Mackenzie Canals Fishing Tips – Be prepared to try different things

Roland Brunner with a big 24 pound rainbow trout
Roland Brunner with his big 24 pound rainbow trout. Mackenzie canals fishing tips.

Mackenzie Canals Fishing Tips – More good tips for fishing the Twizel Canals

by Allan Burgess

I have fished the canals on a number of occasions with a mate of mine who is very good at catching fish there. He always said to me if it isn’t working we should try something else, or move to another spot. On a number of occasions, this proved to be excellent advice. Often we would get a hookup almost immediately after moving “somewhere else”. Here are some Mackenzie canals fishing tips and things for you to consider when you aren’t getting any bites or nibbles.

If after an hour or two in one place if we didn’t get a bite we would move someplace different. Have a few casts in one spot, then walk 5-10 meters and repeat so as to cover plenty of water. The same applies to egg rolling. Don’t be afraid to change locations and fish somewhere different. Oddly, one day plenty of fish are taken in the Tekapo Canal and very few elsewhere. On other days it can be the other way around.

Another good tip worth remembering is that there are big trout spread right throughout the canals. Just because there is no one else fishing a particular stretch of water it doesn’t mean that it is devoid of fish. Have a go you might be surprised.

You need to be wearing polaroids to see fish in the water. Often small shoals of big monster rainbows cruise close to the edge.

Beautiful 15lb spotted brown trout from the Mackenzie Country hydro canals. Photograph courtesy of Roland Brunner.

I always found the “swirling washing machine” at the Ohau A inlet dam wall to be the most productive spot with nymphs, especially over winter. Having said that it can produce plenty of fish for a few hours and then go quiet for a few hours, then start up again. It was so productive there I didn’t really need to move, but it can get crowded. Interestingly you would get takes all day walking along the top of the wall, but just 100 meters downstream many anglers fishing soft bait minnows would catch nothing. The same trick applies to fishing the other dam walls. 

We would also drift fish an egg along the bottom as close to the cages as possible. This method also works very well at the “Magic Carpet” towards the Lake Tekapo end of the Tekapo canal where it was walking access only. But that has been closed overwinter as a conservation measure. The big rainbows are trying to head upstream to spawn so fishing is generally more productive at the “inlets”.

I’ve seen plenty of rainbows caught in the Stilling Basin on eggs, Tassie Devils and silver spinners too. Sometimes the fishing can be hot there and other times it seems dead. I’ve noticed that there are quite a few expert canals anglers who always seem to be on the move. If there is nothing happening they head off to a new spot.

Night fishing can be very productive especially on the salmon with a doll fly. There aren’t the escaped salmon like there used to be. But some still seem to get out of the cages.

Night fishing black grubs and soft bait minnows with a light 1/16oz jig head catches some massive browns. How they can see black lures at night beats me but it works!

You can also cast to the other side of any of the canals with a 5cm soft bait minnow and let it swing around at the speed of the current. It is very important that you stay in touch with your lure. Don’t let your line become slack.

This 6 pound rainbow trout was taken on a 5mm egg. Photograph courtesy of Roland Brunner.

Mackenzie Canals Fishing Tips, Egg Rolling the most popular method

Casting soft bait minnows was very popular 5 or 6 years ago but has fallen out of favour and been largely overtaken by egg-rolling/drift fishing nowadays – mainly because it works!

It makes a big difference how much time you have to spend at the canals. If you are there for a week or so you can try many different places and techniques. But if you are only there for a couple of days you don’t want to spend most of it driving around. Some people won’t like me for saying this but yes you can even try bait fishing with a shrimp if all else fails for you.

I have also been told by some knowledgeable anglers that fishing the Twizel canals is harder nowadays than it was but there are still plenty of fish being caught. The Twizel canals are one place where experience and having a plan is really important. In closing, the takeaway is to be prepared to move if the fishing has gone quiet. Also try something else, a different lure, egg rolling (rig pictured), spinning with metal spoons, and so on. If you just keep doing the same old thing and it is not working, try something else. I think it is fair to say that Malcolm Bell from The Complete Angler tackle store in Christchurch has popularised egg rolling or drift fishing in the canals more than anyone. Essentially, you are looking to have your egg pattern drift along the canal near the bottom naturally at the speed the water is moving in the hope that it will be taken by a waiting trout or salmon. 

If you are drawing a total blank when it comes to fishing the canals you might want to contact Ben Booth who is a top local guide and expert at Boothy’s Fishing School Twizel Canals, Canterbury & West Coast. 

The setup I use to catch monster trout in the Twizel and Tekapo Canals by Jacob Fishing. This is a great video that shows you exactly how to set up your gear for egg-rolling or drift fishing with either soft bait or Glo-bug eggs. Just watch this video and you will be on the right track. This is probably the most popular method with anglers for fishing the canals at present.