lake clearwater, south island high country – my spiritual lake home

“My recollection of a hundred lovely lakes has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day. It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful.” Hamlin Garland

Lake Clearwater January 1969.

It is a still, warm night in high summer. I’m almost 13-years-old, and wearing nothing but a pair of swim shorts and a fishing shoulder bag. In my hands, a fly rod drips quietly into the lake as I retrieve a wet line to tow a Mrs Simpson through the water in hope of a trout.

Clearwater by night – not summer!

The water, up to my thighs, is tepid, softer than silk, and dead calm. It’s surface feels slightly oily from the swamp gas that bubbles up from where my feet stir the marshy lakebed. Its slight old-sock smell is warm and familiar. The muddy perfume mingles with the scent of willow leaves, pine resin and tussock grass, and the spicy smell of warm dust drifting down from the high bare hills. My slow progress stirs invertebrates from the mud, which are greedily snapped up by a small school of perch darting around my bare feet. Eels, too, nose quietly through my legs, bumping soft as a mother’s kiss against my shins.

Twilight – Lake Te Anau – Fiordland National Park

The quiet whip of my casting line barely registers against the background silence of the night. A few waterfowl, somewhere in the dark, chatter quietly in their watchful semi-sleep; a curious mix of tenor whistles and warbles, base honks and baritone quacks. If I had cared to flick on a torch it would have picked out the eyes of black swan, Canada geese, mallard, grey and paradise duck, scaup and grebes.

Crested Grebe – Podiceps Cristatus

Peace envelops me. The predatory purpose of cast-drawn-and-re-cast fly line is rendered irrelevant. For that long still night the cares of adolescence have no more impact on me than the drip from my fly reel has on the depth of the lake they return to. I am content.

Not always a fine day, but always beautiful – Lake Matheson, West Coast South Island

The photos in this blog represent some of the lakes that have been part of my life. Lakes, it is fair to say, form part of my soul. They are an ever-present source of peace, inspiration and beauty. They have been the playground of my childhood, the base of many adventures, a backdrop to long happy hours of family conversations, and a home to my other passion, birds . . . such wonderful birds! Long may it be so, for all of us.

Mirror Lakes, Fiordland

Autumn glory – Lake Wanaka

Lake Wairarapa – birdwatchers’ paradise


Lake Hawea – Southern Lakes, Central Otago

Key Summit Tarn

Lake Mahinapua – West Coast

Yeah it’s me . . . Lake Hanlon, Karamea region, West Coast.

“I’m an old-fashioned guy… I want to be an old man with a beer belly sitting on a porch, looking at a lake or something.” Johnny Depp

2 thoughts on “Lakes

  1. You know something is up when you actually well up and get a tear in the corner of both eyes. At the end of the day some things just cut into you like a knife. The photography here Steve is some of the finest my eyes have had the pleasure of casting themselves across. Your descriptive writing of standing at lakes edge with rod in hand is also deeply penetrating too. I actually want to say so much more here but that would just detract from the experience of reading your articles here. Tears for me are simply about breathtaking beauty whether in verbal, visual or written form.

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