General: Winter is definitely here with some cracking frosts and lovely sunny days. The Nelson / Marlborough area has some of the best winter fishing conditions in the South Island with plentiful settled sunny weather near the coastline which moderates air and water temperatures. Fish during the warmest parts of the day at this time of year. There is no need to rise early as it is rare to catch fish until the water temperatures begin to rise. Fish are in spawning mode so many of the bigger and better fish will be up in tributary streams spawning and unavailable to winter anglers. Many trout, especially females will drop back into the lower reaches of during spring to rebuild body condition.
Nelson / Marlborough has a range of waters open to year –round fishing. See Zane’s article on Argyle Pond.
Motueka River: The best of the winter fishing waters is undoubtedly the Motueka River below Peninsula Bridge at Ngatimoti to the sea – perhaps some 20km of fishable water. Access is well signposted and there is a huge amount of water in the form of pools, riffles, and runs to fish. Many maiden fish will have not have spawned and will be active year round. Fish will move back into deeper and slower water as water temperatures drop. Fish deep and slow, whether with spinning gear or fly.
Dry fly fishing will be spasmodic, although May and September can be good dry fly months with mayfly hatches. Fishing down and across with soft-hackled wetflies in sizes #12-16 can work well in such hatch situations. If dredging the depths go to #14-16 weighted nymphs on 4-5x tippet, with a longer gap between nymphs and indicator. Using two nymphs can increase the odds of success, and a drag-free drift is important. If there is any colour in the river, try actively jerking the depths and edges with a sinking fly line, short stout leader, and a black woolly bugger.
Lure fishing with in-line spinner baits that move slowly but stay in the strike zone longer can be a good way to catch winter trout. Likewise scented soft bait lures presented on lead head jigs can be a good way to get into those deep nooks and crannies where trout will hide. Check out the river levels at www.tasman.govt.nz under ‘river flow’ in the ‘popular’ section on the home page. Generally speaking if the Motueka river is flowing more than 50 cumecs at Woodstock, the river will be a challenging fly fishing proposition. In bigger flows, lure fishing with braided line, fluorocarbon traces using jigs and rapala lures probably makes more sense from an efficiency point of view.
There was a big flood in the main river in late April which has made some big changes to the river. We rafted the river for ducks on opening day (3rd May) and noted some serious flood erosion to banks. The Pearse river had had a huge flood which has re-configured the mouth where it enters the Motueka, with huge sediment build-ups. The Baton river had the largest flood since records began. Other significant floods happened in the Wangapeka tributary, and the Riwaka (a small coastal stream that enters Tasman Bay near the Motueka river mouth). Interestingly, when we floated the river for the day covering a large distance, we saw more trout than ducks. The flood clearly left many fish in the river for anglers to catch.
Wairau River: Have heard good reports from Marlborough anglers about the winter fishing. Lower Wairau between Renwick Bridge (SH6) and Tuamarina Bridge (SH7) have been working well. Pick your day and fish during the warmer hours on days with light winds. Nymph fish the eyes of pools and any obvious fishy areas. The Opawa and Taylor Rivers are also worth a go and can run clear when the main Wairau is dirty or unfishable through wind etc.
Zane Mirfin, Strike Adventure