Local angler fishes New Zealand

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Dan Gigone of Livingston, an avid angler and owner of Sweetwater Fly Shop, fishes the rivers of New Zealand catching brown trout on mostly top water dry flies.

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Enterprise story by Nate Howard

Photos courtesy of Chris Dore & Hannah Clement LEFT: Diane Early and Dan Gigonte, of Livingston, pause for a photograph taken by their guide, Chris Dore, while fishing in New Zealand, Dec. 14, 2017. ABOVE: One of more than a dozen brown trout Dan Gigonte landed.

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When a fly fishing expert is guided in a foreign land such as New Zealand, Dan Gigone, the owner of Sweetwater Fly Shop says, “It’s all about learning something else. It’s generally a good attitude to have. You’re not there to prove you’re a good angler. You’re there to learn.”

In December, Dan and his wife, Diane Early, left winter in Livingston and travelled 18 hours to the southern hemisphere to fish the trout of New Zealand.

The five days of fishing Gigone said were “spectacular,” minus the first day out.

On day one, Gigone caught more fish than any other day; however, the guide proved short on patience, was critical of technique and unpleasant.

Gigone cancelled the following days scheduled with the guide and was paired with another guide, Hannah Clement, New Zealand’s first female trout-fishing guide.

That first day Gigone says, “reinforced the lesson that guiding is not only about the fish but the experience.”

Gigone found several differences in the fishing style in New Zealand.

“We blind fish here,” says Gigone, of fishing in Montana, casting where the fish naturally feed and are most often out of sight of man and raptor.

In New Zealand, it’s sight fishing. Fish are seen and pursued. “It’s more like hunting than fishing,” says Gigone.

There are no drift boats, unlike Gigone’s usual approach fishing the Yellowstone River. In New Zealand the guide drives along the river to familiar sweet spots. If any car is present at the desired location, the guide moves along.

Guides believe fish smell the scent of any angler up stream and quit feeding.

Fishing pressure is comparatively very low. Overall, trout fishing is not as popular in New Zealand, says Gigone.

Most unusual was the position of the fish in the river, feeding in very shallow water near the bank and not in the holes as is common in Montana’s rivers.

There are no raptors, says Dan, no overhead threat to the trout which allows the fish to linger in open water, in plain sight.

In Montana, trout are prey to the hawks and eagles and ospreys perched along the edge of the river, hence the fish are rarely “sighted.”

Accuracy is believed to be critical in casting the fly. The target, Gigone says is the size of a salad plate.

And “in their minds,” if you miss your first cast, there’s no chance. Gigone fished mayfly patterns, mostly dry flies on top of the water with short casts and long leaders, up to 15 feet. This makes placement more challenging, gracefully turning and landing a long leader in the small target.

A few days into his trip, Dan decided to go out fishing on his own. It turned out to be his best day. Having learned the techniques, Dan landed his largest fish and in one hole catching a series of three trout, picking off one at a time.

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