Travel Talk South Island NZ 2013

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    bazzel brush

    The wait was finally over, 10 months dreaming of soaring snow capped mountains, aqua blue waters and impossibly large trout feasting on cicadas. We had 3 weeks to explore the south island of New Zealand and the three of us were pretty excited. Security and customs cleared without an issue and we were on our way to pick up the car. The forecast looked promising so after a quick lap around Christchurch we shot on down to our first river.

    Asking the locals

    The Opihi River was the chosen destination so we spent the following day walking up the gorge managing to fool a few fish, none of which stayed connected early on. We spotted a nice fish feeding in the centre of the river which was reliably swaying to his right every 30 seconds or so to take something out of the current. After many casts with many flies I joked that it was blind in one eye hence only feeding to the right. A new pattern was tied on and drifted down the fishes preferred flank. It was taken confidently. After a short tussle the beautiful brown was netted and sure enough, the fish was blind in it’s left eye. It was nice to open up the account as it had been a tough day for all.

    Phil up the Opihi River gorge

    First fish of the trip

    Next we had a short drive to Lake Benmore where another couple of nice fish were fooled on droppers but again they earnt their freedom after numerous acrobatic displays. Some inside info was sought from a local fisherman and the next night saw us bunked up in a wool shed on the banks of the Ahuriri River.
    This provided two days of great sport and plenty of fish were added to the tally up to 5lb. Most were fooled on dropper nymphs although the odd fish was taken on the dry. The braided rivers of New Zealand are great for a couple of reasons, firstly having three of us fishing there was plenty of water and secondly it reminds me of the old pick-a-path books we enjoyed as children where every different fork in the river takes you on a new adventure.

    Ahuriri brown

    Phil sticking it to a late afternoon tailer

    After checking the local weather forecast and seeing the possibility of some hot and very dry weather approaching, we legged it up to Poolburn Dam a couple of days after with hopes of encountering the famed cicada hatch. The forecast was right and there were cicadas chirruping but unfortunately the bigger fish must have been lazing about down deep. Plenty of small fish were netted and we enjoyed the challenge of the early midge mornings.

    Poolburn Dam panorama

    Plenty of these buggers around

    Early morning smutters were small but a great challenge

    The consolation prize was the feasts of koura which were harvested amongst the rocks


    bazzel brush

    The Mataura was next on the hit list and after a short stop in Queenstown to see the sights we headed towards Athol. The tents were pitched once again on the riverbank and we had two very fruitful days wading this very popular water. I picked up a lovely fish late at night on the dry, he went 4.5lb. My camera didn’t like it when it fell in the river while the self timer was running though. After drying it out it worked once again but after a second dunking when wading the river turned into swimming the river it refused to play ball.

    Des with a nice Mataura brown

    Another to the tally

    extracted from the willows

    backwater delights

    Big fish magnet strikes again

    Plucked from a weedy run

    Late night persistance

    Needless to say I was pretty stoked to land this on a solo mission by moonlight

    The upper section of this river is a pretty big contrast to the lower reaches. The water is clear, the rocks are clean and banks free from rubbish. It was quite saddening to experience the Mataura south of Gore resembling more of a sewer than a popular fishing destination. Phil managed a lovely fish of 5lb but in reality should have touched 7lb. A great fish nonetheless. He turned out to be the big fish magnet of the journey. The smell of effluent and garbage everywhere really disappointed the three of us. Although we caught a lot of fish it wasn’t the backdrop we had hoped for so we moved on. Breaking the tip off my 5wt XP was a bit of a bummer as well.

    Phil managed some ripper fish for the trip

    Lower Mataura

    This 5lb snake still caused Phil a lot of grief in fast water with the light outfit

    The late smut session caused a few frustrations….but the cure was found

    Persistance has its rewards. This was taken on a size 16 red spinner


    bazzel brush

    Another short trip crammed in the back of our economy station wagon saw us parked on the banks of the Oreti River. As is quite often the case the popular beats were occupied by guides and clients so we continued the search for unfished water. Some private access was sought and we found a section of river that looked very promising. This was our favourite campsite for the entire trip. What a backdrop!!! Working as a team we polaroided fish for each other and brought undone a couple of nice fish. Des captured the fish of the trip with a strong 6lb brown fooled on a size 16 nymph on a 3lb tippet!!!! It was sensational to watch and he was rightly chuffed. It was now my turn to be on strike, we continued on and found another lovely looking pool. I was unhitching my fly to fish it and then noticed another guide and his client moving off the top end of the run on their way upstream. It was ok, we certainly didn’t expect to have the place to ourselves. It is a stunning river and understandably popular. The food scraps left lying all over the banks got our backs up a little though. Des had left his tent half assembled to air out for the day and on returning to camp he assumed we had packed it up and hidden it as a prank. The lack of smirks indicated we should really go and find where it had gone to. 500m downstream flapping in the current the World Ranger Storm Buster 4 was polaroided and retrieved from the river. A quirky ending to a fantastic day.

    Fish of the trip – 6lb on a size 16 nymph with 3lb tippet

    Released for others to enjoy

    Imagine this head coming up to your dry fly

    The Oreti valley is stunning

    Moving on we headed for a look at the beautiful Mavora Lakes just for a look and then decided on another couple of days at the Ahuriri. The water level had dropped considerably so we concentrated on the delta as many of the fish had dropped back into Lake Benmore. The browns were tailing confidently over the submerged weedbeds and took the nymphs with gusto. We all snared a few more nice fish and drowned yet another camera while netting my best fish of the trip. He weighed in at just under 5lb and had a metallic blue sheen that had to be seen. Needless to say there is no photo evidence.

    Benmore buck

    It was a memorable trip with a few small disasters to keep us on our toes. Although the cicada action appeared non existent we netted over 140 fish between us and had many good laughs along the way.



    Nice report. Sounds like a good trip……I did the opahi gorge last year. Did you go the full 10 kis through and out the other side or in and out the lower end. We found the middle couple of ks held the most and biggest fish. There were some pretty hairy climbs hanging off the edge of cliffs too. I put it down as something I am glad to have done but it was pretty hard with all the gear on etc.



    bazzel brush

    We wanted to do the whole gorge but didnt have a vehicle at the other end. I had a look from the upper end and then walked up from the lower end from the bridge the following day. It’s an amazing spot, im keen to walk the entire gorge next trip for sure



    fantastic stuff. night time fishing for beasts like that must have been pretty awesome!



    Hi Bazz,

    Awsome trip and nice fish too.


    Gaz s:up


    Matt H Gippsland

    Thanks for posting this great report.



    Great photos and report.

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