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A social group of dedicated fly fishers who are passionate about fly fishing in the tropical north of Australia and equally as passionate about the close camaraderie this sport brings. This passion and dedication led to the creation of the NT Flyfishers Social Mob blog site; an interactive and creative outlet where everyone can share our wonderful fly fishing adventures and link into the “after fishing” social events we enjoy in this incredible part of the world.

Thursday, 10 March 2016



About five years ago Marisa and I flew out of the Gove wet season for a gander at the South Island of New Zealand. On that occasion we flew into Christchurch and picked up a campervan, heading south for a two week trip. The South Island is one of those places that just calls you back … and we heard the call!

We’ve just returned from our return visit but this time we stayed for a month. Instead of the campervan option we elected to hire a small SUV and use cabins at a couple of different camp grounds for the majority of our stay. While the cabins were a little on the ‘rustic’ side they did provide enough comfort for our needs and allowed us to stretch our dollars a little further.
We flew into Queenstown ex Brisbane this trip, which made for an easy inwards clearance and we were searching for our motel in no time at all. After a few days of touristy stuff eg Lake Te Anau cruise and Glow Worm caves, a Milford Sound cruise and a drive down around the bottom of the island on the southern scenic route we ended up in Dunedin catching up with some friends, over dinner.

Our first trip to NZ met with a minor flood event which had just about all the rivers and streams running high and murky which forced us to look elsewhere for clear water. We ended up at Lake Onslow high on the wind swept, tussock covered, hills of Central Otago and fish wise it probably saved the trip … and possibly a marriage! This time around we planned to go directly to Lake Onslow for a week before moving on to Gore, further south.

Lake Onslow
Lake Onslow covers an area of some 830 ha and was formed by the damming of the Teviot River back in 1888. Trout breed naturally in the river and adjacent streams so the lake has a very large resident population of Browns, so much so that there is a daily bag limit of ten fish each! Given that there is no accommodation at the lake itself we elected to stay at the tiny town / village of Millers Flat which straddles the mighty Clutha River. The daily commute to the back of the lake, where we chose to fish, due to incessant NW winds, was a fifty minute drive on a challenging dirt road which deteriorated as the week went on. Although challenging the 22 – 38 klm drive (depending on where you were coming from) was also fun and very scenic as it wound its way up the Lammerlaw Range. Some anglers chose to camp one or more nights at the lake instead of commuting from either Millers Flat, Roxburgh or Alexandra. Overnighting wasn’t an option for us as we had ‘happy hour’ commitments back at camp, each evening. The wind at the lake blew consistently while we were there and mainly from the north and northwest. Some days it was very hard to fish but we’d usually manage to tuck into a lee shore somewhere. 

Our fishing week was Wednesday to Wednesday and Saturday got a little crowded and then throw in a jet boat full of Neanderthals who were roaring around and making life difficult for anglers … we finished early that day and didn’t bother fishing at all on the Sunday.

Top or the range looking down towards Lake Onslow

  Heading back to camp with weather closing in. We ended up driving through cloud … eerie!

Cicada season
We timed our trip to co-inside with the annual cicada hatch which usually takes place late January and into February. We missed the peak period which apparently took place the week before our arrival and produced up to twenty trout per day for many anglers …. I’m sure I’ve heard that same story many times before … should have been here yesterday!  On a warm, sunny and windy summer afternoon at Lake Onslow the sound of chirping cicadas usually means trout throwing caution to the wind (almost) while they gorge themselves on all the cicadas being blown into the lake.

I’m no entomologist so I’m not about to describe Kiwi cicadas as anything other than ‘brown’ or ‘green’ and it’s important to identify which ones are hatching and or splashing down at the time. A good example of the importance of identification was on our last day at the lake. I saw a few more green ones, than usual, flying around and so I tied on a green cicada imitation while Marisa stayed with the usual brown one. I caught four fish in a row and lost probably twice that to missed strikes and over exuberance. I finally convinced Marisa to change to green and she caught the next six browns in quick succession.

 It’s easy to capture a few cicadas for identification purposes as, on a good day, they’ll be smacking you in the face, crawling up your nose and down the back of your shirt and crawling all over your sunnies. It’s also important to note that these cicadas are small, roughly half the size of our Aussie ones. The size issue is critical if you’re tying or buying prior to heading off to NZ. The time to experiment with other flies is when things go quiet ie not warm enough to get the cicadas active. Other imitations that worked for us were foam blowflies and hoppers. I’m sure that most trout anglers that know more than me (that would be 99% of them) would suggest other patterns as well. I just worked on the ‘match the hatch’ principle. Even during these major hatch events trout can be fussy and refusals are common.

The splashy rises of trout on a cicada binge has to be seen to be believed! Some afternoons it was like hail stones hitting the water with noisy splashes all over the lake. We reckoned that the fish making the most boisterous splashes were the teenagers, for obvious reasons, whereas the larger fish were a bit more circumspect and usually sipped their victims after giving it the once over, or at least most of the time.

For those interested in stats the fish count for seven sessions at Lake Onslow was twenty eight brown trout landed ranging from tiddlers through to fish in the high forties and low fifties with the largest going fifty three cm. We missed many more fish than we landed and were busted off by some really good fish. Some American friends of ours who we fished and socialised with during the Lake Onslow phase of the trip have been returning to the Lake annually for the past nine years and have caught browns up to nine pounds in weight. They maintain that the average size is getting bigger, especially during the past couple of years. That news, which was also supported by some local anglers, is very encouraging for future trips.

