Immersed in the Mataura

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On the Mataura... Dougal Rillstone explores the river and his history with it in his new book.

Anglers and those casting around for something to read may find themselves hooked on the tale of one man’s journey up the Mataura River and down memory lane.

Author Dougal Rillstone said his recently published book Upstream on the Mataura was written as a homage .

“I wanted to make the walk as a kind of tribute to the river,” Mr Rillstone said.

Setting off on this walk in January 2017, he expected he was in for a challenge.

“It was harder than I thought. I spent a lot of time taking off my pack and sliding under electric fences.”

The 240km journey from Fortrose on the coast to the river’s source in the Eyre mountains took 13 days.

The walk provided a narrative link for the flow of his personal stories about the river.

Mr Rillstone had been immersed in the river since before he could remember.

“I was born just a stone’s throw from the river, in East Gore.”

A photograph taken when he was 1 showed him shoulder-deep in the water.

“It was a really happy place for me.”

His first memory was of catching a fish just south of Gore township and the fascination still held.

“There’s a meditative quality to it. It’s a wonderful excuse just to sit by the river.”

The Mataura River had not received much attention from writers, he said.

“The book was written out of a sort of regret that [the river] hasn’t been more written about.”

The river was objectively special and had some of the best brown trout fishing in the world, he said.

“It’s perhaps not as good as it used to be.”

Intense farming and a rise in nitrate levels were affecting water quality, he said.

“I know that individual farmers are mostly trying to do the right thing.

“Dairy numbers have exploded in the last few decades.”

Damage to water quality was difficult to reverse, he said.

He hoped readers would absorb his love of the river and feel the importance of protecting the waterways of New Zealand.

Dumping rubbish in the river was common when he was young and was one of his tasks while employed at a bookshop.

He was pleasantly surprised at how clean the river appeared.

“I’m reasonably hopeful about the future.”