Lake Benmore Trout Fishing – A Week In Paradise By Ken Twyman

Stephen Burgess with a typical Lake Benmore rainbow trout taken by casting a lure over the shallows from a drifting boat off the Ahuriri River mouth.
Stephen Burgess with a typical Lake Benmore rainbow trout taken by casting a lure over the shallows from a drifting boat off the Ahuriri River mouth.

Lake Benmore Brass Monkey Trout Fishing Trip

By Ken Twyman

Update now includes Lake Benmore – Alf Palmer Memorial Fishing Trip by Kevin Lynch (see below)

Time for a lunch break! Note the warm clothing and neoprene chest high waders worn by most anglers to combat the cold. lt is odd how you don't seem to notice the cold in the excitement of fishing in such a wonderful setting. Photo: Ken Twyman
Time for a lunch break! Note the warm clothing and neoprene chest-high waders worn by most anglers to combat the cold. It is odd how you don’t seem to notice the cold in the excitement of fishing in such a wonderful setting. Photo: Ken Twyman.
Adrian Gardener with Fred van Slooten's 4lb rainbow. Lake Benmore.
Adrian Gardener with Fred van Slooten’s 4lb rainbow.

Queens Birthday weekend each year is a special time for some hardy anglers in Christchurch because it is the time that the annual pilgrimage to Lake Benmore, South Canterbury, by members of both the Woolston Working Men’s Club Fishing Section and the Canterbury Anglers Club takes place. For the last twenty-five years club members have competed against each other in a serious but friendly manner, this year was no exception.

Having only taken part for the last three years I’m new, or to be more correct a recycled old guy, in the Canterbury anglers team. The first time I took part I was fortunate to be able to fish with Richard Marles a stalwart of twenty-one years of taking part in the competition.

After arriving at the single men’s quarters that are situated at the rear of the Otematata Service Station Richard suggested that we try our luck at the nearest water which was just over the road. This sounded great to me so off we went.

Johnny Richards from the Woolston Club was fishing when we arrived, as was Fred Nicoll and Kevin Lynch from our team. Well naturally they had some catching up to do in the talking department whilst they fished, so I moved upstream but to my horror, I stepped into a soft patch of sand and started to sink. As they all had their backs to me, all I could think of was that I was going to disappear without a trace. I won’t repeat what expletives I said as I managed to struggle out but I certainly learnt to respect lake and river beds in a hurry.

It was so cold ice constantly formed in our rod-guides as we retrieved line.
It was so cold ice constantly formed in our rod-guides as we retrieved line.

As anyone who has fished Lake Benmore in winter knows it can get very cold, on my first trip I was standing up to my waist in water fishing to my heart’s content when suddenly I could not cast because my line had frozen to my rod guides so I decided to head for the bank only to find that the water around me had started to freeze! The fishing was great though.

Young Stephen Burgess, and Neville Olson, from the Woolston Club, display their catch. Lake Benmore.
Young Stephen Burgess, and Neville Olson, from the Woolston Club, display their catch.
The mirror calm water at Sailors Cutting, Lake Benmore. Despite it being very cold in the morning and evening there was blue sky and beautiful winter days.
The mirror-calm water at Sailors Cutting, Lake Benmore. Despite it being very cold in the morning and evening there was blue sky and beautiful winter days.

Fred Nicoll and Kevin Lynch usually head for Twizel a few days before Queens Birthday weekend to fish the Haldon Arm of Lake Benmore. This year Kevin was unable to go so Fred invited me.

Richard Marles displays the Brass Monkey Shield which has been contested by the two clubs at Lake Benmore every winter for 23 years.
Richard Marles displays the Brass Monkey Shield which has been contested by the two clubs at Lake Benmore every winter for 23 years.

