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Media Coverage

Mirfin family in WWI, stamped in history

Article by Fairfax reporter Tracey Neal, published Nelson Mail 26 July 2014
Mirfin Family at war Nelson  Mail 2014 650
Mirfin family history: the Mirfin family feature on NZ Post stamps due out 4 August commemorating 100 years since the start of WWI

His ship was torpedoed by Germans, his hospital bombed from a Zeppelin, but Melville Mirfin made it back home.

And now, a suitcase of memories belonging to the World War I soldier from a tiny West Coast town has been stamped in history.

Mirfin, of Ikamatua south of Reefton, who was a boarder at Nelson College, is the "ordinary soldier" chosen as the face of the official New Zealand Post WWI stamp and coin programme to be launched in Wellington on August 4.

The special Ceremony of Remembrance that begins at Queen's Wharf will mark the day that war began 100 years earlier.

Reference to the Mirfin family features on three of the four commemorative stamps, including the portrait of Melville, a postcard he wrote and a family photo outside their Ikamatua farm house, Oulton.

Melville and three of his seven brothers, Stanley [also a Nelson College boarder], Ashton and George fought in the Great War and all returned.

This is remarkable in itself, and their equally remarkable stories which had been stored in the suitcase in the Mirfin home in Richmond, have materialised with prompting by descendant Zane Mirfin, support from the head of the Nelson Provincial Museum Peter Millward, and finally selection by the stamp programme's head of research Aaron Brown.

He said research and concept development began about a year ago, and was finely honed to the stage the Mirfin story was settled on. Brown said he had been working on around 10 possibilities from around the country that would have fitted the bill.

"One intention was to find at the very least, a soldier who had been in the war from 1914-1918, and at best, a family that might have been able to fill that role."

Brown met with Stuart and Sherry Mirfin, who "rifled through the suitcase and told the family story".

He said what made it even better was that it was "unique and unpublished content".

Stuart Mirfin, whose father was Ashton [Ash], said such acknowledgement was a huge honour, considering the experiences and stories so many families had.

"As a family we're greatly honoured because there are likely to be thousands of others like us."

Stuart said his father was a great collector and diary keeper, which meant they had a rich source of recall of events experienced by the brothers.

Stuart said his father wrote "very precise, clear letters" and when he came back from war, many people gave him back the letters he wrote.
"He put them all together and put them in the suitcase."Stuart said his father was almost 50 when Stuart was born, and it was rare to have family still alive who could talk about a parent's experience of World War I.

All but Melville, who became a banker in Palmerston North, were involved in farming.

Jessie - the only girl in the family - was the eldest, followed by Walker, Stanley, Melville, Rollo, twins Ashton and Bryson and then George.

Stuart said he was not sure how rare it was for all members of a family who went to war to return. Only George was wounded, but each had close brushes with death - including a couple before they had arrived at the battlefields.

"I know of others from the district whose families never returned, so when you consider the losses some families endured, this was remarkable."

Early volunteer Melville [Mel] Mirfin, a Palmerston North bank officer in 1914, volunteered for war soon after it was declared on August 4, 1914. Within days he was on a troop ship bound for Samoa - a German protectorate from 1900 to 1914. When war broke out the German colony (of Western Samoa)was occupied by 1400 troops from New Zealand.

"New Zealand took a great chance going there. They knew the size of the garrison was small but there was a big battleship cruising the Pacific," Stuart said.

The armoured cruiser SMS Scharnhorst - the flagship of the German East Asia Squadron, was known to be lurking nearby.

"It could have blown them out the ocean."

Melville, who became a sergeant, went to Samoa as a medic. He was there until the end of 1914, came back to New Zealand for a short time, then boarded a troop ship bound for Egypt. He was then posted to Salonica (Thessaloniki) in Greece.

He left Alexandria on the ill-fated transport ship Marquette, torpedoed by the Germans in the Aegean Sea in late 1915.

Of the 741 people on board, 167 were lost, including 10 members of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service, 19 male Medical Corps staff and three New Zealand soldiers.

"She went down fast and there were two remarkable things about it - it contained the first New Zealand women killed in action.

"Mel was mentioned in dispatches and got a citation for bravery, for saving lives. He was a good swimmer and managed to get people on to lifeboats. There was also a French destroyer nearby that was quickly on the scene," Stuart said.

Those rescued continued on to Salonica and set up the hospital. In a letter to Stuart's father, Mel described the time they were bombed - by a Zeppelin airship.

"They were all outside enjoying a nice evening when this great dark shadow appeared and they started hearing these loud bangs. There was no sound except for bombs being dropped, possibly grenades of some sort."

Melville was back in Egypt in 1916 but it was not long before he was sent to the Western Front, where he helped set up a stationary hospital. He served the rest of his time there. In 1919 he helped repatriate New Zealand soldiers in London, before he returned to Palmerston North and his job back at the Bank of New South Wales.

"They paid his wages the whole time he was at war. They even sent him spending money while he was in London," Stuart said.

He remembered Melville as a very distinguished man.

