Bottom line with any trip is whether you’d do it again. With Owen River Lodge the answer is yes and as soon as possible.
We left home in Brisbane on October 1 frazzled and stressed and returned after five days at the lodge kind of chilled, man.
Jeanine and I had spoiled ourselves with a business class ticket to the lodge via Auckland and Nelson and then we took the airport pickup with Margo to avoid the hassle of a hire car.
The welcome from our host Felix was sincere, the food from our chef Ryan was outstanding, the fly fishing guide Paul was courteous and professional and the massage from Marci’s stand in on the last day took us both to another place well away from clients and patients.
And then late morning on the last day, we rolled into the shuttle car with our driver …. and pulled up outside our Brisbane home for dinner. Worked for us, man.
Mind you we had left three kids under eight at home with their Nan and Pop for the trip away and that helped a little. Tony and Fran did look pretty pleased to see us and left bright and early the next morning, looking pretty relieved.
I asked them where they were going and they replied: “Oh just anywhere”. I offered to let them take the kids but by that time they had jumped the fence and were driving off rather quickly.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP
The Host. Felix the host is courteous and helpful without being intrusive. If we wanted anything, from a glass of fizz to some anti-itch cream, it tended to just appear, without much fuss. Felix’s an Aussie and he
knew I liked to watch the Rugby and he recorded the England v Australia game for me and also let me know the match was about to start as we finished breakfast. Our guide Paul was a typical Kiwi Rugby nut, so the fishing was postponed for an hour or two while we sat back in our fly fishing gear and watch the Aussies gain some sweet revenge for past defeats by the Poms. It was worth it.
The Food. Our chef Ryan was a real find. His meals prepared in the modern Kiwi cuisine style with exclusively local ingredients and with exceptional skill at blending food flavours. I kept snooping around the kitchen picking up tips and noted one lot of simmering water complete with lemon halves, sugar, vanilla beans and saffron. The final blend of tastes in our dessert that evening was a knockout. Really. It was worth the trip just for the food. Jeanine’s comment: the food was superb and I put two kilos on. With all the fishing, I lost weight, but we mustn’t boast.
Our Guide Paul was a real pro. He had a camera and a weighing net in case we lucked out with a trophy fish. He also carried an emergency beacon in case our luck was well and truly out.
Over three days we shopped around the various local rivers, including the famous Owen. Like all great guides he knew the locals and had secured their confidence to gain access to the best spots across private farmland.
He was a gun fish spotter and little grey shadows fifty metres upstream amongst several hundred other grey shadows that Paul said were trout, invariably were correctly identified.
Paul was a patient instructor with Jeanine, who was a bit out of practice. Bringing up three little kids tends to minimise fly fishing opportunities for both of us, but especially for a nursing mum. By the end of the trip she was flicking the line out with the best of them and we were both catching fish. I caught more but I don’t like to boast, as you already know.
For future reference Paul reckons the right sort of tree is flowering along the local rivers so that means another mouse plague next year and lots of big far trophy trout. I’m booked already.
The Massage. Marci was away but her stand in did an great job. On the last day we stopped fishing and enjoyed a sleep in and a long breakfast. Then we loafed for an hour or so in the hot tub overlooking the peaceful Owen River and then spent another hour each on the massage table. I don’t know where the rest of the day went. We were in a bit of a dream state really. Then tiffin and dinner. All go really.
The Travel. The best thing about Felix’s lodge is that he has everything. All the gear you might need, from the rods and waders and boots, to the shirts and any extra fly gear. I think I only packed my normal lightweight shirt and some polypropylenes, along with some thick socks and my old fly-fishing gloves to minimise attacks from Kiwi sandflies.
My lovely old seven piece Hardy Smuggler aka “Precious” also found its way into my bag, but that’s ok. We travelled light and there was no hassle with international airports at either end, wanting to take and clean boots or waders. It’s an old but true travel tip: take double the money and half the clobber. In this case, I think Jeanine was flat out spending $200 Kiwi notes and the rest went on the credit card. Well, my credit card actually, but that’s another story.
While over there we picked up some Kiwi made arnica based massage cream called Anti Flamme which is absolutely wonderful for bruises and strains. And we also used basic anti-histamine tablets as insurance against itches from the sandfly bites.
The tablets worked well but it’s probably not a smart idea to take the 24 hour anti-histamine just before bed and just after sharing a bottle of Felix’s wonderful house red and nice single malt from his bar collection. No need to go into that any further.
And finally, if you book Air New Zealand business class, make sure it’s an Air New Zealand plane. We ended up on a substitute carrier in a plane which looked older than the flight crew.
The crew were professionals and the food was fine but there was no real entertainment worthy of the title.
That’s it. Check into http://www.owenriverlodge.co.nz/ and give Felix a call. I think you’ll enjoy it.