Just when we thought we were done with winter’s bite, Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us with strong winds and icy temperatures the past 24 hours. For most anglers, the sudden shift was a cue to head back to Melbourne. So, the river is a ghost town right now. But for us fly fishers, the rising river presents a host of opportunities to seek out fish that are feeding along the edges.
Good news regarding this weather – things are looking up. By Monday, we’re in for some nicer conditions, with temps on the rise all week. From the looks of it, a perfect weekend is just around the corner, just seven days away. All of next week looks to be excellet, with most days shaping up to be in the low twenties and, fingers crossed, not too windy.
For those unfamiliar, the Goulburn is a tailwater that is mostly unaffected by rain events such as we are experiencing now. This is because it is a tailwater and its flows are heavily regulated. They’re releasing more water from Lake Eildon – 5000 ML/d yesterday, 7000 today, and it’s looking like 8500 by Sunday. This means awesome edge sight fishing for fly fishers, and the freedom to fish just about anywhere out of the drift boats.
But a word of caution for those heading below Thornton: the river’s got a few new tricks up its sleeve. From the looks of it, some big water releases shifted things around a bit while we were fishing in Montana. Lots of new gravel bars and timber in some unexpected and unfortunate places. So, if you’re drifting, play it safe. If something looks off – better to hop out and check the waters ahead.
We’ve been rowing this river for 30 years, but we’ve seen more changes in the past eleven months than the previous three decades combined. There is also a huge tree that has fallen across the river located here. https://goo.gl/maps/vQiPZSXB9k9SBcnE9 While it’s an easy get around on river left at this height – it was tricky when the river was low. As it turns out this fell on Monday just after David and Nella passed by it.
This strainer accounted for numerous canoes, at least two rafts, and a tinny/punt last season, and contributed significant quantities of gear to one group of fisherman we passed who said they had scored an esky, gear bags, and fly boxes that were floating by. While we don’t condone their behaviour – it’s better you stay safe and don’t give anyone the opportunity to profit off your misfortune.
Remember, we have mountains of soft gravel lying about after the floods of 2022. This scree will continue to shift on all river heights, so if you’re boating, be vigilant on every outing.
Onto the fun stuff – the hatches have started. While some are having luck with nymphs and streamers, dry flies are holding their own. Surprisingly, there’s a bunch of grannoms and caddis out and about earlier than usual. We’re well ahead of the schedule this season but this is a good thing when all factors are taken into consideration. The combination of warmer weather and reliable flows of cold water means an epic dry fly season ahead.
A word on our teaching sessions. We’ve seen some real success, especially with the newcomers fishing nymphs. We haven’t done heaps of general guiding yet, mostly beginner lessons, workshops and drifting, but stay tuned. We’ve got a bunch of bookings lined up for the next eleven days, including drift boats out every day, so we will have a more information to share in the next week.
Overall it’s been a solid start to the season, and all signs point to some stellar dry fly fishing.
A bit more news – our film from the Montana trip is live and ready for viewing. Best watched in 4k if you can! Interested in joining the next trip? We’re taking bookings now.
Our beginner workshops are on every weekend. We’ve got some deals for group bookings, and if you’re thinking of a refresher, there’s a discount in it for you. We even have some availability for this weekend with a group having to cancel at the last-minute.
Wrapping up this update, a massive thanks to all of you. Hard to believe, but we’re nearing our 30th year in this gig. It’s been a wild ride – droughts, fires, floods, and a global pandemic. Still, here we are. Your support’s been everything. Expect a big bash when we hit that milestone, and you’re all on the invite list.
Victoria’s famed Goulburn River, along with its feeders – the Rubicon, Acheron, and Stevenson – have long been the crown jewels for fly fishing enthusiasts in Victoria. With their abundant aquatic life and picturesque surrounds, they beckon anglers from near and far to indulge in a match of wit against some of the wiliest trout in Oz. But to think this season is the same as the last, would be a long way off the mark.
If you were fortunate enough to fish the Goulburn last spring, the overwhelming memory would be that of water – and lots of it. The Goulburn experienced flooding so profound that most fishing spots were rendered inaccessible for more than a month. The engorged river, with its gouging currents, made it difficult not only to fish but also raised concerns about safety. It was a time when nature asserted its dominance, reminding us of its unpredictability.
