Central Otago and let the mystery begin

When we all think of New Zealand fishing our first thoughts go towards the backcountry. Remote, isolated fishing for large fish in crystal clear water. The epitome of our sport. And xxxxxx offers some of the best.

As well as mountain rivers, there are lowland rivers, and some of the most great lake fishing.

The xxxxx River

This is one of the first back country rivers I fished in NZ. It has a high reputation. I recommend it as a good river to 'cut your teeth' (whatever that means). The tramping is easy, the fishing is excellent, and if you are lucky like I was, you could end up with the whole valley to yourself (although don't expect it). It is a large(ish) river offering sight fishing with large nymphs and dries, typical boots and shorts fishing. The sandflies can be atrocious. Access is through the xxxxxx xxxxx Station and is generally forthcoming. Both browns and rainbows are present averaging about 5lbs.

xxxxx Burn

A much smaller river than the xxxxx, flowing into the same end of Lake xxxxx. The fishing is ok. Lots of rainbows, but 'small', being about 3 lbs (so it kind of sucks by NZ backcountry standards). There are two access tracks up this river; a high water track, and a low water track which crosses the river every 50 yrds or so. It's mainly upstream nymphing. It's good fun and you can expect to catch lots of fish. xxxx xxxx near the mouth holds some very large fontinalis (I've heard).

You can cross a summit from the top of xxxxx burn and come down into the xxxxxx, which has some good fishing. Near xxxx burn is River xxxxx which fishes best in the upper reaches, but the fish spawn late, and therefore the fish can often be in poor condition (or so I'm told).

Lake xxxxx

This lake holds a monster! Not some mythical creature of the deeps but a real live one of flesh and blood. Must be 25lbs. There we were, Camo-Guy and I, sitting in rubber dingy, peering over the side into about 25ft of water, looking at the fish, as you do, when lo! I saw the monster. Of course we fished very hard after that, and my Camo-Guy actually had a strike, and we thought it was the fish, but it wasn't it was only a small fellow. ("Tough luck dude")

Anyway the fishing can be quite good. The mouth of the xxxxxx is a bit of a hotspot. As is xxxxx. Some good fishing for quinnat salmon is found hereabouts as well, also check out the xxxx near xxxxxx.

For techniques try dries and small hare's ear nymphs for sighted fish, and damsel nymphs and rabbit lures blind. An intermediate line can be useful at times.

The xxxxxx River

This river holds a good head of trout in the 4 to 5 lbs bracket. And is good fishing, but a little unstable. The road follows much of it so you would have thought the access would be easy. It's actually a bit of a pain in the arse. But worth the fence jumping and bush scrambling to get there.

The xxxxx River

This is a great little river, offering some first class fishing. It's 'boots and shorts' fishing, using dries and nymphs for sighted fish. There are plenty of runs and pools and obstructions to make life interesting. The best fishing is in the middle reaches. The upper reaches are fished very hard by guided helicopter trips, making the fish very spooky and quite exceptional. Numbers are up due (I assume) to regular catch and release, which would be a good thing if the fish weren't on the small side. So it's a bit atypical.

Actually if you are an independent fly fisher, you should fish this stretch as it's a bit of an eye-opener. You can see why NZ has this reputation for providing difficult fishing when all many international anglers get to see is the hard-fished side of the coin. Truth be told NZ offers very straightforward fishing for some particularly crass fish. 10lbers, 4 years old, never before seen an artificial fly, perhaps not even a person. Believe me such fishing exists, and it ain't hard!

One other thing: it may be of interest that when I fished this upper xxxxx stretch one of the helicopters was returning downstream. And when he saw me, he decided to fly very close to the stretch of river upstream of me. I can only assume this was to spook the fish.

The xxxxx River

You can traverse a saddle and walk into the xxxxx River from the xxxxx River. It is quite a popular tramping trail, and apart from early in the season when you'll need ice-axe and crampons (Oh yes, you take your fishing seriously when you carry these babies with you: "where are you off to?" "I'm going fishing") pretty straightforward. Anyway the xxxxx is a formerly fantastic river, slowly recovering from devastating 1994 floods.

The lower reaches are a bit big and slow moving for my tastes, but contain some large fish (had a trophy fish down there one time). The middle section upwards is gorgeous, and has great backcountry style fishing.

