New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides - Ben Kemp

New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides - Ben Kemp

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Lake Brunner

"Where the Brown Trout Die of Old Age!"

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Angling Report: July 2001 Lake Brunner Fly Fishing Report

Arnold River winter fishing can be full of surprises.... and not necessarily cold and wet either! The main season closes 30th April, but some nice stretches of water remain open all year round for winter fishing. A man, a boy and a dog in a dinghy kept us company for a while, we watched as they caught a 4lb brown on a green Woolly Bugger, whilst we in turn landed a 3.5lb brown on a Tasmanian Devil. As the sun climbed, the fog faded, the icy breeze waned, and the day became very pleasant. At regular intervals we caught trout, 5 in all, and had a number of strikes that did not quite result in hookups. the fish were gratifyingly plentiful, and struck aggressively. At times, the lure had barely hit the water before a savage take had it securely fastened in the mouth of a surprised trout.

The onset of an old-fashioned winter has made fishing a chilly experience of late. We are up to a dozen consecutive frosts and I'm glad I was persuaded to purchase my first set of chest waders this autumn! Like many local fishermen, when April 30th clicks over, duck hunting takes precedence over fishing. Its been interesting to observe the trout numbers, some actively jumping a metre high in the last of the afternoon sunlight, whilst astonished hunter was ensconced in the mai-mai. Anyway, this week has seen a serious effort to fish, in the company of a guest from Texas. Aside from the shock of arriving in from the desert to sub-zero frosts, he coped rather well. A spin fisherman, despite best efforts we could not coax a lake trout into a strike on day one. A couple did attempt a lazy follow of a lure, but that was about all we could acheive. Day two saw us on the Arnold River in the drift boat at 9:30am, braving frost and low fog for the first hour down from Moana.

This page attempts to demonstrate the clarity of a perfect West coast winter's day. The photos were taken in July 2001 during a 28 day spell of fine weather! Frosts in the morning, some fog - after all, it is winter.... but cloudless, still days, and great fishing for the hardy souls who brave the early morning chills. As we fish down the Arnold from the lake, a man and a boy fish in silhouette against the fog in front of us... they caught one, we caught one a few minutes later...

Angling report July 2001 Kingfisher Lodge fly fishing reports Lake Brunner West Coast New Zealand

Hunter Edwards, of Alpine, Texas, proudly holds a nice brown trout in the early morning sun. Background shows a patch of fog on Lake Brunner, snow-clad alps in the distance.
Patches of shade alternate with sunny spots as we drift down the Arnold along willow-clad banks. Patches of fog create a surreal atmosphere. In some places, shafts of light penetrate through tall white pine trees and drill into the fog. 
A coffee break on a mirrored bend of the river, lunch in the sunshine. Hard to believe its mid-winter..... In the background, temperate rain forests reveal their beaty. The morning air resounds to the melodic call of bellbirds. Flocks of ducks burst from beneath the willows at intervals, and black swan, scaup and wood pigeon are frequent sights. 
Back on the river again... and a nice trout takes the lure and explodes into action! Fish average 1.2 kilgrams (2.5lbs) and the Arnold River has excellent numbers - approx. 270 trout per km. As you can see, much of the bank is unfishable due to either native forest or willows which grow to the waters edge. The drift boat provides a great fishing platform, making the entire river fishable!!!
A plump little hen fish shares a moment with Mr Edwards before release/ The water in the Arnold River appears quite dark, almost black. Clarity is is actually very good but Lake Brunner, like most West Coast lakes, is stained with tannin from the surrounding rain forests
This was the 10th day of successive frosts... in the permanently shaded regoins, frost crystals were 2 inches long - almost as if it had snowed! Needless to say, the water is cold... even with waders on! The drift boat avoids such unpleasantness, allowing a day of fishing with warm dry feet. At the pull-out point near Stony Creek, an unusual challenge faced us - 2 inches of ice in the lagoon necesitated much flailing of oars....
Angling report July 2001 Kingfisher Lodge fly fishing reports Lake Brunner West Coast New Zealand Even at 3pm in the afternoon, the fog lingers in the nooks and crannies of the river. It makes for a spectacular drift boat trip, and in places it is like being in the twilight zone....

The scenery is always beautiful, but on this mid-winter day was almost surreal. A low fog, just a couple of metres high, lay in a thick blanket in the shaded corners. Deep frost, inches thick, lay like snow along the river banks. The low angle of the sun, which we drifted almost directly into for most of the afternoon, caused brilliant shafts of light to shine through the white pines and into the fog. Like the Twilight Zone, and I hope the photos we took do justice to the spectacle!

An unexpected obstacle at the take-out point were the sheets of ice! This section of the Arnold ends for us at Stony Creek, a couple of miles above the dam. The takeout point is through a lagoon and small creek to the road. This, to my astonishment, was covered in almost 2 inches of ice!!! First time the drift boat has done duty as an icebreaker! We had to smash ice with oars, and pole furiously, to get through it. All in all, a superb day of winter fishing.

Winter fishing at Lake Brunner can be a pleasure. A drift boat, sense of adventure, a warm jacket, and a couple of full Thermos flasks are the right formula for a great day of winter fishing!

Angling Report: July 2001 Lake Brunner Fly Fishing Report 

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