ANTS

Ants for summertime picky trout…some tied with fine deer hair “outrigger” like legs.

 

DIY Fly Fishing NZ: 4th trip

 

Fly fishing NZ. My fourth trip and another reminder that weather always rules the day. It can rule a week. It can even rule a whole month.

I arrived in the middle of December. The beginning of the month had been very wet. Flying the last leg from Auckland to Christchurch I could see all the major rivers on the north and south islands were high and muddy. The sediment they carried from the mountains to the coast stained the marine blue Tasman sea. It didn’t look promising. Most anglers come to NZ to sight-fish for trout. The key word being “sight”. It’s impossible to see trout in rivers that are a coffee colored torrent. And that’s what I was looking at from twenty thousand feet above. When I landed I learned that the main highway connecting the north to the south end of the island was closed as there were concerns the raging rivers had compromised one or more bridges south of Christchurch. It stayed closed for several days.

I started second guessing my decision to visit in December. In past seasons I fished in late February, early March. Even then, however, weather was still somewhat of a wild card. I remember when tropical storm Gita hit the south island a few years back. Flooding followed making angling challenging for several days in the Southland region. And several days in a two week trip is a significant amount of time. There simply are no weather guarantees in NZ.

A friend, Roman, had already been in NZ for a week before I arrived. His angling report wasn’t good. In spite of travelling many regions, routes and back roads he had not found any clear water. He had hooked one fish on a river that looked promising but then a deluge occurred and the door to opportunity closed.

He ended up calling a number of fly shops and was informed of a river that ran through an urban setting on the eastern side of the island that was clear. He checked it out. That’s where we met when I arrived. The information he gleaned saved our trip and he was rewarded with the trout of the trip: a big sea run brown.

a better picture of roman’s great brown , 8lbs plus

 

One holiday park (campground) owner told me the river we were on is usually just a “trickle” in mid-December. It’s considered an early season angling location and best fished in October and November. With the frequent rain it still had a decent flow, was easy to crisscross and get to the prime areas. The best spots were where the river rubbed up against banks lined with willows. This is where we located fish and had our most productive angling. These treed sections also cast a shadow that broke the ever present river glare, especially when it was cloudy (which we had a lot of) and allowed us to look into the water and spot fish. We were sight-fishing when most rivers were on flood alert!

low slow willow section, great for sight fishing

faster willow section

You learn a lot about a river when you walk and explorer it for several days in a row like we did. Some of the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together; you start noticing the tiny nuances…

resident brown trout caught on size 18 foam black ant

We often fished within sight of a couple highway bridges their undersides sprayed with colorful graffiti and equally colorful messages. We fished to the sound of the morning and evening rush hour, car horns and sirens. We fished while locals with big wheeled 4X4 trucks occasionally drove up and down the gravel river bed often fording river channels above or below us. It wasn’t what you would describe as a pristine back-country angling setting. But the water was clear and that was the key. Finding clear water was like finding gold. And with the clear water we were able to find something equally precious: brown trout..

urban river trash

truck tracks, river bottom

The trout were large and extremely challenging. When people say “any fly will do” with NZ trout that’s simply not true. Of course every river is different and has its demands and peculiarities and this can change as the season progresses. Maybe sometimes fly choice doesn’t matter; most times it does. These browns, sea run and resident, were as selective in their feeding as anywhere I’ve ever been and they were wary. I quickly learned that the “plop”of a heavy foam beetle fly, close or even some distance away, scared most fish. Trout lying in shallow riffle sections were also often spooked by large flies drifting overhead. I had to cast small, soft-landing patterns. I even connected with a few trout on a willow grub dry fly. The nuances of a river!

willow grub fly, foam on a hook, banana yellow or apple green in color

 

clouds and therefore glare and tough trout spotting

roman with another beefy brown trout

I had a three or four day stretch where I landed a good brown trout every day then went five or six days without catching a fish. Early on we had a couple full sun calm days followed by windy weather and frequent cloud cover. The quality of the lighting makes all the difference in the world when sight fishing. You’ll notice that some of or best trout were caught when it was sunny. During my dry spell I had a couple connections and break-offs as large trout bolted into willow branches to free themselves. I also had a few fish eat my fly but no hook-up. That’s all part of any outing/trip.

In my second week the river flow tripled due to heavy rain, Roman had left, and I went south in search of a clear back-country river. The back-country, however, was still under water. I returned to the river Roman and I had fished when the flow receded a little and managed one more fine brown trout. It was feeding in a shallow riffle section but couldn’t be enticed to rise to a dry fly. I ended-up sight-fishing  with a size 18 PT like nymph, no bead-head, just some wire ribbing on the body for a bit of weight.