As we step into the 2023 – 2024 fishing season, the pendulum seems to have swung to the other extreme. Rather than facing the threat of being swept away by swollen streams, the narrative this year is one of drier, warmer conditions. As fishers, we’re adapting to a different challenge: the looming drought. To put the global context into perspective, the Northern Hemisphere has just undergone its warmest summer in a time span that exceeds 100,000 years. Such monumental climatic changes do not stay isolated to one hemisphere. Their ramifications resonate worldwide.
In our corner of the world, the effects are palpable. Already, signs of the changing climes are evident in the flora that dots the banks of our beloved rivers. Trees that traditionally bloomed in synchrony with the fishing season have been showcasing their blossoms several weeks in advance. The early blossoming of plants, while a feast for the eyes, signals a change in the ecological balance. It’s an alteration that has the potential to influence insect hatches, water temperature, and ultimately, the behaviour of the fish.
A Responsive Ecosystem: The Testimony of Nature
As we observe the changing patterns in vegetation, it’s worth noting that these are not mere coincidences or isolated incidents. They are the environment’s response to larger shifts in the global climate. This early blossoming is nature’s way of adapting to the new conditions. However, while trees and plants can adjust their cycles, what does it mean for the aquatic life that calls these rivers home?
Understanding these dynamics is crucial for us as fly fishers looking to have success on every outing. The earlier blossoms could lead to a shift in the lifecycle of some of the terrestrial insects that trout feed on. We are already seeing plenty of beetles and I dare say we will see flying ants next month too. With the potential for earlier hatches, fish might be feeding more actively at different times of the day or season than in the past.
Goulburn Murray Water’s September Release Strategy for Lake Eildon
Lake Eildon, an integral part of the Goulburn River catchment, is hovering near its full capacity, sitting at an impressive 96.86% as of 28 August 2023. This heightened level can be linked back to higher than average rainfalls we’ve seen, owing to three consecutive La Niña events coupled with a negative Indian Ocean Dipole. June 2023 alone recorded inflows into Lake Eildon over three times the monthly average.
Given Lake Eildon’s current status, Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) has been carefully overseeing its water levels, ensuring target filling points are adhered to as we transition from winter to spring. To maintain the needed airspace due to the lake’s high volume for this time of year, releases have been orchestrated. As of recent, these releases have been moderated to between 1,000 ML/d to 2,000 ML/d. It’s worth noting that the current release is in service of an environmental water order, aiming to provide base flows in the Goulburn River.
This September, a significant environmental order is set to come into play, specifically targeting flows in the Goulburn River downstream of Goulburn Weir, kickstarting on 7 September. This directive demands the release of 80,000ML to 120,000ML from Lake Eildon. However, if we see substantial rainfall in the coming weeks, there could be adjustments to this order. The wetter the conditions, the likelier the volume scheduled for release from Eildon will reduce, with GMW’s sights set on achieving the full supply level by early November.
Pristine Waters: A Sight to Behold
Lake Eildon is once again a sight to witness, nearing its full capacity, a possible outcome of yet another audacious decision by our water regulators to prioritise water capture over other concerns. Yet, despite the lake’s height, rains over the past month have been unexpectedly light. This confluence of factors has ensured that the Goulburn continues to run super clear, with the likelihood that it will remain this way for most, if not all of the coming month.
Such clarity brings about more than just aesthetic pleasure for us as fly fishers. With the clear waters, the insect hatches will be excellent and there will be plenty of opportunities to fish dry flies to sighted fish. Already, we’ve witnessed numerous mayflies and a precocious emergence of caddis, all of which signal that things are going to happen sooner rather than later this season. Current projections based on observation and anecdotal records, suggests that the peak of these hatches could make their appearance a good 2-3 weeks earlier than what veteran Goulburn anglers might be accustomed to.
So, for those who’ve been biding their time, restocking their precious supplies of midges in anticipation of a typical spring. The upcoming weeks may indeed present a welcome turn of events whereby we are fishing larger dry flies to rising fish in mid-September.
Season’s Dilemmas and Concerns
The aftermath of last year’s floods, which altered the Goulburn for decades to come, remains fresh in our minds. The staggering sight of vast numbers of trout escaping as local fish farms were inundated remains an unforgettable and thoroughly depressing spectacle. Our attempt to keep this information under wraps in hopes of saving the fish ended up in vain as news broke on social media about a month later, causing chaos and drawing large numbers of people to the scene.
