Dougal Rillstone was born in Gore, close to the Mataura River, over seventy years ago. The river was both swimming pool and playground during his childhood. One summer's evening, while he stood chest deep in a long pool, facing downstream towards the fading light, he became mesmerised by the sight of rippling rings left by rising trout on the otherwise smooth surface. He has been haunted by moving water ever since.
In Upstream on the Mataura, Dougal has captured the essence of his lifelong connection with the Mataura River. While angling, and fly-fishing in particular, anchor his attachment, the book is as much a meditation on landscape and moving water as it is about angling. It is also about the communities the river runs through, the friendships sustained by fly-fishing, and a love of the river and its tributaries. The first section of the book offers a clear-eyed view of the beauty, challenges and hardship involved in his 240-kilometre walk upstream from the coast at Fortrose to the source of the river, in the Eyre Mountains. Following are twelve stories that traverse his connection with the river, from his earliest recollections through to the present time.