Whitebait Streamer Fly for Sea-Run Trout Fishing
by Chris Tonkin
The first of the smelt runs appear in South Westland rivers about mid-October, adding a further dimension to some very interesting tidal fishing. River mouths with adjacent shallow tidal areas have provided great sport for the few anglers exploiting them. There is really nothing to match the sight of schools of trout first ganging up on the shoals of whitebait, and then charging in for the kill in water barely deep enough to cover them. A fish I caught last week disgorged enough fresh whitebait for a decent patty, – a nice little bonus. Streamer Flies also called lures, make a good whitebait imitation.
Of course, when there is so much competition about it is not always easy to induce interest in your particular whitebait imitation, and when they are really into a feeding frenzy it’s often harder. A Canterbury angler I encountered on Labour Weekend typified the dilemma that we have all faced after exhausting the range of lures in the box, every one of which is completely ignored by a succession of frantically feeding fish. I felt a bit sorry for this particular bloke because he had tried hard and deserved a fish. So I gave him a fly that has worked for me and told him how I’ve used it with reasonably consistent results. It is the Whitebait Streamer Fly. The trick is to make your whitebait stand out in a crowd.
Whitebait Streamer Fly
In bright conditions, I use a sparsely dressed “whitebait streamer fly”, tied on a size 6 hook. It consists of a gold tinsel body, a few long wisps of deer hair, and nothing else. Rather than fish “blind” and deep as you might, say in Ellesmere, I use a ﬂoating line and long leader. When they are chasing whitebait, trout can move surprisingly quickly, and by the time you get a cast underway to a rising fish he will probably be somewhere else. I have found that false casting until a fish is spotted often enables you to drop the ﬂy directly on his previous rise. If you are quick enough, a few jerky pulls to resemble a rapidly fleeing whitebait will often do the job.
West Coast lake anglers have also been enthusiastic about their early results. Lakes Brunner and Poerua have been subject to the usual influx of Cantabrians, most of whom have been well pleased with the quality of their catch. Lake Poerua, in particular, has produced excellently conditioned fish for so early in the season, and all angling methods seem equally as successful.
Should the lake level rise significantly within the next week or two, then around the edges with a nymph will be the place to be. The volume of enquiries from other parts of the country indicates that we might be in for a busy season. Although there is almost unlimited scope on the ‘Coast for visitors seeking peace and quiet, many anglers don’t get past the Brunner and Grey Valley catchments. This is fine, but visitors should also be aware that South Westland is one of the “last frontiers” in terms of the true “wilderness” angling experience, and offers opportunities for a range of tastes.
West Coast Lakes
Lakes Paringa, Mapourika and Moeraki hold good populations of brown trout and are open to fishing year-round. Last season in South Westland saw the best runs ever of sea-run quinnat salmon, and lake resident fish were equally as abundant. Until rising water temperatures drive the fish deeper, salmon are fairly easily caught around the lake margins, and there is always the prospect of a memorable brown as a bonus.
The West Coast Fish and Game Council is only too happy to provide up-to-date advice and information for intending visitors. West Coast Fish & Game, Airport Drive, Hokitika 7810. Phone: 03-755 8546.