LAKE ROTOROA LODGE, SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
A Very Special Place
Along a quiet country lane that winds its way through the Gowan River valley lies Lake Rotoroa Lodge. It is nestled at the northern tip of New Zealand's spectacular Southern Alps. Far from the madding crowd, this isolated and unspoiled location is surrounded by the forests of the Nelson Lakes National Park. Lake Rotoroa is considered the jewel in the crown of the park: its tranquil waters reflect a magnificent vista of snow-capped mountains and lush native bush. In this exquisitely isolated spot, the sound of silence is broken by the indigenous tui, a distinctive song that interrupts the rustling of the breeze through the native bush joining the melodies of the many other species of native bird for which this area is renowned.
From the lodge's idyllic and romantic lakeside location, guests can gaze along the length of Lake Rotoroa to the towering peaks of the Travers Range, and lapping at the foot of the lodge lawn, the waters of the Gowan River may just cause them to become lost in thoughts of some of the world's finest brown trout fishing that can begin just a few short steps away. Enjoy this stunning view from the lodge's open-fired sitting room, dining room or, indeed, from many of our guest rooms.
The Nelson Lakes National Park, with its alpine environment, is just one of three National Parks that surround the city of Nelson (1 1/2 hours away). The Abel Tasman National Park is coastal (offering some of the very finest, golden beaches in the world, together with the internationally renowned Abel Tasman Track) and New Zealand's most recently designated National Park, Kahurangi, is one of the world's great wilderness environments. There are times of the year when it really is possible to swim in the ocean in the morning and ski in the mountains in the afternoon!
A FLY-FISHING PARADISE
Fishing in New Zealand represents the quintessential essence of trout fishing - what we all dream about on a trout stream - coming round the corner of a stunning aquamarine river and seeing a huge brownie supping emergers from the surface film. There is nowhere in the world that can offer more opportunities to cast to large sighted fish in crystal clear water. It will not happen every day of your visit for New Zealand suffers its fair share of rain that now and again spoils the party, but the rain also makes the fishing that much better once the weather settles. The photographs of stunning rivers and huge fish are a reality in New Zealand. It is not a numbers game at all, but it is the epitome of classic upstream trout fishing to "high stakes" fish that demand a certain amount of skill. Entomology is not a key, partly because your guide will know and have all the right flies, but equally New Zealand trout fishing is more about presentation than the right fly. The size of the fish is truly remarkable given the quantity of them and apparent void of younger fish, but we strongly believe that our rivers are in as good shape as they have ever been. A view supported by our results from this past season.
SIGHT CASTING DAYDREAM:
Close your eyes and imagine a freestone river so clear that the water looks blue, like the turquoise of a swimming pool. The sun is shining, lighting up every boulder, pebble and silt particle lying on the bottom of the river. In the company of your new fishing companion, your guide, you stealthily walk along the river, your eyes scanning for shadows in the pocket water. Your guide freezes, crouches to the ground, you follow, concerned that you did not react quickly enough. He turns and whispers pointing to a particular place in the river with slow deliberate movements. Your eyes follow the direction of his finger. You are delighted by your improving ability to see what your guide is gesturing at, yet still astonished at his eyesight. As the shadow becomes clearer and your vision focuses on it, your thoughts turn to pure anticipation of the matter in hand.
Together you creep back a little and discuss a game plan, agreeing to stick by the choice of tackle. You are using a rod recommended to you, a nine foot, 4 weight armed with a dark coloured floating line. It presents a dry fly beautifully with the light line yet can cast a heavy nymph if necessary. It is easily capable of handling big, salmon-sized trout. You are using far longer leaders than you are accustomed to, on a couple of occasions sixteen to eighteen feet. You have grown used to this tackle, and are quite at home with the other rod you have brought - a nine foot, 5/6 weight rod. The flies are a mixture of local and standard attractor patterns, this particular one is a largish Royal Coachman. You are content with your flies; these fish do not seem to demand a great knowledge of entomology, but do demand stealth and accuracy. Once spooked they are sometimes gone for days which certainly increases the stakes.
You creep into the river wearing shorts. The water is cold yet the sun warms your back. Slowly you begin to cast, lengthening your line with each back cast. Soon your line is moving perfectly in a tight loop, but you do not have the nerve to release for fear of spooking the shadow. You find the nerve to send the cast, but pull the line back at the last minute with your left hand. The dry fly lands short of the fish. The fish moves with purpose to the left, out into the current and your heart sinks. Your guide, who is a little ahead in order to get a better view, gestures to you. He whispers that the fly landed a foot short of the tail and the fish only moved to take a nymph and is back on station. The adrenalin begins to pump again for the game is not lost. This time you are a little braver, you make the full cast, the dry lands to the right and is pulled further right by the current. The fish does not move so you pick up the line being careful not to lift too early so as not to disturb it, a tip emphasized by your guide.
Again you prepare with endless false casts until you feel happy to commit yourself. You are now reading the situation better and have realized that the water is pulling to the right so you are aiming a little to the left of the fish in the hope that the water will bring the fly down directly over it. The cast is made. It looks good but will the fish come now that the fly is in the right place? To your dismay he suddenly moves across to the left with speed to grab another nymph. He never sees the fly. Your heart sinks, but the fish comes back on station. You now have to repeat the perfect cast. Up comes the line and after numerous false casts you shoot the line again. The fly lands too far to the left, you think you'll have to go again, but the fish thinks differently and moves a yard to the left and slowly comes up and, as if in slow motion, takes the fly off the surface of the water. One...two...three... you strike and the fish is on.
