Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Photo1: One of over a hundred caught that day. Mostly between two anglers

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Photo 2: The release, nothing feels better 

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Photo 3: Oon of our humble parachtes, after a half dozen fish is a little worse foo wear

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Photo 4: These truly are beautiful fish

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Photo 5: A fiesty rainbow explodes after the hook is set

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Photo 6: A fish rising to small dunst

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Photo 7: Springtime on the South Island

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Photo 5: The scenery is amazing

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Photo 6: David with an 8.5lb monster

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Photo 7: Setting the hook

South Island December 2001

A trip to finish our latest video saw all three of us away together for the first time in years. It turned out to be a trip to remember.

In order to complete our next video based on fly fishing in the worlds best trout fishery it was necessary to make a visit to New Zealand's South Island in early December. That was our excuse anyway. Early December is about the only quiet time that we could find and despite the fact that it was only six days we pencilled it in as ours. Most people were rushing to complete the year's work, or were engaged in office parties or family obligations as Christmas approached as we set off for the airport. The weather forecast delivered us bad news as the plane approached touchdown and we learnt that the entire South island was close to being underwater.

A metre of rain in some catchments, floods, devastation across the majority of the South Island. Four hours later we arrived at the Grey system to find our favourite small streams up to a kilometre wide with massive boulders rumbling as they rolled downstream and the road being breached in places by the water. Rain lashed the windscreen and some serious conversations took place, the bad news being that we had driven four hours north of Christchurch and it was now five in the morning. A decision was made and we all agreed we would live or die by it.

Continuous driving in shifts soon saw us pass Christchurch and continuing on heading south towards Twizel the rain stopped and the storms appeared to be sticking to the alps. This looked promising. While the south was also underwater there existed a possibility of some reasonable weather in the central part of the island. Taking the chance we left some clear rivers in the vicinity of Twizel in search of one that we knew would be clear as it was a tailwater, its source from deep down in a lake as clear as could be imagined. A few more hours of driving and we arrived to find something that looked very inviting. A tailwater at close to minimal flow, sort of like the Goulburn in winter. The only other car at the river was that of a guide, a good sign that we had made the right decision. And yes it was clear.

The first afternoon was experimental, various fly patterns and techniques were tested until fish were consistently being caught. Fortunately a weak dun hatch was in progress throughout the day and our small parachute flies proved very much to the trout's liking. This imitation was preferred to all all local patterns like the 'wee' Adam's and a Twighlight Beauty. To cut a long story short on the first full day of fishing we caught and released over one hundred fish. They varied from 2lb to 4.5lb. This huge feast of casting, striking and releasing left us gobsmacked as these phenomenal New Zealand rivers.

The following day turned foul with a howling wind making even short casts difficult and the surface of the stream whipped so that no fish could see a dry fly. The addition of a nymph did the trick. A flash of silver through the broken surface was enough. Set the hook on another 3 pounder. Once again we changed flies after numerous fish fell to the #16 flashback pheasant tail, always preferring to try something new.

Day three we sought a clear trophy stream, once again unaffected by rain due to its catchment. The mid to upper sections contain fish from 6 to 12lbs in weight. Polaroiding was possible, but only just and a number of large browns were cast to but spooked. Then coming across a favourite glide Antony made mention of a fish that he had been chasing here last February. It looked about 8lb and lived right under a particular section of undercut bank. That was enough for David. He sat on it for half an hour, in the rain and wind before seeing a tiny dimple rise.

Needless to say Dave's presentations were ignored until the same tiny dun passed over the rise about three quarters of an hour later. The take was just another ring on the water until the strike set the hook. The fish charged downstream under the bank and raced down the run to the sound of twanging tippet which just happened to hold the fish from continuing on down and out of reach across a deep pool. A long slugging battle ensued until Dave subdued it enough for Geoff to net. The fish was too big for the weighnet, as they often are in this river and a careful head first entry was made, a fair chunk of it still out of the net.

Eight and half pounds of muscle and bone on a #16 dun, 5lb tippet and a 5 weight rod. A testament to Dave's skill. Despite seeing a few more were hooked and we left content with our efforts.

The next day we fished the upper Mataura. These fish were hard to catch, often sitting in at the bottom of the pools and once aware of the fly fisher's presence, refused to leave but also refusing to take anything offered. The only thing top then do was to move onto the next fish. They could be really frustrating! The higher levels and slightly discoloured water meant that fish weren't looking up and feeding, but they could be seen taking nymphs through the polaroids.

As evening advanced the fish started to rise and soon we were into them. Antony saw two fish and got them both (the light was too poor to film so he was allowed few casts!) the best a fish over five pound. David saw the one and managed to get it as well, a lovely brown that according to the weighnet went 6.25lb. Geoff however caught four fish that half an hour evening session. The first a 5lb'er, two of about 6lb and finally a fish close to 7lb. Arguably the best evening rise session in a lifetime.

The following night Geoff and David were out again but the rain, hail and snow could be seen marching its way down the valley toward us. We had to jump in the car and drive to stay ahead of the cold front. Fortunately a brief session at one of the convenient public accesses on the way back to base saw them land three fish each. The first caught was weighed in at 5.5lb and was the smallest of the session. Was this fly fishing Nirvana? Arguably so, how much better could it get?

The last day we fished the tailwater that we started the trip on. With kind permission of Whetu, our new Kiwi friend who showed us great hospitality, inviting us into his home and providing us with permission to fish the glorious river that runs by his back window. That day we must have caught another thirty fish and didn't get off the water until late despite getting saturated.

The long drive to Christchurch went pretty quickly and we made it with plenty of time to spare for our 6am departure. Despite the relatively short duration of the trip we were all refreshed yet exhausted ;-)) and were already planning the next foray to this wonderful part of the world. I think we leave in about three weeks!



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