Nearly a year after our trip to Whakamaru, we were on our way to the next Lake. After some very early breakfast from Tokoroa McDonalds, we pulled into the carpark at the boat ramp for our Atiamuri day trip. Out in the Lake we could see a regular series of splashes, swirls and bow waves that looked promising. As we slowly motored out to where we'd seen the splashes, we proceeded to fish a mix of different flies but with no success. The splashes told us there were fish there but we couldn't get a touch. We had forgotten that while there's fish all through the Hydro Lakes, you stack the odds in your favour by finding areas of higher concentration of fish. Out in the middle of the Lake with no structure meant we put all the fish down and we didn't see any more splashes. While I'm sure trolling would be a productive way to fish these parts of the Lake, none of us enjoy this method and even if we end up with less fish to the boat, we'd rather fish using methods where everyone can be actively fishing. The trolling motor also really kills the serenity of these peaceful places.
We were back to a single fibreglass boat again for this trip and just 4 lads. We decided to seek out a weedy stream mouth just up the Lake a bit as we've found these kinds of spots to have higher concentrations of fish. Soon after arriving, Joe hooked a fish on one of my fly designs, fished below a ball sinker but it spat the hook (a common story for Joe, usually preceded by a shout of "yeah baby!!" immediately before the fish spits the hook). The fly had an olive craft fur collar (made with a dubbing loop) and then purple dubbing head in front of that, dumbell eyes and a heap of copper flashabou for the tail, hiding a stinger hook. This was classic stillwater territory and while I know wooly buggers and other small wet flies are the usual go-to in these situations, fishing large flashy articulated flies can be really effective on the Waikato Hydro Lakes – especially early in the morning. I hooked and landed a nice little brown on an experimental pattern tied with glow in the dark eyes and a lot of copper flashabou for the tail—similar to a Senyo's AI. While still daytime, the water was quite dark due to the overcast cloud, so the slight glow to the white/lumo coloured eyes would have helped them stand out in the water. From our experience, eyes can be a key trigger for Waikato Hydro Lake trout.
Next we explored a side arm of the Lake. This was a beautiful, narrow section surrounded by steep forest and good weed beds. A lone kayak fisherman was having good success towing a toby around the weed beds. We explored the stream at the end of the arm but it was too discoloured from a lot of rain and we didn't pick up any fish there. That's the amazing thing about the Hydro Lakes–even when all of the rivers in the region are discoloured and unfishable, they are usually still plenty clear enough for fishing.
On our way back through the arm, we spent a decent amount of time fishing the weed beds. With a number of good follows, it highlighted that we're still noobs for this more traditional style of stillwater fly fishing. After this trip I read an article from Rene Vaz about stillwater fly fishing and it talked about the importance of "the hang", which is essentially stopping your retrieve before your fly is visible, so that a following trout has a chance to take the fly in before getting spooked by the boat. There's one fish that followed a damsel nymph right to the boat that I'm sure I would have got had I known about the hang.
It was time to move up the top of the Lake and after a near miss with a submerged boulder at high speed (beware!!!), we were all a little jittery. We found a large pool where the water seems to stack up, almost like a corner pool but it's in a straight part of the river. With the depth sounder we discovered a large wall at the bottom of the pool where the pool goes from about 12 metres deep to 2 metres very quickly. This area was a trout haven and even had a clear stream mouth flowing into it. We saw several fish on the surface and had a few follows on large flies and toby's.
Moving closer to the stream mouth we could see at least 3 good fish suspended in the clear water of the sandy drop-off only about 15 metres from the boat. After spooking them good and proper with large articulated flies (probably should have brought the floating line), we focussed on the main part of the pool. Rich soon hooked a nice rainbow on a Sculpzilla—an extremely productive fly in the Waikato River system that looks a lot like the Common Bully (a small fish popular with trout). He followed this up with a small brown on the same fly.
When you do the numbers, only 3 fish to the boat doesn't feel like great success but we definitely had a lot more chances. As usual with the Hydro Lakes, missed opportunities can really shine a light on your inexperience while on another day you might have got a lot more fish to the net. Another chance to change that coming up on Lake Ohakuri!