"He stood so straight and had such a strong presence. He was always immaculately dressed."

Sergeant and cook
Stanley Mirfin, a cook who also became a sergeant, went to war in 1916. The launching pad for him was Egypt before heading to the Western Front.

"I think even then he was more interested in cooking. He worked a lot on outback places as a cook before the war."

Stuart said his father Ashton's diary revealed some quiet, poignant moments when troops ambled about close to enemy lines, checking out their mates, and in this case, family.

One entry said: "It's a bit quiet today so I'll walk over and see how Stan is getting on."

Stan had come across a badly wounded German on the frontline.

"He was in a shell hole, dying. Stan got down in the water and held his hand. The German took off his watch and gave it to Stan. He died there, in that heap of water," Stuart said.

Stan returned to New Zealand to work on farms around the country, and later became a butcher in Motueka.

‘Terrible combat'
Ashton Mirfin left the farm in Ikamatua to join the war in 1917. He, Bryson and George had an agreement that whoever were the first two called up would go, and the third would remain to look after the farm.

Bryson ended up staying.

"Dad talked about the war quite a bit. It didn't seem to faze him any great deal. He went straight to the UK from New Zealand and joined the Western Front in late 1917."

Stuart said his father, a private, who saw terrible frontline combat, talked of how the worst thing he ever saw was in the UK, before he reached the battlefields.

He was on a train in southern England and was one of two men from each carriage assigned to collect food parcels from the village they were pulling into.

"At the first stop they jumped down off the train, but jumped on to the track. No-one told them another train was coming the other way.

"Dad somehow got out of the way, but it took the buttons off his coat. His mate was cut to pieces in front of him, along with 11 or 12 other New Zealanders - cut to pieces on the track.

"He never saw a sight worse than that."

Stuart said his father was offered stripes while fighting on the front, but

refused them on the basis he had been told the German gunners sought them out especially.

Ash came back to New Zealand in 1919 after being a member of the occupying army that marched into Cologne during the Occupation of the Rhineland. He returned to the farm at Ikamatua.

"There was a function to welcome him and another soldier home and the next day he was digging potatoes. That's what his father expected him to do."

Nearly died
George Mirfin was the youngest in the family but just about didn't make it to war. He nearly died of seasickness on the journey to Europe.

"They buried 20 men at sea from the ship he was on. They all died of seasickness but an older soldier on board saved his life, by making sure George had plenty of fluids.

"They used to hold him down and pour water into him because it was dehydration that killed them."

Ashton and George, also a private, served together but George's war effort ended in northern France when he was badly injured with a shrapnel blast that went through his back and out his shoulder.

Ashton and George returned to the farm. Ashton left in 1963 to retire to Nelson.

The commemorative ceremony in Wellington begins at 5.15pm on August 4 from Queen's Wharf. A contingent including Pipes and Drums, the 1st 7th Battalion Band and 2nd Engineers and Signals will leave there (opposite Post Office Square - the original home of New Zealand Post) and march to Te Papa where there will be a Ceremony of Remembrance for those who served during WWI and those who didn't come home. The official New Zealand Post WWI stamp and coin programme will also be launched.

Mirfin Family Ice-Skating Fun
St Arnaud ice-skating pond provides hours of fun


© The Nelson Mail, 15/07/10, Page 3 by Naomi Arnold
Icy Spins: Charlotte, Aimee and Rosie Mirfin enjoy the ice at St. Arnaud. Photo: Zane Mirfin

With the recent cold weather, visitors and locals have flocked to St Arnaud’s ice-skating pond.

Richmond’s Zane Mirfin, whose family was on holiday at St Arnaud, said they would be out enjoying the ice every day.

“It’s really good-quality ice this year – no sticks or stones – with really good traction. It’s quite a drawcard. We ran into some people from Blenheim who had come up just for the ice,” he said.

He said about 50 people were out yesterday skating, sledding and sliding around the frozen pond. “It’s fun even without skates”.

His son Jake, 9, said it was fun “even when I skidded out of control”. It was his second time on the ice and he thought he was getting the hang of it. “The ice skates were hard, but once you got it going, it was OK”.

Jake said he preferred the winter to summer at St Arnaud, particularly because yesterday’s time on the pond revealed a whole trout, frozen belly-up under the ice.

Mr Mirfin said the facility was fantastic. “The access is so good. I’d encourage people from town to come up for the day. It’s close, it’s easy, and it’s lots of fun.”

St Arnaud Department of Conservation ranger Chris Richards said the skating rink had been open for a couple of weeks already. “With the cold temperatures, it looks like it’ll be running for a few more too.” He said the rink was on DOC conservation land and people should abide by the usual regulations.


In July 2008 Aimee & Zane Mirfin travelled to Southern California to talk to 7 Fly Fishing Clubs.  The speaking tour was organised by Jeff Pill, an accomplished fly fishing film producer, and member of Wilderness Fly Fishers, Santa Monica.  Other clubs included Sierra Pacific Flyfishers, Pasadena Casting Club, Sespe Flyfishers etc.  The following article appeared in Sespe Flyfishers newsletter July 2008 prior to the talks.

