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.