The xxxxxx Stream which joins the xxxxx River has some great fishing.

One last point regarding this river; the track and the first hut you come to are on opposite sides of the river, which is fine unless it rains. You can get stuck quite easily. I did.

In order to get to the xxxxx you will have to cross the xxxxxxx. This is possible above the xxxxx-xxxxxx confluence. There is a route for the hard minded, serious hiker, which will take you out from this river into the xxxxxx Valley (which has some good fishing). From there you could drop onto the xxxx-xxxx track, then over to the xxxxxx. Basically you could end up on a (mysterious) hiking holiday as opposed to a fishing one.

Lake xxxxxx

Quite an exciting lake this, with varied opportunities. There is some good fishing to be had at all the river mouths (there always is, every lake offers good stream mouth fishing the world over). Another good place worth trying is the xxxxx outlet just around from xxxxxx. Skated caddis patterns work well during the late evening.

xxxxxx River

This river has a very high reputation. Unfortunately it is now 'heavily' fished: you will meet other anglers. There is no doubt that this will affect your fishing, backcountry fish are even less tolerant of human contact than backcountry anglers (and that is saying something).

Still, you might be lucky. The lower xxxxxx has some good fishing, but access is quite difficult, although the river does open out at the xxxxx/xxxxx confluence. The mid-section is very gorgy, but if you can get down to the river it is often worth the effort, the average weight is about 6lbs. Rainbows seem to dominate. The largest rainbow I have ever seen in a river was spotted in this section. We estimated it at 15lbs. We didn't catch him, although the friend I was fishing with (Camo-guy, in fact this was where we first met; he wasn't a Stealth Master back in those days and was quite easily spotted wearing his green and yellow long-johns) met an angler a few months later, who found the fish surface feeding: he hooked it on a very small dry, and immediately got broken. So it's still there!

Talking of 'big' fish; often you hear it said (and I've heard it said about this river many times) 'I saw this enormous fish beside a log... and then the log moved'

Anyhow, the best fishing is on the upper-reaches, where the river levels out. There are many fish and if you're lucky enough to be there on your own, good fishing is assured. With this in mind the best time to fish this river is in November, before the crowds. There are several ways of linking the xxxxx into a longer hike (here we go :-)):

  • xxxxx-xxxxx: You could traverse a saddle and link into the upper xxxxx river, which has good fishing

  • xxxxx-xxxxxx: By leaving the river at xxxx you can walk down the xxxxxx river to the xxxx Lake

  • xxxxx-xxxxxx: A very popular track, not very good fishing though

xxxxx River

A good river well known for it's brown trout fishing. But of course there are still plenty of rainbows around.

Fishing around xxxxxx

As well the xxxxx and xxxxx rivers there are some other places worth looking at:

  • xxxxxx Lake: enjoyable fishing for brown trout, damsel nymphs are a killer

  • xxxxxxxx Creek: hey I like this river! Small and challenging for some brown trout. The evening rises can be quite exciting. However during midsummer the river actually flows fairly warm, because in order for the water to reach the creek it must first flow through a shallow lake, and then it's not worth fishing.

  • xxxxx and xxxxxx rivers: are a bit unstable, but provide some fishing

  • Lake xxxxx: the xxxxx as well as having some exciting trout fishing offers Quinnat fishing (2-3lbs is a big one). Rabbits work well.

Hill lakes around xxxxxx

xxxx Lake: Great fishing for browns only, dries and small nymphs fished to sighted fish. Try to work out their territory and intercept them. The best fishing seems to be under the trees on the xxxxx: climb the trees and winch the flies down. Great fun!

xxxxxx Lake: Interesting, challenging fishing for browns using small dries and nymphs cast to visible fish. You can fish this entire lake in less than half an hour! The browns in these lakes average about 2.5 to 3lbs

Lake xxxxx: is a wonderful lake holding rainbows and browns. During the summer they can be seen leaping out the water to knock damsels on the wing. The male damsels in NZ are red, not blue, either have a close copy or try a Royal Wulff (Uggh!)

