My Huge Glenorchy Trout had an evasive strategy known only to competent submarine commanders

By Tom Kroos

The Glenorchy Races, the highlight of the local social calendar, was really an extension of New Year’s Eve. We had set up camp at the Wakatipu Anglers Club hut adjacent to Diamond Creek, not far from Paradise, really! For some self-inflicted reason, I was not feeling tops when Bert arrived at the hut doorway near daybreak. “C’mon mate show me this secret posse of yours.” This is the story of my huge Glenorchy trout.

As my mind raced into the real world I vaguely remembered explaining the previous evening that all popular fishing venues would be targeted by surviving anglers from Race Day. Indeed I had advised Bert of a close yet remote small spring. I added that if he was prepared to rise along with the sun and tramp through the swamp and cold water . . . in short my sleep-in tactic had failed.

There are some twenty-odd spring-fed tributaries that feed two major rivers which enter Lake Wakatipu at its head.

Though isolated, many contain fish. I seldom advertise precise locations simply because there are not many fish, just a few really big ones.

Two minutes out from the hut we spotted three fallow deer feeding along the bush line only metres from the road. Bert went for his camera and produced an empty camera bag. I had no problem locating my camera, though the film would have been useful. “An empty bag and camera without film.”

I laughed, “Today we will probably catch the fish of a lifetime.”

In retrospect, I no longer find this amusing!

Within an hour Bert was waist-deep in a backwater as I reached the spring edge from the opposite bank. There is after all an advantage to knowing the lie of the land!

Above the sound of cicadas, I first heard and then observed a falcon. A good omen I thought as the mud-clad Bert reached the other bank.

What appeared to be about a five-pound brown Glenorchy trout was actively feeding slightly upstream. Bert got the green light, an impossible cast from my side.

I worked my way a short distance downstream and waited. The water colour is stained from adjacent swamp land and I could just make out a large log extending out from the opposite bank.

From past experience, the spring bed was composed of decaying plants and oozing muck up to several metres deep. The flow is “soft” and casting difficult due to extensive willow growth along the edges. Thick-instream weed proliferation produces an abundance of food and cover.

Mike’s big brown trout is almost secured.

I can remember, almost in slow motion, my eyes forwarded a message to some recovering brain cells that the log initially observed had shifted location.

As my eyes widened another message suggested that the large dead trees in this slow meandering spring creek do not move. In addition, this one was feeding!

I knew as my body started to shake it had nothing to do with recent beverage consumption. The symptom is not unlike observing a large stag you have stalked for hours walk into a clearing. Your whole being focuses on the target.

As the spell broke I looked up surprised that Bert was not staring at this mother of all brown trout. I started to speak but could not find the descriptive words, over twenty years in the business of trout management and fishing, I had never observed a wild brownie this big!

I crawled back and sat down. My mind was now racing. There was no wind and it would have to be a good presentation, no, it had to be a great one.

Stupidity was not the reason this Glenorchy trout was in double figures. My tippet was 6-pound strength, would it be enough?

Reaching for my dry fly box I extracted a number 8 Green Hopper with a yellow body. The pattern had seldom let me down on cicada-feeding mountain rainbows. I fumbled the clinch knot and whispered to myself to slow down.

I smiled as I thought about requesting a “time out,” the humour helped.

Bathing the fly, my hands and the surrounding vegetation in zinc floatant, I was ready. Back to the creek edge on my knees, I commenced the cast.

The fish had moved to centre stage near the surface. My heart missed several beats as I took in a better view, it wasn’t a log, it was an entire woodlot! 

It was not a great cast but good enough. The big hopper ever so slowly drifted towards ground zero. I was surprised that a fish so large would take a fly so gracefully from the surface. I remembered almost too late to set the hook.

The experience was not unlike a recent vehicle accident where every detail appeared in slow motion. As the hook hit home salmo giganticus raced to the surface to dislodge the fly. The explosive power of this threshing beast on a small spring creek got Bert’s attention in a hurry.

“A log! I’ve hooked into a bloody log!” I screamed.

The fish went down and deep with an evasive strategy known only to competent submarine commanders. Reel singing and rod bent I yelled again “I am going to lose it!” This is the point when those questions come into play; will my bloodknot hold?

Can my Sage take the strain? Suddenly the pressure eased yet the flyline was taut. Perhaps past experience was my ally.

Without hesitation, and with the rod held high, I ventured into the unknown depths of Swan Creek and unleashed the tangled line from a clump of weeds. Within seconds my number 8 Hopper with trophy attached rocketed once again downstream.

Twenty minutes, 1500 metres and 6 weed clumps later, both angler and fish were exhausted. Two new problems developed. Bert could not get to my side of the spring to assist with the landing. My landing net was not even close to the size of the fish.

Working the fish close to the bank I eased its massive head into the net. Discarding the rod and taking hold in front of the tail in one motion I hefted this masterpiece to Terra Firma.

Having quickly removed the fly I held my trophy up for Bert’s inspection. “Wow, how big is it?” he enquired. I held her gently in the water as I searched and located a scale in my vest. Now my scale reads to ten pounds maximum and this lady exceeded that.

I have seen a lot of trout in my days though not many as large as this Glenorchy trout. I reckon 13 pounds is conservative and fair. I had no camera, no accurate scale and one witness on the opposite bank. “Now what are you going to do?” my witness asked. I had not really thought about that. I felt like giving her a kiss. Did I want her on my wall?

It took another 30 minutes and to this day I don’t know if she survived. I’d like to think so. She taught me a lot. I’ve purchased a new large net with a built-in scale and I never ever take my fly rod for a walk without a loaded camera.

I know I caught this big lady so the proof doesn’t have to hang on the wall. O.K., a personal choice but it was mine to make. At the end of the day perhaps we both had won.

This post was last modified on 14/03/2024 1:54 pm

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