Otago Weekly Fishing Report - 23 March 2023

Dust off the waders, winter feels just around the corner

Cool air temperatures with a dusting of snow throughout the week ensured the water temperature has remained low with heavy rainfall discolouring and raising most rivers in the region. With some angler’s interest being distracted by four-legged creatures for the next couple of weeks it may be time to shake the spiders out of your waders, pack a raincoat, and wade out into a river mouth and target some pre-spawning fish as they congregate in large numbers. Remember to express care around river mouths soft edges and gravel bars, anglers are advised to fish in pairs and wear lifejackets, even when fishing from the shore. For those heading into the hills and considering taking a fishing rod, please ensure that you check regulations as some of the roar blocks are within a backcountry fishery catchment which require a backcountry endorsement to fish and/or flyfishing only. 

Above right: Monty Wright caught this solid brown in the upper Taieri River on a small blowfly fly pattern.  


Explore the murk

With many rivers still being high and dirty, the humble worm fly once again offers a unique opportunity to target hungry fish wanting to increase condition before their spawning run. Phil from Queenstown Hunting & Fishing recommends targeting the rivers as they still are carrying a bit of colour but are on the way down. In areas where bait fishing is permitted drifting garden worms using spilt shot or a small ball sinker can also be very effective, as well as dark-coloured soft baits. It's important to ensure the soft baits are correctly threaded straight onto the jig head so they swim correctly. Don’t be afraid to change weight for any of your methods, to ensure you are getting down to the trout, Phil says.

Timaru river in Flood

Timaru River running dirty during a recent Hāwea angler survey, showing a large amount of suspended sediment and concrete-like colour. Photo: Mason Court.


Successful from the shore

Anglers are having success targeting cruising trout from the shore in the larger lakes. Mark from Southern Wild Wānaka says large numbers of brown trout are cruising the shallows of Lake Hāwea. These fish have been chasing bullies in the shallows, so a small streamer imitation such as a Mrs Simpson or Hamills Killer is the best way to target them. A pheasant-tailed nymph in a size 10 can also be extremely effective as the bullies themselves can be very small.  

Mayfly hatches are still going steady with the constant cool water temperatures. Tim from Central Otago Hunting & Fishing says to look out for hatches on calm mornings and afternoons. Anglers are reporting good hatches around 11am on warm, still days. Spinning from the shore of Lake Dunstan with bladed spinners has been an effective method at enticing a bite from all available sport fish species (brown, rainbow, salmon, and perch). Spin anglers should target the Clutha channels at the top of Lake Dunstan and the deeper drop-offs along the lake edge. Tim’s current favourite lure is the Black Magic SpinMax in hot pink.


Contrasting conditions

In the Strath Taieri area, browns in the Taieri River were slurping up the last of the willow grubs last weekend. The river was low and wadable on Sunday before this week’s heavy rainfall. Fish were rising in the bubble lines beneath willows and against the bank, and most fish took an unweighted size 14 hare’s ear nymph.

Hadley from Hunting & Fishing Dunedin recommends getting out there and fishing the Waipori and Pomahaka after the recent rainfall has refreshed the rivers (the flow in the Pomahaka was over 110 cumecs on the 22nd). Hadley says soft baits, in particular white grubs, fished on a light jig head fished through the deeper, slower sections of the river have been bringing success to many anglers.


Sinking line and floating flies

One successful North Island method anglers in the deep south often neglect is that of fishing booby and heave-and-leave type flies.
The concept is relatively simple. A highly buoyant fly is fished on a short leader with a dense, fast-sinking fly line in a stillwater situation. The weighted line sinks to the bottom, but the fly remains suspended above the bottom at whatever length the leader is set at.
The effectiveness of this tactic is due to a few reasons. Firstly, the buoyant fly will generally not snag the bottom, so it can be fished in areas with weed or rocks, avoiding the headache of catching the bottom.  Secondly, due to the floating nature of the fly, it can be fished extremely slowly, without leaving the trout’s feeding zone near the bottom of the waterway. This is an highly effective method in targeting trout on deep lake edges and river mouths. Top colours in our southern lakes include black, brown, white, green, and bright orange.

For more tips, click this link to an instructional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5RXNGWekKw

 Booby Flies Ben

The white Booby fly can be extremely effective fished during bright days. Photo: Ben Sowry



Update on Onslow

Concerns have been raised about Lake Onslow’s sport fish population and angler accessibility due to low water levels cause by an extended drawdown period. In response, Fish & Game staff conducted sampling on the brown trout population while also investigating the accessibly from the shoreline. Fish were found to be in average to poor condition, with a negative relationship between fish length and condition. The average weight of the sampled trout was 300 grams while the largest caught was 943 grams or 2.1lbs.  Staff found that the shoreline access was limited due to the soft sediment and mud, and urged anglers to be extremely careful when navigating the shoreline in particular around Fortification Creek as you can easily get stuck in thigh high mud if not careful.

Lake Onslow Safe Boating signPioneer Energy has installed a new sign illustrating safe boating areas on the lake, and hazards to avoid. Photo: Jayde Couper


Clyde Dam live webcam

 Cylde webcam 230323

A screengrab of the Clyde Dam webcam taken at the time of writing.

Want to know conditions at Clyde Dam? Check this live webcam sponsored by Contact Energy updated every 15 minutes.


Here’s the weekend outlook:



Dunedin weather 230323

Another weekend spoilt by rain showers and stiff southwesterlies on Saturday. Sunday is the pick of the weekend with clear skies and light northerlies. Rivers are likely to discolour and rise on Saturday, however, this should provide excellent fishing on Sunday and Monday as rivers drop and clear. The Taieri River at Outram has dropped from 80 cumecs on the 22nd to be now flowing at 35 cumecs at the time of writing this report. The water temperature was 11 degrees. 

Click here for live weather updates.



Wanaka weather 230323

With northerlies turning to showers and northwesterlies on Saturday, Sunday is looking to be the most favourable day to get out with clear skies and light winds. If rivers are still flooded and unfishable, consider exploring the lake edges and river mouth of the larger lakes.

Click here for live weather updates.



Alexandra weather 230323

Southerlies bring showers on Saturday clearing on Sunday morning. Sunday is forecast to be a stunning Central Otago day providing a perfect day to get out fishing on the many reservoirs around the region if rivers are still unfishable.

Click here for live weather updates.


Clutha Regional Forecast

Clutha weather 230323With both the Pomahaka and the Clutha still running high from mid-week rain, scattered shower over the weekend will not assist the visibility of anglers over the weekend. With westerlies turning to light northerlies on Sunday offering the most favourable conditions of the weekend. Don’t be afraid to fish the dirty/clearing rivers with a range of methods.

The Pomahaka River flow is still dropping at 32 cumecs

The lower Clutha River at Balclutha was 688 cumecs

Click here for live weather updates.


For more ORC water monitoring and alerts information click here.

Grab your licence online and let the angling adventures begin.


Got any Otago fishing news?

Send your fishing news and photos (with anglers’ names) to otago@fishandgame.org.nz for consideration in the weekly report.