Flashpackers fly in, fish, fly out

Ian Allen scaring the trout
Ian Allen scaring the trout

Chief reporter Ian Allen heads into the high country to discover the up-market joys of remote fly fishing.....

A new trend has taken hold . . . the trend of the bastardised word.

For some reason, people feel the need to mash together words that are, and always have been, perfectly fine on their own. As a result, words like glamping (glamorous camping) and prinking (pre-drinking) have infiltrated popular culture and, I'm ashamed to admit, modern media. I blame Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie).

 Chris Sturgeon, Aaron Carotta and Sander de Wildt
Chris Sturgeon, Aaron Carotta and Sander de Wildt

So when I got a call from friend and US television presenter Aaron Carotta - aka Adventure Aaron - about a new show he was making, called Flashpacking, I was both incensed and intrigued.

Flashpacking, as you might have guessed, describes flash backpacking. Apparently glamping wasn't cutting the mustard. But I was keen to learn what Carotta had planned for his upmarket holiday. Because, from what I gather, flashpacking isn't just about the overnight stay - it's the whole trip.

Luckily, he said I could tag along for the ride - heli-fishing in the high country. Heli-fishing . . . wouldn't you know it, another bastardised word.

Chris Sturdeon, Aaron Carotta and Mike Geen
Chris Sturdeon, Aaron Carotta and Mike Geen

The helicopter picked us up from the Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses, north of Kaikoura, where we were booked in later that night. We flew through the morning mist and rain, with poor visibility, to Hanmer where we switched to a helicopter with its doors removed.

Carotta needed to get a flight shot for the show. A GoPro (is that another one?) camera came out and was stuck on to the front window.

We flew further inland past Mt Lyford to St James Station. Our pilot and guide Mike Geen, of Alpine Springs Helicopters, pointed out a few landmarks while flying between the valleys and over rising ridges.

Mike Geen and Chris Sturgeon
Mike Geen and Chris Sturgeon

We could even see the brown trout below as we followed the Waiau River to a remote spot away from any roads or cycle paths.

Mike brought the helicopter down and out we jumped, like a middle-aged A-Team enjoying a day off.

Carotta shot a few scenes introducing our location before we made our way up-river.

Mike Geen
Mike Geen

It soon became clear I knew very little about fly fishing. Walking along the riverbank in an orange puffer jacket, I was told to step back from the riverbank. It turns out brown trout are quite intelligent and can spot an unwitting journalist a mile off.

I also didn't realise fly fishing was like hunting. You have to target individual trout as you spot them, which Carotta referred to as "sight fishing". Then trying to cast close to the wee buggers? Forget about it.

After walking about 2 kilometres we found what could only be described as a "real life fishing hole", Carotta whispered to the camera. It was about 10 metres in diameter, at the confluence of the Ada and Waiua Rivers, but had close to a dozen brown trout.

I had a tried a couple of casts, where the fly caught in the long grass behind me, and quickly called an end to my fishing career.

I actually took more pleasure in watching the others. With a gentle flick of the wrist, their imitation cicadas and black nymphs landed with pinpoint precision. But even with the potential haul below us, the fish just weren't biting.

To be fair, one of the group almost bagged a huge trout but his line snapped as the fish flipped out of the water. That was the closest we came.

When we decided to call it a day our guide Mike said he would go back for the helicopter and pick us up. This really was flash backpacking (I refuse to use the other word).

We headed back to Hanmer, switched helicopters again and flew to Kaikoura. Despite the sunny, cloudless day in the high country, the rain was still lingering over the coast.

That didn't matter though, because our accommodation was almost better in the bad weather. The tree house-style rooms with log fireplaces and spa baths looking out over the Kaikoura Ranges mean you don't want to leave your room. And the complimentary beer and wine in the fridge mean you don't need to.

After a hot and powerful rain-head shower, to bring out my sunburn, I was ready for bed.

Flash backpacking takes it out of you. But if you've got the money, and you don't mind butchering the English language, it's a good way to travel and get off the beaten track.

Heli-fishing with Alpine Springs Helicopters costs $1400 an hour. A tree house for two people at Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses for one night costs $1092.50. That includes a three-course dinner and full breakfast.