Golden Waters!

Even though it was still early in the season, having not yet visited (another) one of my favourite waters was eating me up on the inside. It had been a long time between drinks, as they say (luckily,not literally!). The forecast looked pretty much ideal - light winds, and long sunny fine spells, somewhat of a rarity for this barren, often windswept and bleak, moody valley. Robbie and I hit the road typically early, and as the Landcruiser trundled up the old 4wd track that kept climbing in altitude, we eventually broke through the morning mist to a truly stunning Otago morning. The sun turning the light frost to a heavy due. There was plenty of fishing talk. We simply could not wait to hit the river. 

It was apparent early on in the day that there were good numbers of mayflies about and hatching, some big adult buggers too. I tried and failed miserably to photograph a couple of them. We had only walked for a couple of minutes before the first trout was spotted. He was cruising around in the slack water where a substantial backwater meets the main river flow. I had set up with a dry dropper rig consisting of a fairly nondescript generic dry fly made from assorted fluff and deer hair, and a wee trailing size 16 mayfly imitation underneath. For some reason, the dry didn’t stay floating for very long at all - maybe it was my shitty tying, or perhaps the shallow weedy bottom caught the nymph and pulled the dry under after the first cast. We will go with the latter. Not that the trout minded, and ate the submersed dry fly with enthusiasm! Little did we know that this bright golden fish was a sign of great things to come.

The fishing was great. I won't bore you with all the we caught this, we caught that details. Several top end trout came to the net in the 5 - 7 lb range, all beautifully marked, so typical of the water in this part of the world. Yellow golden flanks, speckled with red spots, and fat. Some were simply stunning. All the best fish came up to our dry flies - the reliable old size 16 para adam’s (high vis model, of course) was hard to beat. One moment in particular stuck in my mind. And fly fishing is definitely all about ‘moments’. I can hardly remember the trout itself, what it looked like or how heavy it was, but can certainly remember how Robbie caught the damn critter. This ‘young punk’ was in for a masterclass alright. After two or three tidy upstream presentations with a small weighted mayfly nymph, the fish inspected each and slid back to its under cut bank, continuing to feed. How many times have we been there? The drift looked good, and so did the depth. Maybe we had some micro - drag?, we suggested. Undeterred, Robbie opened his fly box and decided if the fish wasn’t going to take one of his carefully tied 16s, then bugger it, it's going to get a big, heavy, rubber legged backcountry fly thrown at it! Robbie assures me that the cast was executed perfectly ( although I'm not so sure!). He landed the nymph well behind the fish, which upon sensing the commotion behind him, as if a bomb had just been dropped, turned, charged downstream, and inhaled the fly! “There's an old technique to keep up your sleeve, grasshopper!”.

As good as the fishing was, it was the other moments that made the day. The barren, vast, pastel coloured landscapes, and rolling hills, detailed in some of Grahame Sydney's  work. The calm oil slick looking water quietly broken by rings from a rising trout. The big sweeping bubbly corners and bends that are just asking to be prospected with a dry fly in the height of summer. Sitting down for some lunch and just soaking up the atmosphere, and reliving some of the fishing moments .The old willow tree and long riverside grass we lay in while gathering some motivation to drive home. The places we go, and the people we share it with are always, at the very least, equal to the fishing itself. This is one of the great things about our sport!

Included below is another short video clip from one of the pools that we fished that day. Sorry in advance for the shaky footage! I am currently taking bookings for next season, feel free to contact me at thomas.j.mcauliffe@gmail.com if you would like to plan a NZ trip.


Welcome to the blog & other news!

Welcome to my blog! I've started this as a creative outlet to talk about everything fly fishing, and to keep you up to date with fly fishing in my part of the world (aka, paradise). I hope you will find it useful and entertaining! I think there is still an important place for forums and blogs etc, as much of this information can not as easily be talked about via popular media such as Facebook or Instagram.

Well with the cooler winter weather upon us in the deep south, I am currently taking the opportunity to tie up all next seasons flies, and fill as many gaps in my boxes as I can! My boxes are usually organized into nymphs, dries, small stuff (16s/18s nymphs, aerodrys, emergers grubs etc), streamers, bait fish patterns, and still water, or that's how they start at the beginning of the season...

My current philosophy for tying effective NZ flies, are quick, impressionistic (prey image theory - Bob Wyatt), and fish catching! The rest is up to us on the water to get them into the zone.

My most successful nymph over the course of the season is a very basic mayfly imitation. Starting with a strong wire hook like a Kamasan b175 and black tungsten bead to suit. Pheasant tail tail, thread body with a taper to it, and rough dubbed thorax. No wire rib, no legs, and no wing case. Colours, sizes and weights to match accordingly! Easily a ‘2 minute tie’ that I have the utmost confidence in. I have photographed some flies, and pages in my boxes to give you an idea of what we are using down here in the deep South, and to hopefully give you some inspiration for your own tying, especially if you are planning a trip to New Zealand, and why wouldn't you be!?

Lots of anglers don’t tie flies, I think it adds a valuable dimension to your fishing! Once you have the basic techniques sorted, and understand fly proportions you can basically tie up anything, and it's fun! It also teaches you about bugs and insects, and you can make your flies specific to the waters you fish - this can only improve your angling!

Another winter job that is getting done is doing some preventative maintenance on the guiding truck. Perhaps the most important part - the breaks, have just had a complete overhaul with all new parts. Rest assured it will be in tip top shape for our adventures by the start of the season.

I've also had some fishing in myself! Firstly up to the Central South Island area with the lads from the Otago Anglers Association where we had fun on the lakes and stream mouths, and even managed to catch some salmon on the fly rods thanks to a recent release into the canal system. Ive also been keeping a close eye on the lower Clutha River, and will do right throughout the winter season - it is a superb fishery.. A brightly coloured streamer and 8lb nylon produced a nice lot of smaller fighting fit rainbows. Due to power generation upstream, the river can rise or fall several hundred cumecs over the course of the day - the 4WD track I drove in on in the morning was underwater when we left the river at 4pm!

Click on the photos for a description, I have also included a short clip from a back country wilderness mission last season.. Enjoy.