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The last lake mission for a while… The rivers are open!

October 3rd, 2014 1 comment

Another season has landed so I better buy my licence. The fishing has been so good on the lakes for the last while that part of me doesn’t want to leave them! I will though, I have 5 options in my head for tomorrow and the next day. Two small creeks, two medium rivers and one in between. I’ll make the call in the morning. The forecast is not great so some willow lined water to cut out glare might be the go. I know just the place…

The last 2 weekends were simply fantastic. I had one in Omarama and stayed at the magical Buscot Station Backpackers and the other right here in Cromwell. Mostly sight fishing to cruising browns over sand and silt flats. I also had decent action along willow lined edges, swampy creek mouths, steep tussock banks, weed beds and even a treated effluent outfall! (surprisingly good fishing at the latter!).

There were plenty of great moments. I want to talk about them all but I have flies to tie for tomorrow. I’ll mention one .. I spotted a good fish cruising tight to the shore along a cut bank over sand. I got into position as the fish swam into a notch in the bank. This allowed me to get close and not be seen. The notch was approximately a meter by half a meter and about half a meter deep. I leaned over until I could see the tip of his tail, careful not to make eye contact and spook him. No need to cast, I unhitched the weighted nymph and put it where it needed to be. A little jiggle and the trout’s tail gave a quick kick propelling him towards my fly and out of my sight. I struck a moment later based only on when I thought he should have eaten the fly if he did at all… though I knew he would. A great moment when I lifted into a solid 4lber. My fly was wrong, at least, not my first choice but I was all out of spiders. The fly worked because I put it where it needed to be and moved it a bit to give an otherwise very dead fly some life. It wasn’t the fly that caught the fish, more where it was and what it did that did.

Trout are known for being wily, elusive, and spooky. They are, but not all the time. I spotted a cruiser on Dunstan last weekend and made a cast to him. I let the fly sink and started to strip it away slowly. I lightly hooked his flank near the tail. The fish was briefly but solidly pulled sideways through the water. When the hook came out the fish seemed happy again and I continued to fish for him. Sometimes he looked interested so I kept fishing until he ate. I got him. After unhooking and releasing him I noticed the fly had one of his own scales on it from the brief foul hooking incident!

Check out the rainbow in the bottom row of photos. My best fish from Dunstan for ages.. She is a magnificent creature..

Ok, That’s all for now.. I must tie some flies and buy a licence!

Tight lines all and Happy Season!


Fishing on my Doorstep..

September 19th, 2014 No comments

Last weekend I stayed local, very local. I fished the water nearest the house and caught my first fish about 150m from the door. Ten fish landed and plenty more spotted for the weekend. All sighted, nymphs and spiders did the trick. Fantastic fun and great not to burn a tank of diesel!

Omarama in the morning…


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Never a Dull Moment on the West Coast!

September 9th, 2014 3 comments

Iza and I decided to hit the Coast the weekend before the whitebaiting season opened. We took the Friday off work and went over on Thursday afternoon to make the most of it. Forecast was for blue skies and light winds, Iza got a nice seatrout on arrival, the tides were just right. It seemed we were in for a great weekend.

Friday was magic. The magic hour turned out to be about 3! Trout were smashing bait on the surface. As the tide rose the fish moved in the estuary farther but they were easy to follow. In my experience over there its unusual to see trout on the top for long periods so I rarely use a floating line. I had the di5 on which was not ideal. I did not want to change to a floater for fear that by the time I went to the truck, rigged another rod and came back it might all be over. In most instances it would have been but today it continued. I put a small surface popper on the tail which held up the flies for a bit longer. A decent compromise I think! Iza had 7 on the soft plastic and I had 7 on the fly. I’m sure I’d have had more if I had a floater on. Such a fun day.. That night we ate a sea-trout, some smoky bacon and noodles. A roaring fire to keep to chill away.

On the way south on Saturday the front right wheel started to lock up, tugging at the steering and growling at me. We were near a garage so we left it there while the mechanic was away. We fished the Haast river below the bridge for a couple of hours, It was a short walk from the garage. I spotted a good fish on the edge as soon as I got to the river. First cast with a nymph the 4.5 to 5lb fish ate. I hooked him but quickly lost him. Not the reprieve I thought it was going to be..