From Sespe Flyfishers Newsletter July 2008...
Guest Speaker - Zane Mirfin

“Trout Heaven” or Fly Fishing New Zealand


We've all heard about fishing in New Zealand – that it‟s hard, that it‟s not hard, that it‟s magnificent, that it‟s frustrating, that it‟s like a glorious dream, that it‟s like a teeth-grinding dream. And we have all seen pictures – pictures of some of the world‟s most beautiful, giant trout caught in truly breathtaking water. And those pictures make us yearn. Well, during our July meeting , we‟re all going to discover the true facts about New Zealand from Zane Mirfin, someone who, as well
as anyone alive, knows fly fishing throughout this gorgeous island nation.

Trout had been introduced and flourished in NZ long before 1926 when the western novelist and famous American angler, Zane Grey, was invited by the New Zealand Government to fish the North Island‟s Tongariro River, but Grey‟s book An Angler’s Eldorado lit an angling fire that has burnt brightly ever since.

Zane will lead us on a virtual tour of New Zealand, concentrating on the South Island, his area of expertise. He will show us the unique and diverse water types, fishy inhabitants and the challenges which lure anglers back year after year. Zane‟s aim is to broaden club members‟ knowledge of the New Zealand fishery and equip everyone with the information, techniques and strategies to be successful when fly fishing there.

Being the chief photographer of Fish & Game New Zealand magazine, which is NZ‟s largest circulation freshwater fishing magazine (+250,000), Zane is bringing us wonderful images that showcase the fishery, the rivers and streams, the equipment and clothing, entomology and fly patterns. We will also learn about stalking trout, fly fishing methods and strategies. We will experience, creek, stream, river, lake and stillwater fishing . . . and how to access the water by helicopter, 4WD vehicle, jetboat, powerboat, rafting, mountain bike and/or hiking. We will also be shown and told about New Zealand fishing etiquette, expectations, conservation and general information for visiting anglers.

Zane‟s first trout were rainbows caught on live bait under the supervision of his father Stuart (an avid boyhood reader of Zane Grey), and, at 10-years-old, Zane started his fly fishing odyssey with experience that has included guiding for 23 years (with friend and mentor, guru New Zealand guide Tony Entwistle) and fishing around the world, including numerous western US States for trout, British Columbia for steelhead, Xmas Island for bonefish, and Sweden for grayling and arctic char.

Significantly, Zane has fished in California near Mammoth and Tahoe as well as further north under the shadow of Mt. Lassen in the Pitt & Fall Rivers, Hat Creek, and Lake Manzanita. One of Zane‟s most treasured US fishing memories was sight fishing for Californian high country native rainbows in a pristine mountain stream. On this 2008 visit to California, Zane will be accompanied by his wife, Aimee, who herself knows a lot about New Zealand fishing and is a much better driver than Zane in the big traffic flows of California! Zane and Aimee are both excited about their upcoming trip to meet our club members and talk about fishing. Also, the couple is looking forward to a short trip already scheduled for a few days in the high Sierra in pursuit of golden trout, which is one of the few major freshwater species Zane hasn‟t caught in the US.

Zane has always been sort of a trout bum and this dates back to his University days when his Masters Thesis was “Trout Fishing in Nelson – Management of a Recreational Resource.” Zane has had numerous articles published in NZ fishing magazines (his first published article in Rod & Rifle in 1981 describes harvesting his first deer at 13), and he was a columnist for NZ Troutfisher magazine between 1997-2001. Headhunted in 2001 by Fish & Game NZ magazine, he has been a prolific contributor of articles and images, culminating in his winning the SPARC Award for Recreation / Adventure / Lifestyle Reporting at the 2004 Sir T.P. McLean National Sports Journalism Awards. Zane has contributed to a number of books including Brown Trout Heaven – Fly Fishing New Zealand’s South Island, New Zealand’s Best Trout Flies, In Pursuit of Trout, and Bird Hunting, with his images appearing in national and international magazines, books, book covers, billboards, calendars, websites and instructional fishing guides. His next fishing picture book – The Last Best Place, with Fish & Game NZ Editor, Bob South, is due out for the start of the new fishing season back home in October of this year.

Zane has always been involved in conservation initiatives, even co-founding a political party called „Outdoor Recreation New Zealand‟ with his father Stuart which championed the rights, resources and opportunities of outdoor recreationalists. The Outdoor Party won 1.3% of the vote in the 2002 General Elections with Zane as media spokesperson. The party contributed to the current outdoor political landscape that exists in New Zealand today.
These days, Zane and Aimee concentrate on running their fly fishing guiding company „Strike Adventure®‟ ( and taking their 4 young children fishing as often as they can.


