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Posts tagged “Wanaka

Craig Sommerville – Recovery of a favourite river

At 4:40am on the 29th August 2007, the North branch valley of a (name suppressed) river near Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, suffered a landslide subsequently blocking the river’s path.

A wall of approximately 11million cubic meters of rock formed a dam creating a new lake 500m wide, 2 km long and 70m deep. This makes for a lake volume of around 23 million cubic meters. The location of the lake is near the source of the river affecting the several kilometers of pristine water downstream.

The river was a well known favourite fishery amongst local fly fishing guides and recreationals alike, and with the landslide the river turned from an incredibly clear freestone paradise to a silt coated suffocated and temperamental spillway remoulded by a single destructive act of God.

The fishing of course was completely wiped out for several years due to the aluvial silt and debris. The fly life dwindled unable to sustain itself with the once loose river stones now being smothered. All in all a soul destroying moment for those of us that love what the river provided once upon a time.

Well good news!… This year on one of our regular country-wide fly fishing reconnaissance missions we managed to find many (average 3-4lb) wild rainbow trout back in the damaged yet recovering river system. They were strong fighting fish happily feeding on cicadas falling from the overhanging NZ Beech trees. This was of course a great day to have but even more so a relief that the river was on track to recovery. Never (used loosely), will the river return to it’s original glory but there is hope.

Potentially, there is a risk of the dam failing and the consequent flood would again destroy the river’s progress but maybe then the silt will be washed out. On the reverse side, the dam could hold forever, who knows?

For our next study we are researching the effects of high water levels on a local drainage system near Wanaka with data from the ORC and NIWA. Very fitting after a particular river system shot up from 12 cumecs to 1020 cumecs in 1 single day… by the way a cumec is 1 cubic meter or 1 tonne of water passing over a single point per second…just imagine 1020 tonnes flowing past you every second… that’s awesome! Stay tuned for our next study.

Craig Somerville of Castabroad New Zealand –

Acknowledgements for factual material:

Gavin Palmer (Otago Regional Council), Paul Hellebrekers (Department of Conservation),Tim Davies (Canterbury University), Oliver Korup (Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research)

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Jack Kos – Southern Sojourn

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