After the week in Southland, I dropped Leo back Queenstown airport, bid farewell to the rest of the group and headed across to explore some new waters in the tussocky high country of Otago alone. Hooking through the Kawarau Gorge and across the highland Lake Dunstan, I headed down the grand Clutha Valley. I had a hankering to fish a large river and the Clutha looked a likely target. The river is huge and the emerald green water flows with enough power to easily intimidate a wading fisherman. Most banks of the river drop of steeply, into fast water that limit the possibly of both fishing and fish being able to hold and feed. I continued down the valley to the quaint town of Roxburgh.
Clutha River at Roxburgh
I had heard about the Chinook Salmon run that occurs in the Clutha and about fisherman hooking huge specimens from positions high above the water level near the dam outlet near Lake Roxburgh Village. Of course, it would be even more difficult hooking and landing one on the fly and it was still a little early in the season to consider trying, so I continued South and found a nice gravel bar and island near the golf course. By the time I rigged the six weight the sun was behind the hills and the moon was rising. The perfect time to give the Twilight Beauty a run.
Evening on the Clutha
Wading and fishing around the island was easy enough, apart from the hundreds of seagulls that must have been nesting close by and continually felt the need to attack me. The waving rod and line kept them at bay, and I managed 2 rainbows and a brown on the Twilight Beauty. One of the rainbows which was a half decent size must have been recently attacked by a cormorant and had claw marks and cuts along its back and gill plates. The tough little bugger had recovered though and was obviously back feeding.
Clutha Rainbow with battle scars
I gave the woolly bugger a swing through some of the faster water around the front of the island in the hopes of hooking into something big and got a few grabs but failed to hook up. The joys of swinging big flies 40 feet away with a six weight!
I camped the night and was up early the next morning with a plan to fish Lake Onslow and the Teviot River. I made a quick stop on the way up to Lake Onslow in Roxburgh East to embrace the gold mining history of the area and spent a couple of hours on Pierce’s Prospect sluicing some pay dirt with a couple of the local gold bugs. Stu Edgecumbe owns and runs the site, and is a deadset character who knows as much about the local gold mining history as anyone.
Pierce’s prospect is still producing
Didn’t get a massive pay out but took home some colour nonetheless.
With the weather looking like it could turn nasty any hour I rallied the Subaru up the winding dirty road for what seemed like an eternity, until finally arriving at Lake Onslow. The lake is incredibly high for its size, sitting at 700 metres above sea level.
The view over Lake Onslow
As I began to explore the area, the outflow into the Teviot River looked like a particularly tempting spot to wet a line. A quick walk through the tussocks and I was covered in green cicadas. I had a variety of cicada flies, all of which compared well with the size and profile of the cicada.
(l to r); Cicada, Stu’s Cicada, Elk Hair Cicada, Manic Classic Cicada, Turks Tarantula
Over the next two hours I fished them all, and they all caught fish. A lot of fish. The fish were mostly browns, nothing massive but up to three pounds and beautifully coloured in bright yellows and golds.
The fish were stacked up waiting for cicadas
Great water, amazing fishing
I was well into the double figures and had only fished a few hundred metres before the weather started to close in. Being so far up a somewhat sketchy dirt road I thought it best to retreat to lower ground before the storm hit, and boy did it hit. By the time I was half way down I could barely see five metres in front of the car. I was driving in clouds for close to 40 minutes before I found the Clutha River again and recovered some visibility.
Rain on the Clutha
I decided to leave the Clutha valley in the hope of escaping the weather and so continued driving South. By the time I arrived at the Pomahaka River the rain had stopped, so I pulled up at the bridge and hoped for signs of an evening rise. Conditions were dead still but I did not see a single fish rise in half an hour looking upstream and downstream. According to some locals the Pomahaka has felt the full effect of intensive cattle farming and the fishing in the river had been decimated.
All quiet on the Pomahaka
I continued along the road and spent the night on the banks of the Mataura in Gore. The moon was out and bright, illuminating some of the towns historic buildings.
Beautiful night in Gore
The next day I had a quick fish on the lower Mataura and Waikaia Rivers for a couple more nice browns on willow grubs, before heading back up to Queenstown to return the rental car the following day.
Paying homage at the World Capital
I did actually catch another couple of nice browns in a small creek in the middle of town before I found out that it was supposed to off limits. Whoops.
All in all it had been another great trip to South Island New Zealand, exploring new water and catching plenty of quality trout.