A very large river, predominantly single-channelled with gravel and cobble beaches. Some sections are fast flowing, lined with bedrock and are quite gorgy, particularly between Millers Flat and Tuapeka Mouth. The section between Tuapeka Mouth and Balclutha is quite attractive to the angler with a medium gradient, wide open ripples and runs and well-defined pools, especially when river flows are low (less than 400m2/sec). From Balclutha to the sea the river splits in two around a large flat island (Inch Clutha). Here the gradient is much shallower, hence there are less runs and riffles and the river takes on a more uniform flow.
Brown trout, rainbow trout, chinook salmon and perch.
Small brown trout (0.5kg) are plentiful throughout the lower river and tend to make up the bulk of the angler’s catch. There are larger resident fish present (1-2kg) and those who persevere will be rewarded, also there are seasonal migrations (see best times) of sea-run brown trout which average 2-3kg and can be much larger. Returning chinook salmon average 2-6kg. Some rainbow trout are caught upstream of Clydevale, these are usually small (up to 1kg). Perch are found mostly downstream of Balclutha and can be quite large (up to 2kg) have been recorded).
The wide open shallow gravel bars harbour the greatest number of fish, but the majority of these tend to be in the small size bracket. Larger fish (including migratory fish) tend to be found in the lee of snags and obstructions, such as submerged logs and rocks, or in deep water.
Fly – the invertebrate community consists predominantly of mayflies and caddisflies, therefore nymphs such as Hares Ear or Pheasant Tail either with or without beadheads are the stock standard. Popular dry fly patterns are the Cul de canard dun or emerger and the deer-hair or elk-hair caddis. In the slower moving water of the lower reached fish often feed along the edge of elodea weed beds on snails or water boatmen (corixa). Through the spring and summer whitebait and smelt will be present in the tidal reaches and a Jack Sprat or Yellow Dorothy are essential items in the fly-fishers tackle box.
Spin – White and yellow Tasmanian Devils, silver Tobys and articulated eels re the spinners of choice in the lower river, especially when whitebait or smelt are running. Black and gold or Banana Tobys work well throughout the river and at any time of year.
Fishing can be good at any time of day. Mayfly hatches are likely to occur from about mid-day through to late afternoon, depending on the weather. Caddis hatches can occur in the evenings, particularly in the early part of summer. Spin fishing for migratory fish (either trout or salmon) is most productive at dawn and dusk or on the incoming tide. The best times of the year for sea-run trout are September – October and January – March. The salmon run usually peaks from January – April.
Classic high country stream in the headwaters, with steep gorges, deep pools and clear, slightly tea-stained water. Middle reaches (Leithen picnic area to Conical Hill) flowing predominantly through flat pasturelands with a gravel bed. In the lower reaches there is a mixture of gorges and flars and the water is much darker in colour making fish harder to spot.
Brown trout, chinook salmon and perch.
Average size is large in the headwaters (2=3kg) but numbers are generally low. In the middle and lower reaches greater numbers of fish in the 0.5-1.5kg size bracket can be expected. Returning chinook salmon average 2-6kg. Perch are relatively common downstream of Swans Bridge and average 0.5-1kg.
Fish tend to stick to the large pools in the headwaters. In the middle and lower reaches fish can be found in the riffles and surface feeding under overhanging willows.
Flu – large weighted nymphs and terrestrial type dry flies such as cochi bondhu or grasshoppers in the headwaters. The various life stages of the mayfly should be covered throughout the river and willow grubs are a must during the summer in the middle and lower reaches.
Spin – Veltic toby or artic trout.
Fishing can be good at any time of day in the middle and lower reaches, the headwaters are best fished in the middle of the day when light conditions are best for spotting trout. Migratory fish are more likely to be present in the latter half of the season. The salmon run is relatively small and usually peaks from January-April.
The Waipahi is a small, rain-fed river with tea-strained water. It flows in a single confined channel over schist bedrock and quartz cobbles with a delightful pool, riffle, run sequence. Much of the catchment is intensively grazed with sheep, beef and some dairy cattle, therefore access is usually through farmland and permission should be sought before crossing paddocks. It is well known locally as a good early season river, which becomes difficult to fish over summer due to low water and excessive weed and algal growth. Fishing pressure is very low after December.
Average size of fish is 1-2kg and the numbers of fish can be impressive particularly during a rise early in the season.
The entire length of the river offers good fishing water, with the highest number of fish being in the middle and lower reaches; from about the Clinton – Mataura Old Coach Road bridge downstream.
Fly - the invertebrate community consists predominantly of mayflies and caddisflies, therefore nymphs such as Hares Ear or Pheasan Tail either with or without beadheads are the stock standard. Popular dry fly patterns are the Cul de canard dun or emerger and the deer-hear or elk-hair caddis.
Spin – Small veltic spinners in either green and gold or red and gold colour combinations work well.
As previously mentioned, the Waipahi is an early season fishery, October and November are the best months. At this time of year most of the trout feeding activity is in the middle part of the day and many anglers will say it is a waste of time to start before 9am or fish on after 4pm.
Although not widely recongnised as a sports fishery, Lake Tuakitoto deserves a mention for those adventurous anglers who would like to try something a bit different. The lake is very shallow (less than 1m in most areas) and with a lot of soft mud it is best fished from a small boat or canoe. The dominant species is perch, which can be easily spotted cruising in the shallow water, but there are also a few brown trout. Due to the shallow nature and soft bottom, the lake can only be fished in relatively calm weather conditions, as it becomes dirty very quickly with any wind. Perch will attack just about any feathered lure with enthusiasm. Spin fishing is difficult due to the abundant weed growth and shallow water.
There are numerous other small streams that contain fish in this area. Most can be fished successfully using the same methods described for the Waipahi River. Fishing in these small waters is generally best at the beginning of the season before low water and high temperatures of summer drive fish back into the main rivers.
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