Musings, New Zealand, Photography

Father’s Day is for Memories: Fly Fishing in New Zealand

June 17, 2017

I’m excited today to share this new little project I’ve been working on: download my Fly Fishing in New Zealand Photologue here or at the bottom of the post.

Five years ago, Father’s Day was around the corner, and I was half way around the world from my dad. He was home in Oregon, I was…let’s see..if I consult the Daily Travel Journal from our year away, I was deep in the Cedars of Lebanon, which, if I think about it now, is fitting for the daughter of a tree farmer off to see the world.

That year away from home, I grew in ways I hadn’t expected. I learned lessons I didn’t study for and flunked tests I didn’t realize were part of the curriculum.

When I was in college, I spent a June afternoon with my dad, talking through life decisions that I didn’t want to make, sorting out whether I should break up with Ted and how far I should go if I studied abroad. From that conversation, I carried the confidence to know that my dad was behind me, whatever the choice, and that security gave me peace. I eventually (and agonizingly) pulled the plug on the relationship and began paperwork for an independent study abroad semester at a university in New Zealand.

When I was there, opposite hemispheres from my family, I thought of my dad all the time: how he would love the country roads, the landscapes, the farm families and the food: meat and potatoes, salt of the earth.

I went tramping (not to worry, different than it sounds to North American ears), and I thought of dad while hiking through the New Zealand bush: the beech tree forests reminded me of cold mornings spent following his bootsteps through the mahogany scrub in Eastern Oregon after we’d already been out on the trail for five or six hours, long before lunchtime.

When I’d call home to catch up, we’d talk about whether he and mom would be able to fly down to see where I’d been living (and falling in love with life), but ultimately, that trip for them wasn’t meant to be. While I was away, my great grandma passed. My brother graduated from high school. A big family and a working farm kept them busy and unable to peel away to find their daughter as she found herself in a faraway land. (“The Promised land,” as my pastor in New Zealand only half-jokingly calls the place.)

But I held out hope.

Just as I was missing Ted, unaware of how our story might write itself once I returned to Oregon, I said goodbye to New Zealand with a lump in my throat, wishing desperately to return again someday when the season was right.

I flew home at the end of June, 2004. Just in time for the Star Spangled Banner and the 4th of July. Just in time for the family farm to hit harvest time full speed and for me to see my dad in his hard working, God-fearing, kid-loving element. We were all home again for the summer. Six kids under one roof…and I was itching to get back out the door.

I returned to college at the University of Oregon that fall, and a year after that, I went back for my senior year with Ted’s engagement ring on my finger.

Patience and wisdom pay off in the end.

I know, because I’ve watched Dad live it out for decades on end. His quiet, steady love for me, for my family, for the land he tends and the Jesus he knows, have anchored me wherever I’ve been.

When I found myself in his office late one night, sitting next to Ted (my husband of half a decade at the time), booking airline tickets around the world, I knew he’d miss me, but he never once said, “Don’t go.”

So that Father’s Day, five years ago, when I was perched in the Tannourine Reserve in Lebanon, double digit timezones away from the Pacific Northwest, I missed him, and I loved him, and I knew that he loved me, and I rested in the identity of a grown daughter whose Dad always has her back.

Ted and I were thrilled when Dad and Mom booked their tickets to come meet us in New Zealand later that year, at the end of 2012. Summertime in December made for the perfect getaway, and I knew high, high, high on the list of things to do was a fly fishing trip in the backcountry. We booked with a fantastic guide, John Gendall, and spent a few nights at the renovated one-room-school-house-turned-guest-house on the property at his lodge.

Fly Fishing in New Zealand

An excerpt from the Daily Travel Journal:
Day 344: Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Fly fishing 101. Fish stalking, NZ style. Split two and two, dad and me for the Leatham and mom and Ted for the Branch tributaries of the Wairau River. Rainbow, rainbow and a brown. Pouring rain at the tail end of a blue-sky-gorgeous day.
People to Remember: Our patient fishing guides John Gendall and Aaron.

I’ve been sitting on pictures for far too long, and I started thinking it’d be fun to blow the (digital) dust off the old files and share the gorgeous day of fly fishing in New Zealand.

My dear friend’s dad passed away suddenly this year, and as we were recently swapping stories about unwritten blog posts and old photos, she told me with all earnestness, “Do it! Post them now before it’s too late.”

And so, with gratitude to my Dad and for my Dad, I am.

Fly Fishing in New Zealand Photo Book

Instead of my typical photo-heavy blog posts, I experimented with creating a downloadable ebook. The 40-page photologue showcases the countryside, the rivers, the wildflowers, and the brown and rainbow trout we caught and then released. If you’d like a copy, I would love you to have one. It’s free, just sign up below.

For all my life, I’ll cherish the memories of hunting and fishing, of farming and family, of his faithfulness and his corny dad joke humor. I’ll be grateful that he made it possible for me to study abroad in New Zealand in college then experience it all over again as a traveling student of life.

This Father’s Day, as that very same Dad remains caring and supportive to me, and he’s now a loving grandpa to his granddaughters and a rock for them, too. He’s been back to New Zealand for more fly fishing, we went hiking on Dog Mountain together not too long ago, and we went for doughnuts just this morning…

It’s been nearly five years since our fishing trip there on the South Island, and there’s a picture of him on page 16 that’s been burned into my memory ever since that day: a happy smile of a fisherman out traveling with his daughter. (I love you, Dad!)

If you look through the book, please leave me a note and tell me what you think? This was my first stab at a new way to share my photos, and I’m curious whether you like the format?
I’d love to hear from you.

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  • Reply cindy buck June 17, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Beautiful! The pictures, your words, all of it. What a perfect Father’s Day gift. <3

  • Reply Susan June 22, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    What a beautiful tribute! My dad was always entranced with the beauty of fly fishing, but he was a life long pacifist and couldn’t bring himself to actually kill a fish. (He sure ate them though!)

    We have a local fly fishing group that meets in urban parks to teach people the basics since finding locations to fish in a stream in the suburban arid climate that is Southern California requires commitment. Maybe I’ll have to add their lessons to my summer bucket list!

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