2008-02-11, Peel Forest. Day Twenty-six.

Today is my third day in Peel Forest. It has rained since my first night here, almost steady. The rivers are running the white color of glacial silt. The reports of salmon in the rivers are regular and I remain skeptical of my New Zealand fishing successes.
I started the day at 10am. My plan for the day was to take on Erewhon, Lake Clearwater, and then to fish the Brookies in the backcountry’s Lake Emily.
The drive to Lake Clearwater was one hour and 15 minutes. I found that water skiers fancy Lake Camp, just outside of town. A sport that began on Lake Pepin, in Lake City, Minnesota, near my hometown of Winona and on the Mississippi River. A drive of about 25 minutes brought me to Erewhon, the sight of the village in the second Lord Of The Rings movie. I met a Kiwi at my lookout above the valley that told me all about the filming of the movie in the valley before heading to Lake Emily. At this point I should note that my hopes of successfully fishing today started well, when I found a 20-cent piece at camp however they soured when I found that the Rangitata and Ashburton Rivers were raging and running the white color of glacial silt.
At the Maori Lakes I spotted a fly angler and stopped for a chat. According to Derrick, Lake Emily held plenty of trophy fish and was just down the road. He recommended that I stop at the station before heading into the back-country lake and to watch the weather as a Norwester was due and that they can be dangerous when up at altitude.
I stopped at the station and first talked to the ranch hands that directed me to Paul, the owner of the station and the one that could give me permission to access the lake.
Paul was already on his way over. He was a tall cowboy looking fellow with a large bone handled bowie knife on his hip whom greeted me with, “What’s your story?”
I told him that I am a student from the States studying fly fishing in his country and was interested in fishing Lake Emily and was seeking permission to access it.
He said all right and told me where I could park my car and that it was about a 2km walk to the lake along the track.
On parting he said, “I hope you catch some fish.”
I thanked him and gave him my appreciation and a parting handshake.
I found the track easily enough and walking it kept thinking that my Toyota Corolla would’ve been able to drive down the cobble path however hurried to the lake without letting it bother me as I appreciate a good walk in the high country.
In my excitement of spotting the lake and the creek that flows out of it, I left the track to follow the creek into the lake. Bad Idea.
The hard soil turned into Peat bog with tussocks. The tussock grass is grass that grows in clumps with a solid round base that stood nearly two feet higher than the permeable and wet peat bog that it grew out of. At first, walking this terrain wasn’t bad but then the ground got softer and the tussock grass thicker making the solid walking clumps difficult to identify. One step off onto the wrong spot meant dropping nearly two-feet to the bog ground which would suck me down to knee deep leaving me to pull myself up and out using the tussock for leverage. At one point I was waist deep in bog muck with the base of the grass being shoulder high and the grasses nearly three-feet over my head. This was hell. I prayed for my life and to be out of this bog onto solid ground.
After struggling, for what seemed like an eternity, I was able to recover myself to the solid grass clumps. Whew and thank God!
I feel as though I am getting to the end of my blessing that I have on this trip by continuing to do dangerous and adventurous things.
I was stressed and scared at this point in time. I was focusing all of my energy on the present trying to get to solid ground. I thought of going back but kept going forward, why? I made my way to a loosely strung barbed wire fence hoping to find solid ground on the fence-line but finding none I found comfort in inching my hand along the fence. The fence would’ve done nothing for me had I found another waist deep hole however it gave me comfort.
I made it to solid ground, eventually, and then to the lake. My shortcut across the tussock cost me twice as much time as compared to if I had stayed on the track.
The lake is clear with silty edges and I found a flock of about 50 black swans on the water alongside species of ducks that I am not familiar with. Red Dragonflies and mating Craneflies were flying about; the wind was stiff and from the northwest and I needed to switch my flies that were tied onto my rod. I could see that it was raining on the range to the north and that where I was standing the clouds were coming from the southwest and the northwest, the weather did not look too promising for fishing. I had just walked an hour across sheep pasture and the death bog to get rained on at 2500-feet above sea level, with no raincoat and $1200 worth of camera gear that are not waterproof.
I made five maybe six casts before the rain started to come over the peak on the range that was marking Lake Emily. And so I left. This time heading straight for the 4wd track and in a hurry as I did not want to get wet.
The solid ground quickly turned to tussock bog where I fell again. This time the distance from the base of the grass to the bog was about three feet but the bog was only mushy up to ankle deep, I fell several more times before making my way to solid ground, to head straight away to the track, to beat the Norwester and to get the cameras back safe and sound.
I watched the storm consume Lake Emily as I went the other way. The rain never made it to the car.
I stopped at the Maori lakes to have a few casts before getting frustrated with the stiff wind and packing it up back to camp to eat and to be patient with the phone to try and call Shell, to shower, to write this, and to prepare for tonight’s possum hunt with Russell from the Peel Forest Outdoor Pursuits Centre at the Eco Lodge.
To note – this was my last entry in travel journal book number one.

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