Mackenzie Canal Fly Fishing & The Flies To Use

WHY FLY FISH THE CANALS?

Each year more anglers converge on Twizel and Tekapo to try their hand at the leviathans of the Mackenzie Country hydro canals, where 30lb is the new 10lb, and fish of 40lb+ are a real possibility.

Soft baits are killer down there in many conditions but with the temperature stability and plentiful weedbeds which abound throughout the canal system, benthic communities thrive and mayfly, caddis, chironomids and stoneflies all make up an important part of those Monty trouts' diet.

Modern, fine diameter braids and light spin rods mean that minimal weight can now be presented on conventional gear and nymphing on trout spin gear is becoming more popular with those in the know. Whether 'hanging from The Wall' or pitching upstream with the aid of split shot, keeping a selection of nymphs alongside your soft plastics can be well worthwhile.

30lb Brown Trout From The NZ Canals

Charles Smith and a monster brown trout from the canals

Charles Smith just loves big fish from the canals and has his fly selection dialled.

Fly anglers employ tactics similar to any big river nymphing system, with long leaders, bombs and indicators worked methodically along the edges and around structure. And swinging on a sink tip can often prove more than productive.

So don't just think it's all shrimp bait and soft plastics: big fish feed on small stuff too and wether on a fly rod, switch or spin set-up, keeping a selection of flies on hand can often make or break a trip to the canals.

SO, WHAT ARE THE BEST FLIES FOR THE CANALS?

Like anything fly fishing related in order to be successful you need to observe what's happening around you, think about the time of year, and go with what what the fish are eating at that moment in time. 

From there it's about experimentation, mixing it up, and just trying something new to see what happens. If there's one place where you'll have time and space to give everything in the fly box a go, it's the canals.

Here's an overview of some of our favourite fly patterns for canal monsters from the Manic Fly Collection.

HEAVY STUFF

Manic Jig Pink Pheasant Tail

Jig Pink P.T

Mani Jig Peeping Caddis

Jig BTB Peeping Caddis

Manic Simon's Ugly Green & Red

Simon's Ugly Green & Red

Manic Bomb Squad Orange Flash

Bomb Squad Orange Flash

These are the flies that are all designed with getting down deep, and quick, in mind. Still retaining many triggers and fish catching qualities, these are your depth chargers to get flies down into the zone. They might be tricky to cast but we've got some tips to help you out.

NATURAL NYMPHS 

Manic Hot Spot Caddis Tan & Orange

Hot Spot Caddis Tan & Orange

Manic BTB Nosebleed

BTB Nosebleed

Manic OTB Hare & Copper

OTB Hare & Copper

These are some example of flies that imitate the naturals found in the canals, and each brings its own profile and / or colourway to entice that eat. Go bigger in heavy water and break out those size 14's in low flows, these flies imitate what trout eat so it makes sense to fish them with confidence even though the surrounds seem less than natural themselves.

EGG PATTERNS & FLASHY, WEIRD STUFF

Manic Otter's Soft Egg Pink

Otter's Soft Egg Pink

Manic Glo Bug Orange / Brite Red

Glo Bug Orange / Brite Red

Manic Otter's Soft Egg Cluster Tangerine

Otter's Soft Egg Cluster Tangerine

Manic Squirmy Worm Red

Squirmy Worm Red

These come-get-me flies are the attention seekers, the 'get things done' flies that add an air of excitement as they sink through the column. Egg clusters, glo bugs, and worms are all examples of easily seen patterns and will often illicit a strike from well fed fish, determined not to let these juicy morsals slip by.

FLIES FOR SINKING LINES

Manic's Perky Booby Peach

Perky Booby Peach

Manic's Silicone Booby Black

Silicone Booby Black

Manic Lumo Woolly Bugger

Lumo Woolly Bugger 

Chris Dore's Mr Glister

Dore's Mr Glister

Manic She Demon Bugger Black

She Demon Bugger Black

Manic Snake Fly Black

Snake Fly Black

Canal fish might look fat and lazy but there's still some predatory instinct tucked away somewhere in amongst all of that heft, so getting in front of them with an annoying, but tasty looking streamer is a sure fire ticket to ride.

And with the plethora of brown native bullies present throughout the system a Dores Mr Glister streamer can be totally deadly swung across the current. This fly is a proven fish mover!

ABOUT CHRIS DORE

Chris Dore is a battle tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.

In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.

For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?

Thick tail on a big canal brown trout in NZ