land one. We were all laughing by the end, knowing the fishing was so good, breaking off fish after fish. Most of the day went like this…

The fishing was amazing for those next two days. We would get back to camp around 830 or 9 at night cook dinner and head straight to bed, then wake up have our oatmeal and coffee, and start hiking to the pool where we left off the night before. Whoever cooks is off dish duty, and trust me oatmeal is getting old. We have a great system down for our dinners and breakfasts, lunch is also communal but simple, PB&J and tortillas, plus any snacks you brought for yourself. For oatmeal we do 3/4 of a cup of rolled oats per person per day for breakfast, plus a bit of jelly, brown sugar, coconut, and raisins. Delicious. For Dinner we mix it up with either pasta, or rice. But with the rice sometimes we do tuna or chicken, and always with a pack of dried onions, 1/2 a cup of lentils for the protein and either a Indian curry sauce or a Asian stir fry sauce. We always bring a pack of soup mix to have while the food is cooking, there’s nothing like a hot drink while your waiting for you food to cook, it goes down smooth and always swishes around hot in your belly. All else after that is personal, sometimes well surprise each other with chocolate, a true delicacy in the bush. We always try to go to bed having drank a lot of water and eaten a lot of food. Its really your only comfort in the back country. Moving on.

James landed his biggest brown of this trip so far, a 6 pound beauty that when caught, kept going upstream in a rapid, a true beast. He fought it and I ran around the river smashing my knees on rocks (all for a good cause) to net it for him.

Often times when we have been walking for a long time with not much to eat, we will talk about the food we take for granted back home. Foods that come to mind, versions of all our mothers spaghetti, all you can eat sushi, Alaskan king crab legs, pizza, eggs and bacon is a popular choice also, you have no idea how mouth watering and torturous it is to think about all those fresh foods out there in the world just waiting for us. It makes the celebration dinner that much more enjoyable, and makes you think about taking the little things for granted next time. Mom I cant wait to get home and have some of your spaghetti!!



When we moved on from our own private secluded river, we fished and hiked 10 k one day to get to a back country hut. These huts are all over the New Zealand back country, and are very well established. The DOC or , Department of Conservation takes very good care of them, and most of them are always stocked with dry firewood, a luxury in the moist back woods of NZ.

On the final day Wayne was 10 minutes early but so were we so it didn’t matter. We were siting outside calm and glad when we heard the chopper echo high through the hills. He pulled up right to the hut that we had stayed the night before, with out much talk our celebration we climbed in, made sure not to get cut in half, and left the back country. I gave James shotgun and we headed towards civilization.

When we landed we were happy to get back and shower and get ready to go out on the town for some dinner. There is nothing like hard work done right, and sitting with my friends talking about the whole week over a few cold beers was enough to put a horn on a jelly fish. That was our last back country trip for a while, we have to turn gears a bit and focus on our plans after New Zealand, we will do some day fishing here and there so stay tuned on our next adventure, which will never be too far away.

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