It was raining when we drove out of Christchurch but we soon left that behind us. It was nice and sunny when we reached Twizel. Our first port of call was to Mary and Garry Payne at The Fly Hatchery. Now I’m not much of a fly fisherman but to watch these experts tie flies is something to behold. If you are ever in Twizel call in and see Mary and Garry. They will make you welcome but if you are at all the least bit interested in fly fishing you better have your wallet with you because you will not be able to resist buying some of their flies.

After setting up at the house we were to stay in we took off to fish the Haldon Arm. It was a brilliant Wednesday afternoon. The lake was just right for fishing with just a light ripple on the water. The scenery was magnificent with the snow-clad Southern Alps gleaming away to the west and Mount Cook clearly visible in all its glory.

Fred said as we drift fished from his boat, ”we were the luckiest guys on earth being able to fish in such a paradise and even the fish were cooperating.” The next day was much the same with the exception being that I broke my favourite spinning rod, a Diawa Firewolf, but because of the wonders of modem telecommunications, I was able to contact my wife on my cell phone and check how much credit we had on our Visa card. After she who is not always obeyed said there was enough for a new rod the cell phone was turned off. After all there I was sitting out in the middle of the lake having to use my spare trolling rod to cast with, and the fish were on the bite.

Paul Leathen with his trophies. Lake Benmore trout fishing.
Paul Leathen with his trophies.

Right on the dot of nine the next morning I was into the hardware store in Twizel to buy a new rod which was great. We told a couple of young carpenters, who were working outside the shop, that we were off fishing. I won’t repeat their comments!

We headed for the lake again but our luck had run out so we went back to base to pack up then took off to the Glenburn Holiday Park, which is situated near the Ahuriri Arm of Lake Benmore. After making sure we had good beds we decided to fish near Sailors Cutting for a couple of hours without success. This had me concerned because there were no fish for the day.

Saturday morning dawned with a strong wind blowing so only the larger boats could get on the water. Us less fortunate individuals were confined to fishing off the bank. Some of the Woolston team seemed to be doing alright but we were not.

Fortunately, the wind dropped and the smaller boats could be launched, some fish were caught but not many in my case another big zero putting me in line for the cup that is awarded to the fisherman that does the most to conserve the fish stocks in the lake.

Members of the Canterbury Anglers Club and the Woolston Working Men's Club Fishing Section in the lounge before a roaring open fire at Otematata Lodge. Photo: Allan Burgess.
Members of the Canterbury Anglers Club and the Woolston Working Men’s Club Fishing Section in the lounge before a roaring open fire at Otematata Lodge. Photo: Allan Burgess.
Winter view of Lake Benmore from beneath the willows. Photo: Allan Burgess
Winter view of Lake Benmore from beneath the willows. Photo: Allan Burgess

The next day my luck changed. The sun was out, the water was beautiful and the fish took to my super cobra with a will. It was wonderful to be able to catch rainbows and browns around the three and half pound mark and release them, that for me was a very satisfactory way to end the fishing part of the competition all that remained was the social evening organised by the Woolston team where the trophies are presented which as always was a fun evening, there are so many people that make this event memorable so to you all thanks, and I hope to see you there next time.

Otematata Lodge and Holiday Park

A well-conditioned Lake Benmore rainbow trout.
A well-conditioned Lake Benmore rainbow trout weighing around 3-4lb. Most fish were taken near the northern end of the Ahuriri Arm in only a couple of metres of water, over the thick weed beds. The preferred tackle being light spinning outfits fishing: Tillin’s Cobras, Tassie Devils, and Super Kobras. The best fish catching colours were a combination of yellow, green, and gold! Photo: Allan Burgess.
A boat being launched at the Sailors Cutting concrete boat ramp.
A boat being launched at the Sailors Cutting concrete boat ramp.
Lake Benmore map courtesy of Google Earth. Imagery © DigitalGlobe. Map data © 2018 Google.
Lake Benmore map courtesy of Google Earth. Imagery © DigitalGlobe. Map data © 2018 Google. Note the milky blue water of the Haldon Arm containing glacial flour which comes from the Tasman Glacier via Lake Pukaki and the Twizel Canals. While the water of the Ahuriri Arm is fed by snow-melt and is generally clear especially near the Ahuriri River delta.