This season, the Victorian Fisheries Authority has intensified the situation with their extensive stocking activities, well-promoted on social media. While their dedication to stocking the Goulburn with smaller yearling trout is commendable, and will have positive and long-lasting effects, the introduction of the larger fish, which they term “stonkers,” is cause for concern. These actions are drawing a deluge of casual anglers, leading to adverse effects: overfishing, littering, property damage, and even confrontations and violent acts, tarnishing the essence of the fishing experience.
Fisheries’ motives are apparent – they’ve been driving towards a high target of 1 million people fishing in Victoria for many years. However, their methods are imposing an unsustainable burden on the Goulburn, with minimal benefit to the local community. Most of these visiting anglers bring their essentials with them and leave little behind but chaos, showing little respect for both the environment and local norms.
While the Goulburn is always bustling during the opening weekend, last season’s crowd surge set an unsettling precedent, and we anticipate a similar scene this spring. Although our guides can find quieter spots, it’s disheartening to witness access points so overcrowded, that visiting fly fishers can’t experience the total immersion in nature they’ve become accustomed to when fishing on the Goulburn.
As the season unfolds, popular spots like Alexandra Bridge, Breakaway Bridge, Gilmores Bridge, and Thornton Bridge, are predicted to be jam-packed due to a combination of last years high catch rates (the escaped fish), and VFA’s stonker stocking. For those in search of a peaceful experience, it may be wise to venture away from these hotspots. Choosing off-peak hours, like late on a Sunday, may also offer a reprieve from the crowds, or even better, waiting until the opening weekend crowds disperse.
Exploring the Goulburn’s Tributaries
While the Goulburn has undeniably captured the attention and hearts of many anglers last season, its tributaries, such as the Rubicon, hold unique experiences in their meandering paths. As expected, these feeder streams are also developing at a pace that seems ahead of their natural rhythms. Although it might feel a tad early to entertain the thought of using dry flies, given the current trajectory, that opportune moment is rapidly approaching. I will definitely be running some rubber legged stimulators through some of my favourite runs next week. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
Beyond the Rubicon, there are numerous smaller creeks and rivers, perhaps less celebrated or even known to most anglers, that are equally deserving of exploration. Their waters, clear and inviting, offer the allure of serenity and the promise of a small fish or two. For those feeling a pull towards these lesser-trodden paths, a visit to our store could be enlightening. We are always eager to offer guidance, discuss conditions, and share invaluable tips to make your outing memorable.
Fishing with Integrity: Upholding the Sport’s Traditions
As the fishing community vibrates with mounting enthusiasm for the new season, it’s crucial we pair our excitement with a sense of duty. The traditions and ethos of fishing are as much about respect for the environment as they are about the thrill of the catch.
Should you, during your fishing sojourns, come across activities that seem dubious or blatantly against the rules, equip yourself with the tools to report. The hotline 13 FISH (13 3474) should be a readily accessible number on your phone. While it’s essential to gather evidence, like photographs, to substantiate any claims, it’s equally vital to maintain personal safety and avoid direct confrontations.
Being an active, responsible member of the fishing community means ensuring that our cherished waters and their ecosystems continue to flourish, providing joy and challenges for future generations of anglers. And, as a gentle reminder, always ensure your fishing licence is current and valid before venturing onto the water.
Visit the GVFFC Flyshop: Your Weekend Fly Fishing Sanctuary
Exciting news for all our passionate fly fishing enthusiasts: Our GVFFC Flyshop in Alexandra is now open all weekend to serve you! Set against the serene backdrop of rolling hills and situated on the fringe of the town, the shop is an embodiment of both convenience and charm. Beyond just a retail experience, our flyshop is an immersive hub designed for gathering, bonding, and gearing up for your next adventure along the shimmering waters of our beloved rivers and streams.
Within its walls, you’ll uncover a selection of fly fishing essentials, from rods, reels, and hand-tied flies specific to the Goulburn River, to beginner combos and polarised sunglasses.
But the GVFFC Flyshop isn’t just about merchandise. It’s a thriving nucleus of a community we’ve lovingly fostered since 1994. Here, anglers unite, sharing tales of their recent catches, discussing strategies, and seeking advice from our seasoned team. If you’re looking to glean insights or need the latest fly patterns for the season, we’re here to assist.