The Last Best Place

The Last Best Place - Images of New Zealand Fly Fishing 
By Zane Mirfin, Edited by Bob South
Published by The Halcyon Press, 2008
Soft Cover; 260mm x 190mm, 196 pages, full colour throughout.
Buy from


Book Reviews

The Last Best Place is a celebration of flyfishing in New Zealand.
In his introduction, Bob South, award winning editor of Fish & Game New Zealand magazine, makes a case that Zane Mirfin’s superb photography “confirms that New Zealand, head-and-shoulders above anywhere else, warrants the tag The Last Best Place for flyfishing”. South maintains that Mirfin’s uncanny camerawork allows us all, even the most cynical, to know that, in terms of fly fishing, we’ve certainly come nowhere near the stage where all is lost here, either in the pollution-susceptible lowland systems, in didymo-invaded mountain streams, or deep in the fragile backcountry. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Zane Mirfin – fishing guide, photographer, and award winning author, has captured the essence of what makes fly fishing in New Zealand unique and special. Over 100 remarkable images reveal the drama, splendour, and excitement that is fly fishing in New Zealand. The images stand alone as a feast for the eye of any angler – each worth more than a thousand words. Each telling its own story.
In place of the usual narrative, editor Bob South has selected quotations from angling icons, writers, and celebrities to complement each of these stunning photos of The Last Best Place.
Back Cover of ‘The Last Best Place’ , Graham Gurr - Publisher, The Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand, October 2008.

Come Fly With Me - Trophy Tome
“That’s the Nunya”, says backcountry fishing guide and photographer Zane Mirfin in answer to my query about the whereabouts of a great-looking trout river. Not one I’d heard of. “Yeah, it’s Nunya effing business” Mirfin laughed.
Dream spots fished with Bob South, an old mate and the creator of Fish & Game Magazine, feature large in The Last Best Place, a gorgeous collection of Mirfin’s images partnered with South’s collection of quotes about fishing.
The Hemingway-esque South has restricted himself to three pages of writing, allowing the pictures their thousand words. And though the book shares a title with a seminal collection of Montana stories, the water this book covers couldn’t be anywhere but New Zealand.
It’s a tempter, a teaser, and a test for the most well-travelled angler seeking that last best place.
Cameron Williamson, Dominion Post Newspaper, Travel Section, Wellington, New Zealand, December 2008.

Angling photos taken on the fly
As any faithful Nelson Mail reader will know, Zane Mirfin likes his fish. Not just stalking and catching them, not just guiding others in pursuit of them, and not, for that matter, just writing about them in his fortnightly Nelson Mail column, Wildside (published on alternate Saturdays in the Weekend section).
Mirfin’s passion for wily trout and all that trying to catch them entails also extends to photographing them, an interest that he more or less stumbled across and has developed to the point of becoming chief photographer for Fish & Game New Zealand magazine. His editor there, Bob South, describes Mirfin’s images as “prodigious”, his camerawork “uncanny”. Proof of what South is on about has just been compiled into a new book, The Last Best Place (Halcyon Press, $49.99), a picture book of some of Mirfin’s work, focused on the angler and his quarry against the backdrop of New Zealand’s glorious backcountry. It is his second book, and the pictures are largely left to speak for themselves, with the text mostly limited to selected memorable quotations relating to fishing.
As South also says, in his introduction in the book, they are photographs that well and truly reinforce that, in an age when anglers have a world to chose from and New Zealand’s waterways face enormous pressures and stresses, those waterways still retain the qualities that make them outstanding.
Mirfin who runs his guiding business, Strike Adventure, out of Nelson, started carrying a camera while out fishing back in the early 1990’s, at the urging of various clients he had been guiding, including a couple of leading fly-fishing photographers of the time. “They were saying to me, ‘get a camera, Zane – you’re out there every day, you’ve got a fantastic opportunity’”. So he did, and while he says he would not claim to be “the worlds best photographer”, he acknowledges that his camera skills, combined with his enormous knowledge of fishing in the top of the south, give him an edge. “The thing for me is, I’m taking different people out all the time, so I’ve got fresh material all the time”, he says. “Being a fisherman…you can see what’s going to appeal to fishermen (through the lens)”. Mirfin is less than precious about his photography, a far cry from some of the rather prima donna-ish behaviour some in the “painting with light” brigade can be accused of. He is certainly not sentimental about the images he captures, although his work speaks for itself.
His friend, fellow fishing guide and fellow photographer Martin de Ruyter – also the Nelson Mail’s chief lensman – describes Mirfin’s photography as “brilliant” reflecting the man’s deep knowledge of fishing as well as his access through guiding, to some of the country’s most beautiful fly-fishing spots. But the technical challenges involved in fly fishing photography should not be underestimated, including, de Ruyter points out, the need to lug in several kilograms of camera gear along with everything else needed for a guided trip. And of course, fishing is inherently unpredictable, the climax often lasting only a matter of seconds. As The Last Best Place demonstrates, Zane Mirfin knows what he’s looking for.
Geoff Collett, Features Editor, The Nelson Mail, December 2008.