Back to the Garage, “cant be fixed til next Tuesday” he said. We grabbed a few essentials from the truck and set off hitching before the road closed for the day. The Diana falls slip is a serious inconvenience to all my coast missions. We got home in darkness.

The following weekend we went back to get the truck with its new front right bearing. We picked up from where we left off the previous weekend. This time though there were whitebaiters everywhere and the tides were not ideal but the weather was still perfect. Its hard not to feel that your in the way when trying to fish a beach where whitebaiters are fishing. They move along the shore with their big nets at a slow pace, equally spaced apart. When they get to the end of the beach, they empty their nets into a bucket and get back into the line-up. I approached a group of them and asked if I could join the line-up. No problem at all they said, so I did. I moved along with them, they each had a net; I had a rod. The pace they move at is about the same as I do so it worked perfectly. It’s important to chat with them though, and not just bulldoze in. Etiquette applies here too and their season is short. I got one decent Kahawai from the line-up.

There is usually water that whitebaiters can’t fish that we can. Rough water, big swells, strong currents etc. Not always ideal for a flyrod, but I’ve usually been able to find something when the beach gets a bit crowded.

Day 2 and a different river mouth. Early morning during the last hour of the flowing tide came the magic hour. There were no whitebaiters working because the current was too strong but I found some swirling water off a sandy point. Amongst the swirls was some good holding water so I worked it with my di5, 12lb maxima, 8wt TCX and 2 streamer rig. I got one of around 2 lbs and then hooked a good fish which took off out into the fast flowing tidal current.. ran and ran.. way into backing.. I had to run after him. In doing so I tripped over a log and flattened myself onto the beach, line went around the rod. I picked myself up, untangled the backing from around the rod tip and the fish was still on. I was sure it was a Kahawai, had to be with a run like this.. Then it came up and rolled on the top about 60 yards away.. A trout I thought.. pretty sure. Not huge but big.. I followed him while reeling in and beached him eventually. 5.5lbs. Finally! A good one.. That was it, When the tide turned to go out it went dead and stayed dead.

The end of 2 eventful weekends on the West Coast!

This from a few weeks ago with Mark Adamson..

Pigeon and Pig island on lake Wakatipu were a good plan B after Mark and I were unable to launch the boat into a very low Diamond Lake. Over the course of the day we sight fished from the boat around the islands with some success. We also blind nymphed it and buggered it with some good results. The Greenstone mouth came to the rescue after the islands went quiet. To our surprise there were a decent number of rainbows rising to chironomid where the river meets the lake. We got 2 on dries. We also had good sight fishing in a backwater near the river.. It’s a day I’m looking forward to repeating. Lots of potential, particularly the shallow water between the islands..


ps, lots of extra photos in the slideshow at the bottom this week..



Two big sea-trout on together!

August 21st, 2014 No comments

Day 1. I arrived at the water just after the tide started to flow. I’d have liked to have been earlier but with the Haast Pass still undergoing road works after a major slip a year ago, it was the best I could do. I was the first vehicle over the pass in the morning. I read the water, formed a quick plan and then put it into action. I fished the sand bar near the river outflow and picked up two 1lbers. Then I fished the beach all the way to the surf. In doing this I realised yet another variable in coastal river mouth fishing. The water current from the river does not change direction at the same time as the tide turns to come in. The water level rises but the flow remains the same until the tide eventually overpowers the river into reverse. It took three hours into the flowing tide on Saturday and a bit less on Sunday for the current to change direction. I’m sure this varies due to all sort of things such as wind direction, moon phase, river height, the list goes on..

By the time I got to the end of the beach affected by the river, the tide had started to push a wall of coloured salt water against the river current. I walked with it fishing in it, in front of it and in the mix. I had some follows but all was quiet. I knew a chance would come sooner or later. Then, unexpectedly spotted a big trout cruising the edge. It’s unusual to spot them. I put my 2 fly rig (one tied to the bend of the other) in front of him and waited as my di5 pulled the flies into the zone. Strip, strip, strike, fish on. A solid 5lb seatrout ran repeatedly and jumped often. This was the type of fish I come to the West Coast to see. Those perfect specimens. Pure silver, fat, strong, well marked… Suddenly another fish came charging in and ate the other fly. “Player 2 has entered the arena” sprang to mind (I watched “Shaun of the Dead” recently) Player 2 promptly pulled the fly out of player 1 and then ran for the salt. Early on the first run the fly left him too. Also about 5lbs. I went from 1 fish to 2  to 1 to zero all in about two seconds. Fuck. That said I didn’t really mind because it was a pretty cool experience and I believe my first double hook up in NZ! I hoped that that was not my only chance of the day. On the coast opportunities don’t come often so you need to make the most of the ones you get. I hooked one more that day but it too got away. Also a good fish by the feel of it but I never saw it.

