Reel Life March 2023

  • Otago
  • 15/03/2023

Reel Life March 2023

The next few weeks offer some of the best fishing of the year.

Shorter days, longer shadows and dewy mornings - the seasons are changing. From 21st March, the autumn equinox, there will be fewer sunlight hours than darkness for the next six months.

Brown trout emerge from deep haunts to gather at river mouths before the spawning run.

Mayflies hatch in the cooler weather.

More rain will lower temperatures and invigorate our rivers. If the rivers are discoloured after rain, use a darker lure or streamer pattern.

If heading out with a rifle for the roar, don’t forget your rod too.

Above Right: Monty Wright caught this solid brown in the upper Taieri River on a small blowfly fly pattern.

Go slow on Maniototo

Fish activity in the Maniototo area has been slow but the ones caught have been in “incredible condition”, says Monty Wright.

The former Otago Fish and Game Council chairman fished the upper Taieri River and nearby dams for six days with his Australian mates Frank Hickling and Kevin Lewis.

A 5-pound brown trout which took a small blowfly dry fly in the canal near Hores Control Pond put a big smile on Monty’s face.

“At last I have been back on the water and am very pleased to catch a fish again. I think my smile tells it all,” Monty says.

The three anglers caught 14 fish over six days, the fewest in many years of fishing in the Maniototo. Kevin lost a couple of massive fish.

“The fish aren’t moving,” Monty says. “There isn’t much insect life. In 8km of river, we saw only one mayfly hatch. To not see many mayflies hatch is the odd thing.

“A few fish were still going on yellow willow grubs.”

Rain on a couple of days didn’t make much difference to the water level, he says. The water was also too warm.

Plenty of small hatchery-reared rainbow trout were seen moving in McAtamney’s headpond, a “put-and-take” fishery.

Fish seemed to be in the deeper water feeding on snails. Most of the fish caught took a black bead-head nymph.

Monty hopes confident conditions will improve for the rest of the season.

“It may come right again.”

Browns gathering at river mouths

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Caleb Marfell with a well-conditioned brown trout that fell victim to a black and gold soft bait near a river mouth on Lake Hāwea. Photo: Ngaio Emson

Large numbers of well-conditioned brown trout are holding at drop-offs at river mouths, waiting to head upstream to spawn.

These fish are aggressive and will readily attack spinners and soft baits or can be targeted using a small streamer or dry dropper.

Caleb Marfell, of Dunedin, reported having multiple trout chasing his soft bait at one time while fishing a river mouth on Lake Hāwea.

In the upper Taieri, Monty Wright saw young cock browns starting to kick gravel to set up territory for spawning.

Strath Taieri browns

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When all else fails, swinging a nymph or streamer off a drop-off into the head of a pool is often a game-changer. Photo: Bruce Quirey

In the Strath Taieri, browns in the Taieri River have been slurping up the last of the willow grubs at the weekend.

The river was low and wadeable.

Fish rose in the bubble lines beneath willows and against the bank and took an unweighted size 14 hare’s ear nymph.

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Having your dog wading beside you is going to spook some fish, but occasionally he indicates to rises and always keeps his opinions to himself. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Deeper, slower sections of the river are ideal for using small spinners or softbaits.

Down low on the lower Taieri

The Taieri River between Outram and Momona has fished well this month for browns of about 2lb (1kg) caught on olive-pearl softbaits.

It’s also that time of year to chase big browns on mouse flies after dark.

As temperatures cool, brown trout are becoming more active in Lake Waihola.

Look for structure, such as sunken logs and the edge of weed beds.

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Jack Christie with a Lake Waihola perch. Photo: Bruce Quirey

Perch have been responding well to hot-coloured softbaits such as pinks and yellows.

Newenvironmental data portal

Otago Regional Council has launched a newenvironmental data portal for water monitoring.

The ORC says the map-based format will offer more data than the previous format.

While the change may take getting used to, there’s a user guide and a training video.

Check the portal out here:

The old site is still running during the changeover period.

Water monitoring:

Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition

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Paul Dunn holds his prize-winning brown trout with his sons Logan (14, left) and Slade (12) at the combined Lower Clutha Fishing Competition and Bluelight fishing event in Balclutha on March 12. Photo: Bruce Quirey.

Paul Dunn, winner of heaviest brown trout in this month’s Lower Clutha Trout Fishing Competition, enjoys spin-fishing with sons Logan (14) and Slade (12).

The Balclutha dad says he often catches half a dozen fish at his favourite spots along the lower Clutha/Mata-au, although the bites were slow on competition day.

His secret weapon is a Chinook S lure in pink, green and blue, which may mimic a small rainbow trout, attached to a 1.5m fluorocarbon leader.

More than 260 anglers – half of them adults, half children – took part in the combined Lower Clutha Fishing Competition and Bluelight fishing event on March 12.

Fifty fish were weighed in ─ 23 brown trout, 11 rainbow trout and 16 perch.

Fish & Game collected otoliths (ear bones) as part of the Brown Trout Origin research project.

The research in partnership with the University of Otago is helping to identify crucial spawning habitats in the lower Clutha River/Mata-Au.

The project is funded by Contact Energy.

Thanks to all the supporters and volunteers.

Otago weekly fishing report

In addition to Reel Life, Otago Fish & Game is providing weekly fishing reports until the end of April. Sign up, and every Thursday we’ll email tips for your next mission, including fishing conditions, weather and river flow information to help you catch more fish.

Click here to subscribe.

You can also read previous reports in the Fishing News on our website:

Want more info? Check out these links or contact our helpful Otago team.

Tight lines,

Bruce Quirey, Otago Fish & Game

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