Martin Langland’s column, Reel Life August 2017
Winter river season
During May and June, the winter river fishing was the best I’ve ever experienced – maybe due to lower more stable flows, especially in larger rivers. This made for some very good fish numbers and incredibly well-conditioned trout.
Right: Wayne's whopping brown.
Covering lots of water with deep nymphs produced the best results and most days we had to work and focus hard to catch fish. However, as is often the case, at times there were runs (sections of river) that held lots of fish and if you could identify these it made things easier. It’s all about putting in river time in with repeat visits.
With my fishing buddy Wayne, in early June I was so pleased to land a four pound rainbow from the Waimakariri River, a very good fish for there. Towards the end of the day Wayne had caught none and was about to call it a day when I suggested we try just one more run. As this was a drizzly low visibility day, I took to a high bank and thought I saw a fish. After several casts and no response I was having doubts as it whether it was a fish or not so I swung a large articulated streamer over the target. Sure enough it moved to follow the streamer without taking. We opted for some nymph changes and a wonderful, even record breaker brown made Wayne's (and my) day.
The message here is that having a rod rigged with a streamer set up can be a great way to find trout, especially with two anglers working as a team, the second rod set up with nymphs .I even recall fishing mayfly hatches right into early July which is a first. Then the rain came and high flows and more or less ended winter river fishing. It was great news for the wellbeing of the rivers however.
Winter lake fishing
Lake Coleridge was the focus this winter and I was lucky to get out for four days over the winter season.
At times the fishing was very slow but that’s more than compensated for by the majestic scenes of snow-covered high country ranges and crystal blue water.
The first trip yielded the biggest surprise ever for me as I landed a massive rainbow about 28 inches long certainly the very best ‘bow I have ever encountered. It took a veiled fluro egg pattern, popular on the canals.
On the other days we used a mixture of floating and sinking lines with streamers of all sizes that seemed to work okay, but it became apparent there were times when the fish were deep.
During these times, the "heave and leave” method excelled; it involves using a fast sinking line , a short 2-3 feet leader and a floating fly (booby-style). The application is very easy: just cast out let it sink and wait with the fish taking and hooking themselves. It’s a lot of fun and although it can be a bit boring, I can’t wait to apply it to lakes in the upcoming spring-summer season, albeit with more sombre semi-realistic nymphs .
Winter Lake fishing is a great time to take a break and enjoy time with friends and even meet some new ones in the winter wonderland. Let’s hope these fish spawn well as it's become clear to me and many others that Lake Coleridge is a North Canterbury treasure, no question.
Massive Lake Coleridge rainbow.
New fishing season
High flows are the feature of most river systems at present, and it looks like this may be the case for the early part of the new season. While this is welcomed after the long dry years we’ve had, it may make for some difficult angling early season.
The challenge will be a smaller number of fish that will be more spread out with in the high flows, but as always adapting to the conditions is a huge and rewarding part of fishing so here are some high water tips…
1) Take time to recognise well-structured parts of rivers as these will be areas that have a much higher possibility of holding fish - places such as large pools , rocky runs or sections of river that flow along buffs. Remember that in higher flows trout don't like to fight strong current so any places the flow slows should be fished.
2) If sight fishing is not possible due to slightly discoloured water, be sure not to give up as this often becomes a game of covering a large area of water that is enjoyable. Best methods to do this include fishing a team of two nymphs under a large indicator. Be sure to use a brighter weighted nymph (hot spot, glister or flash back) and a more natural nymph as a point fly. A creative alternative is to swing highly visual streamers through river sections and keep a watch for fish that may follow or nip at the streamer. This can be a great advantage in that you may not catch the fish, but more importantly you will find water that is holding fish. As mentioned above if you are two to three anglers fishing together, use a streamer set up and nymph set up and alternate. We often do this and find that it’s super productive. Once you have seen or felt a fish using the streamer let the piece of water rest for a short while and fish nymphs though the location. Often BOOM!
3) Often smaller tributaries become better places to focus on during higher flow times. Again, be prepared to cover water and walk distances.
4) Hellgrammites: without doubt the Dobsonfly larvae is one of the best early season nymph imitations to use. These fearsome insects go by many names such as creepers, toe- biters, and Alderflies, and in the U.S., they are called hellgrammites. Being large, they are easy to tie heavy with a fast sink rate and are optimal for trout to see. The fish often move a long way to grab them as they are big on the menu early season. I feel that many anglers don’t fully understand the importance of this insect to trout, so it’s a good idea to read about them or even better, go find some and observe. You will find they are remarkably widespread in most lowland and back country rivers and are even reasonably pollution-resistant. They are carnivores themselves, feeding mostly on caddis and mayfly nymphs. There are several patterns that imitate Dobsonfly larvae and as a fly tier I have worked out several original patterns that work really which are fun to tie and so much fun to fish.
Like so many angling situations, it’s all a game of pros and cons but the biggest positive of higher flows is that trout are very energetic and active feeders during such times!
Enjoy your early season! Remember luck favours the well prepared but be adaptive, observant and keep that “act of inquiry going" - break some new ground.