The New Zealand summer attracts anglers from all over the world to experience hot days, crystal clear waters, deafening cicadas, and hungry trout. While many fishers look to the hills, some of the best summer fishing is found right under their noses in the lakes. Josiah Atkinson from Whakatrout explains how to target these fish.

Why the lakes?

Summer lake fishing is a great way to learn how to catch trout. The trout are feeding hard and forced towards the cooler waters flowing into lakes at river mouths. This makes them easy targets. Grouped up in their hundreds, the trout relish the cool oxygenated water as the lake gets too warm for them over the summer months. Also, massive shoals of smelt are attracted to the colder waters of the river mouth – producing a prime food source for the trout.

My best fishing days have come from summer lake fishing. I’m not talking 10, 20 or even 30 fish to the net. I’m talking around 50 – even that magic 100 mark has been breached once in my time on the lake! It does take commitment though. I was fishing the lake whenever I could and putting in the hours – continuously fishing from 7am till 9pm repeating the process of finding the fish, casting, hooking, landing, and releasing.

Which lakes?

My experience primarily relates to two lakes where sensational summer fishing can be found – Lake Rotorua and Lake Taupo.

In Lake Rotorua the Waiteti, Awahou and Hamurana stream mouths prove to be the most successful and rewarding. I must warn you that if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet then these stream mouths are not the right place! You will at times be fishing with 50 plus anglers all after a tight line. But don’t be discouraged if you do see the picket line of anglers because it probably means the fish are biting. Lake Taupo is another great option.
One river mouth well known for great summer action is the Waitahanui, or ‘The Rip’ as the locals call it. Much like Rotorua you will be joined by many other anglers especially in peak season but if you stick around and get into a premium spot you will be well rewarded. Walking slowly out to the picket line you will be surprised by the amount of fish behind fishermen – a good pair of polarised sunglasses will show you that very quickly. Here I have hooked and landed fish within minutes of parking the car.

What’s the set-up?

An 8-weight fly rod with floating fly line is a great match for the hundreds of hungry, feisty rainbows likely to be encountered. If you’re new to fly fishing the 8-weight range makes it easier for you to cast longer distances and fight the breezes that do pop up over summer. Stealth and accuracy will be harder to achieve but I have found when casting into the cool currents these aren’t hugely important. Because there are so many fish in one place all competing for food, if your fly or lure is imitating that food well then you should have no issues hooking up! There’s also the ever-present chance of hooking into one of the big cruising brown trout that hang around the schools of summer rainbows.

Which flies?

A huge decision for every trout angler – what are you going to put on the end of your line? Well there are many different flies you could tie on, but you want to make sure you’re imitating what the fish are feeding on at the time. To keep it nice and simple, 99.9% of the time there will be fish out in the river mouths eating smelt therefore I suggest you imitate these small baitfish. The Grey Ghost, Ginger Mick, Parsons Glory and Silicon Smelt are my go-to flies.

With about 9 feet of leader from the fly line to the fly I retrieve my fly in a ‘polly polly’ action to mimic fleeing smelt. This seems to be my most successful tactic, but it is by no means bulletproof. If the bite seems to be slow or you see fishermen hooking up and you haven’t had a hit using this technique try using a Woolly Bugger. Green, brown and black all seem to do the trick and with this fly my action is a lot slower with a ‘Figure 8’ retrieve.

So, there you go. Get out there and get yourself into those river mouths and target some hard fighting trout. If your fly is not in the water, then the fish can’t eat it! And importantly – time on the water equals experience, and experience equals success. Don’t be afraid to ask around if you’re struggling as well. You’ll find successful people that are happy to help, although you’ll also find people not willing to divulge their secrets.
Good luck!

Article By: Josiah Atkinson