Stand and Deliver

by Scott Sadil

When Scottie Little, our lodge manager, announces the onset of the inaugural Cedar Lodge Open, I feel a twinge of apprehension.  I haven’t picked up a golf club in twenty-some years, not since I spent a morning at the old Indian Creek country club in Hood River, the last round of golf my father ever played.

“I can’t stand balanced over the ball anymore,” he stated, the first stage of his eventual rapid—and startling—decline. 

The so-called Cedar Lodge Open, however, promises to be a much lighter affair.  Scottie has scattered the pins about a freshly-mowed paddock, the same field where helicopters come and go each day, our E-ticket to the remarkable fishing laced throughout this portion of New Zealand’s spectacular South Island scenery.  

Scottie Little, Cedar Lodge, New Zealand

A former junior champion, Scottie has devised a game with an elaborate scoring system, one in which even a duffer like yours truly might be able to hold his own, if only because you’re rewarded for not losing a ball. 

Unlike me, my fishing companions hit long enough to share the possibility of reaching the row of beech trees to the south, the unmowed fields along the Makarora River to the north.

My apprehensions, I should add, are nothing new.  They resemble, in part, the feelings I get when asked each day to step up to the water and deliver the appropriate cast to a big trout hanging in the current.  

Don’t blow it.

Fortunately, more often than not these are willing trout; the cast need be good, but not necessarily perfect.  Good, I can frequently manage.  Perfect?  Well, the trout provide the only answer that really matters.

Brown trout, Okuru River,New Zealand

Scottie’s tourney is somewhat the same.  You get one shot to the flag; if your ball ends up within a measured distance to the flag, you score points.  Lost balls subtract from your score.  Stay on the course, you stay in the running.

Scottie’s first tee shot, however, sailing directly on line to the red flag far across the paddock, makes it all too clear that the real reason we’re here at the lodge is to fish—that none of us came this far to strike a silly white ball with a stick.

Dingle Burn, South Island, New Zealand

Thank goodness.  For while our shots in the paddock head off every which way, some better than others, but rarely within scoring range, our casts into the river currents quite regularly land just right—and it’s as if the big trout is a red flag sliding under the ball, in many cases an oversized white-winged concoction, that rides the current like a miniature boat sailing downstream.

All goes well, the white sail and trout slowly merge; the open mouth of the trout rises as though a leaf lifted upward by the lightest breeze, tugging at your heart strings, relieving you, yet again, of those gnawing fears that still visit when you least want them by your side.

Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil decided long ago that his own life was too short to spend time working on his golf game.