Angling: Season one to forget

I have fished 32 seasons in Otago and this would be the worst in all that time.

Rivers have been up and down continuously except for a short spell before Christmas until the middle of January.

This past week has been as bad as it gets with heavy rain causing most rivers to rise, including several to flood-warning level.

That poses a problem of where to fish this weekend. If it is fine, cicadas could save the day on the tussock lakes, always supposing the access roads have dried out. If the tussock lakes are no go, small rain-fed streams which are now dropping rapidly could be the way to go.

The East Otago waters, the Shag and the Waikouaiti, are at a fishable level already but further south rivers get higher and the Mataura is still half a metre above normal as I write. However, it could be low enough to fish by Sunday. That is what I hope, as I am running a fly fishing course for the Southland Fly Fishing Club on the Mataura this weekend.

Deep Stream is dropping rapidly and can fish well at this time of year with a beetle or cicada imitation. Its near neighbour, Lee Stream, could also be worth a look.

There has been much in the press recently about the Leith and its flood protection scheme. The Leith seems to be looked upon as a problem by local authorities, which is a shame. Rivers running through urban areas are usually looked upon as an asset, such as the Avon in Christchurch.

Other than a very short section of the Leith from the Dundas St bridge to Dunedin Botanic Garden it is not an attractive water, being hemmed in by concrete for a large part of its urban length.

The more a stream is hemmed in to prevent flooding, the greater the catastrophe when it eventually bursts out. The sensible thing to do with streams is to avoid hemming them in and to build well away from them. Unfortunately, it is too late to take that path in Dunedin. But hopefully we do not end up with more stark, concrete channelling.

I remember opening the season in 1981 fishing the stretch below the university and catching half a dozen trout over 500g in an hour. I doubt if that would be possible now, as the number of fish in the stream seems to have dropped dramatically since then.

Friends who were brought up in Dunedin tell me of catching good numbers of fish during their childhood. It would be a good thing if kids today had the same opportunity.

The Leith is not beyond redemption. There are some trout there and some mayflies and sedges for them to feed on. Just last year I stood on the Dundas St bridge on a fine autumn day watching a couple of trout sipping down mayfly duns.

With will and a bit of thought, the Leith could again be a recreational asset to Dunedin.

- Mike Weddell

~ RIVER AND LAKE CONDITIONS ~

River and lake conditions are supplied by Fish and Game Otago, with information from the Otago Regional Council.

General Situation: Most rivers in Otago are high and discoloured from very heavy rain received earlier in the week. The smaller streams will be the first to clear. The Central Otago irrigation dams are probably the best bet for anglers this weekend.

North Otago Area: The Shag, Kakanui and Waikouaiti rivers are dropping and clearing. They should be fishable (for spin fishing at least) by the weekend if there is no more significant rainfall. The Waitaki River is flowing at around 1500cumecs and it could be weeks before it is fishable again.

Southern Lakes Area: The Dart River reached over 1400cumecs during the week, the highest level since records began in 1996. Very high flows were also recorded in other large rivers such the Matukituki and Kawarau. The high flows over the last few months have knocked some of our back-country rivers around, and fish numbers are reported to be lower than normal in the Dingle and Lochy rivers. The Nevis has dropped back to a medium level and should be fishable.

Central Otago: The Central irrigation dams are clear and in good order. There was some excellent cicada action on the Loganburn Dam (Great Moss Swamp) last weekend. Some anglers caught up to 12 trout using cicada dryflies. Most of the fish were in really good condition. If temperatures pick up there may be some good dry fly fishing on Loganburn, Onslow, Poolburn and Manorburn this weekend. The Manuherikia remains high and discoloured.

Taieri Catchment: The Taieri River is high and discoloured throughout its length. It will clear first in the upper reaches around the Styx Basin. The smaller irrigation dams in the Maniototo are in good order. Blakelys, Rutherfords and Coal Pit have been fishing fairly well.

Southwest Otago Area: The lower Clutha remains very high, discoloured and potentially dangerous. It will be some time before it is fishable again. The Mataura, Waipahi and Pomahaka rivers are also high and discoloured again. Smaller streams such as the Tokomairiro and Waitahuna are dropping and clearing the quickest.


WATERWAY - WATER LEVEL/CONDITION
• Kakanui River - Medium, dropping & clearing
• Shag River - Medium, dropping & clearing
• Taieri River at Canadian Flat - High, dropping & clearing
• Taieri River at Outram - High, discoloured
• Pomahaka River - High, discoloured
• Waipahi River - High, discoloured
• Clutha River at Balclutha - Very high, discoloured
• Clutha River at Cardrona - Very high, discoloured
• Hawea River - Very high, fluctuating
• Lake Onslow - Medium, clear
• Lake Dunstan - Medium, discoloured in Kawarau Arm
• Lake Hawea - High, discoloured near river deltas
• Lake Mahinerangi - High, clear
• Lake Wanaka - High, discoloured near river deltas
• Lake Wakatipu - High, discoloured near river deltas


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