New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides - Ben Kemp

New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides - Ben Kemp

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"Where the Brown Trout Die of Old Age!"

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Angling Report: March 2001 Lake Brunner Fly Fishing Report

As the 2000 summer season draws to a close, it is interesting to reflect back on what has been a most unusual summer. A difficult one as well, for many fishermen, in many respects. The West Coast is not noted for its hot, dry summers.... yet from mid-February until the end of March we had no rain at all- 42 consecutive fine days. This was apparently the longest dry period since records began in 1892. As a result there were logs and rocks sticking out of the waters that had never in living memory seen the light of day! Extremely low, clear water levels, coupled with high water temperatures, made for challenging fishing.

Angling report March 2001 Kingfisher Lodge fly fishing reports Lake Brunner
Norm Hawkins - Click for story!

Lake Poerua, usually a beautiful summer spot for a fly angler, became a disgusting farm-type duck pond! The lower end of the lake was down to 500mm depth, the water was tepid and filthy with the activity of 200+ black swans, aided by a large flock of Canada geese. Weeds, oil from birds, feathers, mud... truly awful!

Trout almost everywhere were frequently apathetic, disinterested, and often to be found motionless in faster water trying to find a little oxygen. On several occasions, when fishing from the drift boat, we were able to try dapping - dangling nymphs right on top of a trout lying in 3-4 feet of water. Even hitting it repeatedly on the head with a big bead-head would not break the trance! A couple of times, coming back an hour later, the same trout was still there, "dead as a maggot" was the opinion expressed by one client!

On the other hand, there were locations where fish fed voraciously. This year there seemed to be a massive spawning of the local cockabully population, particularly evident along the mouth of the Crooked River. Early in March, there were huge shoals of these small fish, literally millions of them, and all about 15-20mm long. They massed in the shallows, and along the edges of fast water where the river's trickles entered the lake. They penetrated up the Crooked for a couple of kms, and finding a fly to imitate these during daylight proved difficult, a size 8 Rabbit fly (red body) proving ok. This 

was an occurrence where I sincerely regretted not being a fly-tier - I'm sure that a couple of size 10-12 Kilwell or Mrs Simpson lures would have been a devastating combination!

The most consistently succesful nymph in our rivers throughout March was the Flashback, size 14 (Hares Ear with tinsel). This was used variously: alone, in pairs, with a bead-head to get depth, or hanging under a big Humpy or Stimulator in shallow streams. The technique was selected based on the water type, the Flashback seemed to have universal appeal everywhere from still pools to faster rapids.

The fish that we caught along the Crooked River mouth, and in Horseshoe Bay, were in wonderful condition, as good or better than at any time in the 40 years I've fishing here. During the last week in March Cliff Beauchamp, a visiting California angler, caught a 22 inch hen fish which was one of the best conditioned fish I have seen. 

Angling report March 2001 Kingfisher Lodge fly fishing reports Lake Brunner

Cliff Beauchamp

Smelt, on the other hand, seemed less prevalent than usual. There were small shoals along the shore of Iveagh Bay, at the foot of Mt Te Kinga, and the trout in this part of the lake could still be coaxed into an indiscretion with a size 6-8 Mrs Simpson, my personal favourite lure. A Hamill's Killer in similar sizes, and also with a red body, was also an effective lure in Lake Poerua once the rains came.

Although the conditions were indeed challenging, we've only had one couple for the season who did not catch a trout. That they only had a day to spare was the perhaps the biggest hurdle, as it takes some folks longer to adapt to the local conditions and techniques. He'd not fishing much with lures, and kept pulling the fly from the water too soon - plucking the lure from between the fish's lips on several occasions! She'd never caught a trout on a fly rod but hooked up to a nice fish whilst harling, and promptly clamped her hand on the fly reel - the resulting bustoff was as devastating for the guide as it was for the client! I think the moral of the story is that even when the conditions seem beyond your skills, being armed with a little local knowledge, a flexible attitude will still allow you to get the best out of a days fishing.

Angling Report: March 2001 Lake Brunner Fly Fishing Report

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