- A Fly Fishing Guide
guide to Lake Brunner - the largest
lake in the South Island's West Coast region,
7 miles across at
the widest point, and some 22 miles (40kms) of shoreline.
View from Horseshoe Bay,
looking east towards snow-clad Mount Alexander
Much of the shoreline of Lake Brunner is
clad in sandy beaches of white granite. This is a brown trout fishery, where the
trout are both large and abundant. This lake has substantial areas of
shallows, with prolific weed-beds which provide vast food resources for trout.
Dragonflies, damsel flies, mayflies, caddis and midges occur in large
The littoral zone on the mountainous sides of the lake is
much narrower, sometimes only 20-30 feet from beach to the
drop-off into deep water, and trout become concentrated in
those sections through summer, As well as the aquatic insect
harvest, the terrestrial insect availability increases
dramatically during summer months with the annual
cicada hatches. As if that was not sufficient incentive to
keep trout in shallow water, the smelt and Bully (like a
sculpin) population also comes inshore to spawn in the beach
sands through summer. Casting streamers to big trout hunting
baitfish in shallow water is a real blast!
There are 3 rivers and numerous small
streams flowing into the lake, of these the Crooked and Orangipuku are most
worthy of note from a fly fishing perspective. Our West Coast lakes appear black, with a tea-coloured tannin stain due to
the rainfall's passage through the humus on the floor of the
surrounding rain forests. However, water clarity can be
deceptively high, particularly in Lake Brunner and Lake Poerua, with up to 9.5 metres, or 30ft visibility
through the winter and spring!
Cautious approaches are needed during daylight hours if fish
are not to be spooked. Sight fishing is popular - this requires an adjustment
for most visiting international anglers, many of whom have limited prior
experience casting to visible fish - and big fish at that, by international
Regardless of the weather conditions...
rely on the trout...
...colours and sizes!
Fishing pressure is low,
especially away from the most popular lakes. The population of the West Coast is
approximately 30,000 people. The majority live in the towns of
Greymouth, Hokitika, Westport and Reefton, leaving the countryside sparsely
populated in a region of some 2 million hectares (4.5 million acres) and
extending from Karamea to Haast, a distance of about 600 kilometres, of 350
Brunner - The
only. Fish numbers are relatively high, with fish weights
averaging 2.5 lbs, 18-20inches in length. The Arnold River has, according to
drift-dive surveys, a population of around 540 trout per mile. Fish of +5lbs
(24-26 inches) are not uncommon. There are some rainbow in the Taramakau River
20kms south of the lake.
A wide variety of fishing techniques are
permitted by the local regulations.
- Trolling and harling
are popular. Live bait (e.g. worms, minnows) is permitted in the West Coast
- Productive fly fishing
methods include streamers/lures on sinking lines, those imitating
cockabullies, smelt or freshwater crayfish being best. Patterns include
Hamill's Killer, Woolly Bugger and Mrs Simpson for day time use, Red Shadow,
Prince, Black Marabou and Fuzzy-Wuzzy for evening and after dark. Red bodied
lures have always been more effective than yellow or green. Smaller sizes (8-10) work better during daylight hours, bigger is better after
- A nymph on a dropper
under a big dry fly, drifted down river edges from the drift boat, is also
very effective. Try a Royal Wulf or Stimulator on top, with Pheasant Tail,
Hare & Copper or Hare's Ear are consistently successful. The
"flashback" variations are also effective, sometimes more so than
the plain. Nymph sizes need to be small in most locations - 12-16 are
Country Motels offers self-contained Chalet accommodation, and wonderful meals
are available from the nearby Station House Cafe. Alternatively, stay in Greymouth
(25 minutes away) at one of the very nice local hotels, and we can collect you daily to
fish the lake
and rivers around the district.
2.5 hour drive from Christchurch International Airport, across the Southern Alps
via State Highway 73 will get you to Lake Brunner. Alternatively, there a
daily bus services (Alpine Coaches) which passes through Moana at Lake Brunner, as
does the TranzAlpine Express train service which is highly recommended. Alpine
Coaches can be contacted for bookings on free phone 0800 274 888. The TranzRail
free phone for bookings is 0800 802 802.
numerous Scenic Reserves, State Forests and National Parks within an hour or two
of the lake. Paparoa National Park, home of the "Pancake Rocks" and
blowholes, is only 45 minutes away. Shantytown, the West Coast Historical &
Mechanical Society's gold mining museum, is also nearby. It is 2.5 hours drive south
to Franz Joseph Glacier.
Lake Brunner and its
outlet, the Arnold River, are fishable all year round. Itís tributaries, and adjacent lakes such as Poerua,
Hochstetter, Lady and Kangaroo lakes all close
during autumn/winter spawning periods. The main season ends 30 April, reopens 1
October each year. Most rivers running into the Tasman Sea are fishable from the
river mouth upstream to at least the first highway bridge. Others, such as the
Grey, Taramakau and Hokitika, are fishable inland to the mountains.
Alexander - Iveagh Bay, Lake Brunner
Shags on a pier -
Moana, Lake Brunner
At the Moana, the famous Arnold River
begins its 24km journey to its junction with the mighty Grey River.
Renowned for its dry-fly fishing, and high trout stocks, access along much of
its length is also constrained by steep banks, reeds, willows and scrub. This is serious brown trout
fly fishing country!