Tups Indispensable and Small Streams Around Canterbury with John Hey
A number of small streams flow around Canterbury and while they don’t hold large populations of fish they are very enjoyable places to fish and we tend to guard them jealously once we have found a good one. Fishing these small streams requires short delicate rods. Casting only four or five weight rods of only 8 or 8’6‘ in length with fine 2 or 3lb cast and small flies like the Tups Indispensable, 18’s or 16’s tied sparsely. These streams have to be fished early in the season as they are prone to drying up due to water extraction and hot summers.
The Selwyn River if it was allowed to flow from top to bottom all year round, would be almost as good as the mighty Mataura River in Southland. The Selwyn River as late as the 1970s had a reputation as being one of the best brown trout rivers in New Zealand. I was lucky to fish the Selwyn – Hororata system when the water flow was still good.
We arrived early in the morning. it was December 16th 1977, a bright sunny day with no wind, the stream was clear and the sun was behind us so it was going to be easy to spot fish. We soon spotted one against the other bank. I tied on a Tups Indispensable (Tups for short). I cast just above him and as the fly drifted over he rose and took it as neat as you please. Then followed a quick sorty around the pool before he left me fishless.
We caught and released half a dozen or so fish that day and saw more fish of all sizes. Looking back over the past when the North Canterbury Fish and Game Council – then the North Canterbury Acclimatisation Society – were doing fish salvages, these two streams were great nurseries when they had permanent water. Not long after that the river dried up and fish salvage was necessary and to this day the fishing has never been the same.
Many of these streams are good after work fisheries where you can get in a couple of hours fishing before going home.
The South Branch of the Waimakariri River is the most popular. During the day if you are careful you can fish to a sighted trout or wait till evening for caddis, mayfly or beetle rises. Streams that appear to have no fish suddenly come alive when a good beetle hatch is in full cry.
The popularity of nymph fishing has pushed the traditional wet fly almost out of the way but l have found that a well presented wet fly is just as good and is easier fished for the novice angler as a trout can take and reject a nymph before you even know it has taken it.
The Styx River is also a good stream for the after work angler meandering through farmland and entering the Waimakariri River at Brooklands. This gives you a chance to fish a number of different ways as this river along with the Kaiapoi and Cam have good runs of whitebait and silveries (smelt) along with caddis and beetles. There were some nice trout to be had in the Cam. The Kaiapoi River is known for the catching of salmon on natural shrimps. A good shrimp pattern will also take good bags of trout. These fish are not big but for an evening’s fishing, it has merit.
Some of these small streams have what at first seems to be a slow gentle current but when you cast across to a feeding fish your leader is dragged all over the place, so changing your position and a long leader with a wiggle cast is necessary. The Styx and the Cam are very bad for this. The Styx has such a wide range of food that matching the hatch is critical. I have caught trout in the Styx on beetles and a small Tups during the willow grub hatch.
The Tups Indispensable is an English pattern. The ingredients were kept a secret until C.E.M. Skues was given permission to make it public. The pattern today has been modernised. The tail is a few whisks of honey dun as is the hackle. The body is into two sections. The tail section is yellow floss with a thorax of pinky-crimson wool. It was seal’s fur but this colour is not easy to find. The Tups is tied on hook sizes 12 to 16. The fly seems to work mainly on these smaller streams. The Tups can be fished as a dry fly, wet fly or nymph
The nymph pattern I tied to use during the willow grub hatch and it has caught some nice fish so far. Now before some of those small streams and rivers dry up, give the Tups a try.