The Twizel Canals are a spectacular place to fish for trout and salmon at any time of year but the winter season offers something extra special. It gets very cold at night, like as low as minus 10 deg C and some days the temperature doesn’t get out of single figures. Expect a think frost on your car windscreen in the morning. Sometimes it will even be snowing! Here are our tips for fishing the Twizel Canals Winter 2022.
Twizel Canals Winter 2022 Fishing Photographs (mostly).
Be sure to take plenty of warm clothing with you when heading to the canals at this time of year. A polar fleece balaclava with a woollen one over the top of it, along with neoprene gloves will go a long way to keeping you warm in the biting wind. Neoprene wader will also cut the wind when it is really cold.
The trout and salmon head “upstream” to spawn at this time of year. In the Twizel Canals, there are no side streams where spawning trout and salmon can congregate, however they do swim upstream as far as they can go and are more bunched than during summer.
They will be gathering in the churning whitewater below the dams. This whitewater is known by many anglers as washing machines. The highly aerated water has just been through the power generation turbines.
Big fish will be in this whitewater feeding on morsels of food that have just passed through the turbines. Not only that, the big aggressive rainbows will be in full spawning mode and unwilling to tolerate smaller fish trying to push in and will chase them away. There will be many huge trout in the whitewater and you will be able to see them from your fishing position high above the concrete walls.
The water flows straight out from the turbines and then hits the slower water in the canal causing a fair amount to swirl back towards the sides. The resulting whirlpool will send your rig from the sides towards the middle of the dam where it will be carried downstream in the main flow from the turbines. At which point you lift your rig from the water, and rejoin the end of the line of anglers near the bank before repeating the process.
It might sound a bit strange to trout anglers unfamiliar with this style of communal fishing but it works well.
I have lost count of the number of silly people I have witnessed at the canals lose the “fish of a lifetime” by trying to “skull-drag” it to the bank. These are seriously big powerful trout. When side on in the current they can be difficult to budge. Set your reel drag ahead of time and don’t be tempted to keep tightening it.
When the fish wants to go downstream go with it. The fish you have on might be the only one you hook during the short time you are at the canals.
Exercise caution when you have that big bend in your rod. If the hook pulls or your line gives way (usually at a knot) you will have to drive all the way home thinking, “why couldn’t I have been just a little more patient?”
See expert angler Chris Anchor play, land, and release a big rainbow in the Ohau A Canal.
The best way to fish for them is with a Tongariro style nymph rig. You are permitted to use three hooks if I remember correctly. The technique is a short cast followed by allowing the flies to drift around naturally in the current much like a drowning blowfly might do. You can add a gentle jigging action for added enticement. Use small size 8 hook Glo-bugs, nymphs, and size 4 hook streamers like booby flies. There is more on this, and successful nymph rigs to use in my book The Complete Guide to Fishing the Twizel Canals.
Think ahead of time about how you will handle any large fish that comes to your net. The vast majority of trout caught in the canals are released. I know of many anglers who regularly fish the canals and release every fish they catch.
Handling these big trout in the 20 to 30-pound class is something completely different from the experience of most anglers. I’ve posted enough videos on my YouTube channel of big fish being landed to know that unsolicited advice from keyboard warriors pointing out the fish handling mistakes of others flows freely. Unless they have something positive to say I delete them.
1. If you are going to release your fish you need to land it as quickly as possible. If it comes to the bank flat-out exhausted it is much less likely to survive the ordeal of being caught and released. To this end try to use tackle heavy enough to enable you to get your fish to the bank in a reasonable time.
2. Impossibly light fluorocarbon leaders might lead to more hookups in clearwater but they will also force you to be extra cautious when playing a fish resulting in it being totally exhausted by the time of release. Don’t use leader/tippet material any lighter than 6 lb. Whereas, 10 lb will do too, especially if it allows slightly more pressure to bring your fish to the net sooner.
3. Netting a fish will be far easier if you have a mate to assist. Let the fish swim over the net before lifting it. Don’t chase a fish with the net. By the way, you are going to need a “big” net.
4. Now comes the tricky part. You are going to want to lift the fish from the water for the obligatory photograph. I get that.
5. Leave the fish in the net and in the water. Do not lift the net with the fish in it up onto the bank unless you intend to keep it.
6. Remove the hook from its mouth while the fish is still in the water. Have your pliers/forceps ready and remove the hook as fast as you can.