And if ever you find yourself in a bind – perhaps having left your waders at home or faced an unfortunate rod breakage – our free equipment loan service ensures you’re back on the riverbank without missing a beat. As you stop by, indulge in a warm cup of tea with us, delve into rich fishing conversations, and let us enhance your fly fishing experience.
So, as you mark your calendar for your next trip to the area, pencil in a visit to our flyshop. We’re eager to welcome you. We share in your passion. And we’re committed to ensuring that all your fishing expeditions are a success.
We’re reaching out to let you in on a special offer. If you’ve been thinking about that next fly fishing trip, now’s a great time to get the ball rolling.
Here’s the deal: Between the 15th and 25th of June, if you grab a voucher or book and pay for a trip in full, we’ll knock 10% off the trip price. It’s a bit of a win-win – you get a great trip, and you’re helping us raise some funds for a couple of drift boats in New Zealand.
The options are plenty. You can book a drift down the Goulburn River, spend a day learning the fine points of streamcraft, give some vouchers to friends, or even hop over to New Zealand or Montana for some fantastic fishing.
Now, here’s the extra bit of info: This is a one-time offer to help us raise the last of the funds we need for the drift boats, and we thought giving you a great deal would be the perfect way to make it happen. But remember, this offer ends at midnight on Sunday, 25th June, or as soon as we’ve raised the funds, so it’s best to jump in while you can.
So, if you’re keen, give us a call or shoot us a text at 0418 995 611 anytime between 8am and 10pm, 7 days a week. We’d love to chat about the options and get you all set for an amazing fishing experience at 10% off.
Prefer a deal on gear. Read on for all the latest end of season deals.
Please see our latest sale items below. Bookmark this page as we will be updating it over the coming days as we begin to get a handle on our stock levels. All prices include same day (FREE) Express Post Shipping.
Taking calls 8am – 10pm or text anytime. All items must go. If you’re not sure what you need, phone us to dicuss your needs and we will help you to choose. Discounts on all gear including landing nets, Polarised glasses, vests, packs, tools, and fly packs.
Call or text 0418 995 611 anytime to secure your order.
Nautilus X-Series Fly Reels
RRP $600-730SALE PRICE $500 Including Same Day Express Post
Stunning reels. Super lightweight. Good drag system and they look a treat. We have a variety of colours in the two small sizes suited to a 3/4 weight and 4/5 weight.
The Nautilus X-Series is an open-frame reel designed for lightness, strength, drag smoothness, and fast line pick up. The X-Series design has strong beams that extend from the center to a wide line guard. These angles allow for rear spool rim protection where the reel typically contacts the ground when the rod is leaned up against a wall or a car.
The totally new SCF-X drag is a sealed Teflon® and carbon fiber disc drag system. It is adjusted with a generous drag knob that offers superior gripping surface and texture for wet and cold fingers.
DESIGNED FOR LIGHTNESS, STRENGTH, SMOOTHNESS & SPEED
The highly ventilated arch design, coupled with the dual palming rim increases spool strength by 35 %. The sides of the frame leave the spool totally exposed, and the back spool rim has a generous 1/8″ secondary palming rim for added fish control. This heavy- duty secondary palming rim has the strength to withstand everyday wear and tear.
The spool is a new spin on our ultra light, award winning Giga arbor design. It is lighter than any spool of a similar size we have ever made.
Available in three frame sizes: XS – 3.25” Diameter, 3.8 oz, XM – 3.5” diameter, 4.1 oz, and a 4” frame XL that will accept the standard XL Giga arbor spool for a 6/7 weight and the XL MAX Giga arbor spool that will fit an 8/9 weight line. At a mere 4.7 ounces the XL and XL MAX will handle your larger fresh water species and light salt water needs perfectly.
Available in brushed titanium or black anodizing.
Ross Evolution LTX Fly Reels
RRP $799SALE PRICE $500 Including Same Day Express Post
Beautiful reels at a heavy discount. We have more of these arriving next month so our lack of space is your win.
The Ross Reels Evolution series defined the modern trout reel. Now meet the award-winning Evolution LTX: the perfect combination of original Evolution LT feel and Evolution R performance.
The ultra-smooth drag found in the Evolution LT has a long and revered history, but our engineering team took this design to the next level. The drag debuting with the LTX is over four times stronger than its predecessors’, while retaining the sound and feel that helped make the Evolution an icon. This allows it to perform not only as a perfect trout reel, but also has the power to take on saltwater game fish like Redfish, Bonefish, and Snook.
