South Island : Flood
pound brown taking the stimulator after it
has passed downstream of him
with the fish pictured above
with a lovely brown that also took a Royal
hatches were a nightly occurrence and they
creek that most who visit New Zealand would
not bother to fish
in these rivers are extremely difficult
to see ! ;-)
sized fish. A brown about 3 1/2 pound.
fish on its first run on the way to the
backing. Note the flats ideal for sight
again fish were tough to spot. These rainbows
were vary wary.
looks well pleased with this lovely rainbow.
typical rainbow. In one afternoon over 40
were caught and released.
gorge fish doing his thing !
have all gone on fishing trips when conditions aren't
conducive to success. This is the story of one such trip.
Weather maps were scrutinised
over and over. The fact that Mick (Jonah) McBrien had
decided to join us on the trip that very same day couldn't
have caused it. Surely weather such as this takes days,
possibly weeks to build up. Regardless of how it happened
the fact of the matter was it had; and we had to make
some tough decisions. Many phone calls resulted in confirmation
of our worst fears. Our destination was under a metre
of water and fishing was out of the question. Our would
be host Len Prentice said rather emphatically, don't
come and Will Spry's advice via email of cancel your
trip was less than heartening. Follow up calls to the
airline confirmed that we could not change our tickets
allowing us the luxury of going to Tasmania instead.
We were now committed, like it or not.
First thing to do was look at a good map coupled
with weather reports. Well the north part of the South
Island certainly wasn't getting the rain that the central
and southern regions were. This was encouraging considering
the North Island was copping it too. We started running
the finger north west of Christchurch penning an imaginary
route from our first point of call. Many rivers looked
likely in the area now under scrutiny but none were
as famous or celebrated. I mean how do you compare the
Mataura with the Maruia or the Oreti with the Grey.
We didn't have too many options though and this was
starting to look quite good. Many of the rivers in the
region had quite steep catchments and so we reasoned
that they would drain down as quickly as they came up.
A phone call to Nelson legend Tony Entwhistle gave some
legitimacy to the plan and once again the confidence
The weather was typically typical. We arrived at
midnight greeted by sleet and an icy wind. Driving through
the night not wanting to waste a second of the
14 days up our sleeve we stopped at the first main river
before Lewis' Pass. The acid test. Four anglers frozen
to the bone made their way across the slippery boulders
utilising the dull torch light only to find that the
river was ...crystal clear. It all seemed so impossible.
The first river we decided to fish was the Maruia.
Upon approaching the local farmer we were surprised
to see his bemusement at being asked permission to fish
this water. 'No worries, mate. But dunno why you'd wanna
fish here. Only one person has fished it all season!'.
The first bank we peered over had a backwater containing
a fish that would have gone well over 12 pound. The
others settled into fooling this fish and seeing I was
no longer needed ( too many cooks spoil the broth and
all that ) I snuck off upstream. Venturing no more than
30 metres upstream a feeder creek joined the river.
Liking the chances of seeing more fish in here (due
to the wind on the main river) I snuck along its edge
finding a fish of about 4 pound almost immediately.
After about 10 minutes of fishing to it, it slid off
downstream quite aware of the intruder above lurking
with intent.Continuing further up while the boys fished
at the monster I came across a good pool about 20 metres
long by 4 wide and 3 feet deep . Careful stalking to
a point perhaps midway along its length revealed 3 fish
cruising and nothing under 6 pounds. This was to be
the way on this water for the rest of the morning. Tricking
a fish in the smooth waters of the pool was near on
impossible but find one in a glide or run and a take
Before too long the boys
caught up with me and joined in the fun. A lovely fish
was spied in a run no more than knee deep swinging to
and fro dining on the numerous nymphs coming down the
current. Maybe 50 casts were made with the Stimulator/Nymph
rig before some reaction from the fish. But what a reaction,
turning in full view to
take the dry after it had passed over him. A short
but stubborn fight ensued which at its end would see
Rohan proudly displaying the trout for the cameras before
gently releasing it. It went 7 pounds
Browns, Browns and more
We continued to fish rivers in the immediate vicinity.
Finding your feet in a new area is pretty important
and who wants to leave good fishing on the chance of
maybe finding equally good fishing elsewhere. Many of
the feeder creeks that ran into this system were small
streams being between five and eight metres wide. In
local terms the Rubicon is not a bad comparison. One
afternoon following a dirt road off the highway adjacent
to one of these creeks we stopped for a quick reconnoitre.
