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Most waters in the region are fishable and should remain so over the next few days as there is little rain in the forecast. My picks would be the Taieri throughout its length, the Pomahaka, Mataura and the Waitaki. So there is plenty of scope for anglers over the holiday period.
At this time of the year the best times to fish are early and late in the day, which leaves plenty of time in between to open presents and eat too much. Sedges are the go-to flies in the evening on rivers and midge the best bet on stillwaters. The midge is also good early in the day, especially in silty bays. On rivers there could well be a fall of spinner while it is still calm in the morning.
This week I met Dave Roxburgh, of Balclutha, who showed me a collection of flies his father had tied and used in South Otago in the 1940s. Among them were such patterns as Kakahi Queen, Twilight Beauty, Greenwells Glory, Peveril of the Peak, Red Tipped Governor and the Jessie series 1-4. Very few anglers would use these patterns today, but I am sure they would still catch fish. Most of these patterns were from Britain, but there were local patterns as well. There were a mixture of wet flies and dries and the noticeable factor was the size. They were bigger than we use today, partly, I think, because there are greater bragging rights for landing fish on size 18s than size 12s.
The flies were held in several vintage fly boxes, several of which were Wheatleys which are still made today. I have two of them and they have not changed much over the years and the old ones are sought after by collectors. There was also an Acclimatisation Society record book, which Dave’s father had filled in from 1941-47, recording the fish caught, including numbers, weight and the fly that caught them — an interesting historical document to compare with modern fishing. The numbers caught were probably greater than today’s anglers would expect.
On the subject of catching fish, or more accurately not catching fish, I fished the Shag River the other day. It was running more than double the normal flow and a tinge of colour made spotting difficult and I only saw half a dozen trout. The first one was feeding deep in a ripple and I covered it with a weighted #12 hare’s nymph. It took about 10 minutes of casting to hook it and then I realised it was bigger than I thought. It would have been well over 2kg, but I did not get the chance to weigh it as it dropped off after a few minutes,
Eventually, I spotted another fish feeding in the same way. To get down deeply I put on a tungsten bead nymph. It did not work but the good old hare’s ear did and I did net a 2kg-plus fish this time.