Time: 9:00AM – 2:30PM
Location: Routeburn River
I scheduled a solo day of guided fishing out of Glenorchy on Tuesday, January 30. My left eye was once again sealed shut when I woke up in the morning; however, I began using the antibiotic drops that Brenda procured for her eye, and the medication seemed to show signs of effectiveness. I was not feeling great, but I swallowed the prescribed dose of cold medicine and stuffed more in my pocket for later in the day. I was not about to let a cold ruin a day of guided fly fishing in the Southland Region of New Zealand.
My guide, Nick Clark, picked me up at 7:30 at the Bold Peak Lodge. Tuesday developed into another very hot day with the high around 30 degrees C. We drove a short distance and began our fishing adventure on the Routeburn River. I waded wet, and throughout the day I was quite pleased with my decision. I began fishing in a section of the river that was characterized by fast water with many pockets, deep runs, and short pools. Nick set me up with an irresistible, and I began prospecting the likely spots. Tuesday on the Routeburn was my closest New Zealand experience to my favored style of Colorado fishing. The water was very similar to Colorado high gradient streams, and Nick actually commended my casting, pace, and ability to keep the line off the water to prevent drag. It was confidence boosting to receive positive feedback on my casting compared to suggestions for improvement.
In the early going I landed two rainbow trout in the eleven inch range on the irresistible. While I was blind casting to likely holding positions, Nick scanned the water ahead and spotted larger trout, and this supplemented my style with some exciting sight fishing. One of the first such encounters with a larger fish resulted in a refusal. I lifted the rod quickly and flicked a cast to the left, although Nick actually implored me to strip the line in for a fly change. I instinctively tossed the cast before I heard his command, and I never saw my fly, but Nick followed it and saw a fish eat. He shouted “set”, and I reacted quickly, but the fly came hurtling back toward us. I was disappointed by this sequence, but nevertheless exhilarated by the short jolt of action.
For a few of the football shaped dark spots sighted, Nick changed the top fly to a Goddard caddis and then later a parachute Adams. He also experimented with a pheasant tail nymph dropper, but these moves failed to deliver results. We concluded that the big boys were extra moody and quite skittish.
At one point the parachute Adams got snagged on an overhanging rock, and Nick instructed me to break it off. I did so, and as he searched his box for a replacement, I asked if we could try one of the hippy stompers I recently tied. Nick was game to try something new, so he knotted one with a peacock dubbed body to my line. The change paid off somewhat, as I landed two small rainbows in short order. My confidence in the hippy stomper temporarily elevated, but after fifteen minutes of prospecting some delightful fast areas with no interest from the trout, we reverted to the irresistible.
The next sequence was the highlight of my day. A nice deep wide run flowed along a large bank side rock that displayed a white high water mark stripe along the top edge. As we moved closer, Nick and I simultaneously spotted a solid rise within a couple feet of the opposite bank toward the tail of the run. I positioned myself slightly above and across from the scene of the rise, and I began to shoot casts increasingly closer to the far bank. As I was doing this, the target fish came into view, and we could both identify it as a tantalizing large rainbow. On the fifth cast I placed the irresistible within two feet of the rock with the stripe, and it slid downstream along the base of the rock wall with no response.
I extended another cast to within a foot of the rock, and unlike the previous cast I allowed the fly to dead drift to the very lip of the run. Just before the dry fly was due to drag next to an exposed boulder, a mouth appeared, and it crushed the spun deer hair attractor. Nick shouted “set”, and I reacted simultaneously with his instruction. Now the fight was on. Initially the rainbow shot upstream, and I managed to apply side pressure and brought it to a position twenty-five feet directly above me. But then the resisting trout had other thoughts. It made four successive runs downstream, and I recklessly followed over slippery boulders and rocks while applying side pressure. I was reenacting scenes that I witnessed on Instagram. In a last ditch effort the trout raced into some fairly fast pocket water and stopped next to a large exposed boulder closer to the opposite bank. I lifted my rod high above my head and waded to the middle of the river and coaxed the recalcitrant fish between two rocks and then added side pressure and brought it to the bank below me, where Nick scooped it. High fives broke out, and I admired a New Zealand rainbow trout in excess of twenty inches.
We continued our upstream progression, and I added another ten inch rainbow and a twelve inch brown to the fish count. Both of these fish showed a preference for the irresistible. We stopped for lunch at 12:30PM, and after a forty-five minute snack, we resumed the upstream dry fly prospecting. The quality of the water declined, and the temperature rose, so we decided to return to the car in order to move to another stream at 2:30.
Fish Landed: 7