Some holiday park rental cabins…….

holiday (campground) park cabin rental, easy on budget in an expensive country

another holiday park cabin rental

Since this is a DIY post my advice when planning a NZ fly fishing trip is bring a lot of flies, from minuscule to fairly large in size: emergers, dries and nymphs. I could have used my midge box on this trip. On one day a size 18 caddis pattern looked gigantic in comparison to what a brown trout was sipping on. Same goes for terrestrial patterns. Bring tiny to large ones. My most effective terrestrial pattern this season and in the past was a small foam ant. You might end up just fishing one fly on your trip. Or you might need to try a dozen different patterns on just one challenging trout. You never know. Because I was arriving relatively early in the angling season (less fishing pressure) I thought I could get away with casting big stuff on some of the rivers I had visited in the past. Well I never got to those rivers due to high flows and flooding, and where I ended up angling was all about small stuff: tiny dry flies and equally tiny nymphs.

sea run brown caught on small caddis fly

 

watching a bank for rises, late day

a resident brown trout

 

Another adventure and some beautiful brown trout…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late July- Low and Slow

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different”– Kurt Vonnegut

Dry fly fishing has become a morning and evening affair due to sunny days, summer heat and some breezy afternoons. The water level on the Crowsnest river is low and slow and perfect for walk/wading and searching for rising trout. It’s nice to walk the water on a warm summer night and look for a fine trout. Here’s a good one which was spotted sipping just off of a bank in shallow water the other evening. It was fooled by a size 18 pmd dry fly: simple pale yellow thread body, light dun cdc for a wing and visibility, and a bit of dubbing up front to accentuate the thorax….really, a bit of nothing on a hook. The small fly held….ridiculous! A good trout landed and released. An evening I get to keep.

“I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep…”–Kurt Vonnegut

 

 

 

 

fly fishing NZ 2019

skull

Yikes, that was brutal! Don’t know if I want to do that again. Tough trip. Dry-flies blowing upstream! Tough low-light conditions for sight-fishing. A lot of walking. Many days it was just a long hard slog: 10 miles plus. And in spite of our effort few fish were spotted. There simply weren’t that many opportunities. I think I averaged less than one quality chance per day. I saw less fish than in past seasons. Terrestrial fishing was almost non-existent.  Maybe the summer just wasn’t consistently hot enough in the regions that I fished? The angling was best when the sun was out. However, “blue sky” days were rare. Most of the time it felt more like winter than summer. In the end, I caught a few good brown trout on dry flies. Four of the best were spotted on a high plateau river that I’ve fished in the past. It is “known” water but receives less angling pressure than some of the other rivers I was on. Here are some photos…

lastone

nev1

lastfish1

 

windshop

most days water had a wind-shop

waik1

ahur5xx

rare still morning

ahurir 8

backeddy

nev6

5trees

nev9

morning

 

nev3

roman

roman throwing line

onehand

pairs

rays2

ahurir13

grasses

ahurir17

roman in the wind

lift

top

 

girth

 

nevv2

ahurir3

shadow1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn

Sun. Rain. Gale force winds. Snow. The weather has been all over the place and so have I. I’ve been driving around trying to find a regional river that has some bugs and rising fish. It’s been challenging.

reel insnow

oldman stumps

snow

My local tail-water river is running real cloudy…not good. Water management has also been drastically reducing flows resulting in several significant water drops. I found some stranded Parr (juvenile trout) in a puddle 20 feet from the river and transferred them in a plastic bag back to the river.

parr4

parr2

parr5

parr1

parr home

puddle where Parr found, snow-covered boot foreground

This tail-water river usually fishes very well in inclement weather. No dense baetis hatch occurred and therefore very few large fish up. However, I covered a lot of water and managed to find a couple.

brwnlong

brown trout

brwnside

brown trout

ab profile

abby

Another tail-water river I’ve had some success on this summer also had few bugs even on cloudy days. I did manage to hook up with a few great fish. This rainbow took a foam beetle.

best bow

rainbow SW Alberta

2legbeetle

chewed-up beetle

bestbowlong

 

beetles

beetle flies, car top frost

I decided to rocket down to the Missouri river for two and one half days. The first day (the half day) was incredible. Cloudy, little wind and tons of bugs. Trout were up everywhere on tiny baetis may flies. Opportunity knocked and although I didn’t fish well, I did fool a few on size 20 olives/baetis. The next morning the sky sort of cleared (Chinook Arch) and high winds came in. I tugged down my hat and gave it my best but got blown off the river and all the way back to SW Alberta.

ab wading

searching for a released trout

 

mobow

Missouri rainbow

sidechannel (1)

Missouri river side channel

molong

Missouri bow

sidechannel (2)

molong2

I fished a lot in the past two weeks. I was on holidays for one of them and managed to get out most afternoons. I hung in there with the varying conditions, put in my time and made some connections with dry flies.

bank snow

another storm

 

side channel

morning flat water and sun

end of day

lst day brwn

sw alberta brown trout, size 18 bwo

lastdaybrwn2

alberta brown trout, size 18 bwo

ledge rock

endofday2

end of day walk back to car