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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Seven pound brown taking the stimulator after it has passed downstream of him
Seven pound brown taking the stimulator after it has passed downstream of him

Rohan with the fish pictured above
Rohan with the fish pictured above

Antony with a lovely brown that also took a Royal Stimulator
Antony with a lovely brown that also took a Royal Stimulator 

Dun hatches were a nightly occurrence and they weren't sma
Dun hatches were a nightly occurrence and they weren't small

Small creek that most who visit New Zealand would not bother to fish
Small creek that most who visit New Zealand would not bother to fish

Fish in these rivers are extremely difficult to see ! ;-)
Fish in these rivers are extremely difficult to see ! ;-)

Typical sized fish. A brown about 3 1/2 pound
Typical sized fish. A brown about 3 1/2 pound.

Lake fish on its first run on the way to the backing. Note the flats ideal for sight fishing.
Lake fish on its first run on the way to the backing. Note the flats ideal for sight fishing.

Once again fish were tough to spot. These rainbows were vary wary
Once again fish were tough to spot. These rainbows were vary wary.

Rohan looks well pleased with this lovely rainbow
Rohan looks well pleased with this lovely rainbow.

Another typical rainbow. In one afternoon over 40 were caught and released
Another typical rainbow. In one afternoon over 40 were caught and released.

A gorge fish doing his thing !
A gorge fish doing his thing !

South Island : Flood time Options

We 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.

Desperate Plans
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 returned.

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.

Unheralded Rivers
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 was likely. 

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 Browns
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.

Lake Polaroiding

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 special.

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 that is.

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.

Last Word

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 not to.



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