Fly Fishing New Zealand

Fishing Paddock at Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka, Otago

Fishing Paddock at Paddock Bay

By Monty Wright

Flood water at Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka, Otago.

As l rolled over in the sleeping bag I noticed something was different. There was no rain falling on the iron roof of the hut that I was staying in at Wanaka. At last, maybe it had stopped. There was, however, a rattling noise coming from the kitchen and sure enough, Selwyn, who is a good early morning riser, was up with the jug on.

He poked his nose in the door and asked “How did you sleep?” l thought for a moment and replied, “Well, pretty good.“ Of course, we had had several nips of the whisky before we had settled down for the night. I always feel that warm, glowing feeling in one’s stomach gets you to sleep pretty easy when you are in a strange bed – which is often the case when you are an angler.

We were travelling through the Southern Lakes area doing the Roadshow – taking fishing to the anglers and talking about how they could better improve their catch rate and the various options that were available to them throughout the Otago Region. We quickly dressed, loaded the gear and set off for breakfast while we discussed the merits of where we were going to fish before we headed to Queenstown to repeat the performance.

Ian Cole had suggested the night before that a good place to try in the morning, if the wind was down and the rain had stopped, would be Paddock Bay. Paddock Bay is on the west side of Lake Wanaka past Glendhu Bay and you have to cross private land to get there. When you swing right and come down past the house you are greeted with a sign that says,  “Private Property – Fishermen Only. Please park near the hay barn approximately 1km from here. No vehicle access past that point.” When you get to the hay barn there is a nice stile going through one of the paddocks to get you down to the water. Thank you to the farmer.

Farmer’s sign leading to Paddock Bay.

The sun had broken out at this stage, although there was still some cloud cover around. We wandered on down to the water’s edge which was considerably higher than normal, covering much of the grassy paddocks and giving an unusual outline to Paddock Bay. There was an offshore breeze behind us blowing back towards Wanaka which left a nice clear area of a few metres where we could possibly spot some fish.

Stopping several metres back from the edge to peruse the situation we glassed the area, but could not see the first metre and a half out from the edge because of a 50cm bank in front of us. As we started to move off I noticed a nose come out from under the bank. I let out a couple of quick “Whoa, Whoa” to stop Selwyn in his tracks. We slowly sunk to the grass on our knees and l took the Damselfly nymph out of the keeper, pulling some line off ready for the first cast.

The fish carried on just in front of us, searching the grassy bottom for tasty morsels. The damsel nymph had a little too much weight in it to fish this close to the edge but there was little else we could do at this stage so I threw the nymph into the air and pulled off a bit more line just to get the measure of the distance. My cast was good and a little to the left of the fish. As it started to sink into the water two quick jerks drew the attention of the brown trout to the imitation and it moved in swiftly on the attack. As it opened its mouth and glided past I slowly lifted the tip of the rod to that old adage “God Save the Queen” and the first hook-up of the morning took place. I am not really a royalist but have not changed over to “God Defend New Zealand” – old habits die hard you know.

This brownie threw himself into the air several times and I was considering how lucky l was to catch a fish on my first cast of the day. Selwyn was quick to the ready with the camera and snapped a couple of photographs as all went well and we landed the fish. Seeing we had no need for it, it was immediately released back to the water and we moved off to search for more excitement.

Monty with the first trout of the day at Paddock Bay. Photo Selwyn Shanks.

The next lot of excitement came from Selwyn as he tried to walk through a piece of water with thigh gumboots on that was just a little deeper than his leg length. I noticed him speeding up trying to stand on tip toes, but l could see that it was all in vain and that sudden shudder came from his voice of “God that’s cold” as the water lapped around the vital parts. At least it got him to a nice place to fish for a few casts and low and behold on the second cast a hook-up on a little bead head nymph.

Being shorter in the leg l did not attempt the same route to see him land this fish. I crawled along under the electric fence, making sure there was no touching with rod or body in fear of that sudden sharp jolt that not only gives your heart a jerk but gives you that funny tingling feeling at the ends of your fingers. Little did l know at that point in time that just around the corner the fence was actually under the water and if it was turned on we could have been electric fishing.

Selwyn landed a really nice 2kg hen fish and released it back to the water singing the praises of Richard Fitzpatrick’s marvellous fly tying of the bead head nymph. Richard ties all his flies for the shop. 

In the grassy paddock ahead of me suddenly a fin appeared, and low and behold, there was another brown trout feeding probably on grubs or worms which had been brought up by the flooded area.

I paused for a moment until it turned away from me, then cast a silver bodied water boatman, which I had changed to for the shallow water, about 4 metres in front of it. Waiting patiently as the fish approached ever so slowly l drew the line in with two quick jerks. It was all that was needed.

