Categories: Twizel Canals

Egg Rolling/Drift Fishing Method in the Mackenzie Country Canals

Egg Rolling or Drift Fishing in the Mackenzie Country Canals

When you consider that a large trout or salmon hen fish can produce as many as 5,000 eggs that’s a lot of fish-bite size protein parcels going into the food chain. Big rainbow trout can produce as many as 8000 eggs. Smaller trout produce fewer eggs. With so many fish eggs going into the canals they provide a substantial food source over winter. Trout have no problem eating trout eggs and juvenile trout and salmon. Drift fishing glow-bugs has been a staple on the Tongariro River for decades. In that fishery, the method can only be used with a flyrod as spinning isn’t allowed there.

This salmon, which was quickly returned to the water, can be seen releasing eggs. The bright silver colour of a pre-spawning salmon has been replaced by the darker colour scheme of this fish taken during the month of May. Both jack and hen salmon die soon after spawning. Note the bright orange colour of the eggs! Many of these eggs will be eaten by hungry trout so it stands to reason that the egg rolling technique is certain to work well.

Anglers drift fishing the canals with artificial eggs have been very successful. Known as “egg rolling” the technique works best when your drifting soft bait egg is moving along at the speed of the current close to the bottom – or at least in the lower third of the water. To be really effective you need just the right amount of lead weight to take your rig down to the ideal depth. The amount of weight needed will change depending on the flow-rate. Knowing how much weight to use for the conditions comes with experience. 

I have shown a typical rig used for this form of canal fishing below. You can use the very popular orange soft bait eggs. These come in several sizes but 8mm seems to work well. Although everyone was fishing with orange and pink fish eggs there is now a much great range of colours available and in use. You can also get hard plastic eggs as well. I’m sure that Glo-bugs still work too but seem dreadfully old fashioned nowadays. 

Here is a typical rig used for drift fishing a trout or salmon egg soft bait in the canals.

Egg-rolling requires a delicate touch to stay in contact with the lure and to strike quickly when a fish sucks it in. Depending on the speed of the water flow you may need as little as 1/16th of an ounce, or even less. Casting very lightweight rigs requires specialist tackle. Malcolm Bell at The Complete Angler in Christchurch, I guess you could say, pioneered the egg-rolling fishing technique in the canals using lightweight spinning gear.

The egg rolling technique seems to work quite well in the summertime too when the fish aren’t laying eggs. 

Try to get your artificial eggs as close as possible to the farm cages. The chances of a bite are even better if you can drift them underneath the salmon pens. This requires accurate casting and good nerves. There are a lot of ropes in the way which makes it a tricky business; even more so when you hook a big fish. Anglers often see the cage ropes and nets festooned with the lost terminal tackle from wayward casts have become entrapped. If you worked on one of the fish farms you would never need to purchase jig-heads or soft baits! The technique will also work well away from the farm cages anywhere in the canals.

The one thing you must get right if you are using this egg rolling method is your surgeon’s knot used to tie on a dropper (see dia. below). I have witnessed many anglers lose good fish because their surgeon’s knot breaks. Sure, if you put too much pressure on a big fish something is going to break somewhere! I have also seen many inexperienced anglers use leader material that is too light. Don’t forget that tying any knot in the line is going to weaken its breaking strain. It is a good idea to practice tying the surgeon’s knot at home and testing it until it breaks so you get a feel for what is happening. It is also good insurance to use heavier 20lb mono or fluorocarbon. It is better to err on the side of fishing a little heavy at the start until you gain more experience with 30lb plus rainbow trout. 

Also if you fish really light line you will be totally exhausting the trout which greatly lessens its likelihood of surviving the experience of being caught and released.   

The ova that survive into alevins (small fish), fry (having consumed their egg yolk), and parr (under a year old), are all providing prey for bigger trout and salmon. I have also seen shoals of smaller trout and salmon of the least several pounds in the canals. I’ve also observed trout being predated upon in the canals by black shags.

A pleasant surprise hauling this 19.7lb salmon to the bank. Lumo Savage Gear softys and Cleardrift
eggs are at the top of the menu for these monsters. Photograph courtesy of Lance Gill and Fish The Drift NZ.

The mortality rate from the ova stage all the way through to trout and salmon weighing at least several pounds is going to be very high. Nevertheless, all of these eggs and juvenile trout and salmon are providing a rich food source which contributes to the high number of large trophy trout in the canals. Although I’ve seen manks (spent salmon) in the canals I have never seen a trout or salmon in poor condition.

A study of fish life, habitat and prey species, conducted as part of a large-scale fish salvage operation in the Tekapo Canal, by Cawthron Institute biologist Rasmus Gabrielsson discovered that there is a substantial natural fishery in the canals. The study took place over the summers of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 as large sections of the Tekapo Canal were closed off and drained so that maintenance and repair work could be carried out. The study found there were 105 large fish (between 8 and 14lbs) per kilometre. The study also found that there were enormous numbers of bullies in the canals – many more than was expected.

Here is a good example showing the egg-rolling technique from FishingForeverFilms. The key is to use just enough weight for the egg to drift naturally.

Surgeon’s loop knot used to tie in a dropper. It is essential to tie this knot well to avoid unnecessarily weakening the line.
Surgeon’s loop knot. It is essential to tie this knot well to avoid unnecessarily weakening the line. Wet the line to lubricate it as you tighten the knot. Practice at home and test your effort to ensure your knot is strong. You may get more strikes in clear water with a lighter line but don’t forget these are very big fish.

Video: How to Fish the Canals with Artificial Eggs – Also known as Egg Rolling – with Malcolm Bell from The Complete Angler tackle store in Christchurch.

Rods and Reels

The best tackle for fishing the canals is a light spinning rod measuring 7-8 feet in length, and a 2500 or 4000 size egg-beater spinning reel loaded with braided line. The braid will make it possible to feel every little touch by a fish on your lure. You want braid up to about 15lb breaking strain with a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader of at least 2-rod lengths. Be sure to get a neutral colour braid like dark green. You don’t want any of the bright fluoro colours that could frighten the trout.

For “egg-rolling” tie a dropper at least half a metre or so from the end of your line to attach your sinker. I like to use Black Magic size 8 Extra Strong nymph hooks for nymphs and soft bait eggs in the canals. Keep in mind how big and strong the trout can be there. Avoid using flimsy tackle or you will live to regret losing the fish of a lifetime. Practice tying droppers so your dropper knots don’t weaken the line too much. If necessary, tie your droppers from heavier monofilament or use a tiny three-way swivel and use Uni-knots. I’ve seen many big trout lost after Surgeon’s Knot droppers have given way under pressure. When the line breaks and a really big fish is lost the line almost always breaks at one of the knots.

How to Drift Fish the Twizel Canals with Malcolm Bell from The Complete Angler

Any tips, questions, or advice to add? Please comment and/or like below using Facebook.

This post was last modified on 27/05/2021 2:35 pm

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