Published On: Mon, Jul 11th, 2016

Grays River – A Mackenzie Country Dream – Fly Fishing

The Grays River – A Mackenzie Country Dream

A 4.5lb brown trout taken on a size 14 Hairwing Adams. Return to the Grays River.

A 4.5lb brown trout taken on a size 14 Hairwing Adams

Some years ago a group from the Canterbury Fly Fishing Club had been spending Easter at Twizel, fishing the local waters without much success. On the way back to Christchurch two members decided to fish a spot on the Grays River – a river that had been described by a friend.

Leaving the Tekapo River at the Iron Bridge where they had been fishing up until to lunchtime the pair set off. After passing through the camping ground at Haldon they turned north towards Burke’s Pass.

Following the directions provided by Alister’s friend the two turned into the Grays River at what they thought must be the right spot. After connecting rods, reels and lines they passed through a gate and walked a short distance to the stream. A convenient bridge allowed for the two to split up. One on each bank, they carefully stalked upstream. The Gray is a smallish spring feed stream that twists and turns through tussocky, swampy grazing land. It had plenty of weed and grass along the edges and banks, with the odd willow to provide cover.

Two small fish were spooked downstream, as the pair slowly worked their way upstream. Then their luck changed. The left bank fisher spotted a swirling rise and called to the right bank fisher to have a cast, as he was better situated. After two or three good casts to the right area, nothing came up. Right bank fisher moved away.

So the left bank fisher rose up from his hiding place in the long grass to cast upstream, in close to the bank. First cast with a size 14 Royal Wulff. But no response. The second cast settled as gently as an angel’s kiss. It drifted drag free for only a couple of feet when up from the black water swam a shape, sipped the Wulff, swirled and turned down. With a lift of the rod and the hook set, the slack was taken up, and the reel screamed.

“Good Fish,” left bank fisher called out. “Five pounds, I’d say.” That turned out to be conservative.

The struggle that followed went up and down between two shallow riffles on a bend of the stream, containing three holes with a fallen bank between. To add to the interest a dead willow limb of some 2 to 3 meters was tucked into the bank just below the surface. As the battle dragged on, the 5 to 6 wt, 8 foot 6 inch Daiwa graphite almost completed a full circle. Just below the surface the fish appeared and rolled on the leader and it looked like the 6-pound tippet would go, but luckily the fish rolled back again.

Up, down, up, down from one end of the bend of the other until the crafty brown forced it’s way under the tree limb, between two large clods of fallen bank. Firmly wedged under the bank with the leader grating over the submerged limb it looked like the fish would win.

Left bank fish fighter had an inspiration! He called a change of position with right bank mate who had been waiting for an opportunity to net the fish.

“I’ll come across the riffle below the fish to your side. You come across to my side” with pressure maintained by both fish and fisher the change-over was made.

Then the fisher’s mate climbed down onto a shaky perch and began to remove the offending branch. During the struggle with the branch, it looked possible that the fisher’s mate and a larger section of the bank would fall and join the trout. With strength and dexterity fisher’s mate removed the branch; his contribution to stream enhancement.

A tiring angler was able to ease the crafty fish from its sanctuary out into the stream, and with it came a couple of kilos of chickweed and cress – more heart-stopping stress on the leader! From there it was short work to ease the fish up into a small backwater and the net.

There it was! A large brown jack in beautiful condition. It was 70 cm of brown spots and buttery yellow flanks. Photos were taken, Wulff removed and the fish held into the flow until it recovered, and moved slowly forward, turned and flashed away.

After the adrenaline rush had subsided the happy anger and his mate moved off. A few more casts upstream, then it was time to head north.

That short stop on the way home at the Grays River turned a fishless long weekend into a magic moment that will live long in the memory of a happy angler. Article by Fly Struck.

Grays River highlighted in light blue. It runs 25 km south-east from the area just south of Burkes Pass, to join the Tekapo River approximately 16 km from the northern end of Lake Benmore. Map courtesy of DigitalGlobe and Google Maps. Open map image in new tab to enlarge.

Grays River highlighted in light blue. It runs 25 km south-east from the area just south of Burkes Pass, to join the Tekapo River approximately 16 km from the northern end of Lake Benmore. Map courtesy of DigitalGlobe and Google Maps. Open map image in new tab to enlarge.

About the Author

Profile photo of Allan Burgess

- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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