The large arbor spool includes an innovative line channel for cleanly hiding arbor knots when winding on backing. The Ross Reels signature bell-shaped arbor design also adds strength, while helping to self-level the fly line across the face of the spool as it is retrieved.
The LTX also incorporates a handle machined from canvas phenolic rod (another Ross Reels innovation), which reduces weight, adds durability, and increases grip when wet. These improvements make the LTX a true light saltwater contender, perfectly at home on the flats as it is on the shores of a western river.
These meticulously designed features of the LTX converge in a light weight package, redefining the trout reel for another generation.
Ross Colorado LT Fly Reels
RRP$599SALE PRICE $450 Including Same Day Express Post
Perfect for your lighweight 3 and 4 weight rods. Simple and elegant, these have been a favourite of our customers in recent years.
The Colorado LT set the bar for lightweight click pawl reels. The new Colorado takes it to the next level.
This thoroughly updated design brings a beautiful aesthetic defined by aerodynamic shapes and surfaces. The look of this reel is different from anything on the market today. A novel, all-metal external clicker accentuates the back of the reel, complete with a machined silhouette of our local San Juan Mountains and a classic click-pawl sound. The spool is even more open than its predecessor, making the face of the reel appear spacious and clean, with the beveled large arbor showing off the backing and line just as well as it picks it up.
The semi-caged frame adds unmatched strength and rigidity, but with only a minimal weight gain – just enough to balance out a wider range of lightweight rods. The industry-first bushing is fully machined from Vesconite – a material specifically designed to be used in the toughest marine bearing applications, guaranteeing a lifetime of flawless operation.
Classic sound and feel meets modern strength and design to make the Colorado a functional piece of art – both on and off the water. With every angle and material carefully analyzed and considered, the new Colorado is designed to be fished from small streams to big rivers and everything in between.
New semi-caged frame provides unprecedented strength in a lightweight package
Vesconite bushing for a uniquely smooth feel
Unidirectional click-pawl drag
Crisp, audible sound
Canvas micarta handle enhances grip when wet
Large arbor for fast retrieval and reduced line memory
Available in sizes 2/3 and 4/5
LAMSON SPEEDSTER Fly Reels
RRP$599 – $650SALE PRICE $500 Including Same Day Express Post
The classic robust Speedster-S. We use these on our guiding outfits. They are light, tough, and reliable. Get in quick as they won’t last.
RIO ELITE LINES
RRP$199SALE PRICE $159 Including Same Day Express Post
RIO PREMIER LINES
RRP$140SALE PRICE $139 Including Same Day Express Post
RIO PREMIER LINES OLD PACKAGING
RRP$135SALE PRICE $109 Including Same Day Express Post
In today’s digital age, witnessing kids swap screens for streams is truly inspiring. As virtual experiences increasingly dominate their lives, we feel it essential to nurture genuine connections with the natural world.
The Beauty of Nature’s Classroom
The raw and unpredictable elements of nature provide the perfect testing ground for children. Feeling the chill of a passing rain squall or the force of a flowing river, they learn to adapt and truly engage with the world around them. No longer mere spectators, they become active participants, discovering their place in the grand tapestry of nature.
Fly fishing, beyond being a simple respite from the digital realm, becomes an immersive classroom under the open sky. It imparts essential life skills that extend far beyond the banks of the river. In the pursuit of fly fishing, children develop self-reliance, creative problem-solving abilities, and the patience to persevere. Each cast of the line becomes a building block of confidence, and every successful catch instills a profound sense of achievement.
Self-Reliance and Problem-Solving Skills
Fly fishing offers a unique opportunity for children to cultivate self-reliance and hone their problem-solving skills. As they venture into the streams, they must learn to read the water, assess the behavior of the fish, and strategise their approach. They learn to rely on their instincts and make decisions on their own. Whether it’s choosing the right fly, deciphering the currents, or adjusting their casting technique, they become adept at solving the challenges presented by the dynamic natural environment.
Patience and Resilience
Patience is a virtue, and fly fishing teaches children the art of waiting and perseverance. It requires them to cast their line, observe, and sometimes wait for the fish to reveal their position. In a world of instant gratification, this teaches them the value of delayed rewards. They learn to appreciate the process and the journey rather than focusing solely on the end result. Fly fishing instills resilience as they encounter setbacks and failures, teaching them to bounce back and keep trying, knowing that success often comes with persistence.
