For my first hit out from my new base of Queenstown I took a drive to Athol to check out Stu’s “World Famous” Fly Fishing shop and hopefully glean some local info. Stu wasn’t in and the old Scotsman behind the counter was not a fisherman so I mooched around the fly shelf and purchased some. Being so close to the Mataura* I decided to try it.
From a bridge I spied a good sized fish holding beneath a halo of willow fronds. It looked to be feeding and I took it as a propitious sign, but doubted I could get a cast into its difficult lie. I moved downstream and helped by the bright conditions immediately spotted several other fish in the clear water. They were treating the slow flowing pool like a lake, cruising around and rising effortlessly to small somethings. I lengthened my leader by adding a few feet of 6x tippet. Several patterns were rejected before I arrived at the winner - a small red CDC mayfly pattern I had purchased at Stu’s shop a little earlier. I caught two on the pattern, weighing 3¼ and 3½lbs, before I stalked up to the fish I had seen a little earlier from the bridge. I poked my head through the willow fronds and watched it rise casually to small somethings. I inched forward to a rod length away at most and couldn’t believe the fish hadn’t noticed me while it continued to rise! With no other option I used a bow and arrow cast and after about the sixth attempt the fish took my fly. It bolted instantly, shaken from its feeding reverie, its seemingly infallible lie proving fallible, and it showed in the way it stripped line from my reel at a furious speed. This fish weighed 3¾lbs, the largest of the trio. To round off the session I later caught a fourth fish of 2½lbs on a yellow Humpy.
|The best of the lot|
Seeing so many fish and catching four in less than two hours, even though small by New Zealand standards, was just the tonic I needed after the tough going of Reefton.
*Knowing it could be a contentious issue I had previously given some thought to whether I should name the rivers I fish in New Zealand. It has been my general policy since starting this blog to put a name to rivers but in exceptional circumstances in the past I have kept the venue to myself, so there is some precedent. The reason for withholding a river’s identity is simple - to keep it from being over fished. Either for my own selfish reasons, to respect the privacy or request of local anglers or to ensure the continued sustainability of a threatened trout population. New Zealand’s rivers are already heavily fished. The decision I reached for the time I am in New Zealand is to name rivers only where I blank or catch what would be described in New Zealand terms as “little” (something under 5lbs I guess). But it's not a hard and fast rule. I may choose not to name a river at all and I don't write about every river I fish. I never discuss the access points I use. Nobody is going to be encouraged to go out of their way to track down a river, perhaps walking well over 10kms, on the premise that I toiled for a single fish of 3-5lbs. In addition, a river such as the Mataura is so famous that when I visited it most of the angler access positions were already filled by vehicles. Me writing about the Mataura is not going to do anything to increase pressure on an already over-fished river. It will however be a much different picture were I to catch a large fish or find a hidden gem. Then I will keep the identity of the venue to myself (it just hasn‘t happened yet!). Besides, the real joy in fishing New Zealand is to get out there and explore it for yourself.