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Get hooked on a quiet sport in the great outdoors
Written by Belinda Luksic for Jetstar Magazine.
"THE TUG IS THE DRUG" grins guide Marc as he ties a nymph (an artificial fishing fly resembling an aquatic insect) to my rod.
We're knee-deep in the Tongariro River, a world class fly-fishing spot near Lake Taupo in New Zealand's North Island.
Each year, thousands of rainbow trout leave Lake Taupo's crater to spawn in these waters. There are large brown trout here too, introduced in the early 1900s.
Marc collects me from Tongariro Lodge, a riverside guesthouse with a top-notch restaurant and some of New Zealand's best fly-fishing guides on its books.
It's a short drive to the track leading to the length of crystal-clear river Marc favours for beginners. It's a breathtaking landscape of tussock plains, reed grass and pebbly banks, framed by mist-shrouded mountains.
We don fishing gear - a set of waders, thick socks and boots - that will i keep us warm and dry no matter the hours spent in freezing cold waters.
At the shoreline Marc instructs me how to cast, i gently flicking his wrist 3 back and forth to load up the rod with line behind him, before propelling it forward with a swift, whipping noise.
It looks easy enough but my first few attempts only snag tussocks. Another time, elation turns to disappointment when a hooked trout turns out to be an underwater log.
Still, it's a lot of fun.
After a couple of hours of casting, stalking and casting again, I begin to understand the therapeutic allure of this quiet sport.
A 2008 study by the Benson-Henry Institute in the US found fly-fishing a "beautiful way" to evoke the relaxation response in the brain - the same response elicited by mindful meditation.
We're a couple of hours in when I finally land a magic cast, the fly dropping just ahead of my target. Thrillingly, the trout takes the bait and I strike, yanking the rod high to hook it.
Marc yells instructions as I let the fish run with extra line from the reel, then wind it in to where Marc waits with a net.
It's a beauty: a gleaming 2kg whopper that looks good enough to eat. I'm tempted to have the lodge cook it for my dinner, until a photo opportunity turns slippery and my catch swims away.
The sun is high in the sky when the lesson is over. Despite some promising tugs, I catch no more fish. It doesn't matter though. I'm already hooked.
Tongariro Lodge offers guests guided half-day and full-day fly-fishing, raft fishing and heli-fishing adventures along the Tongariro River and surrounds. Prices start from $398 per person for a half-day guided trip. Find out more at www.tongarirolodge.co.nz.