Fly Fisher’s book evokes passionate connection to Southland river running through his life



Dougal Rillstone

Published by Mary Egan Publishing, 4 August 2020, RRP: $39.99

‘Dougal is one of New Zealand’s best fly fishers. And now he has written one of the most original and moving accounts of a foot journey from sea to source of his home river, the glorious, abundant and now-threatened Mataura River in Southland.’Kevin Ireland

In the spirit of Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Dougal Rillstone’s memoir is a lyrical mediation on landscape and moving water, with angling at its heart.  Upstream on the Mataura is also about the communities the river runs through, the friendships sustained by fly-fishing, and a love of the river and its tributaries.  It is memoir writing at its finest.

Rillstone also makes an urgent plea for the guardianship of our rivers saying, ‘Deep down I wanted to speak for the rivers. Say something on their behalf, because while they can speak for themselves, too few are listening,’ says Rillstone.

The first section of Upstream on the Mataura offers a lucid and compelling account of the beauty, challenges and hardship involved in Rillstone’s 240-kilometre walk upstream – from the coast at Fortrose to the source of the Mataura River, in the Eyre Mountains.

Buoyed by the natural world, energy bars and coffee, Rillstone completes his journey with a greater sense of his place in the natural order and a clarion call to protect our rivers. Despite the threats posed by intensive farming, the Mataura remains one of the great dry-fly fisheries for brown trout on the planet.

In the second section of Upstream on the Mataura, Rillstone shares 12 stories which traverse his connection with the river, from his earliest recollections through to the present time.

One summer’s evening, while standing chest deep in the river, Rillstone became mesmerised by the sight of rippling rings left by rising trout on the otherwise smooth surface.  He has been beguiled by moving water ever since.

‘I found much that’s illuminating, rigorous, candid, informative, evocative and instructive. Rillstone leaves us with much to ponder,’ says Brian Turner.

Dougal Rillstone was born in Gore, close to the Mataura River, just over 70 years ago and owns a fishing cottage close to his beloved Mataura.  Educated at the University of Otago, his business career included directorships of a range of companies, including The Southland Dairy Coop, New Zealand Dairy Foods and Port Otago.  Dougal has fly-fished in many parts of the world and pilots his own light aircraft.  His writing has been published in quality magazines Flylife in Australia, and Gray’s Sporting Journal in the USA.  Dougal now lives in Dunedin with his second wife.

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