Day 2. I woke up where I wanted to fish. After checking around the remains of my beach beech fire for any rubbish or belongings, I rigged up. This day I had a chance to fish the bottom of the ebbing tide. It was a cold, breezy morning. I had a good feeling as I approached the beach. First cast, nothing,  second cast…solid take, very solid in fact. Then a slow, steady run…. on and on.. sometimes coming near the surface where he’d shift lots of water without breaking it, a sign of a heavy fish.  I got some line on the reel. I had another one of those reasons for coming here on the end of my line. The fight went on for a while and I had my 7wt tcx well bent in him the whole time. I recovered some line, then more.. almost to shore and ready to beach. I caught a glimpse of her, I saw the silver head of a hen fish as it made one more head shake which broke the tippet.. I put my head in my hands. I wanted to see that fish.

I’ve been fishing for almost 24 years and I’ve caught many trout. At this stage I don’t worry about losing a fish, not usually anyway. But occasionally I lose a fish that hurts a bit.. this was one. It was a large, perfect trout.. I have no doubt.

Once again I hoped that was not going to be my only chance of the day. It was early after all, I had hours to catch a fish. I was reluctant to stop for lunch in case I missed that potentially fleeting chance. I ate as I walked between locations. There was the river mouth, the rip-rap, the beach and the surf all within about 300m, so enough distance between the top and bottom of the beat to eat on the move.

I worked the spots.. I had a follow from yet another big fish from the river mouth, a yellow eyed mullet from the rip-rap, a 2lber from the beach, nothing from the surf. As the tide pushed in and changed the clear river water to tea coloured salt,  I found myself back at the river mouth. I was hoping that big follower might still be there and my luck might change.. I had a lot of casts, every one as far as I’m able. Let it down deep into the channel.. strip strip strip.. Sometimes I’d try varying the retrieve. Sometimes stripping at twice the speed with that retrieve Peter Hayes showed me in Tassie.. ( … Then a strong take, It worked! A big fish by the feel of things. A heavy, dogged fight. No big runs, just deep and slow. Over and back in front of me for quite a while. I didn’t want to push him too hard after my break off in the morning and I definitely did not want to lose another big trout. Eventually I could see my tapered leader so I was gaining on the fish. I still could not see him. I kept the pressure on. Then a flash of silver, then some colour.. Is it? Fuck. It is.. A Kahawai! Not all bad though, They are great fish to catch and to eat. Just a little disappointing when expecting a big sea-trout.

One thing I’d like to mention.. Two actually. I realised one reason not to tie a fly on to your cast by tying directly to the bend of the hook. Two fish on together can’t work! The point fly is bound to pull the other fly free. Had I tied my second fly on a dropper I may have landed both those fish. But then, if your aunt had balls she’d be your Uncle. The other thing, Umpqua 10.7lb co-polymer really let me down. When I tested it after the break off I realised it was weak. Terrible knot strength. I wont be under gunned when I’m back at the coast again very soon..


Ps.. The sand-flies were brutal and I forgot my repellent..

Back to the West Coast…

August 6th, 2014 No comments

The west coast river mouths are not an easy location to catch a fish. Time of tide is critical but it can be any time during the rise or fall. A weekend over there is simply never enough. Just when I start to get an idea of the right time of the tide to fish and where, it’s time to go home again.. Every time I go there I have to start the learning curve again. Time of year, tide, trout food and weather will be very different and most importantly, the mouths themselves change after every flood. All these variables keep it interesting, that’s for sure.

Iza and I hit the coast recently. On day 1 of our weekend we fished the hour to high tide, the entire fall of the tide and the turn. I had one little sea-trout and a decent Yellow Eyed Mullet. Iza had a little trout too. I was hoping for that magic hour but it never came. I assured Iza that her soft plastic would be even more lethal than my di7 if we could just find a few fish. She heard my trying to keep her enthusiastic many times before and I think it was wearing a little thin. She fished hard all day none the less!

