It’s fair to say my childhood was a bit of a fishing overload. My dad Blair fizzed off it. It didn’t matter if he was hauling up blue cod off Motunau Island or trolling for trout in one of Canterbury’s many high country lakes – if there was a rod in his hand, he was happy. While I haven’t exactly inherited his fierce passion for fishing, I do credit my old man for introducing me to the great outdoors, which has become a huge part of my work and play. Now with a young fella of my own, it’s pretty special to be able to make those same introductions. This summer I’ve taken my three-year-old Milo on several camping, boating and spearfishing missions. However, when it came to teaching him to fish, I thought it best to call in the old dogs.

Early January saw us camping down at Lake Hawea with my parents, which is where we’ve been holidaying as a family for decades. Dad, Milo and I decided to head up the lake to try get Milo onto his first trout. The morning was an absolute stunner – glassy water and clear skies. We launched the boat halfway up the lake and headed up towards the Hunter River. Dad had fished this area the year before and had some success spinning from the shore along a couple of sweeping bays just past Kidds Bush campground. We pulled into one of his prized honey holes and started setting up the rods. Now I don’t know how many of you have tried to do anything with a three-year-old but often there’s not a lot of patience involved. I left the casting lessons to dad and grabbed the camera to snap a few images of the pristine lake. However, as it turned out, we didn’t have long to wait.

Within a couple of casts, line started running off Milo’s reel and his face lit up with excitement. Dad coached him through it. Lift the rod. Keep the tension on. Wind fast. I recall receiving the same instructions over and over as a kid. Before long a small rainbow trout appeared in the crystal-clear water. The excitement levels from the three-year-old went through the roof as he dragged it up onto the beach. It certainly wasn’t the biggest fish in the lake, but it didn’t matter an ounce.
With a bit of convincing, Milo picked up the rainbow and perched up next to Dad for a photo. It was a pretty special moment to share with my old man and one I’m sure will be a highlight for Milo for years to come.

A couple of weeks later, we had a similar opportunity to head into the hills, this time with my father-in-law Earl tagging along for the ride. We hooked on the boat and headed to Lake Coleridge, a renowned fishery in the Canterbury high country. The plan was to camp up for the evening and get on the lake first thing. I’d packed the rifle and binoculars in the hope of nabbing a deer or chamois on Peak Hill conservation area which comes right down to the lake. The morning dawned fine and clear as we idled up the lake and trolled along the drop-off. Fish were rising consistently around us, but for the first hour or so there was no action at all. As we puttered along, I kept a close eye on the scrub above us, willing a big velvet stag to poke his head up. Suddenly, one of the rods started peeling line. I downed the binoculars and grabbed the rod. There was a bit of weight but no significant tugging. Milo was eager to jump on the reel, so I handed him the rod to wind in what I thought was a clump of lake weed. However, eventually a lazy brown trout appeared. With very little fight, he swam right into the net and our first fish of the morning was on the boat. Again, it was a really special moment for a boy and his Grandpa to share.

After a few photos, we continued fishing up the side of the lake. We managed to hook one more respectable rainbow before pulling into a beach for a feed of bacon and eggs. Time spent in the great outdoors is always awesome, but to share it with little people is particularly cool. They get such a buzz from the small things we often take for granted. It’s a good reminder of what we have here in New Zealand and to make sure we all carve out time in our busy schedules to get out there and enjoy it… and to drag the kids along too!

By Struan Purdie