Lake Benmore Brass Monkey Trout Fishing Trip
By Ken Twyman
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.
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 hearts 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.