The small, lowland streams that flow through farmland on the Southland plains are often overlooked. They offer easy access to reasonable trout populations with the added benefit that you’ll seldom see another angler.

Southland has many kilometres of these low-land streams.

Approaching these lowland streams requires a different mindset to the larger waterbodies – you will be closer to the fish, so greater stealth is required as the fish can spook more easily. Wear natural coloured clothing, keep movement to a minimum, stay in the shade as much as possible and avoid silhouetting yourself on the skyline.

The smaller size makes them safer and easier to manage. As you’re working your way up or downstream, crossing the stream to avoid obstacles like trees or high banks is often only a matter of getting wet up to your knees.

Sighting fish can be more difficult in the sometimes-discoloured water. Have the sun on your back as this will reduce glare, polaroid sunglasses are a must, utilise high banks to spot from as they offer a more penetrating view but most importantly, take your time.  If you watch a pool for 5minutes before fishing it, often a fish will give its presence away.

Feeding fish are generally either ‘on point’ which means they remain stationery and take food as it drifts past. Or they could be on a ‘feeding beat’ or loop. This could involve them slowly feeding upstream against the bank and then move back downstream in the depth of the main current, to then repeat this loop again and again. Watching a pool before fishing it could reveal this behaviour, especially if only part of the fish’s beat is in view. A fish feeding in this manner allows an angler to set up an ‘ambush’ at the most opportune point in its feeding beat.

Willow trees are a keystone feature in these streams as they provide both cover and feed. Trout will hold near them, especially on the downstream side. From late December the trout will often be feeding on willow grubs and a fly imitation is a good way of targeting these fish.

Recommended fishing approaches and tackle choices.

  • Bait fishing in the deep pools.
  • Lures – lightweight (ie. under 7grams). There are a lot of options in stores.
  • Soft baiting - 1/12 & 1/16oz jig-heads with natural-coloured baits. These will be more effective when cast upstream as most fish downstream of an angler will have already been spoked.
  • Fly fishing – A 5wt combo is well suited here as you could be presenting dry flies delicately in one pool, then wanting to cast reasonably heavy nymphs in the next. Flies – blowflies, parachute adams (range of colours), klinkhammers, black gnat, willow grubs, emergers (especially in the backwaters), green beetles and variations of pheasant tail and hares ear nymphs.

That small stream you drive past regularly probably holds trout! Take a chance and fish it one day, you might get a pleasant surprise.

Access points to these small streams can be found here.

These lowland streams include

Waimea Stream
Otamita Stream
Waikaka Stream
Mimihau Stream
Mokoreta River
Titiroa Stream
Tokanui River
Waikawa River
Makarewa River
Dunsdale Stream
Otapiri Stream
Waikiwi Stream
Waimatuku Stream
Orauea River

Note: Tributaries in the Waiau catchment will hold both brown and rainbow trout, everywhere else (in Southland) will exclusively have brown trout.