Lake Benmore – Alf Palmer Memorial Fishing Trip

From left: Canterbury Anglers Club Team, Len Isitt, Kevin Lynch, Ken Twyman, Fred Van Slooten, Jim Smith, Fred Nicoll (top) Poel Bjerregaad, Trevor Wooten, Colin Wilson, Grant Kingsland, and Richard Marles.
From left: Canterbury Anglers Club Team, Len Isitt, Kevin Lynch, Ken Twyman, Fred Van Slooten, Jim Smith, Fred Nicoll (top) Poel Bjerregaad, Trevor Wooten, Colin Wilson, Grant Kingsland, and Richard Marles.

By Kevin Lynch

Jim Smith with a brace of nice rainbow trout – Lake Benmore. Waitaki Hydro Lakes have their origin along the main divide. The annual event between the Canterbury Anglers’ Club (CAC) and the Woolston Workingmen’s Club requires four main ingredients, stamina, a sense of humour, a little angling expertise and a large measure of luck.

The contest involves the Brass Money Shield for the highest angler/ fish average and the Betty Hill Trophy for the heaviest fish. CAC also has the Benmore Trophy for the highest CF fish and the Kevin Lynch Trophy for the best bag of fish. A $1 sweep for the heaviest fish is also an in-house event. WWMC also has an impressive array of trophies for their team.

Two late scratchings had our busy convenor Richard Marles worried, but Len Isitt added two new members to the team, Colin Wilson and Terence Morgan, which filled our new accommodation at the Glenburn Holiday Park (instead of the old huts at Otematata, which were an ice chamber by comparison, but a tradition of 27 years or so dies hard, they say). The park is conveniently located at the Ahuriri end of Benmore.

Fred Nicoll and the author got away to Twizel on Wednesday to hone up their techniques at the Haldon arm of Benmore, drift fishing the delta of the Twizel and Tekapo river mouths, with rainbows of 3 to 3 1/2lb the best examples, and lots of small browns and rainbows released in the 1 to 2 lb class for future seasons.

Jim Smith joined us this year with campervan and dinghy in tow, to add his expertise and pleasurable company. Although the weather forecast predicted snow to low levels midweek, with some nor-west winds and southwesterly rain for the weekend, we were not deterred and bathed in perfect weather on Wednesday. The snow-capped high country provided a perfect backdrop for all anglers willing to venture south.

Settling in at Glenburn on Friday did not take long, then it was over to the lake to launch the dinghies and look for the “hot spots” for the two-day competition starting on Saturday. The level was low with the silted lake bottom at the Ahuriri Mouth extending some 300 metres from the shore, and only 3/4 metre deep. We hope the stilts appreciated the removal of all the willows around the

river mouth. I am sure the anglers would like to have seen a few left. Small browns were returned from the northwest comer and a couple of 31b rainbows taken at dusk over the weeded bottom, but nil result along the lucerne paddock.

Richard, our provider and Ken Twyman had settled in on our return to the cottage. What luxury! Nicely carpeted large lounge with open fire, storage heater in the hallway and extra shower/ toilet facilities in adjacent en-suites where Jim had already set up his campervan.

The rest of the team arrived during the evening, Len, Colin and Terence, then our kayak man Poel Bjerregaad, followed by Trevor Wootten and Fred van Slooten. A welcome addition to the CAC this year was Joe Chidgey and son Russ, plus Grant Kingsland, to give us a total of 14. A late entry Bill Bennett was a newly signed up member, but at Jim’s request not entered in the official team till duly approved at the committee level.

