I’ve only been fishing once in my life. It was during an extended stay on the island of Ko Lipe. A few of us had rented a boat to explore the nearby national park and islands. For lunch, our Thai captain went out to catch fish. I was one of the few who went with him, each of us allowed a chance to catch something.
Fishing in Thailand is done the old-fashioned way: a hook attached to a line thrown in the water. Very simple. Our lunch bit while I was holding the line. I had caught a nice lunch for everyone, but in the process managed to slice my finger open. A bittersweet victory.
Trout fishing in Taupo, I had a completely different experience. Instead of line fishing in an open long boat, we went fishing with a modern sonar-equipped boat, a surly but hilarious captain, and very high-tech fishing rods. It was a completely different world.
Launching out into the lake after lunch, we went in search of trout. We were a venerable United Nations of fishermen – me from the US, my friends from Germany, Sweden, Ireland, and Australia – looking to kill an afternoon as well as some fish. Our hunt didn’t go too well, though. In fact, it didn’t go at all. After our captain used some high-tech equipment and weights to drop the lines 120 feet below the surface, we cruised around waiting for our first bite, each of us picking a line to use. Then we waited longer. And longer. Eventually, getting bored and grabbing a few beers, we went to the top deck and took in the view.
And what a view it was. Taupo is my favorite place in New Zealand. The area is absolutely stunning. The town is situated on the biggest lake in the country, and from here you can see Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings) and Mount Tongariro (the site of the greatest one-day hike in the country). Nearby you have hot springs and the amazing Huka Falls, where the water is extremely blue—it’s like looking at an iceberg. I loved Taupo and loved even more sitting out on the lake cruising around, taking in the sun, watching the other boats, and marveling at the mountains in the distance.
We had rented the boat for two hours, and the more time passed, the less it seemed like we would catch anything. Our captain was getting more aggravated, cursing about how he hated going back empty. He tried to placate us with a few more beers, and as we were listening to him rant about the local culture, we saw it: a pull on one of the lines. Then another pull. We had two fish.
And one of those fish was mine. It was time to catch the second fish in my life. Except, I had no idea what to do. I’d never used a reel before.
“How do I reel it in?” I asked.
“No silly questions!” the captain yelled. “You reel it in by turning the wheel!” he said, pointing angrily at the rod.
So there I was reeling in my trout. It didn’t put up much of a fight, and pretty soon I had it. My friend also reeled in his fish, and soon we had a mighty feast. Driving back into port, our captain was all smiles and happy we had caught something, even if they weren’t the biggest trout out there. It was an exciting day on the lake, the sun was shining, and the air was crisp. Despite the surliness of our captain, he was hilarious and made good conversation.
That night we took our fish to one of the lakeside restaurants where they gutted and cooked it for us. With fish and wine and the lake in the background, we were content with our day.
NOTE: To find a fisherman, just head to the wharf and ask around. You don’t need to take any expensive tours. They are a rip off. Plenty of the fishermen at the dock will take you out. You can negotiate the rate. It’s easier and more fun!
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