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Fishing Where A River Or Stream Enters A Lake - Part 2

Fishing deep fans by boat

There are two main methods of positioning the boat:

Deep fan from a boat

The predominate method of fishing deep fans is to use a fast sinking shooting head to a one or two metre leader to a Booby, floating Glo-Bug, or a more traditional wet fly or lure. The line is cast out, flick in five or six metres of slack line, give plenty of time for the line to sink to the bottom and then very slowly retrieve the fly or lure up the face of the fan.

Glo-Bug fly

Another method that works well is to use a slower sinking-line to non-floating Glo-Bugs, small Booby flies, traditional wets, and plenty of patience. Cast out, throw in five to six metres of slack line, and allow to slowly sink. Maintain good contact with the line as it sinks. The fly can often get hit on the sink. Once the fly has reached the bottom retrieve slowly up the face of the lip.

If using spinning gear, use lead-head jigs with soft-plastic baits. Cast well out, then flick out more line, to allow the jig to sink vertically through the water, then retrieve in a jerky retrieve up the face of the lip.


Deltas are usually just large fans – in the case of the Tongariro River, (central North Island, New Zealand) covering several acres – intersected by channels of water. Many of the channels become mini-fans themselves and can be fished the same ways as outlined above.

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River and stream channels

Where rivers and streams cut channels into a lake it is best to fish these channels as an extension of the river. They can be fished by casting out wet flies on a long leader from a floating line, and retrieving a wet fly or smelt fly up the channel. If the channel is wide enough the cast can be made across the channel and the fly swung as for fishing in a dry banked river.

Where water exits a lake

In early April 1996, I was fishing at the northern end of Lake Mapouriki (West Coast, South Island) where the lake spills out to form the headwaters of the Okarito River, close to where MacDonald's Creek enters the lake.

When I arrived I could not believe the sight that met me. The area between where MacDonald's Creek entered and the lake exited via the Okarito River was a thigh-deep ‘delta’ about the size of a couple of football fields. This area was dotted with big rises. “I'm in here”, me thought.

Elk Hair Cadfdis dry fly

Out came my trusty six-weight, on went an elk's hair caddis, and out it went, and out it went, and out it went…not a touch. A change in fly…and out it went, and out it went…a change in fly…and out it went…nothing, zilch, nada.

Time for a change of plan I estimated. I dragged out a Taupo smelt fly from the bottom of one of my fly boxes and fired it out. I had only given it a tug or two before a large boil in the water indicated that something liked the fly and wanted to take it home.

Silicon smelt fly

Off it went at very high speed toward the middle of the lake. It just kept going…and going…into the backing, and still it kept going. Finally there was so little backing left on the reel I had to clamp down on the spool and the leader broke.

After the water surface stopped rustling from the sonic boom of my obscene oaths, I consoled myself with the thought that it was better to still have the fly-line – lying to yourself and getting away with it is easy.

Bumbling with excitement I fumbled on another smelt fly and out it went and a few casts later I was into another fish. Same thing as before – away it raced – deep into the backing – too deep – but this time when I clamped down, the fish turned.

A new problem arose, this time the fish raced back toward me, and I frantically tried to wind in fast enough to get the slack line out. Then I remembered a piece of advice from way back and I slowed down my winding.

The big loop of line behind the fish was keeping more than enough tension on the hook as the fish pulled the loop through the water. Good advice that trick – great one to lock in the back of the brain.

The fish slowed as it neared the shallows and I finally got the line back tight onto the reel. Just as I did the fish took off again toward the depths, this time it kept going, I had to button down on the reel again and the leader decided enough was enough and parted.

I had to leave after that episode, and retired to the hotel where I staying. Over a pre-dinner tipple I got into conversation with the barman, a fisherman, and of course related my story.

Once he found out where I had been fishing he quietly told me about the salmon that run up the Okarito River, and turn left and go up MacDonald's Creek. He told me quietly, because salmon fishing closed at the end of March, and in any case fishing MacDonald's Creek was a no-no anytime.

But based on the fact that I didn't actually catch a fish, and he, thinking I was an Aucklander, to a South Islander enough of a punishment in itself, decided he would not tell anyone – and so neither will I.

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