Heavy southwesterly rain overnight and early morning light rain greeted the early risers at 6 am. The Marles breakfast binder got them all away smiling, Fred and Kev by 7 a.m. and 3 fish each caught by 9 am, all in the 1 – 2 1/ 2lb class released. One was taken by Kev at 3 3/ 41b for the lunchtime weigh in. This was matched by a similar weight rainbow caught by ]im. The author was delegated as weighmaster with a new set of scales purchased and made by Salter. The previous model was made in Taiwan by the “Optimistic Scale Company” and a little suspect at times. These two fish were the best weighed in at lunchtime on the WWMC digital scales by the CAC team. In kilogram weights it was WWMC – 1.6kg, CAC – 1.3kg.

Lots of activity at 1 pm, barbecues smoking with the sausage sizzle, tales of woe at fish breaking off, and J]oe’s frowning brow confiding ‘I haven’t touched one yet.’ Richard’s hot soup and chicken pies were well received, as usual, boosted by hot sausages from Russ’s Barbecue. The official weigh-in had to be a gilled and gutted fish, but the CAC in-house trophies are for un-gutted fish.

The afternoon session was interrupted for the rugby fans who wanted to view the final of the Super 12 Series, which was won by the Auckland Blues, then it was back to the lake for the last hour before dark. Ken and Richard chose the Otematata river mouth at Lake Aviemore for their afternoon sortie, which netted Ken a 2 1/ 2lb rainbow, with a CF of 56, the eventual winner of the Benmore Trophy. Len and the author both had fish of 3 3 / 4 lb, but a point lower at 55. Grant landed 8 fish to head the team catch, with Fred van Slooten 7, and Jim 6, with most returned. Our team averaged 4 fish for the day’s effort and Russ with another sad “break-off, must have been double figures.” Russ uses 4lb line when trolling. Joe seemed a lot happier with 3 fish and Russ 4.

There was a light nor-west wind on Sunday which grew as the day wore on. A heavy frost and frozen rod rings were the order of the day before the sun got on the water – the vagaries of fishing. All the boaties had to fish harder and longer for their day’s catch.

Bill Bennett’s 4 lb fish was the top weight for Saturday and matched by a similar weight by Ross Maher on Sunday in the Sweepstake up until the eleventh hour when Ken burst in near teatime. He had fished in Trevor’s boat and landed a 4 1/4 brown which when gilled and gutted looked close to 1.7kg on the Salter scales. The Toyota burnt rubber all the way to the Otematata Lodge to get the weight checked by WWMC and to our delight it was 1.7kg, and the heaviest weighed in.

A late meal for Ken and I, a quick shower and a quicker dram or two before heading back to the lodge for the trophy presentation and social evening, which is always a very pleasant finale to another great weekend. Although the total number of legal fish caught showed 101, based on a limit of 4 for calculation purposes, the total reduced to 82 over two days, with most fish returned.

Results – Inter Club. Brass Money Shield Fish Rods Average 1st Canterbury Anglers’ Club 82 14 5.86 2nd Woolston WMC 46 11 4.18

Betty Hill Trophy 1st Canterbury Anglers’ Club 1.7kg – Ken Twyman. 2nd Woolston WMC 1 .6kg – Graham Ravenwood. Gilled and gutted fish.

Club Trophies Benmore Trophy – Best Conditioned Trout. Ken Twyman 2 1/2lb rainbow CF 56.

Kevin Lynch Trophy – Most Fish Caught. Jim Smith 12 fish.

Conservation Cup – Making the Greatest Contribution to the Conservation of the Trout Population. Colin Wilson 1 fish.

Sweep for the Heaviest Fish Ken Twyman 4 1/4 brown.

Canterbury Anglers’ Club were lucky in winning 3 of the 5 raffle prizes drawn to defray expenses for refreshments and supper provided by Woolston WMC, which helped to make the evening an added success.

Monday gave us the heaviest frost, 10 degrees C. Anglers heading home via Twizel tried their luck at the Haldon arm of Benmore, without success I am told, and only 1 flat battery all weekend. Trevor’s working on it!

Last, but not least, a big thank you for Richard and Molly Marles for their catering.

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