Dispatch from New Zealand: Best Day on the River

We often talk about the "perfect fishing day," and yes, for sure, for most of us, the number of fish we catch has little or nothing to do with perfection. It's about the people you fish with, and the places you experience along the way, no doubt. (The day you share with a son or daughter, your grandfather, or a close friend, for example.) But as I was unlacing my boots after my second day of fishing in New Zealand, with guide Nic Robertson of Riverview Lodge near Hanmer Springs, I couldn't help but close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think to myself, "Man… that was about as perfect as it gets." And here are the reasons why:

1) I enjoyed success. Naturally, that plays a part. We hooked 10 brown trout in gin-clear water, and landed seven; the smallest one being five-and-a-half pounds. The largest was seven or so. We saw every fish before we casted at it. And in most cases, the first cast was the one that mattered.

2) I failed. I blew some casts. Made some bad drifts. Set the hook too late, and paid for it. Without a lesson in humility, trout fishing isn't what it can and should be. You really can't appreciate what you do right unless you also understand what you did wrong. Victory is only sweet when mixed with the bitter taste of defeat.

3) I learned. To that end, I learned from both successes and failures. I came off the river having grasped at least 10 solid lessons on sight fishing from Nic that I will hopefully be able to transpose to my home waters, or wherever else I might sight fish for trout. I left the river a better and smarter angler than when I arrived there, which I believe, is the ultimate measure of a great guide, and the standard against which we should all judge our favorite fishing days.

4) I made a friend. Fishing, for me, often has little to do about the fish themselves, and more to do with the people with whom you share your experiences. How much more could you ask for than to forge a friendship with a kindred spirit who lives on the other side of the world from you? Good on 'ya, Nic.

5) I took a look around. I also think that place has much to do with the fishing experience, and not enough of us take time to soak in the full 360-degree view, wherever we are fishing. It's pretty cool to be standing in a river in a sheep station on the South Island of New Zealand, amongst the cliffs and rolling hills, and wonder, "Man… how did I ever get here?"

6) I marched 10K. It's good to combine physical exercise with great fishing.

7) Oh… and we wet-waded all day. I just had to throw that in there for all my friends who are shoveling out in the States.

The only down-side, I'll admit was that as all this was happening, I couldn't help but think of my family and friends back home, and wish so much that I could be sharing the experience with them, in real time. But this is the next-best thing.