7. If you want to weigh the fish do so by weighing it and the net at the same time – quickly. Some nets have scales built into the handle. Separate scales are fine provided you have them ready before you want to use them. Rummaging for them in your tackle bag and then switching them on is no good at all while the fish is left waiting to gasp in the net.
8. Have your mate ready with his camera ahead of time.
9. With wet hands, hold the fish firmly in front of the tail with one hand and place your other hand far enough forward to take the weight without squeezing its stomach, or touching its gills. You need to hold the fish near the tail tightly enough in case it suddenly struggles and jumps free of your grasp crashing down onto the stones. If the fish is still a bit green that is a good thing.
10. Face the camera which your mate already has in position.
11. Have your mate fire the shutter continuously (modern cell phones do this automatically when you hold your finger down on the shutter release).
12. Aim to have the fish back in the water within about five seconds.
13. Support the fish until it swims away.
14. Your aim is to carry out this whole process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
15. Salmon are the best eating fish by far. If you want a fish to take home for the table then a salmon is by far the best eating fish. There aren’t as many salmon escapes from the farms as there once were.
16. Planning ahead and thinking about how you are going to release a fish is key. You and your mate will need to have everything you need with you, not back in the car. Sometimes you will have to follow a fish a long way downstream before you can get it to the bank. Know where your pliers are to remove hooks. Know where your scales and camera are and be familiar with their operation.
17. Don’t hand your mate a camera at the last second that he has never used before!
You know you are fishing with expert anglers when they do all this stuff on auto-pilot with great efficiency and economy of movement to give released fish the best chance of survival.
I’m amazed the fishery in the Twizel Canals has withstood the angling pressure that it gets as well as it has.
Egg rolling or drift fishing has grown in popularity considerably over the past 5 or 6 years. Whereas prior to that time almost all fishing in the canals with spinning gear was done casting 75mm soft bait minnows. This method still works and takes plenty of good fish, especially salmon at night.
When fishing the soft bait minnows with lead jig heads most anglers simply stand in the same place casting upstream and allow the lure to drift downstream with the current winding in just enough line to keep it tight to the lure. The idea is to have the lure drift downstream naturally at the rate of the canal flow. Hence it isn’t much good when the water stops moving.
There are variations on this theme such as making half a dozen casts in one spot before walking 10m upstream along the bank and repeating the process in order to cover more water.
Egg rolling is a bit more aggressive in that a weighted egg rig is cast out into the canal and the angler walks downstream at the same pace as the canal flow. The object of the exercise is to have the soft bait egg drift along in the current as naturally as possible to the waiting monster trout holding station near the bottom.
Egg rolling is very simple but you need to have the right rod, reel, and rig set up before you get started for it to work efficiently. You have to match your lead weight to the speed of the current. When the flow is faster more lead weight is needed and vice-a-versa. It gets a bit trickier when the flow is very slow because you need to be able to fish with very light weights 1/16th oz and lighter which are difficult to cast any distance on heavy spinning gear. Check out our article Egg Rolling – How to Drift Fish the Mackenzie Country Canals.
You need a long 9-foot rod design to cast around 3 to 9g. Such rods are expensive and fragile. Never place one in your car without first placing it in a cloth bag and sliding it into a hard tube.
There is no perfect lure to use to catch trout at the canals. Be sure to take a good mixture of different colour soft bait minnows and fish eggs with you. You can see in the photo gallery at the top of this page that a range of different colours of Clear Drift eggs is also a good idea.
You will also need a range of jig heads weighing between 1/32 to 1/4 of an ounce.
For egg rolling you should get the long drop shot sinkers which will snag the bottom a lot less than round balls or split shots. Get a range of sizes from 1/16 to 1/4 ounces.
Spool your 2500 size reel with 8 to 10 lb braid. Get an earth colour or green. Don’t get a bright yellow braid that might scare the fish.
You’ll need spools of 6 and 10 lb fluorocarbon. Some very small 5kg three-way swivels. See Tying the FG Knot and find out why you should be using it to join fluorocarbon or monofilament to braid.
For night fishing salmon glow in the dark lures work surprisingly well. The salmon will also go for all sorts of strange pink soft baits during the day. It is fair to say that the salmon will hit just about anything.
I don’t know if I should say this but you should take with you a spare rod and reel just in case one of these fails. The light carbon fibre rods that most anglers use are easily broken if you aren’t careful with them. Taking a long an older rod as a spare is good insurance in case the worst happens.
Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park & Lake View Motels in Twizel offer warm cabins in mid-winter at a very reasonable rate.
This post was last modified on 28/05/2022 1:19 pm
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