Timing of Fly Fishing for Maximum Opportunity
Season opens on the 1st of November for Rainbow waters and any rivers that flow into a high country lake catchment. Any waters flowing out of these lakes to the coastal lowlands open on the 1st of October.
There is very good fishing early season in October; it is however restricted to Brown Trout fisheries. The 1st of November will see all waters open. While the weather and water conditions are less reliable in November the fishing is far more straightforward. This will continue on to the end of December.
November is primarily a nymph month, the highlight is around the 14th of November when the Manuka Beetles appear, this advent signals the start of the dry fly fishing.
Water conditions are normally clear water but above average flows. There is also a better than even chance that we will be effected by wind during this period. Rain and floods are not a major concern in so far as they are as likely in February as they are in November. A major advantage with the Wanaka Region is that we are within easy access of three major catchments and it is a major disaster if we loose all three catchments for fishing at one time. As well as three major Lakes within 25 minutes road travel we have several smaller still waters. These still waters compliment our excellent river and stream fishing.
All fly-fishing is based on the principle of sight fishing, that is we attempt to find our fish visually and then fish to that specific trout. It maybe a Brown or Rainbow anywhere from 1 to 4 Kg, the average is around 1.5 to 2 kg. Once a fish is located it is then a matter of patient observation to ascertain whether the trout in question is feeding on nymph’s, emergers or dries. The predominate food source is caddis, followed by mayfly and stonefly’s. The November period is mainly caddis nymphs, some mayfly hatches and of course our Manuka beetles. This trend will hold to the end of December, by this time the effects of summer will begin to make there presence felt, the Manuka beetles are frying in the sun to be replaced by Cicada’s, so the dries are now size 10 as opposed to 14 -16s. Nymph is still very good but most fish are now focused on the surface for a free meal on th ehost of terrestrial insects that now abound. Mayfly and Caddis hatches are now early and late in the day.
By January we have the major impact of summer holidays and a huge increase of recreational users on the water. This is not necessarily anglers, but kayak’s, boats, swimmers, campers and any number of other users. The over all effect of this coupled with lower water due to the summer heat is that the trout retreat to deeper waters and are becoming very cautious. This tends to equalize the effects of the trout’s willingness to take dries. The weather by January and February is high summer, daytime temperatures are in the high 20’s to low 30’s, water temperatures are rising and water levels dropping. On the right day the dry fly fishing at this time can be fantastic, it can also be down right ordinary. We are now using all our tricks and long 15 to 18ft leaders to hook these well-educated trout. One of the interesting things about fishing in NZ is that because fisherman are the only major predator, trout are quite happy to sit mid stream in feeding lines all day if undisturbed. Remember however that the water is ‘gin clear’ and the skies cloudless so a dull line colour and angler clothing are essential. We are hunting these trout in every sense of the word.
Seasonal variations will often dictate where and how we are going to fish this summer period. It is very important to realize that the best weather does not mean the best fishing. I have seen this illustrated time and again when in the high of summer we get a cold change in the weather for a day or two and the fly fishing will improve dramatically. It is important to keep in your mind at all times that as anglers we are the only major predators to trout in NZ. The trout will at times exhibit baffling behaviour. This works both ways, fish that are 10 to 15 meters directly upstream will spook with out a cast been made. Often a fish that is feeding will simple stop feeding and hold its lie, this is extremely difficult to deal with, as the fish is very visible and often very big. To walk away from such a fish is hard for a lot of anglers. On rare occasions such fish will respond to a fly and this further heightens the problems. On most occasions it is better to walk away and leave the fish relatively undisturbed and hope it will return to its feeding mood.
A good equation to remember is that you will have a 50% chance of catching any given trout on your first cast, 50% of 50% on the next cast and so on. It is therefore vital that the first cast is your best one. This is easier said than done and no amount of practice is going to prepare you for this approach to trout fishing. There are so many factors to consider in that first cast. The principle one is how do I give myself the best chance to fool this fish. Often you may have to cross the river, always be aware of the position of the sun; you don’t want any line shadow. Do have enough line out? The right fly? There are dozens of different scenarios that present themselves and the longer one fishes for trout the more seem to present themselves. Always attempt to look at the situation from the trout’s point of view. Fly-fishing should be a relatively simple sport, however anglers do tend to complicate the issue most of the time. Fish have two main reactions; one is to food the other is to safety.
Always kept your approach as simple as the situation will allow. You are hunting that fish and unless you have an understanding of how trout will react to different situations this hunting becomes somewhat one sided. Just as every trout is different so must every approach to a trout be different. The main restrictions on the fishing are those that we impose on ourselves, is it a problem with casting into a wind, roll casts, mending, reach casts, and so on. The more flexible we are in both our approach and ability the better the results with be. Given that we are not all expert anglers and some of us have no desire to be so we must focus on our strong points and us them to our advantage.
One of my favourite themes is to ask why? To statements about trout fishing; Why should you fish upstream to a rising trout? Why can’t you fish a nymph down stream? Always ask why, if you can’t provide the answer yourself or get it from the person you are asking then re-evaluate the situation and see what you can come up with. Be flexible. After the soul searching of high summer fishing where we are dealing to low water, warm water and fish that are a lot more Angler weary it is a relief to have March and April to come.
These are important months for the trout as they are for the Trout Fisher. The trout need to gain condition for the cold winter ahead. To do so they must gather as much energy from the available food sources as possible. That these months are also the best months for mayfly hatches in the Otago and Southland areas is a happy coincidence. The cooler weather also cools the enthusiasm of the bulk of Anglers. If you are a hot windless day type of Angler then so be it. If on the other hand you are prepared to challenge yourself then these months are every bit as good as the early months of October and November. Sure the weather will be tough at times but the fish are far more receptive to a fly when they are feeding strongly.
The New Zealand Fly fishing experience is about quality, it’s not about quantity. If you are into numbers and easy fish this is not the place to be, on the other hand you wish to sight fish for large Brown and Rainbow trout in ‘gin clear’ waters in beautiful surroundings well away from the crowds then come and try your skills.