Connection with Nature and Environmental Awareness
Engaging with nature through fly fishing fosters a deep connection and appreciation for the natural world. Children witness firsthand the delicate balance of ecosystems, the interdependence of species, and the beauty of biodiversity. They become more attuned to the environment, understanding the importance of conservation and sustainability. Fly fishing serves as a gateway to develop environmental consciousness, nurturing a desire to protect and preserve our precious natural resources for future generations.
School Holidays: Embrace the Outdoors
As school holidays approach, it’s the perfect time to embrace the great outdoors and encourage children to swap screens for streams. The break from the routine provides an opportunity for families to embark on unforgettable adventures, discovering new fishing spots, and connecting with nature as a family. Fly fishing during school holidays allows children to unwind, recharge, and gain a fresh perspective. It offers a chance for quality bonding time, creating lasting memories and strengthening family connections.
So, let us celebrate the young souls who embrace the art of fly fishing and, in doing so, forge an enduring connection with the natural world. They are the torchbearers of the next generation, poised to learn, grow, and thrive amidst the great outdoors. As school holidays draw near, seize this moment to plan an incredible outdoor experience with your children. It may just be a few hours at a stocked lake in the suburbs. Or perhaps an overnight trip to the country is more your style. Either way, there are many options from which to choose.
So, take our advice. It’s free, and we’ve been teaching fly fishing for three decades. Swap screens for streams and embark on a journey that will enrich their lives, fostering a lifelong love for nature and the joy of fly fishing.
Read on for a brief look at our New Zealand Season Review.
First Touchdown: Fly Fishing Season 2022-2023
In the wake of a global pandemic, the thrill of returning to New Zealand’s pristine waters was a distant memory for most of us. The last season before international travel ceased was in 2019-2020, a time when our final weeks were conducted with the constant hum of news reports threatening to cut short our trips. When we successfully completed the season, relief washed over us just as the situation back home escalated. Little did we foresee the two-year hiatus that lay ahead.
Navigating the Turbulent Waters
The anticipation of the 2022-2023 season was like a breath of fresh air. Putting the pandemic behind us, we finally had a green light for international travel, and we could commit to our clients with certainty. Bookings came pouring in, signalling the return to some sense of normality.
Yet, the effects of the pandemic remained. Every aspect of planning was hindered by exponential cost increases. Everything from food to fuel to flights had risen markedly, and there was no way around this new fact of life. Many of the businesses we had dealt with for years, were no longer operating. And accommodation across all of Southland, an area already starved of lodging options, shrunk significantly.
The pandemic had a huge impact on this region that relies so heavily on international tourists and it will be some years until it fully recovers.
When Plan B Becomes Plan A
The original plan was to start our New Zealand trips in January, just as we do each year. However, Mother Nature had not read the play book. With the Goulburn Valley plagued by flooding, a result of Goulburn Murray Water’s failure to adequately manage the water levels in Lake Eildon, and with the South Island enjoying a belt of unseasonably warm November weather, we decided to seize the opportunity for ourselves and head off on an impromptu fishing trip.
But more than it being a simple fishing trip, it was a chance to reclaim our mental wellbeing and set aside thoughts of the situation on the Goulburn. It was an opportunity to find some balance and serenity when everything at home was disrupted and chaotic.
With dreamlike weather conditions awaiting us, this unexpected trip served as a beacon of hope for our clients. Those who were hesitant about travelling to New Zealand could now see that travel across the Tasman had returned to normal, and that the fishing was just as good as ever. This trip signified not just our return to the South Island, but some hope that life as we once knew it was recommencing.
Immersing in the Southland Experience
The picturesque Southland region greeted us with perfect weather conditions for the first few days of our trip. A lack of available accommodation led us to Te Anau, a departure from our usual farmhouse near Mossburn that was inaccessible due to renovation works in progress. From Te Anau we explored the Eglington, Waiau, and Whitestone rivers, as well as a few nearby lakes. The wealth of quality fishing was astounding, and our efforts were rewarded with plenty of dry fly eats. The thrill of wading crystal clear rivers amidst a backdrop of jagged peaks, a stark reminder of what we had been missing over these past few years of masks and lockdowns.
