Fly Fishing Southland New Zealand….Nice To Be Home.

The Stunning Upper Oreti River, Southland, New Zealand

It’s nice to be ‘back in the saddle’ again after many months of a motionless fly rod. I last wet my fly line in León, Spain back in July 2017 but our move back to New Zealand quickly took on a tsunami life of its own, wiping out most available free time. Returning to New Zealand in October/November 2017 our daily lives became dominated (and still are) by various issues related to our house, Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover, our super dog Billie the Jack Russell and many other hiccups to sort out. 

We have not reached ‘peak chaos’ yet as a friend of ours so accurately described our status, a space where we will begin to feel the gentle (or still bumpy) descent into some form of normality.  But it most definitely felt like I needed a break to thrash some decent trout waters. And I am blessed with a marvellous fly fishing mate Chester (and wife Gillian) who reside in Southland and on their property they have an estupendo granny cottage which is about as perfect a fly fishing crash pad as you could ever want…and they are grand hosts to boot.

After a good night of catchup chat (and a few too many vinos as you do), we arose to our first day of fishing to absolute shite. An ugly Southerly was raging about the place, pissing rain combined with freezing temperatures – an environment which under more normal circumstances we’d have hung home. But we were keen (Chester had not been out this season either) and modestly hungover, so off we plundered into the grey mists, stupidity reigned.

The Oreti was first in the queue and the weather actually worsened the closer we got…we decided on our ‘usual’ beat & plunged into the whipping winds, horizontal rains and numbing temps. Mate Chester had wandered around his kitchen prior to our departure continually repeating the phrase “Do not forget your boots, do not forget your boots” which did the trick – but he forgot his rain jacket. So periodically throughout the day he made a hasty retreat to the truck to get a blast from the heater. I reached peak cold a few hours later when I could no longer tie a fly on due to my violently shaking hands. And the fishing was just like the weather – shite. I raised a fish on the first pool, on my second or third cast & that was the day. Chester irritated a decent brown with a streamer but the day’s fish count (not catch) was a total of 4. Very strange for this Oreti section as a more normal number is closer to 40 or more…could it just be the weather?

Equally Awesome Mararoa River, Southland, New Zealand

Day 2 saw us back @ the Oreti with a chalk & cheese kind of day compared to the first – sun, blue skies, little wind and almost warm temperatures. We fished the next section up & with near perfect conditions for spotting, we were hoping to see & of course catch more fish. But the river gods were not so kind – though the weather was totally different the fishing was still shite – I raised & hooked one on a blowfly which quickly achieved long distance release and Chester did not do much better. And again, with perfect conditions, we saw a total of 4 fish. Our working theory was that the previous week’s floods had possibly pushed the trout down river to other sections…

Too Crowded Oreti Beach…

As we wound up our second day of water thrashing, the back of my casting hand had developed quite a swollen muscle lump as it has been 4 or more years since I had last cast a 6 weight rod for 5-6 hours (mostly 2 or  3 or 4 weights in England & Spain). So we opted to have a rest day and dose myself with some anti-inflammatories in the hopes all would come right to finish the week out on the Mararoa River. We busied ourselves with Chester’s weekly supply runs to Invercargill, a drive along the oh so crowded Oreti Beach (not) & a damn decent fish & chips lunch.

Top Left: Southland Humour with Mircowave Mailbox; View up the Mararoa Valley; Fish On!; Kitted Up & Ready for Action!

For our last day on the water, all had come right as my hand was sort of back to normal and the weather had stuck on the nice side of the spectrum with sun, decent temps but just a wee bit of gusty winds. On our previous 2 days fishing on the Oreti we saw no other anglers, just cyclists on the new cycle trail. But the Mararoa was another kettle of fish – first 2 access points had been snatched by anglers and what looked like a guide prepared to climb the Himalayas.

We snagged the next access point & we hit the water quick snap & were very happy to see that the didymo levels were amazingly tolerable as after a decent flooding you can find it coming down in sheets. But once again, the fish numbers were depressingly low – I managed to hook & land one decent 4-5 pound brown on a blowfly and Chester hooked a 4 pound rainbow on a streamer. But other than a few tiddlers (Chester also landed a 1 pounder & I had aggressive smacks by wee ones) that was the day. I guess that’s why it is called fishing…

Hoping for some more piscatorial adventures before this season wraps up in April…