Written by CalTrout Member Jeff Loutit
My earliest fishing memory is worm fishing with my dad on the banks of the Tairei River in Central Otago, New Zealand. It seems sacrilegious from what I now know of the incredible fishing in New Zealand, but back then I loved every minute of it: digging up the worms, baiting the hook, then playing on the banks while my dad was fly fishing nearby. When I was eight, I picked up my dad’s split fly rod and cast it (although I doubt anyone called it that) for the first time. I remember whipping the same spot over and over and somehow a four inch fish took pity on me and ate the fly.
My first fish on the fly and despite being airlifted to the bank I was captivated. From then on, my teenage summers were spent swinging wet flies (green and brown beetles with the occasional coch-y-bondhu) for brown trout in the same stretch of the Tairei River. We caught some fish and I loved every minute of it, but it wasn’t until I left New Zealand and the advent of the internet that I learned of the absolutely breathtaking fishing there is. throughout New Zealand.
These days my Instagram feed is full of amazing brown trout currently being caught during the New Zealand summer – I really hope the borders reopen in 2022. There’s nothing better than fishing with my brother, who still lives there, on amazing streams, rivers and lakes, view (only through guide’s view) casting big browns. Really fish hunting.
I moved to the United States in my twenties to pursue my career with every project back in New Zealand, until I met my American wife. Unfortunately, I failed to convince her of the joys of catching fish, and so fishing took a back seat during my 30s and 40s due to work and a young family.
With the arrival of two wonderful girls, came the opportunity to return to the rivers with them. I was told that you are supposed to get wiser as you get older and on this rare occasion it was true. There’s absolutely nothing better than going on a fishing trip with your daughter (with a guide). I am not the teacher, the disentangler or the dropout. I am the facilitator, the encourager, the beneficiary. These bonding experiences, whether we are in northern California, central Oregon or Montana, are priceless. The look of pure joy when they catch, land and release a fish warms the heart. And to do it together… what could be better?
So how do I keep this incredible legacy alive and allow my daughters to pass on healthy rivers and fish to their children? (I so hope I’ll be there long enough to take a fishing trip with a grandchild – that would be special). This is where organizations like CalTrout, Western River Conservancy, Native Fish Society, to name a few, come in. I arrived late in the game to find CalTrout. They are an inspiring, focused and successful organization, and that is clearly described in their 2021 annual report. What is so inspiring is not just the depth of their projects, but the fact that CalTrout is clearly an organization that , in their words, “rises to the challenge”. I wish I could do more, but I’m proud to support CalTrout who I’m sure will continue to strive to ensure this incredible legacy is passed on to future generations.