Our trip was marked by some unexpected wildlife encounters. One involved a wounded deer that we pushed out of the open grasslands of the Eglinton valley. Despite its broken pelvis, the animal managed to cross the fast-flowing river to safety. I have seen a lot of things in my time on the water, but this ranks up there with the most fascinating. We expected it be swept away to its demise at any moment, but somehow it made it to the other side.
Mother nature is something to behold.
Returning to the Familiar and Venturing into the Unknown
There’s a comforting sense of familiarity that keeps pulling us back to our traditional summer home: the farm at Dunrobin. On the way there, we stopped at the Oreti River which presented us with all sorts of challenges. The main ones being higher than anticipated water levels, and a low ceiling of cloud cover that made sight fishing a futile prospect. While other guides had reportedly achieved some success using tiny nymphs on long, fine leaders, we decided to stick to our ‘dry fly’ guns and keep moving. We weren’t guiding on this trip, so we chose to enjoy the freedom that comes with fishing purely for pleasure. Thus, we aimed the car towards the Aparima, Mataura, and several unnamed creeks in the region.
The reward was greater than we could have imagined, with the size and condition of the fish surpassing previous years. The Aparima, in particular, delivered solid 4-6lb browns, though the better fish were well-spaced out, only really occupying the premium slots in amongst miles of shallow runs.
But we were not just returning to the familiar. We were also eager to venture into the unknown, exploring new waters, something you just can’t do with paying clients in tow. We took the opportunity to investigate a range of rivers that we had previously marked on maps but never visited. While our adventurous endeavours paid off. Some of these long-wondered about blue lines were complete misses. Either too shallow, or too marginal. Yet a couple were true hidden gems that offered great fishing with no sign that other anglers had recently visited.
The Fickle Game of Weather
With the forecast predicting a robust cold front, we decided to move north where conditions were supposedly going to be better. Timing one’s travel to coincide with bad weather events is a time-honoured, fly fishing tradition, and a good way of mimising wasted fishing time, but the ever-present lure of having a cast saw us stopping by an old favourite location near Wanaka. Regrettably, the squally winds and torrential rain proved too much, thwarting our attempts to spot fish to cast at.
Undeterred, we journeyed onwards to Omarama, where we spent a few days exploring in all directions. A standout was the feeder streams of the Tekapo River, offering excellent early season dry fly opportunities. The main rivers weren’t fished due to excessive water levels, and the Ahuriri remained closed to angling. But it was the smaller streams that provided us with excellent fishing to sighted, rising browns.
About this time, the improving weather and subsequent rising demand for drift boating beckoned us home to Australia. Our short trip to New Zealand complete, we headed back to Alexandra ready to tackle the season on the Goulburn head on.
Back In NZ – With Clients
When it was time for our summer New Zealand trips to commence, the eagerness among both our guide team, and customers, was palpable. It had been a while since many of our clients had set foot on the South Island. As expected, the fishing followed the normal trajectory for a dry year. It began well, with good water levels and relatively easy fishing. But as the weeks rolled on, water levels dropped, making the fishing more challenging in the ever-clearer, ever-dropping rivers.
By early March you had to do most things right in order to catch the better fish.
The weather was very dry and warm in Southland this summer. So much so that it was not uncommon to hear farmer’s speaking of bores running dry and having to dig deeper wells. This is the way when we in Australia have wet summers, they have drier/warmer conditions. Because of this, finding rivers with colder water became our top priority. We found refuge in several spring creeks and certain streams that have deep, shaded pools and plenty of riffles that provide highly oxygenated water. While most of the angling crowds were funnelled onto the larger rivers, a normal plan of attack in times of drought. As the smaller streams get lower and warmer, it’s only natural to fall back onto the larger rivers of the valleys. But it was the smaller streams that delivered us consistently excellent fly fishing, without crowds, in the summer of 2023.
While rivers are our main focus, the lakes were also good, especially on the worst weather days. While we didn’t fish them often, they were the saviour on several occasions with 3 – 6 lb trout being caught on days when quality sight fishing on the rivers wouldn’t have been possible.
