Fly fishing in New Zealand with the Seiko Alpinist Fly fishing in New Zealand with the Seiko Alpinist

Fly fishing in New Zealand with the Seiko Alpinist

Jason Marsden

Many people will celebrate a milestone event by purchasing a new watch but you can also add milestone memories to a watch already in your collection.

A short time ago my good friend, Mark, invited me to join him on a guided fly-fishing expedition out of Wanaka, New Zealand, with local guide Jake Berry.

I love fishing but to-date all my fishing chasing trout and salmon had been with a spinning rod and reel setup.  For me fly fishing was a complex mix of physics-defying casting with an overwhelming variety of artificial flies. It seemed to be practised by individuals with a certain mystique and an air of calm knowing.  I knew I would have a lot of learning to do to have any hope of hooking or, beyond expectation, landing a fish.

Aside from the usual outdoor gear to help me survive the harsh sun, terrain and expected river crossings, I had to decide which watch to wear.  In the past I have written about my Luminox accompanying me on my outdoor adventures – hunting, fishing and four-wheel driving – but for such a special occasion I felt something a little more refined was in order.  Obviously something sports-orientated and waterproof would be required.  A quality divers watch would be a logical choice, should I go Swiss, perhaps Submariner or Pelagos?  Something still did not seem right – my dive watches were essentially tool watch and lacked the elegance I associate with fly fishing.  Looking through my mid-range watches, one immediately stood out as the logical choice.  The Seiko Alpinist with it’s green sunburst dial, iconic gold indices and hands – it just seemed to fit the fly-fishing theme.  It reminded me of the iridescent feathers used in the flys, the polished alloy of the fly reel and the sun reflecting off sparkling water.  Seiko once again seem to have drawn nature into this watch, reflecting my expectations of the upcoming adventure.

My Alpinist sports a Strapcode Angus Jubilee bracelet (now referred to as the Angus-J Louis JUB).  With its heavy 316L rounded beads and solid end links, this is a major aesthetic and practical upgrade from the factory brown leather strap.

The first Alpinist was launched in 1959 and set a new path for Seiko in outdoor pursuits with the name also reflecting the triangular mountain-shaped indices.  For many modern watch enthusiasts the now discontinued SARB017 ref  6R15-00E1 model with its green dial, gold accents, ovoid Mercedes hour hand, and pretty much impractical rotating inner bezel defines the Alpinist range.  This now includes many dial variations and reinterpretations of the earlier models.  Some even feature my pet hate, a cyclops, some even dial stamped with the modern Prospex logo, which I find very much at odds with the otherwise vintage aesthetic.

A very well finished (but hidden behind a solid case back) 6R15 movement powers the watch that brings a credible 200m water resistance due to its screw-down crown, ensuring it delivers on its outdoor action promise.

Meeting at 7am just outside Wanaka we jumped into Jake’s very well equiped ute and headed off to his chosen spot.  With the early week weather reports not looking great it was a very pleasant surprise to have a calm morning as we approached our first river section after a short walk.  The rising sun was pushing the shadows down the hills and this left some shade alongside the river that provided challenging spotting for our guide. But he knew his stuff and Mark and I were soon taking turns presenting flies to fish that remained invisible to us but Jake assured us were there.  In rougher water that still looked promising we cast blind, covering each section of the water flow before moving a few steps upstream to repeat the process.  It was during this process and whilst undertaking some much required casting guidance from Jake that I hooked and landed what turned out to be the heaviest fish of the day, a very nice 5.75lb brown trout.  After a tense retrieval and fight, Jake expertly netted the fish, hook removed and after a quick photo the trout was returned to the water, speeding back into the main flow.  Later in the day I also managed a 4lb-plus trout which really topped things off for me.  Mark landed a couple of very nice fish as well as picking up some tips and guidance to add to his extensive fly fishing experience.

All in all a fantastic day learning a new skill, out in some fantastic New Zealand countryside and topped off with the success of hooking and landing some exceptional fish.  This day will stay with me for a very long time, and its memories are now permanently linked to my Alpinist.