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And finally, subscriber Andrew Shetter gives a general thumbs-up to the fishing he enjoyed this past March while staying at Owen River Lodge (www.owenriverlodge.co.nz) in the Murchison area of New Zealand. The trip was arranged for him by the Fly Shop (www.theflyshop.com) in Redding, California. He writes:
My wife and I fished for five days at Owen River Lodge this past March. This is a brilliantly run lodge with an owner/manager, Felix Borenstein, who cares passionately about what he does.
He is on site 24/7, attends meticulously to every detail, and is a charming host. The three-course meals we enjoyed each night (simple but elegant food with locally sourced ingredients) were a highlight of the trip. A nonfishing partner would have no trouble spending a week here enjoying the beautiful setting and exploring the Murchison area. Fishing clients coming here should be aware of a few facts, however. My wife and I have had the opportunity to fish Chile, Argentina, and the Kamchatka Peninsula over the past several years. The fishing here was far and away more technically and physically demanding than any of these other locations. Wily brown trout, crystal-clear water, and a fish density (we were told) of 25 to 30 fish per river mile can make for some long days. We both landed fish, though not as many as we had hoped.
On the bright side, when you do connect here, the fish are beautiful. Our largest fish weighed five-and-a-half pounds, which is nothing special by New Zealand standards, of course. Still, that fish gave us a real sense of accomplishment.
As for the guides here, they were very experienced. All of them had that down-to-earth Kiwi style. They were definitely serious about fishing, however, and were not afraid to tell you
when your pathetic attempt to softly drop a two-nymph rig four feet in front of a fish and maintain a drag-free drift with no line slack was not up to their standards. I appreciate this kind of input
but some might find it off-putting. Unless you are a very accomplished angler, you will definitely learn things from the guides here that will improve your fishing skills. For one thing, they are phenomenal at spotting fish. Unfortunately, though, if the weather is rainy or overcast, as it was on several of our days, sight fishing becomes difficult or impossible and the chance of getting
your fly in front of a trout decreases substantially.
There is no need to walk long distances on most of the rivers we fished, but much of the walking was along rocky shorelines, and the wading can be slippery. Our guide was a big help in this area. We took it easy and had no falls or other incidents. Older clients (like me) and those with hip, knee, or back problems should be aware of the walking required when selecting this destination.
I thought the cost of fishing at Owen River Lodge was reasonable as long as we stayed away from helifishing. The rate for that runs $1,600 to $2,000 per trip. There is plenty of fishable water within easy driving distance and there is no need, really, to go airborne, though we did find the lure of flying in a small helicopter over rugged terrain to a rarely fished stream irresistible one day. We enjoyed the experience, but due to foggy weather we had to divert to a less desirable river than the one intended. Our guide had tied up special flies for the occasion and, if anything, he was more disappointed than we were by the turn of events.
In sum, Owen River Lodge is as good as any trout fishing lodge Ive visited in terms of physical facilities, food, experienced guides, and beautiful surroundings. It may not be for everyone for the reasons Ive mentioned, namely, somewhat difficult terrain and the likelihood you wont land large numbers of fish. If you are reasonably agile, though, and you want the challenge of sight casting to large brown trout, Owen River Lodge is a great choice.