Ever since relocating to Wanaka from the North Island, lake fishing has transformed in my head from a pet hate to a new favourite, if its done in the right way must add.
The majority of North Island lakes in New Zealand are relatively polluted and lack decent clarity, bar lake Taupo on a good day. Whether this pollution stems from natural or man-made sources is irrelevant, it remains that seeing into these lake edges can be a struggle at the best of times and otherwise impossible.
The southern lakes in the otago region put this issue to rest however, especially lake Wanaka which due to its relativly stable, clear major tributaries (Matukituki & Makarora), the lake edges will remain crystal clear except in cases of rough water or major rain.
I have a specific spot on lake Wanaka that brings me endless joy, frustration and success. It is a spot which for several reasons, holds a large number of edge cruising brown trout, averaging 4lb. I have explored much of Lake Wanaka’s edges, much of which is devoid of the perfect elements which a required for a amazing day edge stalking.
My key points for a the perfect location are:
- The ability to spot fish in very clear water to a depth of 2-3 meters
- Elevated lake edges/cliffs that provide clear spotting advantages, even in low light conditions
- The lake drop-off is within 10m of the shore (fish will often cruise right on the edge and it is difficult to spot any further out)
- There is sufficient food source by way of weed beds and rocks so trout are actively feeding
Get these points right and you have the recipe for a great day sight fishing for cruising browns. However the way you approach these areas is also key to your success. Stealth, a keen eye and patience really make the difference when your stalking a edge cruiser.
- STEALTH: The most important aspect when stalking cruising trout as the fish can be facing in any direction as you make your way around the lake. Use any protruding object for cover when making your way around the edge, wether it be a tree, rock or cliff, always try conceal much of your body and always take the most concealed path, even if you loose sight of the water for a moment.
- KEEN-EYE: Training your eyes to see trout in the lake will take time as it can be much different and than river stalking. An edge cruising trout will generally glide forward, with only a slight movement of the tail and can be remarkably camouflaged on the lake bed, sometimes not moving at all, waiting to ambush its prey. Key things to look out for include the flash or shimmer of gold/white from the sun hitting the brown’s scales and also the movement of a tail and/or mouth.
- PATIENCE: Too this day I still get a rush of adrenaline from spotting a feeding fish and have to stop myself from rushing in a cast. If there is one thing you have in edge stalking it is time, fish will generally work on a beat and even if moving away from you will return moments later. Once a fish is spotted stop immediately and take refuge behind the nearest obstruction so you may observe the fish without being seen. Watch for its feeding pattern, is it close to the surface or on the bottom? Is it looking up for food or digging into the weed beds? Correctly observing these will assist in choosing the correct fly as you may only get one chance. Manoeuvre yourself into a spot where you will less likely be spotted (generally behind the fish) and evaluate your cast distance in front of the fish (I usually cast a nymph further than a dry to allow sinking time).
Next is the exciting part, watching for the exact moment when the fish opens its mouth, inhales your fly, closes it and then the strike! If you are struggling to see your fly just keep an eye on the exact position it dropped into the water as it will rarely move due to lack of current. Also it is possible to use a dry fly dropper to help indicate the take or a tiny indicator (However I have found the latter can spook or deter fish approaching if they have been fished to regularly)
Fighting the fish is straight forward as you don’t have any current to attend to and lake browns in my experience give in relatively easy, just do your best to keep the fish up off the bottom to prevent catching up in weeds or rubbing the fly from its mouth.
Stalking lake cruisers can be as exhilarating and memorable as any day on the river, considering you have the correct location ingredients and skills to match. Best way to start is just hunt out place on google earth and give it a go, if you struggle to spot any fish, just keep moving.
My latest 4lb edge cruiser, on a cold cloudy day in August!