The Trout Diaries: A Year of Fly-Fishing in New Zealand

A present for Christmas 2012, I have just done reading this book by writer, adventurer,  fishing guide and dog lover Derek Grzelewski. I say fishing guide as the book seems to initially set off suggesting Derek is a “former guide” having come by that but some chapters then go on to suggest he still in fact guides for people like Marc Petitjean, when they come knocking.

The book is conveniently chaptered up by the months in a trout fishing year. I don’t know if there has been any latitude on this trout fishing year ie. does each month consist of the collected happenings of several of the same months over a few years year or did it all really happen just so? If so Derek has a lot of time in a year to spend being a trout bum! Lucky sod.

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According to the bio it appears Derek came to fishing fairly recently by way of being a bit of an all round thrill seeker and adventurer, with rock climbing, skiing and diving listed as interests.

I thought at first he was an American, it wouldn’t after all be an unusual name for one but the vocabulary used is very US centric in places which surprised me as I know a number of Kiwi’s and accent aside they seem more akin to UK English than US-EN in their speech and therefore one would assume writing, but no, Derek is of Polish origin, so one wonders how much the book has been tailored to selling to the US market. Quite a lot I think. I suspect his writings for Nat Geo has something to do with this.

Much of it as you read, Maori names for areas, lakes and rivers apart, could read like you were learning of the times on rivers in Montana or Colorado. Indeed many of the flies and fly names were very American. I suppose what I am trying to say here is I expected it to have something uniquely Kiwi in the language and character of the book but in many ways it had that what I would refer to as US-bland feel to it. Aussies and Kiwis are noted at times ( like us Scots) for their colourful language and I sort of hoped for a bit of that in this book but it was missing in the way that many American sitcoms don’t work here due to the sanitised humour and moralising thats put in.

Nonetheless its an engaging read following Derek’s “bumming” about in his camper van seeking out the massive trout that inhabit New Zealand’s famed fresh waters. Something to see the winter nights through when the snow is falling or the rain is being driven into your window by a winter gale. Oh to be in the pristine wilderness of NZ.

A few things I would have liked to have seen were a bit more earthiness, I am sure it comes along in his travels, and some colour images of the flies used and mentioned in the book. For someone like myself interested in Fly tying, a few NZ variants in the box just might catch out the odd dificult Scottish “broonie” though no where near the double figure wild specimens Derek is lucky enough to fish for.

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