The Lake Onslow browns are beautifully marked

All fish caught were in excellent condition

Small fish were quite common

A nice brown showing slightly different markings


Lake Onslow is tussock country and as you push your way through tussocks, ranging from knee high to head high you should whisper a little prayer, of thanks, to the gods …. because there are no snakes in New Zealand!

Our American friend, Matha, with another nice fat brown

A large rural town in the far south of the island and the self-proclaimed ‘World Capital of Brown Trout Fishing’ and they even have a huge trout on a stick!

We moved on to the town of Gore, in Southland after our week at Lake Onslow. We settled into our rustic hobbit house at the Gore Motor Camp. To be fair the cabin was adequate for our needs and at an excellent rate of $40 per night, including linen, we shouldn’t complain.  Our intention was to fish the rivers and stream around Gore but while our intentions were admirable our skill level wasn’t quite up to the task and bad weather dogged our every step.

While February might have been a great time to fish Lake Onslow it wasn’t for fishing the Mataura and its various tributaries. The trout in these waters and there’s plenty of them, have been relentlessly hammered since the season opened in October and they’ve seen every trout fly ever invented thrown at them over those past few months. Good anglers with local knowledge and some visiting anglers utilising guides were still catching some good fish but after having to replace two rods only two days into the trip we weren’t in a position to shell out the folding stuff for a guide although it would have helped our cause considerably. The other problem was there was no guides available at the time having all been fully booked in advance.

Heavy rain upstream had the river and streams running high and dirty for the first couple of days so we spent the time checking out the various ‘angler access points’ throughout the area while we waited for the water to clear up. If the dirty water wasn’t enough to the NW wind started blowing again.  To fill in the time we visited the Gore Visitor Centre which has an excellent fly fishing history display amongst other historical presentations. We also attended the sheep dog trials …. It was actually a great spectacle … until were forced back to our cars by gale force winds and cold rain. We even drove down to Invercargill to visit Bill Richardson’s Transport World which is a fantastic display of vintage and classic trucks, cars, tractors and old machinery. The best display of that type that we’ve ever seen!

During breaks in the bad weather days we managed to improve our fish spotting skills in the rapidly clearing rivers. Spotting trout was one thing … getting them to eat was another thing entirely.

Marisa unrolling a good cast on the upper Matura River

It did take us a little longer than it should have to find out that we were using leaders that were way too short at twelve foot and heavy at six – eight pound and flies that were too big. We finally twigged, got some good advice from a local and armed with fifteen foot leaders with 4 pound tippet and size eighteen and twenty mayflies we finally managed to catch a few Mataura River browns. While we didn’t have the success we’d hoped for, on the rivers and streams we certainly filed away loads of information, locations and local techniques for the next trip to the South Island … and there will be another one, or maybe two.

While we are very new to trouting with this being only our second attempt we still managed to catch some nice fish and learn a lot more than we knew before. It’s totally different to what we knew in the tropics as some of you would already know!
I’ve used feet and pounds in this report because … well … it’s a trout thing … and I can!
If you intend to visit the South Island and we can help you out with any information don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Marisa & Lyle

Some handy information

Flights into NZ are easy to find and some good deals are available from time to time. We flew into Queenstown which besides being a nice place to visit puts you in a great place from which to explore the many trout (both brown & rainbow) lakes, rivers and streams further to the south.

Vehicle Hire and fuel
We hired a late/current model Toyota Rav 4 through Apex Rentals and clocked up over four thousand kilometres during our stay. The small SUV handled the farm tracks, dirt roads and highways in its stride. Our friends hired an older model diesel, mid-size 4WD through another company. Unleaded petrol was expensive and averaged $1.85 per litre whereas diesel averaged around $1.00 per litre … however the Kiwis impose a diesel tax of .06 cents per kilometre so you need to do the maths before deciding on what vehicle you wish to hire.

Fishing Licence
Five years ago Marisa and I were able access the NZ resident ‘family rate’ for our licence. That has now changed and anyone not resident in NZ is required to purchase a ‘Non Resident’ licence which cost us $161.00 each! Not once were we asked to produce our licence however with a maximum fine of $5,000.00 it’s not worth the risk.

We took three 6wt rods with us and, due to unfortunate circumstances we broke two of them during the first two days of or trip. Fishing with one rod between us didn’t work particularly well and we quit fishing within hours to go in search of another rod. We ended up having to purchase two new rods, keeping the third as a backup.
If fishing as a couple make sure you carry one landing net each. We had one between us and had to do lots of scrambling to get to each other quickly, with the net.
Vests are a must have, not just a fashion accessary!
While plenty of anglers had the latest in name brand waders, boots, gaiters etc we chose to ‘wet wade’ as do many of the locals. Poly tights under quick drying Columbia style trousers with neoprene socks and wading boots will keep you warm enough.
Other than a few leftover cicada flies from our last trip we purchased most of ours while we were in NZ. At around NZ$2-3 per (spun deer hair) fly it was relatively cheap investment and usually gained you useful information as you discussed your wants and needs with the shop staff. Blowfly’s, hoppers and royal wulffs worked at times, on the lake but on the streams it was tiny, tiny size 18 or 20 parachute adams or mayflies that were required

As touched on earlier we elected to use cabins during our stay. We utilised the Millers Flat Holiday Park while we were fishing Lake Onslow. . Accommodation can also be found at Roxburgh and Alexandra which also are nearby to Onslow as well as Poolburn and Manorburn reservoirs. We used the Gore Motor Camp for fishing the Mataura River and tributaries.
There are many other options such as self-contained ‘batches’ that will sleep anywhere between two to eight as well as short term holiday house rentals depending upon what your comfort levels require and budget allows. You can still go the motorhome / campervan option however you’ll be very limited in your access to some areas.


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