2014 - 'Fisherman Content in His Niche', Otago Daily Times
By Christina McDonald
For 10 years Stu Tripney has tried unsuccessfully to catch a fish he refers to as his ''best mate'' and he guesses the fish probably only has another few years to live.
This notion sparks a fear in Mr Tripney, who runs Stu's Fishing Shop in the small Southland township of Athol.
''I'm scared it's going to beat me at the game.
''He's not got long to live and if he dies before I catch him then he's won.''
It was this challenge which attracted people to fly fishing, he said, and he said he thought New Zealand was the hardest place in the world to fly fish.
One reason, Mr Tripney said, was the country's fish were smarter than their overseas cousins.
''The fish, I say, have been in university compared to the rest of the world.''
Though ''nine times out of 10 it's the casting'' and some people enjoyed the challenge of trying to fool these smart fish with man-made flies, others ''just get really frustrated, like me when I first got here''.
''A lot of times I have got to say to people: 'Stay away from alcohol, guns and ropes' [after they struggle to fly fish] and 'you will catch on'.''
''The challenge is fooling the fish with something that's not real and made to imitate a small insect.''
Mr Tripney, originally from Scotland, bought the fishing shop off the state highway running through Athol in 2006, having operated it since 2001, and has grown it into ''Stu's Fishing Shop'' which he markets as ''world famous''. ''I'm a bit rock 'n' roll,'' he says from his lounge behind the shop.
Sometimes, he said, people ''look at the earrings and the tattoos and they overlook the passion''.
A framed newspaper clipping on the shop's wall shows a young Mr Tripney after winning the Schoolboys Championship competition in Kilsyth, Scotland - a competition he won four years in a row from the age of 9.
On a different wall hangs his Fly Fishing Federation casting master qualification and he proudly says he was the 91st person in the world to be awarded it.
Coming back to the rock 'n' roll, Athol might be thought incompatible with such a lifestyle or with being the home of the world's ''funkiest'' fishing shop.
''Athol appealed to me ... and I questioned what I really loved. I've always wanted my own fly fishing shop as a kid, so I decided to make that dream a reality.''
Before Athol he, in no particular order, drove rock 'n' roll vans, but always with a fishing rod handy; lived and worked in Africa for five years in the safari industry; worked in London building skyscrapers and ''managed to live through that with all my limbs''; and worked in Queenstown's tourism industry.
''I did all that but always in my head I wanted to live in the countryside.''
He aims to go wholesale with his own brand of flies which he likes to describe as being like ''the best Scotch or wine''.
The flies wait in the grooves of large trays and have been given names like the Luv Grub and the Killer Nymph.
''You can't reinvent the bicycle, but as I say you can pimp it up and make it better.
''I suppose I look at my flies as art - it's my art.''
Ideas for some of the flies have come to him in the early hours of the morning and some have taken more than 10 years to consider.
Having been in New Zealand for the past 16 years, he said the public fishing access was an attraction that kept him here.
''I've fished in so many countries and most of it is private,'' he said, before giving evidence by way of an anecdote from Wyoming, in the United States.
While standing in a section of river which Mr Tripney thought was for use by the public, a landowner told him it was private.
Mr Tripney said ''I'm not on anyone's land,'' but the man then replied he owned the bottom of the river.
Public access is ''something that New Zealanders never want to lose ... for anybody - walkers, kayakers''.