On day 2 we went to a different river mouth. It was completely different to every other time I’d been there. The sand had shifted to the far side of the lagoon and all the current and depth was on the near side. I looked at it and my first thought was that its not worth fishing. The flowing tide was raging in and it was very coloured. After a coffee I had a better look and started noticing some holding water, the best of which was off the rocks right in front of the truck. I advised Iza to fish into an eye that had formed as the flowing tide passed by a rip-rap groyne. As she made her way down I had a quick cast with her spinning rod (I could not help myself) and immediately hooked a 1lber. I felt guilty for taking Iza’s fish but not for too long. Iza got one almost right away, a 4lber, then another, 5.5lbs; then another 4lber; then a 1lber. That was the magic hour! I did not get a single touch for the day and neither did Iza after landing the fourth one..

That’s how it goes. On the next visit we’ll learn it all again!

By the way, you have 4 weekends to get over there before the place is mobbed with whitebaiters for 6 weeks!


Dunstan is Firing!!

July 28th, 2014 No comments

I’m just back from a weekend on the coast where Iza caught all the fish. Before I talk about that I better mention the action on Lake Dunstan from the previous weekend. I was thinking about going back up to the central lakes but the road was closed to towing vehicles due to ice. That made it easy to make up my mind and fish Dunstan. To my surprise the fishing was excellent! Good action all day long each day. I was blind fishing with buggers around the weed beds from the Wakatipu Anglers Club boat. When the sun came out I had opportunities to jump out of the boat a sight fish the flats. There weren’t many cruisers, but I got 2 or 3 over the 2 days. Blind buggering with the intermediate was the way to go. If you’re in the area get out there!

The West Coast mission will be up later in the week… Its starting to fire over there too… sort of!


Categories: Expedition Tags: ,

This is Winter Fishing…..

July 18th, 2014 No comments

I drove the boat through coloured water and thick, freezing fog to get to where we wanted to go. Visibility was down to as little as 20 meters, but it was usually about 100. I know the lake well but the fog was very disorienting. I was searching for a specific area but not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I stopped the boat at the first sight of some weed beds. I knew where I wanted to be, but I had no idea if we were there or not!  Mark quickly drew first blood with a big 5.5lb rainbow. Before long he had another and then we drifted off the hot spot.  Trying to back track to the hotspot just didn’t work. I could not find it even though were we very close to it. Fog will do that. The drift was minimal due to little or no breeze; usually none, but there was some moving water from flooded rivers entering the lake. We haphazardly cruised along looking for more weeds while trying to keep land in sight. Without a visual it would be all too easy to get very lost. As tough as it was to find good water in the fog and murk, finding it was the only way to succeed. Therefore it was that persistence in searching that made the difference. The fog didn’t lift until well into the afternoon and then everything became clear. Our combined effort for day 0ne was 9 rainbows between 4 and 5.5lbs. We had no browns.

Day 2 started with a hard frost but there was no fog. We decided to go back to the same place. We hoped that the rivers would have dropped and cleared a bit over night and that the lake would be cleaner as a result. No such luck! Rain in the headwaters did the opposite. With the water even dirtier than the previous day, it was hard to find weed beds and the fishing started out very difficult. Mark managed 2 fast fish as per day 1 and that was it for quite a while. We used the same gear as day 1, Intermediate lines and buggers fished very slowly to match the extremely slow and delicate takes. After a while we realised the best fishing was in shallower, weedless extra dirty water. Weird. Once we cracked onto this we did well. Fewer big fish but similar numbers. At about 2pm the forecast SE change came in with a vengeance. The waves got big and messy. We braved it for an hour or so and caught a couple more fish, then moved to the shelter of a willow lined shore. I had seen some big browns under those willows while bank fishing a few weeks prior but did not catch any. I had a good feeling. Within a few minutes of starting the drift I was into a heavy, yellow bellied brown. He picked up the bugger with a tiny bit more haste than all the other fish from the weekend, but it would still be regarded as a gentle take. I don’t think I’ve ever observed such consistent delicate takes in my life; the same in both species. Every fish we hooked bar none.

Mark and I had one more each before the end of the drift and the end of the weekend. Our combined effort was 12 to about 4.5lbs. 7 rainbows and 5 browns. A total of 21 for the weekend. (11 for Mark… fucker!)

