Spring is in its middle stages at the top of the South Island in October and November. It is an exciting time to be fly fishing around Nelson. As a fly fishing guide based around Nelson I really look forward to this time of the year.
The often talked about backcountry trout season opens on the first of October and fishing is good in the smaller headwater streams for large resident jack Brown trout who have remained in the spawning areas throughout late winter to fatten up again. These fish have been left alone by fishermen for 5 months and can be a little naïve in the beginning of the season. In the backcountry October and November are great times to fish if beating the mid summer crowds is your thing. The weather can be a bit cold and wet but there is almost always a small stream somewhere that will be fishable. Springtime is also a perfect time to use the large nymph patterns in your box. In the high spring flows larger nymphs are often in the flow and big browns see these as good value snacks as they are often 4 times bigger than your standard Deletidium. fish can become wary of these bigger flies as they see more anglers as the season moves along.
While its the backcountry that gets all the attention over October and November, its the searun brown trout fishing that comes into its own. Almost every river in the top of the South Island has a population of Searun Browns. The whitebait runs peak (depending on the river) in late September and early October. This is the time that the majority of the fish are around the mouths of the rivers. Often times you are fishing in bigger waters and it can seem very hit and miss. There are several things you can do to improve your chances of success. I prefer to fish over low tide as the fish are concentrated in smaller channels. Also the current is strong enough to keep the fish “on station” and not moving around like they do as the incoming tide overwhelms the river current. When this happens the fish need to roam for their whitebait. As the tide rises the Whitebait begin to move upriver so it stands to reason that before this happens the trout will be at their hungriest. Also it is often best to fish a day or two after a large run of Whitebait as the trout will be there in good numbers and be hungry again. During a run there are so many naturals around that getting a take can be hard work.
The tackle can be as simple as a 6 weight rod with a floating line, a 9 foot straight length of 1X tippet and a size 6 Grey Ghost streamer tied to the end. This will cover most situations. I normally have a set of sinking leaders to attach if the current is strong and I want to get my fly down near the bottom. The cast is normally across the current and allowing the fly to swing around until its below you in the current. If the current is slow it may pay to impart a little action to your fly with a few strips. The hit will normally come on the swing. Spey fishing is growing in popularity in New Zealand and this is a very effective way to fish for searun browns. The amount of water you can cover is fantastic. Another tactic I like to employ is I can spot a fish in the current is to dead drift a whitebait pattern past the fish under an indicator. I like to use a silicone smelt pattern for this.
On the saltwater fly fishing front, I am able to catch sighted kahawai on the flats around Collingwood and in the river mouths around the top of the South Island. Kahawai also are found feeding on the whitebait as they enter the rivers in spring. Its normally the same method as fishing for searun browns. Across and down with a 6 or 7 weight floating line and whitebait pattern. The one difference is that these Kahawai generally retreat to the ocean over low tide (depending on the river). The first hour of the incoming around the river mouths is my favorite time. I am intrinsically a sight fisherman, so I prefer to target sighted fish on the flats. These are big fish at times and I have taken 10lb fish a couple of times in the last 2 seasons. Just like the Kingfish that haunt the flats later in summer these Kahawai will ride on the backs of stingrays. A top tip for this kind of fishing is waders or at the very least a pair of polypropylene leggings! There are also a few other surprises lurking on the flats in October and November. Trevally are present and the first and biggest of the Kingfish also turn up during this time.
So in summary, if your looking for a new experience, sick of meeting other anglers in the backcountry or want to see a new part of New Zealand – pay a visit to Nelson in October and November. If your not sure where to start looking and want a fun filled trip packed with fishy action in the backcountry, river mouths or the salt – give me an email.