The Last Best Place is an ideal gift for any avid angler. It’s a collection of more than 100 photographs displayed over 208 pages that depict the very best this country has to offer in terms of fly fishing for trout. Produced by Halcyon Publishing, The Last Best Place provides a vicarious journey, via Zane Mirfin’s photography, to blissful rivers, streams, and lakes buried in our backcountry. Available at leading bookstores. RRP$49.99 GST incl.
Fish & Game Magazine, In Field, Issue 63.

Have just seen a copy of your book (The Last Best Place) Well done. I really enjoy looking at the images of other photographers, particularly angling photographers. I learn much from them along with feelings of a little envy that they got better angles, action, light etc than I could achieve. The angling action that you have captured is great. It will be viewed repeatedly by many anglers I’m certain. I recognized a few spots – which bought back a few memories. Great work.
Les Hill, Famed NZ Angling Photographer & Author, Hokitika, NZ, December 2008

Last week I was waiting at Christchurch Airport to catch a plane to Sydney. I thought I might go and buy a magazine to read on the plane, and to my amazement at the top of the bookstand was one complete shelf dedicated to fly fishing and fly tying, including Zane Mirfin’s new book ‘The Last Best Place’. It really thrilled me to see fly fishing up there as a top sport…
Ross Walker, President Nelson Trout Fishing Club, Presidents Fly Line Link, May Newsletter 2009.

If nothing else, the title of this book is sure to grab your attention. We fly fishers are suckers for certain catch-phrases. Mention the words “best place” and “fly fishing” in a crowd of seemingly disinterested bystanders, and you will be amazed at how quickly the attention span of those devoted to the gentle pursuit will be focussed on you – sometimes with scorching intensity. Say “the last best place” and you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by serious-looking individuals, nervously glancing around at who else may be listening in. Yes, much as we like to share, a good fishing spot is something you don’t brag about – you kind of shy away from the subject when raised, just as you did when your friends started extolling the virtues of that new girl you had your eye on. And, as we discover later in life (married to that same girl), “Most fishermen swiftly learn that it’s a pretty good rule never to show a favourite spot to any fisherman you wouldn’t trust with your wife”. Robert Traver, as quoted in The Last Best Place.) However, this book is not something you should keep quiet about; rather, it should and will be enjoyed by many – even those you can’t trust with your wife.

I’ve known Zane Mirfin for years and have had the privilege of fishing with him in his own backyard, being the pristine streams of New Zealand’s South Island. Zane (or “Mirf” to his friends) is well known in trout circles worldwide, is a respected member of the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides’ Association and has guided many fly fishing luminaries and famous personalities. He is well educated, has authored and contributed to several books on fly fishing, is the recipient of an award for sports journalism, a co-founder of an outdoors political party, writes for several fly fishing magazines and, as you probably suspected, a great fly fisherman. A consummate professional, he is also a world-class photographer, which in my opinion reflects not only skill with a camera, but also the ability to portray to the audience that which they wish to see – in this case, the very soul of your pursuit.

Soon after picking up a copy of The Last Best Place, that’s exactly where you’ll be. A collection of photographs with accompanying quotes, it’s a celebration of everything in fly fishing we hold dear, and the enjoyment you will derive from it positive proof that the age of print is here to stay – for the foreseeable future, at least. This book will not teach you things about fly fishing that you do not already know (although to a non-believer it may be an eye-opener); rather, it will revive in your memory those images, smells, sights, delights, childlike joys and euphoria you have experienced as a fly fisherman. Although, as the subtitle suggests, it features images of New Zealand’s fly fishing, the theme is universal. Through the captivating lens of Mirfin’s camera, you will recognise the moment of joy in the bright smile of the angler holding up his trophy, stand in awe of the beauty of a trout stream, and revel in the solitude and peace that only nature can bring. You will taste the excitement of eyeballing a trout stream for the first time, and feel the fire of adventure burn as you gaze upon landscapes not normally frequented by (nonfishing) humans. You will also sense that kinship with our quarry that is difficult to explain yet impossible to ignore, feel your muscles ache after a hard but satisfying day on the water and, most importantly, be reminded that fly fishing for trout is something you will never tire of.

The photographs are accompanied by quotes from other fly fishers and writers – some famous, some not – most poetic and illustrative of the message the image conveys. For example, next to the photo of a naked fly angler stalking a flock of sheep, says Joseph Heller, American satirical novelist: “When I grow up, I want to be a little boy.” Why does one always have the urge to play the fool when you are having fun? Try taking a photo of a guy in underwear shaking out his waders next to a stream: “There is a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot,” quips Steven Wright, Academy Award Winner stand-up comic – something only a fly fisherman will understand. Or, when gazing upon a pristine river and angler experiences what John Bailey, author of Reflections From The Water’s Edge, says: “No angler watches nature in a passive way. He enters into it’s very existence”. Perhaps a quote from John Gierach sums it up: “They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re not such a big deal any more.” If you look deeper, there is also a lot of wisdom in some of the quotes, but most are apt and entertaining.

