I recently returned from my trip to Queenstown, New Zealand. A good friend of mine was getting married out there and since my wife and I had recently been married, we figured what better way to spend our honeymoon than in a place like New Zealand. And knowing the reputation of New Zealand as a fly-fishing destination, I was determined to make this trip a reality. Queenstown is known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” so there is no shortage of exciting things to do. I had packed my fly rod and some flies in case we were able to find some fish on our own, but with all the other things we wanted to experience, we just didn’t have the time to put in the leg-work to find the fish on our own. With only four days left in the trip, I decided to hook up with a guide to assure that I didn’t leave New Zealand without a taste of some big brown, dry-fly fishing.
I only had one day left that I was able to dedicate to fishing, and that was Thursday, as we were heading back home on Friday. I was put in contact with a guy named Taz. After a phone conversation with Taz, he told me that he was unavailable on Thursday, but he had another guide, Anthony who could take me out. I thought to myself, this is a good sign. Anthony called me to iron out the specifics, and he recommended we head out around 1:30pm to fish the afternoon and evening, maybe getting lucky on an evening hatch.
Anthony picked us up at 1:30 and we drove for about 45 minutes through the mountains, just past the town of Glenorchy to Diamond Creek. Diamond Creek flows in and out of Diamond Lake, and we were fishing the lower stretch, from the lake on down. As we hiked upstream from where we parked, the river looked clear and rocky. We started to see some fish within the first 20 minutes of the hike. Anthony said when you start seeing fish this far downstream, that means there are plenty of fish up ahead. He knew the majority of the fish (and the bigger fish) were upstream, but it was hard to pass up fish, so he had me make some casts. With a 12 foot leader, tiny tippet, and a bit of wind, I was struggling to present my fly. We stopped at a spot that had a few fish feeding on the bottom a bit upstream of me. I stood on the bank and made a cast or two at them. We then noticed a fish feeding on the bottom downstream a few meters. I flicked my flies out in front of me, mended the line and watched the dry acting as my indicator. Boom! It went down, and I set the hook. Fish on.
It didn’t take too long to land this beauty, as it was an average size fish. We were excited and relieved to break the first fish barrier. With the pressure of the skunk relieved we headed upstream to target the bigger browns.
Anthony informed us how the river changed
dramatically upstream, becoming more weedy and having deeper holes. This is where the big browns hang. We saw fish after fish and targeted them all. Depending on where the fish were holding, some casts were fairly easy and some extremely difficult. At times, it seemed almost impossible to present the fly without spooking the fish. The times where I was able to present the fly, we tried two or three flies and then moved on. On the way upstream we only saw two or three fish rising, most keeping low and feeding from the bottom, but feeding no less. We made it all the way up to the lake with no luck. We spent a few minutes at the lake before heading back down stream. Time was catching up with us. It was probably around 7ish and I realized we only had a couple hours of fishing left. With such a long time since hooking that first fish, I was getting antsy again. We came across the same spot where we saw a fish rising on the way upstream, and sure enough there were two fish rising there again. We decided to target the first one, thinking if that fish didn’t take, I would continue the drift to give the second fish a chance. Sometime while I was casting the second fish took off and we were only seeing the first fish. This fish was constantly rising, again and again. Each time it breached the surface, I got a glimpse of the size of this fish’s head. It was huge. After I made a couple nice passes with no take, Anthony would switch the fly. A couple nice drifts with the second and no take. As he is tying the third one he said, “I have two more patterns to try after this.” The next fly he tied on was a size 16 mayfly imitation. I made a first cast that was pretty weak. The second wasn’t much better. As I not-so delicately landed the fly on the fish’s nose, it turned its head and swallowed the fly. Fish on! I fought this beast for probably ten to twelve minutes before landing him.
It measured just over 60 cm (about 24 inches) and around 5 lbs. It took a few minutes for the fish to recuperate. As I got out of the water, Anthony pointed out a 4 1/2 foot eel was waiting right downstream of the fish. He must have been in the banks just chillin’ until I got out of there, then made his move. Anthony jumped in and scared it away before any damage was done. I could not have had a better ending to our amazing trip. If anyone happens to take a trip to Queenstown, New Zealand, and wants to go hunting or fly fishing, be sure to get in touch with our guy Anthony (see info below). He knew what I came to do and he delivered. He put me in the right spot with the right fly to catch the biggest resident brown trout I have ever caught. And with the added excitement of catching it on a dry fly, it is truly an unforgettable experience.
Anthony “Anto” Hall
Southern Lakes Hunting Guides