Lake xxxxx: trout fishing and some large perch, but not particularly scenic. More interesting, perhaps there is a short triathlon here! (Yeah technically you may be able to work some of this stuff out :-))

Rivers xxxx and xxxxx:

Used to be famed, but now it's hard to find many fish. But worth daytrips

Lake xxxxx:

This lake holds 30lbs plus trout. Unfortunately the size of some of these fish are a bit artificial since there is an underwater observation tower where you can look at these fish (interesting way to spend a couple of hours) where they are fed on trout pellets. These fish make their way over to xxxx for spawning. So if you are in desperate need to catch a 30 pounder that's where to head.

Good fishing to be had down the xxxx when the fish are on Cicada (I am told). Also check out xxxx just off the main highway: it's usually good for a fish. The xxxxx is one of my favourite places. It always provides something in the way of sport. Try casting damsel nymphs on a floater off xxxx and work your way back alongside the railway carriages ('huh?').

xxxxxxx River

Some nice rainbow trout fishing for rainbows in the 4lb mark. They jetboat this river: so there's your entertainment, and you are theirs.

Lake xxxxx

I spent quite a while on this lake 5 years ago, whilst picking apples in xxxxxx (I had run out of money, believe me I wouldn't pick apples for any other reason, well no more than a couple at any rate). The Lake was fairly recent then. It is man-made (as is Lake xxxxx incidentally) and is for hydro-electric purposes. Built by damming the xxxxx River just above xxxxx. Because of the massive catchment to this lake it can colour up quite badly in inclement weather and take a while to clear. Also even though it is a lake there is a steady flow through it, which you can watch. The fishing can be very good. Although the xxxxx appears to be the most consistent. Try fishing damsel nymphs. There are plenty of 5lbs plus browns amongst the willow trees and some much bigger. Rainbows tend to be taken over deeper water, and have something like a 4lb average. Canoeing amongst the trees is fun (you can rent them from the top of xxxxxx).

Good fishing can also be found off the cliffs on the xxxxx. Once again try damsel nymphs or perhaps muddlers.

Take care when using a rubber dingy (this is an unexpected twist). One eventful trip Camo-Guy and I hit a submerged barbed wire fence at speed, ripping open the hull and puncturing both inflation chambers. Being particularly unlucky this happened on the other side of the lake and so we hardened adventurer types decided we could make it back. Luckily we had an inflation pump which we (actually I) used for the entire journey to keep us in air, whilst the other hardened adventurer type (Camo-Guy) used the drogue to bail the boat whilst steering. We made it (just) and celebrated long and hard in the pub that night.

The xxxxx River

This river is immense. You cannot ford it at any point. It is the largest river in NZ and has the sixth highest flow rate of any river in the world. Every river which feeds xxxxx, xxxxx and xxxxx ends up flowing in this river, and many of these rivers are a bitch to ford. Frankly it is, to use a favourite kiwi expression, awesome. And as such it is really difficult to fish. But it can be done.

During the day try fishing with goldhead nymphs or mini-lures on a HiD line. Cast upstream and across and immediately mend upstream: you have to get deep. Throw lots of slack and expect takes when the whole lot tightens up. During the evening the sedge hatch can be excellent. Fish the skated sedge down and across. I quite enjoy fishing this river above Lake xxxxx.

Lake xxxx Near xxxx on the xxxxx River

I'm not really a lake fisherman, but Lake xxxxx is worth a visit when the cicadas are flying. No huge fish, but loads of them (Alun Lovell)

xxxxx Lake and the xxxxx River

There are two xxxx. The xxxxx is my favourite. Although it used to have a 15lb average (bigger than xxxx) and although they used to fish using live mice (!) the fish are now much smaller. Both browns and rainbows exist, 5lbs being fairly good. You can stalk the browns beneath the trees using nymphs and dries. The most popular part is where the xxxxx river enters the top of the lake. Excellent fishing can be had here using damsel nymphs. The runs are spectacular: the water is only 4 or 5 ft deep. Don't bother fishing here over Xmas. There is a DoC campground which gets hectic.

The xxxxx above the xxxxx holds a few large fish. Between the xxxxx holds a good population of fish, and just below the xxxx is also reasonable fishing, if I remember correctly. (Does it matter?)

The xxxxx flowing out of xxxxx was an awesome fishery with excellent rainbows and some fairly mean brown trout, but it got trashed big time by the local floods, I'd leave it for a season or two, but like xxxxx forget it around Christmas, it is only worth looking at from xxxxx upstream. (Alun Lovell)