The Last Best Place is edited by Bob South, and benefits from it. A lifelong fly fisherman, award-winning sports journalist, author of four books on trout fishing, editor of several others and of New Zealand’s Fish & Game magazine, he is amply qualified and an obvious choice for the job. It is clear that South also has the passion and understanding necessary for a book of this nature to succeed in it’s objective.

We all know that the next best thing to fishing is reading about it. The Last Best Place is not so much about reading as it is about reliving and remembering those aspects about fly fishing that hold it dear to our hearts. In fact, right now I can think of nothing better than pouring myself a dram of that amber liquid I keep for really special occasions, grabbing my copy of Mirf’s book, moving the chair closer to the fire, and embarking on a journey to that special place where only fly fishing will take you. And which will leave me fired up for tomorrow, when I’ll grab my fly rod and experience it all again, firsthand. Great book, is all I can say.
PJ Jacobs, Editor, The Complete Fly Fisherman Magazine, South Africa, July 2009, Issue 174

Fishing Legend misses his moment in the Limelight

Made the Big Event: Despite the Broken Ankle and missing the Limelight Award, Zane (and Aimee) made it to the USA three weeks later OK.
© Simon Bloomberg, Nelson Mail, 16 June 2008.
Richmond hunting and fishing guide Zane Mirfin should have been sitting on a lime green couch in the Richmond Mall on Sunday enjoying his new status as the Limelight Charity’s Nelson Local Legend.

Limelight is honouring “legends” on a national tour of 20 towns and cities to raise funds for the Child Cancer Foundation and Variety – the Children’s Charity.

On Sunday the tour was in Richmond to present Zane with the Nelson Local Legend for sharing his passion for the outdoors with hundreds of anglers and hunters. But instead of sitting on the tour’s motorised lime green couch, Zane was lying in a hospital bed after breaking and dislocating his ankle when he slipped on ice and fell on a hunting trip in the Molesworth on Friday.

Zane’s wife Aimee says she received a phone call from the Limelight organisers on Friday only minutes before finding out that Zane had been injured. “I took the call from Limelight 10 minutes before I got the call from my sister-in-law. She said ‘You’d better sit down’ and then told me what happened”. Aimee recalls Zane had to drag himself out of a river and get into his survival gear before firing rifle shots to alert his brother, Scott, who ran for an hour to a hut to get their satellite phone and call for help. “They are very safety-conscious and did everything right – the main thing is that he’s alive and well”.

Although Zane was still in Christchurch Hospital on Sunday, his sons, Jake 7, and Izaak, 6, and rescuer Scott, attended the function in the Richmond Mall to receive the award on his behalf…..

Fishy eye for the queer spot


Reproduced Courtesy of Daryl Crimp, The Fishing Paper, Issue 30, March 2008

1499New Zealand 2010 822-385
Candid Camera:  Zane Mirfin on the other side of the lens with legendary angling photographers Cathy and Barry Beck of Pennsylvania, USA.

Zane Mirfin is a trout guide who not only has a good eye for spotting trout, but also has an eye for spotting good trout, or more precisely – photogenic trout. Throughout his career as a professional guide, Zane has been quietly developing his photographic skills and is now respected as much for the images he captures as for the trout he catches.

His work has been reproduced in books, calendars, billboards, international magazines, in advertisements and on the Strike Adventure website. He has gained most recognition in this country through his regular contributions to Fish & Game magazine.

Zane credits his enthusiasm for photography with some of the people he’s been fortunate to guide in over twenty years on the river, including famous photographers Tom Montgomery, David Lambroughton and Val Atkinson. He was fascinated by their images and as a result, has been carrying a single lens reflex camera (SLR) since 1992.

After countless clicks of the camera, he has distilled what makes a good picture into 4 elements; top lenses, high quality film, good lighting and subject matter. While he plays down his ability with a camera he does agree that all the top photographers develop their own distinctive style and the very good ones never stop evolving their craft. Those who aren’t pushing the envelope and constantly looking for new angles risk being typecast.

Zane believes he is fortunate that he is out guiding all the time with amazing people in amazing places and catching amazing fish. “Hopefully that is my point of difference and others will find difficult to replicate”.
Real dedication, discipline and enthusiasm is required to become a good fishing photographer. “It’s not until you are out with the pro’s that you realise how much time they invest in it”, Zane said. “People are also staggered at the amount of gear required and the sheer weight of it”.

These days Zane shoots a Canon SLR with fast lenses that let in more light and produce better quality pictures. While expensive, he sticks with professional quality transparency film ranging from 50-400 ISO, commenting that you get what you pay for. He varies his film speed depending on the season and what he is hoping to achieve. His kit comprises camera body, tripod and accessories; and a range of macro, wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses – amounting to a fair old weight.

For those aspiring photographers, his advice is simple. Take out a second mortgage – one good quality lens can set you back NZ$4,000. Jokes aside, he said that there is no substitute for getting out and snapping pictures. “Don’t be afraid to waste film” said Mirf.

