The past 15 months have been one hell of a journey, for me as well as for most of you, I bet.
I always try and seek out the good in every event—perhaps I’m just naturally optimistic—but this one’s been the biggest test ever.
About this time last year we faced the great unknown and a new adversary: a world-wide pandemic.
I was in the IT business in 2001/2002 when the dot-com bubble well and truly burst, the stock market crashed and the world exploded. And you know what? It was that event that solidified my desire to develop a small, luxury fly fishing lodge.
Fast forward to 2008 and Owen River Lodge was finally getting some traction inside the world of travelling anglers when the global financial crisis hit—and we had a 50% increase in occupancy.
This past year, the world stopped travelling. Fortunately, we met lots of fabulous Kiwis who decided to take a punt on a small lodge in Murchison by coming, staying and fishing with us. Thank you! Meeting so many terrific New Zealanders was undoubtedly the biggest highlight of this season. It meant that my team stayed employed and we managed to keep most of our guides working.
The fishing season of 2020_21 will go down as the season of happy fish. That doesn’t mean the fishing was a walk in the park, lets face it these are big wild brown trout, living in super clear rivers and they are always tough. But there is no doubt that the lack of foreign travelling anglers made the fly fishing a little easier than usual. It is also worth noting that in general the fish were in very good to excellent condition. This all bodes well for the future when the world is travelling again.
Due to the first lockdown in March 2020 we were unable to host the annual Casting for Recovery retreat. This event is always a high spot in our season, so we managed to reschedule, and hosted the reatreat on the first weekend of October 2020. Ten wonderful women attended, all at different stages on their breast cancer survival journey. They were an inspiring group, very capably supported by the Pink Ladies, a team of committed women volunteers.
Still on the subject of female anglers, we ran New Zealand’s first ever women-only luxury fly fishing retreat last month. Without overseas guests I thought we’d be lucky to get four local participants. Well, blow me down… we ended up with eight intrepid Kiwi attendees!
The largest wild brown of the season was caught during that retreat, weighing in at 12.25lb.
The New Zealand government has taken the first steps to slowly reopening our international borders to countries it deems “safe”. So far, that has been Australia and, from next week, the Cook Islands.
New Zealand is now rolling out the Covid 19 vaccine, with the government predicting the vast majority of Kiwis will be vaccinated by October/November 2021. Based on this, I expect and hope that our border will open shortly thereafter to vaccinated travelling anglers from selected “safe” countries, probably the USA and UK.
To give some reassurance to our guests, we have developed a Covid-19 postponement policy:
“If you’re unable to make a trip due to official government travel restrictions implemented because of the Covid-19 coronavirus, all payments will be credited to a future stay at Owen River Lodge. This credit will be valid for 24 months.”
It’s all an educated guess, but what I do know is when the borders reopen, New Zealand, its stunning mountains, valleys and rivers; its generous, friendly people; its wild brown trout; and my team of chefs, guides and support staff will be here waiting for you.
Wishing you and your loved ones well.