This is the fourth and final instalment from our trip south. Thanks to Chris Dore for providing a good portion of the photographs for this entry.
We were nearly done in this particular part of the world for now. It was time to head somewhere else.
Day four saw us quietly packing up the campsite and heading back along the track at a rather sedate pace.
We stopped where a tributary stream entered the main river. Jeremy and I headed downstream with the intention of fishing back up, Jack headed upstream on his own, while Chris disappeared into the tributary with his bow.
There was a notable absence of fish in the stretch Jeremy and I fished. We didn’t see nearly as many as we expected. Despite the lack of fish Jeremy managed to catch one anyway, as he has a habit of doing. I think Jeremy is some kind of fish – catching genius. He could pull a fish from a puddle in the gutter if he tried hard enough.
Later that evening we arrived back into Queenstown and stopped off to collect our much anticipated, pre ordered Fergburger. Then we headed on up to Chris’ place where we promptly smashed our respective orders to pieces.
I’d ordered the Big Al, with fries and aioli. Looking back on it now, the fries were overkill really… in fact I knew at the time I didn’t really need to eat the whole lot, but I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness in front of my peers so I pushed through the pain barrier and finished what I set out to start.
That night I had a pretty good sleep on the couch, once a bit of time had passed and my food baby settled down a bit.
The next morning we were woken by Chris. He got up and started walking around at some ungodly hour. I don’t even think the man uses an alarm, he just wakes up.
Slowly I gained consciousness and coherency, and then Chris, Jack, and I packed the truck with our gear for yet another couple of days on the river. Jeremy stayed behind – he mentioned something about cleaning Chris’ carpet and having catch a plane in the afternoon….
The first day of phase two was taken at a leisurely pace. It was a nice change from the norm. We headed south from Chris’ place – this was to be the day Jack and I fished the mighty Mataura for the first time. I’m not usually one for saying where I fish, but I think I’ll be ok to disclose the location this time.
I felt it was very important to catch a fish on this monumental day in my fly fishing career, and thankfully I wasn’t to be disappointed. Although the insect activity was minimal that day, which made things slightly more difficult, I ended up catching a couple of fish that day, as did Jack and Chris.
I don’t know how I would have felt if I blanked on the Mataura? Probably not all that happy I suspect.
That evening we stayed at Simon Chu’s trout cottage in Lumsden. The cottage is a really cool place, reading the visitor’s book reveals that many well – known anglers have passed through over the years, and it is something of a shrine to all things fly fishing. Many thanks Simon for allowing us to stay there.
Once again the next morning it was Chris who was out of bed first, really, really early this time! He brewed the coffee though, so getting up wasn’t as difficult as it may have otherwise been. The coffee was a minor incentive to drag myself from the warmth of my sleeping bag.
As painful as it was to begin with, we needed to get away in good time to secure our stretch of river for the day. When we arrived at our destination our early start was rewarded with an empty carpark.
It was pretty fresh that morning. I guess it was a good thing we had a reasonable walk before we would start fishing and were able to warm up pretty quickly.
That day ended up being pretty tough. I managed a nice fish in the morning… but that was all for the most part. Later on I momentarily hooked and lost a couple of fish in the same run near the end of the day. This saw me nearly lose the plot altogether, I displayed some of my less refined behaviour for a few seconds there – and that was that. It was near dark when we got back to the truck, and it was time to head back for a feed. Not a moment too soon either.
Somehow between the three of us we managed to forget our lunch for the day, so we were looking forward to food. We were really looking forward to it. Luckily for us, Lumsden is the home of the Mayfly Café, and based on the evidence of that night – they make great food.
We ordered ourselves a pizza each, and we weren’t at all disappointed. In fact we were very impressed. The pizza I ate was so big that it hurt me to finish it. I still finished it though. That’s pretty good value for 15 bucks if you ask me.
The next day Jack and I had to catch a plane in the afternoon. It was time to go home. I had the pleasure of watching Jack put on his wet fishing boots at the airport for the flight home in order to bring his luggage down to the weight restriction. I was kind enough to photograph it for you all to see too…
The final hurdle after that was actually getting on the plane and taking off. The flight was delayed for over an hour, and then we had to wait for about half an hour once on board for some people’s gear to be removed… I think they got booted off or something? Who knows – it took a long time though!
Eventually I was home, and pleased to be there. Two weeks of tents and couches was enough for now. For a couple of days at least…
The season was nearly finished… but not quite. There was still time to throw a few more casts.