The mighty fish comes to the surface and thrashes, throwing its head from side to side. Then it goes deep and heads for the middle of the river amongst the rocks. It holds for a while giving you enough time to smile at your guide, but slowly lets the current turn it and takes off downstream. You have no choice but to follow and you begin to pick your way downstream through the boulders always holding your rod high in order to keep the line from getting caught. Ten minutes later, having wound your backing on the reel, you are again on level terms with the fish.
Another ten minutes pass and you are another thirty yards down the river. Now things are looking good and the guide has his net ready, but there is still the "net syndrome" to overcome. Countless times the fish sees the guide or his net and streaks out across the river despite the guide's attempts to land the fish from behind. Eventually having manoeuvred the fish into a small bay the guide scoops it up. He pulls the weighing scales from the handle of the net guessing the weight of the fish as he does so. He then puts the fish down, unhooks it and hands it to you announcing it as a 6_ lb pure wild brownie. You cradle the fish whilst some photographs are taken and then wade into the river to release it. The fish swims away slowly at first but, with a flick of the tail, disappears across the river. You look up surveying the stunning scenery around you and the pure magnificence of the river. You feel good, you never knew you could fish that well. You shake hands with your guide and decide it is time for lunch so out comes the picnic.
You have just been fishing one of New Zealand's South Island freestone rivers, with one of Lake Rotoroa Lodge's experienced guides, and there was no exaggeration in your dream. But, please do not be misled, it is necessary to have a guide. He will become a firm friend whilst enhancing your fishing experience, however accomplished you are. You would be lost without one, particularly on your first trip to New Zealand.
New Zealand represents the finest trout fishing in the world. It requires the utmost skill and concentration offering the richest of rewards not just in terms of fish but also spectacular scenery and good company. New Zealand's Lake Rotoroa Lodge is a Mecca for any devoted trout fisherman.
Lake Rotoroa Lodge was built in the early 1920s, and has been lovingly restored and protected to this day. The ten individual guest rooms, which have en-suite bathrooms, include brass beds replete with feather quilts. Add to that some eccentricities in the décor, artworks, fixtures and fittings and the result is a charming and comfortable New Zealand country house.
This is a very special lodge in a very special place - the hallway on the ground floor of the two-storey lodge captures the attention the moment you enter the front door. It contains an eclectic mix of objets d'art, paintings, stag trophies from the lodge's early days and, of course, the occasional trout. The sitting room and bar is immediately to the right of the entrance hall with a large picture window which frames a stunning view of the lake and the dramatic mountain peaks of the Travers Range: Misery, Cupola, Hopeless and Angelus. In the evening, guests gather around the bar to tell stories of the day's fishing, to recommend a glorious walk taken or place visited.
Passing the lodge's well-stocked wine cellar, pausing only to more closely examine yet another item of quirky memorabilia, guests arrive at the lodge's elegant dining room, which shares a view of the lake that is almost identical to that recently enjoyed in the sitting room. Here fine dinners are enjoyed, complemented by wines from the region's world-renowned vineyards.
One of the key ingredients of a stay in a luxury lodge is the quality of the food and wines on offer. With breakfast and dinner served in our elegant dining room and lunch (if required) served in the bar (or as a gourmet picnic for those who venture away from the lodge), our chefs delight in designing and preparing meals for small numbers of discerning guests.
Breakfast may be your favourite meal of the day, so we freshly prepare a full range of options for you each day: toasted muesli drizzled with fresh yoghurt, fabulous pancakes topped with just about anything or the more traditional New Zealand cooked breakfast. Everything is beautifully served with the care and attention that you would hope for.
For many, dinner is the highlight of the day as guests come together by flickering candlelight to share in culinary experiences that many return to repeat, year after year. Blessed with bountiful supplies of fresh meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, locally grown berries and a great deal more, eating at Lake Rotoroa Lodge is always a fun and satisfying experience.
Add to that an extensive wine cellar, which showcases the finest, and world class, New Zealand and Australian wines and you should already be starting to enjoy your time with us.
If it were possible to take a day in the life of New Zealand, its people, its environment and its unique flora and fauna and to extract the essence of those things and seal them in an experience that reflects them all, then, and only then, would you begin to have some sense of what eating and drinking at Lake Rotoroa Lodge is really all about.
For New Zealanders, food is special because, when it comes to fresh, natural, raw ingredients, we have some of the best you could hope for right on our doorstep. We have grown up with it this way and we risk taking it for granted in a way that people never do in Manhattan, London, Chicago, Dublin and other urban centres around the world.
At Lake Rotoroa Lodge we will never take it for granted. Rather, we shall always look for new, fresh ways to introduce this culinary heritage and uniqueness to our guests. Freshness, variety and availability are the things that characterise our food sources and at the lodge, our chefs are skilled in sourcing and making the very best of New Zealand raw ingredients. And the result is always a uniquely kiwi dining experience in the midst of this very special place.
Our guests consistently rave about such local delicacies as whitebait from the West Coast, Nelson Bay scallops and oysters, kiwi fruit, tamarillos, and fejoa, pumpkin, yams, and kumara (our sweet potato). Cervena venison served with a creme de cassis, rack of lamb and fresh fish served within hours of being caught, all accompanied by the freshest, locally grown vegetables.
We are always keen to try new wines at Lake Rotoroa Lodge and know that many of you will be too. Therefore we often have sample cases and bottles for all of us to enjoy and comment on - many of which will not appear on the wine list, but may appear on the bar or at dinner for your enjoyment.
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