Camping at Lake Rotoiti was a bit of a tease for my fisherboy Carlos. As we sat perched on the lakeside dock we watched an eel cruise below us and the signs at the campsite indicated the lake was a prime breeding water for trout. Alas, we had no fishing rods so we made do with pasta and veggies for dinner.
But Carlos was itching to do some proper fishing so we set out early the next morning for Lake Brunner where we heard rumor there was some of the best fishing on the South Island. Driving along the rural country towns and farmland we passed right by the Muncheson annual Agricultural and Pastoral Show. Carlos, anxious to get to Lake Brunner, sped by. But I was hankering for some eccentric rural New Zealand culture and demanded we stop and see what this was all about. Towns all over NZ have their A + P show at about this time of year. Farmers and families from all neighboring areas gather up their sheep, produce and baked goods to showoff at the fair. Driving by, what caught my attention was the woodchopping competition. This is my kind of show! Carlos and I placed bets on which of the men would chop the fastest and since the appropriate attire for the competition was a sleeveless shirt, we made predictions based on muscle size (that was a mistake, we should have judged by rattails as the winner was sporting quite a nice hairdo).
My favorite competition at the A + P was the sheep shearing. Men and women stood on stage as they raced to sheer as many sheep as they could in a given time. According to the Sheep Shearing Times Magazine that was being distributed in the arena, this is a global sport that we were lucky to witness. Carlos, always in search of his next pair of slippers, was infatuated with the shearers moccasins. We strolled around the grounds, picking up a huge bag of fresh tomatoes, a pint of blueberries, greens and a hunk of salami for lunch before getting back on the road. For an island sparsely dotted with small towns and more tourists and livestock than residents, the A + P show provided some great insight into what country culture on the South Island was all about.
At about 1:30 we bulled into Lake Brunner– another tiny town with a gas station/general store, a cafe and a handful of homes overlooking the water. Not sure what the best way to go about getting ourselves out on the lake with some fishing rods would be, we pulled into the cafe for some advice. The other customers gave us blank stares but the head chef knew what to do. In a brazen tone typical of the New Zealanders we interacted with, she told us to call the resident fisherguide, Brent who could help us out. Within twenty minutes we were at the Brunner Lake Yacht Club (I kid you not, that’s what it was called) meeting Brent. And within ten more minutes, I had my own fish. Just like that.
Of course, me catching the first fish was not exactly what Carlos wanted (or me, who would have to console him if it was the only fish of the day) but Brent knew all the hot spots and with a bit of patience, my fisherboy became a fisherman pulling in three large brown trout! Of course, now we had to do something with our fishies so after a crash course in gutting, we cleaned them up and went back to the general store to buy a bucket, ice, tin foil and some accompaniments for our feast. This was by far the most expensive fish dinner I have ever had. But, we caught those bad boys ourselves and dammit, we were going to eat them. In Greymouth later that evening we found a holiday park on the beach with full kitchen facilities and BBQ to prepare the trout. Carlos proudly showed off his bounty to all the other travelers, and since we had two large fish to grill we had plenty to share.