Unpacking after a trip always brings back a flood of memories, whether it be a fly box full of wounded soldiers or your landing net, you’re instantly swept back to the moment and reliving that experience is nearly as good as being there in the first place. Just like that I found myself back on the South Island of New Zealand and amongst all the highs and lows we were dealt. This particular trip was nothing new to my fishing buddy Brett Watson and I, this was our third adventure to the area and after doing well in the past on a handfull of rivers in Southland, we were quietly confident with a concrete plan to get the most amount of time on the water.
After arriving in Queenstown around lunch time, our maiden stop was the flash new Hunting and Fishing in Frankton. Soon after we headed south along the shores of Lake Wakatipu towards Garston. It’s been ritual so far to get dialled in on the Mataura as it's not normally too hard to spot a few and get the confidence up. We were in luck, we pulled up to our favourite beat with not a car to be seen and the river greeted us with crystal clean water full of trout.
The short session did not disappoint, the fish were clearly zoned in and feeding hard. We nailed Browns all afternoon on foam beetle dry flies, Brett even got himself a PB. It was a cracking start to our holiday and more then we could have hoped for. Even better, the weather was great; a gorgeous blue sky afternoon with light winds, it felt like mother nature was flirting with us.
The plan for the next few days was to fish the Mataura and the Waikaia. Similar to the Mataura, the Waikaia was looking healthy with good numbers of what we considered larger than usual fish, the average being around 4lb. Clearly they were hungry and spent their days looking to the skies for an easy meal. Again, brown and green foam beetles proved themselves to be very effective, with fish rarely refusing a well placed fly. Later in the afternoons as the light began to fade there were a few small Mayfly hatches. Changing to a small, grey Adams took care of the handful of nice fish taking advantage of the emergence.
The fishing had been absolutely amazing, some of the best dry fly fishing Brett and myself had experienced. Something was up, it couldn’t continue like this, could it? The following day we were met with grey skies and the sound of drizzling rain on our camp; not a huge problem, we had planned for a little rain. But the rain just didn’t let up so we headed back to Lumsden to dry our gear and get the low down on what the weather was going to do for the next few days. Met Services (like a Kiwi version of BOM) told an ugly tale; a huge rain front had hit the West Coast and up until now was being held back by the range, only letting a dribble through every now and then. The forecast was suggesting that during the evening the weather system was going to spill over, covering the bottom third of the island before tracking north. Knowing that this sort of rain would likely discolour the water, we made the decision to shack up in Lumsden for the night and reassess the conditions in the morning, potentially driving north to find some clean water if we had to. Morning come and much like the day before it was grey and rainy, I tell you what though I was glad to be in a warm bed in a house instead of in my camping hammock.
We got up early and packed our gear ready to assess what the deluge had done, our first point of call was to stop for a pie and a coffee. As usual we were met with a friendly smile at the bakery, we were also warned- “no fishing today boys” and “the Oreti is up!”. A journey down the road to the bridge proved that “the Oreti is up” was the understatement of the bloody year!! The river was a torrent of brown water carrying with it whole trees, not too far of breaking its banks and making it self known in town. Clearly those last few beers from the night before had done wonders putting me to bed. Curious to see how the Mataura had faired we continued north, we didn’t get too far before we were quickly turned around and told to scurry back to Lumsden, the freeway was closed and with it our hopes and dreams to find clean water. Apparently there was a lot of water on the road and a few landslides had completely blocked the road past Kingston.
Devastated, we had not planned for this, it was 5 days into our 9-day trout fishing extravaganza and we were land locked in Lumsden for at least the foreseeable future. Notice came through that day that Mataura and Gore where being evacuated, we had found ourselves in a disaster zone overnight. Did the trout know something was up? Maybe that’s why the fishing had been so good, the trout knew it was all going to shit and thought feeding up was a smart decision.
Anyway, where are my nippers, I thought I put them in this side pocket?