Half way there we realise we have forgotten the map but head on anyway with a vague idea of where it is, fortunately the majority of the gravel roads here in New Zealand are just one road and difficult to get lost on.
The conditions are looking good, with some bright sun and relatively low wind we are buzzing with excitement as this has been a river on our list to visit for some time now!
We pass the Oreti river where we have fished before and stop to have a quick cast on a bridge pool where Alastair had seen a fish the week before, unfortunately with no avail so we head on. The scenery for those in the UK is much like the lake district here, with large rolling mountains and hills and relatively baron landscape. As we progress we reach the first of two fords we need to cross, the first Al came to the week before which was far too big to cross and washed out he road. In our little Daewoo but we braved it today and made it across dry.
As we continue along we approach a gorge and without a map decide that this must be it! We meander down the steep road over looking the sheer drops down into the valley we become more and more excited!!!
We quickly set up the rods and make our way up the slightly coloured water trying to spot fish where possible and blind fishing any likely spots. After about 4 pools we still hadn't spotted any, admittedly we had cast to some "fishy looking rocks" but nothing definitive yet. We thought that with the heavy floods of recent they may have dropped into the lake but not deterred we fished on. We approached the gorge telling each other that the fish may have moved into the deeper pools where they can hide from the floods so that would be our best bet.
Fighting through the trees and bush we approached a much deeper pool, I took the right side on a steep bank through the trees for spotting purposes and Al the left but no matter how hard we looked we could not see any trout, Al blind fished it a little then we headed to the next deep pool which quite literally was in a gorge, with sheer rock faces either side, Al climbed a little to get to a vantage point to spot some fish, dropping his croc along the way made me chuckle as I watch him stumbling back down the rocks to catch up with it before drifting back down stream. Slightly confused that we hadn't yet seen a fish we did what every optimistic fisherman does in times like these.
"I reckon it will start getting better just around the corner, these fish must have moved to the deeper pools which must be further up"
Al " yes mate, I think I can climb around this pool and I'll tell you what it looks like"
So Al, fishing rod in mouth wearing crocs, which are not designed for climbing and grip is not one of their strong points, begins to rock climb and shimmy across this rock face above a quite deep pool to see what is around the corner. As he finally approaches the other end he shouts back, "I wouldn't come this way mate, its a bit dodgy."
After looking up into the thick bush on a near vertical slope I think to myself, the things I do for fishing!! And make my way up fighting through the dense bush pulling myself up by the small trees that had managed to perch themselves on the rocks, even wild boar don't use this route and there's me rod in hand attempting to get through.
Soaked with sweat, scratched and tired I met with Al at the top of the gorge decided we couldn't get back down to the river and headed back to the road, still fighting through bush and finally got there at the top of the road we had previously been meandering down in the car.
At that moment a car came past with another fisherman called John. A friendly Ozzie chap who kindly offered us a lift down the bank in his camper van. We discussed where we had fished and where he was heading to discover that this isn't in fact the famous gorge and that it is another 10k down stream!!
So we had just wasted two hours of fishing to which John replied fishing is never time wasted but now you know not to go there again....Very true.
We came to the second ford in the road, much deeper than the previous so I got out to push just in case..... as I am pushing the car through the water I loose my croc...a familiar occurrence this is becoming and hop downstream to catch up with it!
Back in the car following john as he has a map we head further downstream right to the mouth where it meets Wakatipu and went down to a farm to discuss access to the river through the farmland. We discussed fishing with the farmer and found where to go, following a cup of coffee with John and discussing fishing down under John fished the lake in his float tube and we headed to the top of the gorge as although the river is lower than it has been apparently you have to fish it in low summer levels and once you commit yourself to the gorge from the bottom you have to fish all the way up to get out the other end. An adventure for another trip maybe.
Time is ticking and with work getting closer we head to the top of the gorge and fish down, we approach a pool and spot a rainbow feeding. Al gets in behind it and casts a nymph combo to it, three times and nothing, change flies, again nothing so a third time with a copper john with rubber legs which John had given to us earlier and bang!! The trout took with force and darted upstream jumping clean out of the water!!
Fish on!! as it began swimming downstream towards Al he stumbled back reeling trying to keep pressure, it settled at the tail of the pool both of us thinking Al will have to run down to keep up with it should it go down the rapids; but not this time, it swam up again under an overhanging rock and sat there for a minute as fisherman and trout are in a stale mate. These fish really do know what they are doing when hooked and will find any available obstacle to swim around to unhook themselves; finally it came out and with a burst of energy bolted to the top of the pool again where an overhanging tree had fallen into the water...sure enough it made a be line for it a snagged Al's line amongst the branches....fish 1 fisherman 0!!!
We head further down stream fishing likely spots and managed to spook another fish with the first cast, until we approached another deep pool, we couldn't see any fish but cast our flie nonetheless. I had chosen a tungsten mayfly bomb trailing a blood worm, as I approached the middle of the pool a fish came from the deep and hit the bloodworm with such force it startled me...Game on!!! He didn't have any intention of staying in the pool and swiftly darted towards the tail of the pool and down the rapids, so now I'm chasing it down stream rod held above my head in an attempt to reduce the chance of snags. It settled in the next pool down using the current to fight my 5 weight rod which against these strong rainbows doesn't hold much backbone to control them. After the second attempt at beaching it he came in. A not a massive rainbow but a beautiful fish of around 3 1/2 lb.
Time is up and we hastily head back upstream and home in order to make it back for work, with only around an hour and a half of fishing and a 200k drive it was an expensive and time consuming reccy but well worth it! On the way back coming through the ford we managed to bottom out slightly, with water coming through the doors in the back we luckily kept traction and made it across which resulted in a trip to the garage the following day to get the exhaust welded back together, really terrain for a 4x4 but the green machine has seen us through yet again!!!
Will definitely be returning here to tackle the gorge in low water!!!