The fish hit torpedo gear and travelled straight at it, picking it up in a rush and just slowing down into a glide as I lifted the point of the Sage rod again and there was another hook-up. My biggest problem at this point was the fence was between me and the main part of the lake.

After shouting several orders to the fish like “No, no not through there – come this way, come this way, that’s better, you’ve got it now, you’ve got it now,” I finally persuaded it with a certain amount of tension to stay on my side of the fence and landed it. Releasing him he certainly knew where the fence was in the next few seconds as he headed at great speed through the fence and off to the main part of the lake.

Unfortunately, at this point, the sun was getting higher and it was very difficult to see into the water in front of me and I spooked the next fish, which is a darn nuisance (being polite).

Selwyn had worked himself into a channelized section of a small creek which ran in and was obviously catching fish because there was no sign of him coming back. l worked a bit more of the bank edge – just casting and retrieving using a golden stone water boatman on the tippet and a silver bodied water boatman on the dropper, about 50cm up the line.

Dreaming away and just retrieving the line in very slow jerks, suddenly there was a huge “washing machine” swirl roughly where the fly should be – but no hook-up. I managed to control myself and not pull the water boatman away too fast with one short jerk and a pause for quite some time.

Then as I went to draw the second jerk BANG – I had him. l did not see this fish approaching because of the way the light was but it was all on now. There were some small willows and tussocks in front of me which had to be negotiated with some discussion with the fish. I tried to make up a polite conversation with it but he would not answer so I used the tip of the rod to direct him where I wanted him to go. He was very responsive I must admit and did exactly as he was shown until he got really close to me and observed the danger. He then decided that the small willow was his best place of defence and headed in that direction. I applied a little more side pressure and finally managed to turn him just before he reached it – much to his displeasure.

Whipping the net off my back, I lifted him from the water. It was the third jack fish I had caught in a row and all this in just over an hour. As l held it in the recovery position in the water I admired the colours of the fish. What a magnificent animal they are and how much pleasure they give us, the anglers. As I slowly released the pressure around his tail he swam off, quite unperturbed about life and the incident which had just occurred.

The wind became a little stronger. I climbed over the fence at the corner post, dropping down onto the other side; my feet went completely from underneath me and I sat down in a nice muddy section in a clean pair of jeans which I had put on that morning. “Mother will not be pleased, ” I thought. I threw the rod to the right as I was falling and quickly inspected it. Ah, it was all in one piece, thank goodness for that. 

I noticed Selwyn was on the return trail so decided to head back towards the car and fish a few places on the way. A small drain which I came across looked really good. I slowly walked along the drain without any success, but then right at the end, there was a fish. Now has it seen me or has it not? I slowly lowered myself down to water level. Oops – just a bit far.

Well, that will help clean the jeans anyway, we can’t let Selwyn be the only one that is wet. I put the two water boatmen into the air. With two or three air casts to the side I was quickly in front of the fish but unfortunately, it carried on at the same speed and maybe accelerated just a smidgen.

Damn – it must have seen me. It is just moving with a straightforward purpose and it looks like I have had it. As I whipped the flies into the air again I lost sight of the fish in the light – quite disappointing because I should have had that one as well.

I moved on back round to the fence and climbed over, without falling this time I must add. This put me about 50 metres from where l had seen the fish so I cast back directly along the edge just in case it was coming through there. This was a blind cast and I waited for a few seconds for things to settle down and started doing the familiar jerk return when I felt a restriction. Not being quite sure at that stage whether it was a weed or a fish, I slowly lifted the point of the rod with ease, just to lift it out of the weed, if it was a weed. But low and behold, it burst into life. It was a trout.

Off it went for the middle of the lake going past some scrub and rubbish and actually collecting it on the second fly. At this stage, we had a fish motoring with a stick following it quite fast at the same speed. The fish panicked of course and headed parallel to the shore. Just then the stick broke off and the fish travelled on for 20 metres or so then started to slow down. I thought to myself “Boy, that was a bit of luck.” After playing it for several minutes I managed to get it to the net, lifting it out, removing the hook and releasing it. Another brown jack.

Selwyn had just about caught up with me. He had had an excellent time fishing the gut. He had caught another two fish and had also seen some really big fish but just could not get them to take. All in all, it was an excellent couple of hours fishing. We loaded the gear into the car and headed to Queenstown to talk to the next group of anglers.

Footnote: Monty Wright is chairman of Otago Fish & Game

Ian Cole, A Fly Fisher’s Guide, Lake Wanaka.

Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka, New Zealand (no sound).

Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka. Map courtesy of Google Maps and DigitalGlobe.

This post was last modified on 13/03/2024 3:36 pm

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