Stalk Site Present – 4 days in the Southland NZ
By Clay Wells @clayflies
Living in Melbourne Australia, I frequent my local shop ‘ Hurleys Flyfishing‘ and have become friendly with the owner Gavin Hurley. Gavin has recently opened up a shop in Lumsden NZ where he has a holiday home which doubles as accomodation for us fisherman looking for some trophy browns. Trawling through his Facebook posts on NZ, I had to work out a window of when I could get down there and try my luck. Thankfully a 6am direct 3 hour flight into Queenstown, an airport pick up from Gav’s wife Deb and an hour later driving along lakes, rivers and through valleys I am in the midst of trout Mecca.
I settled into my room, unpacked my fishing gear and set up my rig. Being so keen I had a little time to kill before Gavin was back from a morning fish to pick me up. I did a quick walkabout tour of Lumsden. A quiet little town with a small skate park, an old train line, the Lumsden Pub, a couple of cafes, supermarket, chemist and of course Hurleys Flyfishing store where you can meet and get local tips and flies from Trevor the store manager.
By 2pm Gav had us site casting to some big browns in some backwaters of the lower Oreti River. There had been a little rain the night before and the Barometer had dropped so the fishing was a little tough. The fish were spooky and sitting in close amongst the trees and shadows. It took some Tippett and fly changes before anything took but once they did we sure knew it. I have fished and landed some big fish but these browns have some fierce power that I don’t think I was ready for. Watching a brown circling around to find your fly, sipping it off the surface setting the strike only to feel the rod bend, the reel scream and be busted off in a matter of seconds definitely got my adrenaline pumping. Unfortunately this was the theme for the afternoon and I was unable to bring anything to the net, but my trip was not over and I was determined to fix that outcome.
The timing for my trip was impeccable to say the least. I had managed to be over there while Gavin’s wife was also there and we arrived home from fishing that night to an amazing NZ Lamb Roast. I am sure you are all aware of NZ and it’s affinity with sheep, well I definitely now know why. A score of 10 lambs out of 10 and it was off to bed in preparation for the next days fishing.
We were headed to the might Mataura River around a 15 minute drive. The weather was perfect and the decision to wet wade was made. We walked a few Km’s through local farm land and settled on a backwater to get the day started. The water was crystal clear. The first pool we fished had dozens of 4pound + browns patrolling it. Once again however they were mighty spooky and a couple of perfectly presented lies were all but refused at the the very last second. We changed from Gav’s favourite Blue Blowfly to spent spinners, unweighted nymphs and a willow group but all were denied. My anxiety was running hard ‘was I ever going to land a fish?’.
We moved up into a slightly less clear water under the cover of some willow trees. We heard the slurp of a brown, sighted the fish and Dave, the other fisherman with us cast into its patrolling zone… Waiting waiting and then BAM, the brown was off! To say there was some pressure on Dave landing this fish was an understatement. Sweat from his brow, the premature call for the net were all signs that this fish was the monkey off our backs. Thankfully the wrestle was won and the fish landed. A beautiful brown to start the account for the day
From then on the fishing lifted and we had many fights on our hands to land these brilliant browns. We moved back onto the free flowing river and transitioned from fishing nymphs to dishing up spent spinners, willow grubs and Gav’s favourite blue blowfly.
To say these fish were cunning and evasive would not be a lie. One fish I hooked launched no less than 6 feet into the air, through a willow tree to freedom, busting me off and leaving me red faced….. arghhhhh.
I finally landed (after hooking and busting off around 6) my first fish of the trip by 10am on the second morning. From then on my ‘performance lifted and the pressure and winding up from Gav slightly subsided…. It was on!
Walking up the river, with Gav on the stalk we would be presented an opportunity every 50m or so. Fishing slurping a grub under a willow, rising mid stream and or spotting them sitting on the bottom of a nice gravel bar. The clarity of the water was something to remember and the scenery fantastic. Not to mention the fishing! After a long day and 9km of walking at around 8:30pm we decided to head home for a local BBQ cooked by GAv. Once again, a delicious meal was served up. The beauty of NZ is at this time of year it is light at 6am and gets dark at around 10pm. If you wanted to break up your day you could easily have multiple sessions throughout and get that evening rise on dusk!
On the 3rd morning we woke to a slightly overcast day and the decision was made to go and fish the Waikai river. The river wound back and forth on itself from the access point with many opportuniotes to fish the best light possible for spotting fish. We arrived at the access point we had been beaten to the punch by a couple of guys. Luckily for us they had stopped in at Hurleys and picked up the ‘Upstream’ Downstream flyer on the inside of their windscreen so we knew which way to head to avoid them.
The Waikai was beautiful and we fished up until a place called Piano flat. We landed a lot of sizeable fish which were mainly on the willow grubs. There were still some bust offs but overall the odds seemed to be in our favour and another great day was had. I was surprised at how close we could get to some of these willow grub eaters and if you did startle them, how quickly they would return to post. From the fish’s perspective I put it down to those willow grubs being so tasty that risk outweighs the reward 🙂
Below weighed in at just over 4 pound and was caught in between two willows.
On my final day we went back to the lower Mataura. It was rare to see any other fisherman however on this day the first 2 access points we went to had cars parked at them. Not to fear as Gav was there to take us to another honey hole and a brilliant day of fishing.
We were working to a schedule this day as I had an 8:40pm flight back to Melbourne. We had fished up until that time every day so I felt like I was getting short changed hours when I was told we would have to leave the river by 5pm.
The river was firing, fish rising everywhere and each good presentation of a willow grub was getting murdered. There was on section we rounded into a shallow gravel bar where 4 pound browns were tailing and smashing grubs off the surface. The right had edge was lined with willow trees and patrolling browns. The left was bare grass and a bubble line of spent spinners. In the 300m long section there would have been around 8 decent fish landed. I was trying to pack in as many fish as I could in those last minutes, I just had to get one more…….. Thankfully right on 4:59pm Gav spotted a slurping brown. I had one opportunity and with a ‘Don’t F#$k it up’ from Gav I laid up my group and Boom it was guzzled off the top. That fish felt like a 3 pointer in the final moment of a playoff! I was satisfied.
I loved NZ and I will be back there as soon as I can. Top things about NZ
And NOOOOOOOOO Snakes!! I mean ZERO snakes. From a guy that comes from Australia and is always checking his step, this allows a lot more time to focus on my fishing!!