Southland Reel Life FEB 2017

Picking the brains of a Mataura master

In this month’s Reel Life article, field officer Cohen Stewart interviews retired fishing guide and honorary ranger Len Prentice to find out how the average angler can make their fishing trip to the upper Mataura more successful.

Right: Honorary Ranger Len Prentice landing a fish on the Waimea Stream.

Len has a wealth of fly fishing knowledge as he's fished the Southland region for 63 years and has been a fly fishing guide for 35 years.

Len is based in Nokomai so is a real asset to Southland Fish and Game.

Len is able to regularly catch up with anglers and check fishing licences in the upper Mataura area.

Len is a friendly character and very generous with the fishing information he shares.

If you ever bump into Len, be sure to have a chat and pick his brains on what the trout are up to.

Question: Len, the upper Mataura River can be a difficult river to fish, what makes the upper Mataura trout tricky to catch?

The upper Mataura River is a popular destination for many anglers because the fishing is something special.

The angler has the opportunity to fish for sizable brown trout in clear water.

Because of the upper Mataura’s popularity, the fish in this reach see many different flies and anglers.

This pressure makes for weary fish that can be difficult to catch, especially for those anglers who are new to fly fishing or are not locals.

Question: In your opinion, what is the most important thing to remember when fly fishing on the upper Mataura River?

Edges! Anglers need to fish their feet first.

Most of your upper Mataura trout are going to be close to the river bank edges.

PHOTO 2 SOUTHLAND FEB 2017 Left: Len’s Mataura tips work! Southland Fish and Game field officer Erin Garrick with an upper Mataura brown trout caught on a cicada fly.

Focus your attention on the edges and be careful not to scare those trout which may only be a couple of metres from the bank.

Methodically working your way up the edge of the river is a good idea.

Question: What fly patterns and sizes should the Mataura angler be using?

You don’t need a box full of many different flies.

I only use a handful of patterns.

My five ‘must have’ upper Mataura patterns are the blowfly, cicada, Adams parachute, willow grub and a small pheasant tail style nymph.

Just as important as the fly pattern, is the fly size.

Too often when I am out checking fishing licences or I bump into other anglers on the river, I see them fishing with flies or nymphs that are too big.

Nymphs should be a size 18 and dry flies should be size 16 or 18 - you don’t need to go any bigger.

Question: Do you need to use very light tippet to catch upper Mataura trout?

Not really, five or six pound breaking strain is what I use.

If you go any lighter you might have problems if a hooked trout goes for the willows and you need to put some pressure on it.

So there you have it, angling advice from Mataura Master Len Prentice. Apply these tips during your next trip to the upper Mataura and hopefully you will get a few more Mataura browns to the bank.

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