Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Click for full size image:.
First day fish; one of over thirty
Photo1: Our first stop and four hours fishing resulted in over 30 fish to 4.5lb on the dry

 
Antony with a nice fish that took a cochybondhu
Photo 2: This fish took a Cochybondhu cast to the bank side of him. It was caught less than a full fly line from the main highway 

 
A nice Mataura brown from a sidewater off the main river
Photo 3: Goulburn edge water skills proved very useful in taking nice fish in the water everyone walks by

 
Bo with a nice 5lb brownie
Photo 4: Typical South Island scenery. A river where the fish average 6-8lb and an anglers paradise

 
Zollie with a very large brown that took a hopper pattern
Photo 5: Zollie took this fish on a hopper from the pool behind him. We messed up its companion, a bigger hen fish

 
Antony with another big brown that took a #16 Royal Stimulator
Photo 6: When Antony hooked this fish he declined the camera believing it to be about 3lb. He was only 5lb out

Bo proudly displays his biggest ever fish on the dry fly
Photo 7: Bo's best ever fish on the dry fly. It took a #16 attractor pattern when all the local guides said flies should be #10 or bigger

An Anglers Paradise

Again our trips to the South Island resulted in some outstanding fishing to some rather large trout.

It's becoming a two to three time a year trip for us but even then it's not enough. The most recent visit to the South Island saw Antony and four others head down south to chase some large fish in wilderness rivers. Despite a reasonably wet summer they found less water in them than the same time last year. Despite this they managed to fish a variety of waters with some of the Spring Creeks and 'trophy waters' a real highlight.

A Good Start

The first afternoon was spent driving and we pulled into our accommodation not long before dark. Up early next morning we continued on our way south stopping at a small stream we have often driven over on the way to other waters. Taking what we thought was a gamble we decided to spend the morning on this mystery water even after the local guide we purchased licences off told us not to bother. The first 500 metres didn't look good. Willow choked and not a fish to be seen. We both began to have second thoughts although neither of us said anything. 

Continuing on upstream the river opened up and fish started to appear. Even better, they appeared where they should. Beneath the undercut banks, in the bubble lines, in the heads of pools. Everywhere we thought there should be a fish there was and in four hours we had over 30 browns caught and released on small terrestrial patterns. Nothing gets you settled on a trip like a solid session on the first day. The fish were not large averaging 1.5-3lb with the occasional 4-4.5lb'er but we were not complaining. 

One thing should be stressed about this first session and in fact the whole trip: we walked a lot. At this location we walked 4 hours of meandering bank. When we reached end of our 'beat' we cut to the road and walked back to the car. Although it was a straight line it took nearly 90 minutes. This was to be the pattern for the entire trip with 90 minutes return being the shortest walk we did. In fact we averaged over 20 kilometres a day.

Stillwaters: Tassie Eat Your Heart Out

Until my first trip to the South Island I thought I knew what a good stillwater was. I mean I had fished Arthur's, Botsford, St. Claire, Little Pine, Dee etc. But nothing prepares you for the quality of fishing available in such abundance over there. One session in a bay on Lake Wanaka was a highlight. The bay itself was about the size of 3 M.C.G's and was only 2 feet deep with a heavy sand bottom. Wading and spotting fish a long way off was easy and most took a small Cochybondhu or Black and Peacock first cast. Screaming runs into the backing and trying to turn them before they spooked the other fish is what most stands out in my mind when recalling the day.

Other waters like Dunstan (which is on the main highway) offer exceptional early morning fishing off their high banks. Being steep sided and having a narrow shallow shelf that extends about  5 metres into the lake before it drops off makes for ideal polaroiding. Up until about 9am (before the sun comes over the hill behind you) you can polaroid dozens of fish working the edges averaging 2.5-5lb. Most fish were not very spooky and took a small soft hackle placed within 2 metres of them with no hesitation. If it was anywhere else in the world it would be famous, not to mention crowded. But this is New Zealand and they have so much of it that it hardly even warrants a mention.

Spring Creeks

There is a drain we drive over less than 3 minutes driving distance from where we stay each trip. Every season we have driven by thinking it looks just like a small Spring Creek. Well this time round while fishing the main river  we came across its confluence and decided to take a look. In the first 500 metres we found about 50 fish between 2-5lb. I won't tell you how many we caught as the number is embarrassing relative to how many fish we found. But suffice to say it was almost weed choked, slow flowing with rising fish on station. Very hard, very beautiful and we will be returning.

The Trophy Free Stoners

These are the rivers you see in the videos. You know the ones, usually found in the open exposed to the wind, gravel bottom with fish as long as your leg. Last trip we couldn't get onto this water as the guides beat us there every day. We even witnessed a fight one day between a guide with client in tow and a couple of Americans who wished to fish it. This time round we decided to beat them at their own game. The polaroiding doesn't get good here until about 11am and so 9.30 is considered getting there early as who wants to wait for 2 hours with a client for the light to be right. Well we do. Every morning that we fished it we arrived at 6.30 am to ensure we got onto it first. It was worth every uncomfortable second. The fish averaged 6-8lb with quite a few up to about 12lb. Stalking skills were of the utmost importance as it was late in the season for this river. Once a fish was found presentation was critical with the chance of taking a fish decreasing with every successive cast made. But get it right first time and a take was almost assured. 

Being able to read the water and eliminate much of it instantly was a skill we all learnt and because of this we were able to cover about 20 kilometres in a day. Learning to see fish in the different rivers takes time as the signals that give fish away are sometimes very different from water to water. Most fish were found beneath the undercut banks, on the edge of the drop offs and out in the middle of pools rising in bubble lines. This river is flood prone (as most of them are!) and there was very little in-stream debris to lose a fish on. Because of this 4lb tippets were used and only one fish was actually lost because of the line breaking. You can see some examples of fish from this river in photos 4,5,6,7. Beautiful big brown trout in perfect condition. We were 'interviewed' by the local Fisheries bloke who informed us that to his knowledge (he is there on a daily basis) only one fish had been kept that season. Quite remarkable and something we could do well to learn from. 

Summing Up

The South Island of New Zealand is perhaps the best brown trout fishery in the world. The great thing for us is that it is so close and there is so many options. The costs are relatively low and the chance of getting that fish of lifetime is great. You should all do yourselves a favour and get over there as often as you can. I know we sure try to.

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