Chasing Rainbows

With the 2018 fly fishing season in full swing I packed the bike and was off to one of my favourite little High Country rivers. The average size of the fish up this river isn’t large and the fish numbers aren’t all that high, however the epic experience of fishing this remote and rugged High Country gorge is exactly why I love fly fishing in New Zealand.

As a neared the High Country, the stormy clouds didn’t match the weather forecast I had been monitoring all week. Regardless, I continued to the camp location and put up my tent is the pouring rain.
With just an hour or so of daylight left, I slowly walked the edge of the river, patiently spotting. Poor lighting and rain made it hard but after about a kilometre, I finally spotted the movement of the first fish. A rainbow of around 3 pound was actively swinging in the current feeding. I carefully backed away and headed back to camp with plans to greet him in the morning with my rod.
Unzipping the tent exposed beautiful blue sky however overnight temperatures dropped well below zero so it was a frosty and icy start to the morning.
Even colder still was plunging my hands into the snow fed water to flip large rocks and check the underside for invertebrate life and match a fly. The resulting cold fingers made it tricky to tie on a scruffy brown stonefly as I peered into the tail of a pool and planned the cast to the same fish I saw the night before. It was out again, and actively feeding. While the cast was good and the lift sank the hook for a good connection, an energetic leap and a headshake saw the hook come free. The first opportunity went in favour of the fish.
Once the sun made a full appearance, it didn’t take long for the day to warm up.
This isn’t an easy river to walk, lots of scrambling over boulders in places.
In some sections, climbing up and over vertical cliffs is required to progress.
The first fish that came to the net was no easy feat. These strong healthy rainbows run downstream at full speed and put my rock hopping skills to the test while chasing them.
As I progressed further upstream, more fish were spotted. This one took a while to spot as it was extremely well camouflaged with the river’s base material.
Pulling up behind this pool I watched two rainbows side by side feeding with vigour. A dry fly was served and unreservedly snatched from the surface bringing the biggest fish of the day to the net.
Progressing further up the river, it became bonier and the fish numbers dropped. A surprise to me was seeing this young tahr out feeding in the middle of the day.
Another healthy rainbow that put up a valiant fight.
As I reached a point where fish numbers dropped to nil, I retraced my steps back to camp. There was time for a quick look up this picturesque tributary. What a backdrop! I spotted only one fish in a small pool and managed to deceive him on the second cast.
After what was an absolutely superb day in a place that can only be described as High Country fly fishing heaven, I made my way back to camp to get a good night’s sleep before heading out the following day…
Author of this article: RMOTO