Not that anyone needs an excuse to get away for a couple of days but my mate Blair gave me the perfect one the other week. Two days at the man cave in scenic central Otago, staying on the shores of Lake Alexandrina, a smallish lake wedged neatly between the mesmerising blue of Lake Tekapo and the mighty power-generating waters of Lake Pukaki. The countryside is simply stunning. Some might call it a barren, rabbit-infested wilderness but it has a rugged beauty that bespeaks Middle Earth and ye olde English countryside all rolled into one. I spent one morning almost spell-bound sitting beside the lake being lulled into some kind of natural trance by the gentle lapping of the lake against the moss-covered shore, stirred only by the occasional Crested Grebe.

Anyhoo, enough of me waxing lyrical about the scenery. Sure it’s absolutely beautiful but that’s not why 3 guys head down to the lakes. And stay at the man cave. They hear the calling of wildlife desperately unhappy in their natural habitat and eager to leave and move into someone’s freezer or frying pan. So we obliged. Not unwillingly either. To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of fishing experience but I guess it’s one of those things that takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master, which is the hallmark of any great hobby otherwise rookies like me would get discouraged and never try it again. I actually felt like I wasn’t really well prepared for the weekend confirmed when I discovered that I’d brought a rod, tackle box but no reel. And no fishing licence. Fortunately Blair had a spare rod and while we did try to buy a fishing licence at Stirling Sports then Rebel Sports, no one had them so in the end Crystal got one online at and I was sorted.

It took us about 4 hours to get there, leaving the kids in Temuka on the way. Before long I was out to it, curled up on the double bed with Blair (in my own sleeping bag in case you’re wondering) and had hardly started dreaming of man-cave style cooked breakfasts when Blair’s alarm went off at an hour that should only be reserved for cheap long haul fliers and new parents. So up at 5am, ready by 5.45 (thanks for the coffee Andrew – you’re a life saver!) and waiting … waiting for it to get light. A slight miscalculation meant we were up a lot earlier than we needed to be. But at least we didn’t miss anything. In fact, there’s a special kind of something about being out on the lake in a rowboat (no powered boats are allowed on Lake Alexandrina) as gradually light appears, the sun peeks over the foothills and the birds come to life. Of course, I value my sleep too much to do that on a regular basis but every now and then I can enjoy the serenity of it all. In addition to the sunrise, Blair got the added bonus of reeling in a 2.5lb rainbow trout.

After a second breakfast, we headed down to the canals (owned by Meridian Energy to move water between the hydro lakes) and did some fishing just down from the Salmon farm. Yeh I guess it did feel a little like we were cheating but I reckon these fish are actually harder – if they somehow managed to find their way out of a Salmon farm then they probably know that pink spinner is not a free lunch. But I got lucky and caught a couple, with the second one (8.5lb) coming very close to making a great escape. Fortunately just as the fish got off the lure, Blair had it in the net. Good teamwork! Interestingly the fish had another hook in its mouth from a previous attempt, so possibly Salmon only have 2 lives?

You can actually hear the wind in the video (and that was a sheltered spot!) but it just doesn’t do it justice – it was full on roaring down the valley. Actually it looked amazing as you saw a massive rainstorm passing over the Pukaki headwaters and over Mt Cook.

But wait there’s more. After a first dinner we headed over to Lake McGregor (within walking distance of the man cave) and tried a bit of night fishing (or possibly just an excuse for Blair to use his fancy glow-in-the-dark lures). We switched from using the tazzie devils we had to float and flies. It calls for a different kind of casting, particularly as you lose the light and start using ‘the force’ to guide the fly to where the fish are. Obviously my mediclorians were at an all-time low because I didn’t snag any fish. Neither did anyone else. So while the apple cider was good, the night fishing left me unconvinced. Maybe next time.

After a great chicken curry from head chef Blair we hit the hay. Sunday rolled round quicker than expected but this time we got the sleep in all holidays deserve, waking up around 9. While chief barista Andrew got the coffees sorted I fired up the barbie for plenty of sausages, bacon and meat patties. Blair carefully filleted (always bring someone like Blair on any fishing trip, he was totally indispensable) pan fried some trout which was amazing, with just a dash of lemon pepper. Very nice.

We left it there, all feeling a little fished out from the day before. A leisurely laze, the pack up and headed home around lunchtime. Hopefully now I’ll be a little more prepared to fool anyone into thinking I actually know what I’m doing. Ultimately, the plan is to join these guys. We’ll see.

The one that (almost) got away
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