Lakes Clearwater and Camp
These trout fishing lakes are located in the upper reaches of the Rangitata River about 40 minutes drive from Methven. There is a small village of about 100 baches built on the high ground that separates the two lakes. There are also elementary camping facilities available on the lakeshore near the baches. It is just a two-minute walk from one lake to the other. Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp are separated by a strip of land that takes just two minutes to walk across.
Lake Clearwater is approximately 4 km long and 1 km wide. It was discovered by T.H Potts and Henry Phillips in 1857 but its location would have long before been known to the Maori.
Powerboating is not permitted on Lake Clearwater but is permitted on the smaller adjacent Lake Camp.
Fly and spin fishing is permitted on both lakes. The limit bag is two trout. The fishing season opens on the first Saturday of November and ends on 30 April. There is no winter fishing season in any of the Ashburton lakes except Lake Camp which opens during the month of May. These lakes can, and often do, completely freeze over in winter.
Flies and Spinning Lures for Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp
On the fly rod, you can’t go past a Hamill’s Killer or a Mrs Simpson (green or red). Favoured dry flies include Coch-y-Bondhu, Love’s Lure, Green or Brown Beetle, and a Cicada trout fly pattern in summer.
These lakes are very exposed to the weather and the howling nor’west wind in particular. They can be challenging to fish in still calm conditions. At such times it is essential to cast in front of a fish as it patrols its beat. The aid of a mate to act as a spotter is also helpful.
Harling and Trolling
Harling and trolling from a rowed boat is also popular and effective on Lake Clearwater. Fishing from boats is prohibited in Lake Camp.
The olive green or brown Woolly Buggar is a top producer when harling on these lakes. But great care must be exercised. These exposed lakes can become rough very quickly once the wind gets up. It is always better to stay close to the lake edges and avoid the middle of the larger lakes for just this reason.
Kayak fishing continues to grow in popularity on Canterbury’s high country lakes. It is a relatively inexpensive form of boating and is well suited to these smaller lakes where powerboating is not permitted. A kayak is easier to transport on the roof of a car: and is easier to drag from the car to the water’s edge than a more traditional fishing dinghy. A kayak or dinghy makes it possible to access parts of the lake that are otherwise difficult to get to on foot.
Rowing or paddling also provides just the right speed for a trolled lure. You can also mount a small electronic fish-finder so you’ll know where the fish are and how deep the water is! A kayak doesn’t spook trout in the same way as a noisy speed boat so you have a better chance of sneaking up on the fish. But as mentioned above great care must be exercised when boating on Canterbury’s high country lakes. Always wear your life-jacket no matter how calm the lake surface may be. It is also best not to venture on to these lakes in your kayak alone if you can avoid doing so.
At over 600m above sea level it can get very cold at night even in high summer so be sure to take plenty of blankets and warm clothing if camping in a tent.
Driving time from Christchurch City to Lake Clearwater takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Past Hakatere Corner the roads in the area are gravel.
There is plenty to see and do on and around the Ashburton lakes for those who enjoy the outdoors: Mountain biking, photography, fishing, tramping, kayaking, mountain climbing, walking, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, bird-watching, and on Lake Camp water skiing. The vast Hakatere Conservation Park is a wonderful place to visit for the magnificent grandeur of the Canterbury high country landscape.
Most of the lakes are shallow and quite small. They warm up in summer and freeze over in winter. They are mostly wind-swept and very exposed to the elements. Spotting and stalking trout can be challenging. As mentioned a kayak or dinghy is a considerable advantage to the determined angler.