No rods were allowed and we were to meet back in 10
minutes. At least an hour later we met back at the car
to get our gear and divide the water. That afternoon
only a few fish were photographed most having broken
off the angler or spooked due to some mistake on the
fisherman's part. Small beetle and dun patterns proved
successful and sometimes up to 100 drifts were needed
before the fish took. The smallest fish went 4 pounds.
An unlikely source of angling
advice came from the local service station owner. I
say unlikely because he was newer to the area than us
having just taken over at the helm. He told us that
the local guide takes a lot of his clients up to this
lake that it was about two hours walk. Now this sounded
good. Local guides use it and its a two hours walk when
the fishing by the road was superb. This could be quite
Day packs were organised
and a walk in with lunch and a five weight each. The
track was quite easy going and ran along a ridge above
a river, through native forest most of the way. Springs
trickled down the cliff face along one side of the track
enabling a brief cool down stop as often as needed.
Breaking through the final patch of scrub to view the
lake was just amazing. The far side was sheer mountains
covered in Beech forest dropping into reasonably deep
water not unlike Dee Lagoon. But this side was slightly
more interesting to the flyfisher. It had shallow sandy
flats extending up to 100 metres out before dropping
off into deeper water. This lake was surely constructed
for the polaroiding of trout.
Before we could even slip
waders on the first cruising fish was seen. A mad scramble
to get ready ensued and before too long we were spreading
out along the shore. Having mountains all around it
was well protected from the wind having only a faint
ruffling of its surface. Coupled with a bright blue
sky we were in a sight fishers paradise. The method
was simple. Wade into a likely spot and wait. Fly ready
to cast, line stripped out at your feet. Once a fish
was in sight wait until he cruised in to about 75 feet
away and then cast well ahead. When I say well ahead
I mean 20 feet! Anything closer than about 12 feet and
they spooked. Long leaders and small dry flies brought
about superb action from very fit rainbow trout in the
3 - 6 pound class. Every fish fought like it was on
steroids and seeing 100 metres of backing disappear
was a common sight. Double hook ups and screaming reels
really are the most striking memories of the place,
that and 6 pound rainbows eating dry flies in full view
Gorge Fish: the Challenge
New Zealand being a relatively
young landmass is very mountainous. Rivers cut paths
through soil and rock finding their way from mountains
to sea. The one thing you will encounter on most rivers
somewhere along their length in this country is gorges
and their legacy; gorge fish.
These trout are definitely
a different species. I mean we all know trout are extraordinarily
dumb but this has been made up for in other areas. For
instance they have incredible eyesight in that they
can see movement from quite a way off causing the careless
angler ponder to his woes, that's if he even knows a
trout was there at all. They have a fantastic ability
to detect underwater sound or vibrations a fact highlighted
when the trout you have carefully spent 15 minutes stalking
in its blind spot suddenly takes off when you accidentally
scrunch the gravel beneath your felt soles. Sounds hard
doesn't it? Multiply this by about 100 and you have
the average gorge brown trout.
These guys sit at the bottom
of 'impossible to gauge the depth of' pools and take
nymphs all day. And not just that they spook at the
slightest thing. Two occasions I relate from this trip
highlight this. The first instance was when my spotter
who had only his eyes over the edge of the bank with
his hand over them to shade the sunlight, like the brim
of a cap, spooked a rather large brown. He was calling
the shots for about 10 minutes. No problem. I had worked
into a position below ready to cast and was not visible
to the fish being so far back and low to the water.
The spotter moved his hand maybe two inches across his
brow and the fish took off. I have never elsewhere seen
fish so touchy. The second time was that same day when
it was my turn to fish. The spotter was above again
calling the shots, this time not having the luxury of
shielding his eyes! I was ready, line stripped off the
reel, he called the shot, I rolled my hand into the
back cast and the fish disappeared. The movement could
not have been more than 8 inches with a dull rod and
line, 70 feet back from the fish and low to the water.
While it must be said this fish was a lot deeper than
the first and as such would have had a much bigger window
to see out of. All things considered these are some
of the toughest fish around.
These were the worst floods
in 75 years on the South Island. A years rain fell in
the space of a week. Many rivers are still suffering
from it and will continue to do so for a few seasons
(eg. the Mataura and its nymph life). However armed
with good maps and some research you can take a leap
of faith and make the best out of a catastrophic situation
and find trout when everybody else looks for a reason