As always, watch this space for more to come!
The day started well…
This solid rainbow took a well weighted colubriscus after several presentations. It was the first fish we saw. I was happy.
This happiness, however, was not to continue.
Andrew and I were planning on putting some serious leg work in and heading up up up. All was going well until we concluded that the gorge was impassable, so we’d have to take the alternate route around. Quite how it happened I’ll never know, but for some ungodly reason Andrew and I found ourselves on opposite sides of the river both following what we thought was ‘the track’. As it transpires my ‘track’ turned out to be nothing more than a blaze trail put in place to get to the pest traps. It was absurdly hard going. There was no defined path, just sporadic animal tracks that all of a sudden gave way to waist high falls through rotten logs. I pushed on for longer than I should have, assuming Andrew had to be ahead of me. Eventually, after managing to injure myself in some unprecedented ways, I beat a retreat. Back at camp I wrote a message in ash on our egg carton, and decided to try and salvage something from the day. After all, it couldn’t get worse, right?
I wasn’t sure quite what section of river Andrew might be fishing or whether he was ahead of me or behind me, so I decided to try and do a deep wade to get myself into a position to fish a bit of awkward to access water. The wade was particularly deep at one point, so I decided to shimmy my way across a couple of rocks. Then all of a sudden I hear an odd noise followed by a thud. I turned, just in time to see my Pelican waterproof camera case falling from my now split bag. The image of the case hitting a rock, splitting open and my Canon G11 sinking to the bottom of the river is seared in my memory. After retrieving the camera I simply sat on a rock in disbelief.
Eventually I gathered myself, crossed the river and started slowly making my way upstream. My heart wasn’t really in it, so I wasn’t hopeful when I spotted a smudge sitting a foot from the edge. I had to sit on a log to fish to this fish, so there was a little novelty to the attempt. My first cast was perfect. My second saw the wee beadhead pheasant tail rocket into the water about 6 inches to the right of the fishes face. He ate. The fight was uneventful, but the capture of my first brownie (and quite a solid one at that) of the trip raised my mood slightly. As for the pictures, well…you get the idea.
A little after this Andrew and I bumped into each other. He commiserated with me over the demise of my camera and we commenced our assault on the river in earnest.
It wasn’t until we came to a major bend in the river that created a large swirling pool that the action heated up. Andrew pulled a good fish from the head of the pool that had been rising consistently. It was a horrible drift because of the swirling currents, but eventually the fish ate his wee nymph. It then tore madly around the pool until he subdued it.
I figured that had to be the end of that pool after the antics of Andrew’s fish. However, a fish in the far side continued to rise. It was moving a long way to feed, so it felt like all I had to do was put the cast in the right place. I did, and it ignored it. It wasn’t until near the end of the drift when the fly started to skate along the surface that the fish tore backwards and engulfed it. I’d like to have hooked it this way, as the aggression was rather neat. Sadly the hook never set. Until the next cast when my nymph got eaten. Fool me once…
It wasn’t the best conditioned fish, but it had been a while between drinks.
We continued searching upstream to no avail. Deciding to hedge our bets and head upstream fast while there was still light we skipped a lot of water. But the gamble paid off. Arriving at a pool we’d seen several fish in the day prior it didn’t take long before we’d spotted on. The fish was cruising a slow beat and inspected Andrew’s fly very closely before refusing it. All of a sudden we realised there was a second fish about 3 metres behind. I can’t remember whether Andrew had to cast again or whether he simply continued the drift, but this time his tiny nymph was intercepted. This fish fought like a trooper. A large log bisected the pool and on numerous occasions I thought the fish had made it there. But Andrew fought it hard and there’s only so long a fish can resist such constant pressure. Eventually a great rainbow was brought to the net.
A little further upstream I got another chance and after getting the drift right I was connected to a silver bullet. It wasn’t quite the scrap that Andrew experienced, but a fit well conditioned rainbow will always give you a run for your money.
With darkness descending we headed back to camp to enjoy the now traditional steak, mash and peas topped off with gravy.
We caught some great fish that day, but unfortunately for me it was a tainted day. Taking all the possible precautions and still drowning my camera was a real slap in the face. Still, you can’t be too upset when you’ve still got 3 more days of fishing ahead of you.
