Where the bloody hell are you?

Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu turquoise after the Dart River landslip

….and why weren’t you there? Well, after 3 weeks on the road it’s nice to be sleeping in my own bed and eating greens again. I love travel (especially when fishing) but when you do it as an itinerant it’s not always easy to plan a proper diet. The annual NZ safari started on 31 January with 9 nights and days to catch my quota and satisfy the beast (a somewhat work-shortened trip). I set off full of good intentions about blogging my way around and carried the laptop everywhere but there were two barriers. First, by the time I got off the water at night all I wanted was food and sleep. And then on the occasions when I had the urge to scribble a story there was no Wi-Fi – either that or it was so slow and it have been easier with carrier pigeons. I’d even invested in a SIM card and some mobile data but getting a 3G signal was virtually impossible outside major town centres – and even then it didn’t always play. Whinge, whinge I know but I needed an excuse for the editor for being slack.

(Sneaky next year promo http://nakedtrout.com.au/stuff/new-zealand-cicada-fishing/)

Rod Onslow Brown

Rod’s Onslow Brown


We had a great trip. Awesome. 9 nights, seven different beds, 10 lakes, 6 rivers, 44 fish (me). The most intense fishing to browns, willow grub feeding on the Waikaia River – and taking a size 18 gnat; the most exciting a rainbow lost on a cicada-day on Manorburn Reservoir after a torpedo take and spectacular aerial acrobatics (Sochi would have been in awe) as I struggled helplessly to keep control from a rock platform 5 metres above water level. The fish was always going to win.

I think this will be the last year I fly into Christchurch. When I started doing this a decade ago it was a lot cheaper than Queenstown but that’s all changed and there’s not really that much difference in price and Queenstown is a lot more convenient. But I do love the drive across the country and always started the trip with an evening’s fishing (just an hour from the airport) on Lakes Lyndon and Georgina, at the start of Arthur’s pass. I was travelling with Smithy, who’s 80 this year and of course he got the first fish, opening his account with a feisty 3 lb’er from Georgina. We stayed in the youth hostel and headed south the next day to a “bach” in Ohau and fished a bit of the river and lake. Then we were off to Wanaka to meet Jim and get into a few rainbows in Paddock Bay, and then some Chinook salmon in the Clutha River at the outlet van park. Paddock Bay was glassy and difficult. Plenty of cruising fish to lay a trap for, and it was a dead slow retrieve using bully patterns that accounted for all my fish – oh for a bit of ripple. I should mention I got smashed-up by my second fish of the trip in Paddock Bay (the first was in Georgina). It’s the ferocity of the blind take, the snatch that cracks the fluorocarbon – I’m still convinced it’s a bit more brittle than mono. Even now just thinking about those lost fish causes a little adrenalin rush.

Onslow Brown

Another nice Onslow fish

Rod, Bill and Kit

Bill, Rod and Kit kick back at the end of the day

We headed for Glenorchy and fished Diamond Creek and Diamond Lake, then down to Gore to catch up with Iles and Karen and some relaxed fishing on the Waikaia and Mataura Rivers. Then it was off for a fish with Kit, Phil and Bill (or more accurately a fush with Kut, Phul and Bull – in the vernacular). Three days to go and we headed up to Lake Onslow. The cicadas were going off. The water was carpeted with them and it was dry fly heaven, fishing elk hair cicada patterns, but catching more on elk hair caddis (if you can spot the difference) and neither look anything like their namesake but who cares they work really well.  The next day the same team but Manorburn – a slow day with mostly glassy calm water and a lot cooler so the cicadas never really got going; but then late in the day, after walking for miles and miles around the lake the bays where we’d parked the cars turned up a heap of fish as the wind picked up and we got it behind us. Another day at Onslow, a heap more fish, and a late night drive half way back to Christchurch and it was all over. I’ll talk about the rest of the trip Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, FSM, and Guam another time.

Anyone interested in cicada fishing on Central Otago lakes next February check out the website on http://nakedtrout.com.au/stuff/new-zealand-cicada-fishing/

Waikaia Brown

Waikaia Brown

Early morning Onslow

Early morning Onslow

Meanwhile, back at the ranch everyone’s working hard for fish in the Snowies. The heat has kept people away and put the fish down but for those putting in the effort there are still good fish to be caught. The rainbows have been scarce but this just means the big browns aren’t being harassed and come in close right on dark. Big floating or just submerged flies, beetle and mudeye patterns (especially cordulid) are doing the trick for the die hards.  Rain in the last couple of days will start to get fish in the rivers excited. For the merchants of doom and gloom I took a look at the bridge pool on the Eucumbene recently, right on dark.  Two Platypus, a water rat and dozens of small trout flipping around after the midge and caddis, harassing big dries as they drifted through the pool. Every pool on the river will be like that, and they’ll either be there or in the lake next year – in spite of the cormorants and pelicans. As I look out the window the rain is torrential – if this doesn’t make it happen I don’t know what will!

Tight tippets all


Snowy Lakes Fly Fishing Charters 0438403362 www.canberraflyfishing.com.au