He says that if you shoot enough film the good pictures will come. Buy the best quality gear you can and get stuff you can add to. It pays to have a plan and at least some idea where you hope to be in 5 years time with your photography, so you don’t end up buying gear that will become obsolete. Zane still uses film, but when he decides to go digital he will only need to buy a new camera body – all the lenses are interchangeable.

Another important aspect to taking good photos is to always carry a camera. “If you leave it behind you can be guaranteed it will be the one time you are presented with a classic photo opportunity”. Good composition is important and that comes with experience. He suggests getting into the habit of taking three shots of a subject but make sure each is taken from a different perspective. The best will often be the one you least expect.

Zane downplays his ability to the point of being almost impossible to interview, so I asked Bob South, editor of Fish & Game magazine, to sum up Zane’s talent. “Actually he’d bloody useless, but we can’t get anyone else to do the job”. Bob said one of the secrets to good trout photography is location, location, location and Zane is definitely out there. “A lot of photographers are just photographers, but Zane has a passion for what he does and it comes through in his images”, said Bob. “His composition is always excellent – he definitely has a fishy eye for the queer shot and he gets the mood of the story”. Bob goes on to say that most professional photographers are “weird arse egomaniacs’, but ‘Mirf’ really hasn’t grasped the full extent of his talent. “The guy won the 2004 TP McLean Award for journalism in the recreation / adventure / lifestyle reporting category, but only after I’d forced the little bugger to enter”.

Tony Entwistle - Fish & Game Gold Medal Award

Gold Medal Award: Tony Entwistle receives his Gold Medal Award from Fish & Game National Director, Bryce Johnson, Wellington (L), and Nelson/ Marlborough Fish & Game Manager, Neil Deans (R).

One that didn’t get away

© The Nelson Mail, 3 April 2007

After 27 years of guiding trout anglers in Nelson, Tony Entwistle says he still feels privileged each time he steps into the region’s rivers.

Fish & Game national director Bryce Johnson presented Mr Entwistle with a national gold award at Club Waimea last night, in recognition of his ongoing contribution to fishing and better water resource management.

But Mr Entwistle said he could not take all the credit for the award, as many people had influenced him in his guiding and river conservation work over the years.

All users or rivers and waterways had a responsibility to protect them, and Mr Entwistle said he had never realised his work would be recognised in such a way.

“Sometimes it is depressing to be so close to a resource that is being overused and raped and pillaged, but you have got to give back.”

Mr Entwistle said he had worked on water conservation orders for the Buller and Motueka rivers, and assisted the Cawthron Institute and Fish & Game on angling studies in the past.

Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game manager Neil Deans said the society had received nearly 30 nominations from around the country for the award.

He said while Mr Entwistle, a former member of the New Zealand fly fishing team, was an excellent angler and guide in his own right, he had also worked tirelessly with Fish & Game for better management of rivers.

He had volunteered his time and expertise to speak at numerous conservation hearings, and Mr Deans said his hard work deserved to be recognised and celebrated.

Anglers across the region would recognise Mr Entwistle for his pioneering work in brown trout fishing, his previous ownership of Nelson’s Hunting & Fishing store, and his on-going voluntary work with Fish & Game, Mr Deans said.

Outstanding Contribution


© Fish & Game News, Nelson / Marlborough Newsletter, Autumn 2007 #33


Nice Catch: Nelson Fishing Guide Tony Entwistle, right, receives a New Zealand Fish & Game Council Gold Medal Award from Chief Executive Bryce Johnson.

Well known and respected local angler and fishing guide Tony Entwistle has been recognised by Fish & Game New Zealand with a national ‘Gold Award’, one of only 4 issued this year. This is the highest honour which Fish & Game can award, in recognition of Tony’s outstanding contribution to Fish and Game and angling and hunting over many years.
Tony was a Councillor of the former Nelson Acclimatisation Society and briefly a Councillor on the Nelson Marlborough Fish and Game Council until he could not attend as many meetings as he felt he should. In addition to this he appeared as an expert angling witness for Fish and Game in numerous Water Conservation Order hearings, particularly for the Buller and Motueka. His evidence was hugely assisted by his detailed record keeping and keen eye for what is driving fish numbers and fishing opportunities, as well as an excellent overview of the fishing opportunity in the country and further afield.

Tony has assisted with research into fisheries, particularly with the Cawthron Institute into fish catchability, which was recognised internationally. Tony has represented New Zealand in our national Fly Fishing team in international competitions. He has always enjoyed working with people and helping them into our sports. He has voluntarily run free fishing clinics in conjunction with Fish and Game and angling clubs for well over 10 years, has supported local fishing and hunting clubs and has represented fishing interests at a national level through the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association.

Tony has always had the best interests of the ordinary angler and hunter and the fishing and hunting resource at heart, rather than any narrow sectoral interest. He was nominated for this award by Stuart Mirfin and will be presented with his Gold Award at a public ceremony in March.


