No need to hang up the waders and banish the sage to the back of the wardrobe until the 30th of September. There are still trout in the rivers and they still have to eat!
By in large most of the upper reaches and tributaries of the bigger rivers that gave you everlasting memories during the glory days of summer are now closed. The days are shorter and the weather can be rather unsavoury on all but the most perfect of days.
There is plenty of productive water still available for fishing around the top of the South Island. The lower reaches of rivers like the Motueka, Waiau, Buller, Karamea and Pelorus all hold good populations of fish throughout the year. Most feeding activity is restricted to the warmest parts of the day. It makes good sense to be at the river during these times. There may not be the mayfly hatches of the summer and autumn but there is still plenty of subsurface invertebrate life to satisfy the trout’s hunger. If fishing is a little slow it may be worth bearing in mind that the metabolism of the trout slows down over winter. This means that the trout requires food less often.
Most fishing methods will still work during winter with streamer fishing and nymphing being the most productive methods. A nymph that is a little bigger than you would normally use in the summer should bring consistent results.
A size 12 or 14 Hare and copper would be my first choice, followed by a large Pheasant tail. By adding a little bit of flashy material to the fly when tying, will add to its attractiveness.
Fish don’t tend to feed aggressively during the colder months so making flies big and shiny may just arouse a little more interest.
Streamer fishing is very effective during the winter, especially near the lower reaches of rivers. From late July onwards whitebait start to appear at river mouths and following them are fat, hungry sea run browns. Any whitebait pattern such as a Grey ghost or Jack sprat will produce the goods. Simply cast across the current in a swift flowing run. Let the fly swing round with the current until it hangs below you. Give the line a couple of sharp retrieves and wait for the heart stopping hit!
In the 1-kilogram bracket these fish make top eating especially when smoked. There is always and opportunity to hook into a trophy sized Sea run brown. A fresh in the river will certainly increase your odds.
By far my favourite type of winter fishing is stalking backwaters. I am a sucker for sight fishing and these former river channels are just perfect for sight fishing for cruising browns. The key is to find a backwater that still has access to the main river. During the winter the sun sits at a very low angle, so spotting fish can be very difficult. I tend to fish through the middle part of the day to alleviate much of this problem. Another consideration is the shadows you cast will be long, so use streamside cover where possible. My approach is to find an area that I strongly believe there to be a fish and wait or move slowly along the backwater. Once a fish is located I will watch it for a while to get accustomed to its feeding beat. When the fish has been past a few times I will wait for him to go out of sight and flick out my fly into his path. My fly of choice is almost always a size 16 pheasant tail. I hang the fly 30 centimetres under a dry fly or an indicator. I often just watch for the flash of white of the trouts mouth and strike rather than watching the indicator. The fish often cruise so slowly that by the time you see the indicator move the fish has rejected the fly.
Winter is a great time to target trout and with frequent windless days an enjoyable day can definitely be had. So get out there and get into them.