Ashburton Lakes Trout and Salmon Fishing
Ashburton Lakes Maps (scroll down)
In all nine lakes make up the area known as the Ashburton Lakes. These being: Lake Clearwater, Lake Camp, Lake Denny, Lake Emily, Lake Emma, Lake Heron, Lake Roundabout, Lake Spider and the two small Maori Lakes.
All of these have an Open Season between the first Saturday in November to 30 th April – there being no winter season.
Lakes: Denny, Emily, Roundabout, Spider and the Maori Lakes are fly fishing only.
From Hakatere Corner the tussock country opens out into two broad valleys. To the north the Hakatere Heron Road heads in the direction of the Rakaia River north of Lake Heron. The other road heads west towards the distant Erewhon Sheep Station and the headwaters of the Rangitata River. This open barren country has a beauty all of its own.
Once above the Ashburton Gorge the landscape changes from lush green countryside to mostly tree less, exposed, barren tussock country. Known in New Zealand as the “high country” this is the land somewhere between the high mountains and the coastal plain. The most notable feature is the almost constant strong blustery nor’ west wind. It seems to blow endlessly. That’s what makes Lake Clearwater such an excellent spot for wind surfing.
The prevailing westerly airflow across the Tasman Sea dumps most of its rain in the Southern Alps leaving the mainly dry remaining airflow to spill down across the high country and out over the Canterbury Plains. When it rains the nor’wester seems to drive the wind sideways. Sometimes when fishing on the high country lakes rain clouds above the mountains just to the west can mean it is raining despite there being clear blue sky directly overhead!
A wind change from the south can also mean rain and strong wind. For this reason you need to be extra cautious when boating in the high country. Often the wind can change quite suddenly making the Ashburton lakes become very rough surprisingly quickly. This is no fun in a dinghy. If the wind springs up suddenly it is better to head for the nearest shore and walk back to camp if you have to rather than risk being swamped.
By mid to late summer the shallow Ashburton lakes can become quite warm. For this reason the best fishing is generally early season November and December. There is no winter extension to the fishing season for the Ashburton lakes other than Lake Camp which remains open for fishing through to the end of May.
This area is around 600m above sea level. It gets very cold from autumn until late spring. During the colder months the high tops are covered in snow. The white stuff can also cover the valleys as well after a storm. Some winters are of course colder than others; but it can also snow during almost any month of the year.
The Ashburton lakes also freeze over wholly or partly during winter. The thick coating of winter snow makes for a beautiful picture but travel to the Ashburton lakes over winter is best avoided. Indeed the camping grounds at Lake Clearwater and Lake Heron are closed over winter.
A good starting point for flies on all of the Asburton Lakes would be: Dries: Love’s Lure, Black Gant, Coch-y-Bondhu, Greenwell’s Glory and a cicada pattern in summer.
Popular wet flies or lures for these lakes include: Hopes Dark, Black Pete (is not readily available so you may have to tie your own but it will be worth the effort), Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer, Hairy Dog, or a Black Rabbit.
On the Ashburton Lakes where Spin Fishing is permitted try a No.10 Super Kobra, black and gold Toby, small black and gold Zed Spinner, or black and gold Glimmy.
Motor boats are only permitted on Lake Camp. On some of the lakes anglers can fish from a rowed dinghy or a kayak, whilst on others you must drop anchor before you start fishing. A 4×4 vehicle isn’t neccessary to visit and fish the Ashburton lakes but is good to have if you wish to save your legs by driving over some of the rougher tracks to and around the different lakes.
Department of Conservation brochure pdf for Hakatere Conservation Park.