The Numbers Behind a New Zealand Fly Fishing Trip

South Island Stats. My parents appreciated this move, as it meant financial independence, and also that I wouldn't be joining some friends on what eventually became an eight-month motorcycle tour of America. I was mostly certain I didn't want to become an actuary, but the job paid well, satisfied my mathematical and analytical interests, and was a bright spot on an otherwise dim resume. I quickly developed four on-the–job habits: I spent a lot of time in Microsoft Excel; I closely monitored my friends' motorcycle trip; I saved money; and I daydreamed about my own future adventures. But after a few days on the water, it became clear that I would have to devise some sort of system beyond just the number of fish landed. So I came up with a formula of circles and dots to represent the following: fish landed (solid dot); fish hooked, fought, and lost (dot inside a circle); fish fed but not hooked (circle inside a circle); fish spooked or otherwise un-fed (circle). At one point, I showed my waders to a guide and told him my system. Over the course of roughly four months, I fished 70 days across 60 different venues, encountering 257 trout. I landed 58. I buy that for most business metrics, but it's unclear to me whether counting catches helps you land more fish.
what anal-retentive flyfishing looks like.
What anal-retentive flyfishing looks like. Photo by Russell Miller

A numbers nerd hits New Zealand

After graduating from college, I accepted a position as an actuarial analyst—a very digital, very stationary job. My parents appreciated this move, as it meant financial independence, and also that I wouldn’t be joining some friends on what eventually became an eight-month motorcycle tour of America. I was mostly certain I didn’t want to become an actuary, but the job paid well, satisfied my mathematical and analytical interests, and was a bright spot on an otherwise dim resume. It was also the only job I was offered.

I quickly developed four on-the–job habits: I spent a lot of time in Microsoft Excel; I closely monitored my friends’ motorcycle trip; I saved money; and I daydreamed about my own future adventures. Around the same time, the first Trout Bum Diaries films appeared, made by the original Angling Exploration Group (AEG). I watched and re-watched their movies, scheming my own plans. The concept was so simple on paper—fly somewhere awesome, go fishing—but the visual proof provided by AEG helped show that it was actually possible. So, after nearly three years of stashing money away and staring at spreadsheets, I jumped on a 24-hour online sale from Air New Zealand. I’ll never forget that mouse click.

Given my numerical inclinations, it’s no surprise that I started keeping track of my fish encounters. But after a few days on the water, it became clear that I would have to devise some sort of system beyond just the number of fish…

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