Time: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Location: Below several dams
Waitaki River (Day 10) 01/27/2018 Photo Album
Originally John and I were scheduled to float fish the Clutha River on Saturday, January 27 with our guide Greg, but he contacted us one day prior and offered another destination that was a longer drive, but offered the likelihood of more and larger trout. John and I conferred and elected the longer drive scenario. The extra 1.5 hour travel time translated to an earlier departure, and Greg gathered us and our gear at 7AM at the Wanaka Springs Lodge.
Our Starting Point with Guide Greg on January 27
After an uneventful drive we arrived at a location below an upstream dam, and Greg unloaded the inflatable raft and then shuttled the SUV and trailer to the take out point. John and I fished below a bridge, while Greg rode his dirt bike back to the launch point. The air temperature spiked in the 90’s, but I never felt overheated. We stopped frequently along our route and climbed out of the raft to wade fish, and since I was wearing my wet wading garb, I was continually refreshed by the cool river water.
At each wading location Greg set John and I up in likely fish holding spots. He spotted fish and coached one of us, while the other client was encouraged to fish independently. We enjoyed a fun day, as Greg provided numerous opportunities for us to cast over large sighted fish. Most of our approaches required long accurate casts, and the afternoon wind increased the challenge of this endeavor.
The first fish that I hooked was a rainbow trout that stripped line from the reel at an outrageous pace. This incident was the first in my fly fishing life, where the fish completely unraveled the fly line, so that all that was left on my reel was backing. Much to my chagrin the nymph eventually popped free in heavy water downstream, and I invested a significant amount of time winding the line back on the reel. Greg suggested that there was not much I could do about the situation, since the rainbow immediately bolted for the fast heavy chute next to the place where it was hooked. Nevertheless I was disappointed to miss an opportunity to land a powerful New Zealand rainbow trout.
A bit after this episode I fished a hares ear nymph without an indicator, and as the fly began to swing at the end of the drift, I felt a heavy throbbing weight. Fortunately for me this fish essentially hooked itself, and I battled the angry river resident for ten minutes, but after several powerful moves, I guided it into Greg’s net. Greg estimated the brown trout to be 26 inches, and this represented a personal best brown trout by two inches.
My First Fish of the Day and Personal Record
After lunch I hooked another nice trout on a blow fly, but it raced down the river at a frightful pace. I followed it as best I could, but then it suddenly stopped, and I managed to regain a bit of line. Suddenly the brown resumed its downstream streak, and I could tell that the powerful fish succeeded in wrapping the leader around its body. It was not long, before the combination of the downstream move and the wrapped line caused the blow fly to break free. I chastised myself for the one out of three landing performance, and we moved on.
Greg and John by the Raft
The drift continued, and Greg spotted two fish in close proximity to each other. I hurled ten casts to the large visible upper shadow, and eventually it spooked, but I continued to pursue the downstream trout with additional casts. On the third toss the remaining visible fish crushed the blow fly. The fight was on, and again after several spurts and deep dives accompanied by head shaking, I guided the heavy fish over Greg’s net. I experienced another South Island thrill, and I smiled, as I examined a 24 inch gem.
Not As Large as Number One, but Much Appreciated
During the course of the day we drifted a short distance, since we stopped to wade fish most of the time. Near the takeout Greg pulled the raft on an island, and he and I waded upstream and began chucking a sink tip line with a black woolly bugger. In a deep trough where the river dropped off a gravel ledge, I made a long drift and then stripped the streamer perpendicular to the shelf. I felt a bump and made another strip, and then a stronger grab transferred through the line. It was at this moment that I made the mistake of stripping again, and the fish and my line separated. My streamer instructors at Montana Fly Company taught me to continue stripping and to not set the hook, but in this case the second grab indicated that the fish was already on my line. I expected a stronger hit from the large aggressive fish, but I suspect the depth of the water and the fairly strong current offset some of the energy transfer. Given the deep trough and the faster run, Greg was certain that my lost trout was a rainbow.
The Blue Water Looked Like a Quality Spot
Saturday was a fun day on a different type of water in New Zealand. I liked the sprawling tailwater that featured numerous braids with riffles and runs of moderate depth. Once again I was amazed by the ability of New Zealand guides to spot fish from a distance. Greg offered me numerous opportunities to connect with large wild trout, and unfortunately I broke off two fish, failed to land another hooked fish, and spooked several through a lack of accurate casting.
Upon our return to Wanaka, Jane and I dined at Speight’s Ales House. The town was quite active with numerous patrons dining al fresco on a warm Saturday night.
Fish Landed: 2