Challenges on Renowned Waters
Because of the low water levels, the larger, more famous rivers such as the Mataura were bustling with anglers from the USA, Europe, Japan, and Australia. Unfortunately, the Cattle Flat section was withdrawn from public access some time ago, making finding a beat increasingly challenging on some days. Fishing in this area requires either an early start and staying ahead of the game, sometimes arriving hours early, well before the fish are up and feeding. Or a completely different strategy, that we will keep to ourselves for the benefit of our clients. Either way, those use to fishing the Mataura or Oreti will have to continue to adapt in order to be able to fish some of the more well known rivers this coming season.
While on this topic, I should say that I don’t believe that Fish and Game’s proposed changes to the regulations will produce the intended outcomes. Without a booking system and proper enforcement at every access point, every day; it will fail in reducing angler pressure, and will therefore, equate to just another tax on international anglers.
This of course, is up to Fish and Game, and they have the right to run their fishery in any way they see fit. My opinion on the matter is that while no one wants to spend more than necessary, an extra $40 per day to fish the Mataura on the 1-2 days you might fish it in a given week, is not exorbitant. When you take into consideration the expense of flights, car hire, accommodation, meals, guide fees, an extra $40 per day isn’t much. That’s just my personal observation. I also think this will be the norm right across New Zealand as time advances. I think the approach used in parts of Montana where some rivers are off-limits to non-residents on weekends probably makes more sense if reducing pressure and meeting the needs of local anglers is the goal. But this was considered and rejected by Fish and Game.
The Charm of Lesser-Fished Streams
The relative anonymity of some streams played to our advantage this season. Small streams across the region provided plenty of opportunities to fish waters that receive next to no angling pressure. They shall remain unnamed in order to protect their status as lightly fished.
I can, however, mention the Waiau as both a well-known but lesser fished river. In line with the water situation right across Southland, it was running low, and was another ace up the sleeve for us this season. Its character as a wide tailwater that often experiences massive releases of water from the upstream dam made the low levels a welcome change. As twilight settled in, caddis and mayfly began to pop in hatches that often lasted for a couple of hours, extending our sessions well into the night. We caught lots of fish between 2 – 4 lb during these sessions, as well as a few up to 5.5 lb. Once again this was fishing dry flies and emerger patterns to rising fish.
Not all groups chose this path, some preferring the warmth of a fireside whisky back home. Yet, many seized the opportunity, opting for an early dinner in Te Anau before indulging in the twilight fishing spectacle.
A Day to Remember
Among the multitude of fishing days, one stood out above the rest. It unfolded with Cameron and his group of clients. One member of the group grappled with an old knee injury, warranting a lighter day of one-on-one guiding with Mitch. Meanwhile, Cameron led the rest to the Oreti, where each angler managed to net a large brown. An early dinner at a pizzeria in Te Anau replenished their energy before they embarked on an evening session on the Waiau where the fish were rising.
Their adventure ended late into the night, but the memories etched into their minds made the physical effort worthwhile. This remarkable day underscored our commitment to flexibility and our dedication to ensuring every individual enjoys their time with us. And yes, the clients slept in the following morning.
The Perfect Conclusion and Anticipation for What’s Next
The final week of our season saw us in the company of just two anglers – a loyal regular now residing in Alexandra, and a passionate fly fisher who journeyed all the way from Germany. Their camaraderie offered the perfect conclusion to our annual ten-week stint in New Zealand.
Looking forward to next year, 2024 marks our 30th year in business. We pride ourselves in delivering highly personalised seven-day NZ trips, prioritising stellar fly fishing and the shared experiences within a small group of fellow enthusiasts. Most of the fishing is with dry flies, and our guides double as instructors, deeply invested in your success and growth as fly fishers.
We extend an invitation to you for summer 2024. Grab a friend, form a group, or take the plunge solo on this special trip. The unforgettable experience is priced well within reach, but please note, with inflation continuing to rise, the trip price will increase by $300 AUD on July 1st.
To learn more about these trips, please Click Here to visit our New Zealand trip page, and keep watching this blog and our socials for plenty of updates from our Montana trips starting later this month.
NZ Bookings at the Time of Writing
Join an American College professor and golfing enthusiast, a seasoned fly fisher with excellent fitness. Don’t miss this opportunity to fish alongside an experienced angler.
We have a single spot remaining for a 59-year-old woman of moderate fitness, who is relatively new to fly fishing. She’s open to fishing with anyone and eager to learn and explore the sport.
The availability for the remaining weeks varies. However, there are two weeks with ample availability for a group of four:
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