Living the Great Adventure

Reproduced Courtesy of Daryl Crimp, The Fishing Paper, Issue 6, February 2006

Zane Mirfin set a fly upon the water for the first time professionally in November of 1985 when he accepted an offer to work for Nelson Lakes Guiding Services Ltd. The company was founded by Tony Entwistle who was one of the pioneers of freshwater guiding in the Top of the South. Zane was 18-years old at the time and two decades later he is still guiding, but has turned the full circle to partner Tony in a new business called Strike Adventure.

“Tony dreamed up this great adventure, asked me to be part of it and I’m still living it”. Zane recounts an incident that happened recently which causes him to smile. The two were in bed one night, but fortunately in different rooms, when Zane called out in typical Waltonian fashion, “Tony, I want to thank you for all the great opportunities you’ve created for me over the years”. He lay listening to the silence for a time, wondering whether ‘Wistle’ had heard him. The dry retort eventually found its way through the open door from the next room, “I don’t know why you’re thanking me Mirf, I’m probably the guy who @^&*#!! up your life”.

The guiding has taken Zane abroad and he fondly remembers five summers fishing in the States, four through which he guided professionally. The first summer he just “fished his brains out”, fishing virtually every day for 6 months.
When he returned two years later he was based in Basalt out of Aspen, Colorado and took a job as one of 20 guides for a local flyshop. One of the shop’s clients was the movie giant, Warner Bros. and Zane found it fascinating how the whole industry worked. He said they got to guide some pretty influential people and some of the industry’s top power brokers, which are the producers and directors, and not the actors. There were plenty of celluloid faces to rub shoulders with though and some of the actors and celebrities who made use of flyshop and guiding service included Kevin Costner, Joe Cocker, Goldie Hawn, John Denver and the Fonz.

A lot of water has passed between the waders of Zane Mirfin since he was an 18 year-old, but he says the industry has seen more changes in the previous 2 years than in the past 20. Some of the issues confronting guiding today include the current high dollar, a shrinking resource, plans to restrict helicopter access to wilderness areas and the possible effects of the invasive alga didymo. The majority of clients are from overseas, so the effects of world terrorism, threats of bird flu and the recent hurricanes in America all filter down to us. On the local scene the possibility of losing important rivers like the Wairau and Gowan to hydro developments can’t be taken lightly. However, the biggest threat he sees to professional guiding and probably the most insidious is a bureaucracy gone mad. Zane said compliance costs are crippling and the industry is over regulated.

He sees the future as less adventurous than the past and believes the Wild West days are over. “Guiding will require increased sophistication in systems and support structures to continue operating in an increasingly regulated and bureaucratic world”. But in spite of this, he believes we still have a wonderful resource.

Zane has guided so many customers, that no one guiding experience stands out as the definitive guiding moment for him, but it is clear from where his greatest satisfaction derives. He sees it as a privilege to be able to put people onto good fish, but it is those situations where adversity stands between the client and the fish and is overcome that satisfy him most. Successfully guiding an octogenarian with a grim determination to catch a fish, the polio victim with the most amazing attitude, the grandfather, who through his guide passes on the gift of fishing to his grandson, or the cancer sufferer on his last fishing trip – these are the badges Zane Mirfin wears on his guiding arm with pride.


SPARC Award for Recreation / Adventure / Lifestyle Reporting 2004

© Wayne Martin, Award Surprise for Writer, Nelson Mail, November 4, 2004, P18.

Journalism Award 2005: Zane's SPARC Award for Recreation/ Adventure/ Lifestyle Reporting.

Nelson’s Zane Mirfin has never considered himself a bona fide journalist.

But it didn’t stop him from winning the SPARC Award for Recreation / Adventure / Lifestyle reporting at the recent Sir Terry McLean national sports journalism awards.

A professional fishing guide for the past 20 years, Mirfin has been submitting articles to Fish & Game magazine since 2001. And it was his article titled ‘A Century of Hunting’ in issue 42 last year that won him the 4500 first prize at Sunday’s awards ceremony in Taupo.

Mirfin’s article was about two old deerhunters, Tracy Stratford and Gordon Max, who hunted around the West Coast during the 1930s and 1940s, focussing on their friendship and adventures.

“They were two deerstalkers in the golden age of deerstalking, long before the advent of 1080 poison and helicopter gunships,” said Mirfin.

“They hunted the glory days of the West Coast at the head of the Whitcombe River near Hokitika…and the great Rakaia stags – this amazing bloodline that produced the best trophies ever shot in New Zealand.”

Mirfin admits he was stunned by his success.

“I’ve been called many things before but I’ve never been called a journalist,” said Mirfin.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever entered and the first time I’ve won anything. Even a blind hog finds an acorn occasionally”.

“It was quite interesting, I was talking to some guys there and this one guy said, ‘I’ve been working at this for 30 years and never won anything’, It’s a nice thing to have happened.”

Although he’s been submitting articles to the magazine for the past few years, he’s regarded more as a photographer.

“It’s quite ironic in a way because I’m sort of known as a photographer really. I’ve had some wonderful images on the cover of the magazine itself. I’ve done lots of articles but never sort of considered myself to be any great shakes.

“I’m no Ernest Hemingway, that’s for sure.”