I might go back tomorrow!!


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The Tekapo Canals…

July 9th, 2014 No comments

15000 escaped salmon certainly attracts anglers! Iza and I went to fish the Tekapo canals near the salmon farms recently. The weather was perfect and there were anglers everywhere. We found our spot in the picket fence on Saturday morning but the fish did not come easily! Bait fishermen were catching a few. Iza’s soft-bait was not getting much attention and I had to pick my cast with the fly. We walked some of the the canal and got away from the masses. There were clearly a few hot-spots but we chose to have a bit of room to fish freely instead of fighting for position. Just up-stream of the cages there was not an angler to be seen. I walked and stalked from time to time and always saw a few fish, including some of the monsters up to 20lbs but these were never too far from their main food source . The smaller browns, the ones not thriving on fish-farm pellets,  were the ones I most enjoyed targeting. They were tough. Bright sun, glass calm and uniform canal edges meant anything out of the ordinary was noticed by my quarry. There were decent numbers of these 2to 4 lb browns and I have a feeling that this is a virtually unused NZ fishery. I know people fish near the cages for escapees and the pigs of trout that eat pellets, but who walks the edges to sight fish? I’m sure a few do. I will again that’s for sure.

The highlight of the trip was  hearing a loud call from Iza, I turned around thinking (and hoping!) that it was a “I have a fish” call and not a “I’m snagged” call. She was hooked up alright. I ran to her side to help her land whatever she was hooked into. The 5.5 lb salmon jumped repeatedly and fought hard but Iza kept the pressure on and before too long the fish was safely in my net. She has caught a few little fish and lost a big brown at her feet on the Waiau, but this was her first big fish hooked and landed by herself. A great and memorable moment for any angler. Its also some pressure off me!

It needs to be mentioned that these salmon farms are different to those in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and BC. They are contained in inland, man made waterways and do not appear to have any negative impact on wild trout at all. Quite the opposite in fact. Can a lesson be learned here?


Sight Fishing During the Winter Solstice…

June 24th, 2014 2 comments

The shortest day of the year had a gale in tow but the second shortest brought with it ideal sight fishing conditions. I was on Benmore. After a hard frost in the morning the sun rose over the mountain and heated things up. No cloud, no wind, perfect. There were good numbers of fish about. Some appeared to be feeding but more seemed to be cruising by default. These were very tough to catch and exceptionally spooky. The fly and method I had most success with was a size 14 lightly weighted spider, cast to a moving fish and then moved with the figure of 8. Most fish that I hooked took after following which is a little unusual. Normally a follow does not result in a take. There were a few that charged the fly and missed (or I missed!) and a couple that connected. It was a magic day on the water and I’m going back very soon!!

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A Hover of Trout!

June 12th, 2014 1 comment

The weekend before last, Chris Dore and I fished the Frankton Arm. Last year I learned that bright sun is not ideal on the Frankton Arm in winter and that stands true this year. The fishing was slow for most of the day apart from the hour between 2.30 and 3.30. We had 4 in that time slot.

Good old friendly rivalry was alive and well in the boat, 1-0 to Chris, a few hours later 1-1, Then I got a couple (I may have been dragging the line behind the boat as I slowly motored to the next drift, not trolling of course because it was…. an accident, yea.) Some dirty tactics from Chris as he snagged my fly-line almost scuppered my roll to victory. Then another, 4-1. The end score was 4-2 but we weren’t keeping score of course.

I had some good fishing to reasonable numbers of cruising fish at the head of Lake Dunstan last Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of fish about. On Sunday, Kevin and I went on a firewood mission on the Kawarau Arm on Dunstan. We found a hover of trout instead. (My brother with his vast knowledge of all things trout just informed me that a group of trout is known as a hover. Thanks Conor!) I ended up having 2 hours of really good but tough sight fishing. The dull day didn’t matter because the hill on the opposite side was high enough to cut out the glare and spot against. I’m pretty sure they were eating tiny snails, some floating. Another pleasant surprise to get good sight fishing during the worst fishing month of the year only a kilometre from the house! I remember watching Bernard Venables on the telly years ago. He spoke of “a swagger of perch”. Maybe many species have their own specific word for a school.

No fishing this weekend! Iza and I are off to watch the the All-Blacks v England in Dunedin. We’ll also be catching up with some friends. Looking forward to it!