Over to Andrew for the final wrap up…
I spent a couple of weeks over the New Years break down in Wanaka. Quite honestly the weather was utterly awful. When I arrived I headed straight out for a look around an astonishingly flooded lake edge. Met up with Rupert, and he managed to snare a nice fish whilst I went home empty handed.
Rupert and fish
Spent the next couple of days fluffing around on swollen rivers, before finally on New Years day they became fishable. Only thing was, it seemed like I’d gotten a bit rusty due to the forced rest period. I dropped two good (read: really rather good) browns in backwaters, before finally snaring a couple of bows out of a big backwater further upstream.
A very well received fish.
Of course that night, just when the rivers were starting to look really good, it decided to absolutely bucket down once again. Surprising huh?
Well we (Rupert and myself) drove for about 3 hours that morning in a desperate attempt to find clean water. We found it. Only thing is we didn’t find any feeding fish. Saw a lot of large fish cruising deep pools, but simply couldn’t get a reaction from them regardless of what we tried. In the end we hooked 4 fish in the fast water in the eye of the pools on big terrestrials, only to lose them all. It was frustrating to say the least.
There’s a bit of a pattern here. This leg of the trip really wasn’t too successful.
Andrew came down and met me in Wanaka for a couple of days, and we managed to catch 4/5ths of nothing. We did, however, discover a rather nice stream that would be well worth exploring under normal flows, so the day was not a complete loss.
Finally, we decided we’d had enough of this not catching fish business, so we swallowed our pride, got in touch with the local expert and caught up with Chris Dore for a fish. Getting to Lumsden at 7 required a rather early departure from Wanaka. If you ever want to smack some bunnies just drive the Cardrona road in the middle of the night, I think I hit 6 of them. As we pulled into Lumsden the sculptural lyrics of Eminems ‘Shake that Ass’ awoke the small country town. We were pumped.
The day turned out to be one of the most fun days fishing I’ve had in a while. We started off on a crystal clear medium sized river, where I managed to pick up the only fish we saw on a blowfly humpy.
Dry fly delight. Photo c.o. Chris Dore.
We then proceeded to an utterly enormous river, where I demonstrated to Chris my inability to cast switch rods.
I was heaps good at this…not. Photo c.o. Chris Dore
The fish were a bit funny through here, so we ended up fishing a small celebrity stream. I’ve never fished such a tiny creek! My god it was fun though. By this stage any expectations were out the window and we were being somewhat silly. Spotting a fish taking emergers of the surface Chris outlined to Andrew how the best plan of attack would be if he were to cross the river and fish to it from the other side. Just as Andrew was about to cross the river the fish took Chris’s fly much to our amusement. Diversion tactics at their best.
Further upstream Andrew got his own back by hooking a fish from a raised bank, letting it bury itself in the flax while I madly fished at it with the net standing in nut deep water.
Andrew actually caught this fish. Photo c.o. Chris Dore
As it turned out this was only the beginning of the hilarity. It was like an orchestra reaching the crescendo. It just built up and up. The next level occurred when Andrew covered a fish, exclaimed ‘F**K it’s spooked!!’ and then subsequently hooked and landed it.
Two goons and a fish. Photo c.o. Chris Dore
The pinnacle of stupidity, however, was when I managed to hook a fish which we had spotted from the top of a bank. Andrew slithered down the bank to net the fish when…well, just watch the video…
Faceplant! This is for you Robertsan21. You wanted videos, you got videos. (We’ve actually got a LOT of footage from the entire season, it’s just a matter of working out how to get them into an acceptable format – if anyone’s a whiz with video editing then let me know. You also must be willing to work for free…)
That was it for the day. It was just fun. Three complete idiots doing stupid things by a river.
The final day of the trip it was decided to fish a swollen, but still fairly clear, big fish river. On the very first cast while Chris was demonstrating to us how to fish streamers on this river a large fish inspected his streamer, but wouldn’t take. That proved to be the way of it for most of the day – fish would inspect our streamer, but never quite take it. It wasn’t until after lunch that we got one to the bank, when my streamer finally connected with this nice jack in a small side braid.
Fish of the trip for me by a country mile.
Right near the end of the day Chris and Andrew spied one fish feeding in a run (something we’d not seen all day) and Andrew managed to hook it briefly on the secret fly. When that line went slack I think all three of our stomachs plummeted. It would have capped off what was already a very enjoyable trip.
I’ve got to say that I think I fell in love with the Southland area on that trip, we’re already planning a return visit. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s so bloody far from Christchurch! The drive was not fun, not fun at all