Monthly Archives: March 2013

New Zealand trip March 2013


I’d missed my ABC radio – local and national. The imported second hand Japanese Subaru radio I’m sure would work just fine in downtown Tokyo – but in a hire car on the South Island of New Zealand it just picked up static, let alone local radio of any sort. My priorities on my late night return to Australia were to reinforce domestic bliss, make sure the dog and the cat remembered me, iron a shirt for my 6 am flight to Melbourne, and then slip back into my ABC radio listening routine. Returning from Melbourne that evening I duly clicked on ABC as I left the airport car park straight into a panel debate on happiness….

One of the audience, a Nigerian born lady eloquently explained said she’d lived in the UK, Australia, Denmark and Nigeria and that the happiest people she’d come across were in Nigeria (the poorest country) – and that she’d never seen a single person smile in Denmark despite living there for four years – even though Denmark apparently rates top in international surveys on happy countries. I desperately wanted to phone in and say “come fishing in New Zealand”, I can guarantee you happiness! You wondered where this was going didn’t you?

So, Steve and I set off on our trip 2 weeks ago, heading into a stable weather pattern almost never seen in the land of the long white cloud, and chock full of optimism. I’d explained to him how I did my trip.  Fly to Christchurch, pick up the hire car, drive west towards Arthurs Pass and camp at the first lake I came to – either Lynden or Georgina – fish, chill, and then head to the west coast the following morning. Then drive 2500 to 3000 kilometres over the next 10 days fishing and camping along the way. Some rivers, some natural lakes, and some irrigation/hydro lakes in the high country. “At the end you’ll need a holiday”.

Our first night planned camping and fishing, bizarrely, was washed out. We got to Lynden and could hardly see it. Typical NZ late summer day blowing its proverbial off with fog and lashings of rain. “Plan B” kicked in and we headed back to Springfield to find some digs, slept like innocents and then headed to Brunner via Greymouth the following day.

It was Steve’s first visit to NZ so he took in the scenery as we wound our way down Arthurs Pass whilst simultaneously making the odd colourful comment about the skill NZ truck (and car) drivers demonstrated in being able to see around blind corners as they went flat maggot past sedentary camper vans.

So here’s the potted itinerary and fishing report:

Lake Brunner.  The lake was very low, way down from its high tide mark – like beach fishing. We stayed in a great “bach” at the Mitchells. Fishing tough to very spooky browns that appeared focussed on chasing bullies wherever a small creek ran into the lake. Small epoxy fish pattern turned out to be the most aggressively attacked pattern. Plenty of fish to spot and cast to. Best fish on a cicada pattern to a sighted cruising fish as it came out from under the trees onto the sand. Walked up the Orangipuku river and found a long deep pool with a single 7 lb plus brown cruising. One cast of the cicada as it swam towards us from over 20 metres away. Spotted the fly accelerated towards it and sucked it down. Bizarrely bumped into Stan on the lake (regular at Frying Pan and Buckanderra).

Whataroa. Fished the Waitangitaona River near the white heron colony. Very low flow. Saw fish but no cigar. Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. Great scenery and a few nice rainbows. Smelt patterns, smallish nymphs. Diamond Lake. Small rainbows and the odd good brown.  Bizarrely (2) bumped into Andrew – a mate from WA.  Greenstone and Caples. Hiked a couple of hours up the Caples from the bridge. Saw one big brown and one rainbow to fish to (got a great video of that effort Very low flow. Then walked down the river from the Greenstone car park bridge to the lake, very braided and no pools at all.  Lake Wakatipu was spectactular. Schools of salmon crashing around 200 metres or so offshore.  Walked into Lake Sylvan from the Routeburn for a quick look. Still beautiful!

We stayed in the Glenorchy Hotel which is pretty much the only option this far up the valley unless you want to drive the extra 50 kilometres from Queenstown every day. The motel/backpackers/hotel all feels a bit tired – the kind of tired you see when there isn’t much competition but it was still nice.  This stage of the trip wasn’t too productive from a fish perspective and we put that down pretty much to water levels. With lower than normal terrestrial food input the fish were lean and scarce, and low water levels made spooking fish all too easy. One of the things we hadn’t really thought about was that “stable weather pattern” meant not much rain and in a country where both river and lake fish are used to regular influxes of terrestrial tucker this would have an impact.

I made a few calls and Rod and Isles let slip they’d been catching fish on the Mataura.  So the next morning we set off for a 350 kilometre day trip. Isles who farms nearby agreed to take us to a likely spot, which he did, and we fished a couple of kilometres of beautiful water in a howling easterly with heavy cloud cover.  Not ideal, we saw plenty of fish but were nearly always too close.  They didn’t spook easily which was good – but after a while we figured that’s because they’re tame!

After that we stayed in Clyde for a couple of nights and headed for Manorburn –  always my favourite lake and the main reason I go – to fish cicadas on the tussock lakes.  Finally, some cooperative fish.

With three days to go we headed for Lake Ohau. I spoke to the station manager and got permission to drive into the top of the lake but didn’t really need to. The lake level was down a long way and the foreshore was pretty accessible from the road. The fish were patchy but there, and we had a good day, mainly on midges, nymphs and smelt patterns.

For our final days fishing we fished Lynden and Georgina.  They looked great when we got there and I had the best fishing of the trip, starting with a cracking 4 lb brown that fought like a Trojan – and some fat and fit rainbows. Both these lakes are full of weed and the fish were well really fed.

We’d stocked up on all sorts of flies before heading off. In the end, a few cicadas, fur-and-feather smelt patterns, and the usual range of nymphs and midges did the trick.  Despite some serious flogging of streamers and woolly buggers in the big lakes and flicking around blow flies in the shallows – both of which normally bring results – this time it was a waste of time.  Tactics, flies and retrieves were typically Australian-style. Maybe, just maybe the fact the country was declared in drought after the lowest period of rainfall on record had something to do with that?

If you read to the end here’s one of the projects I’m involved in at the moment so the lakes are getting a bit of a break: The Australian

Another top trip, recommend it to anyone.

Tight tippets!



Fly Fishing and Accommodation in Adaminaby