Monsters of The Big O

Blair with a monster rainbow from The Big O

The toughest lake in the country. That’s how I’d describe the legendary Lake Otamangakau. The fish here are truly some of the biggest wild trout you are likely to find anywhere in the North Island… and each day can be wildly different to the last. Renowned for its huge average size, the lake is also one of the only places where rainbow trout rival browns in weight. Fish feed freely on the abundant insect life on offer.

It was another tough day for me on ‘The Big O’. I had lost four big rainbow trout already and I was getting frustrated. Hooking a freight train on 6lb line and hoping the microscopic hook stays in seems to have become an impossibility. However, patience through adversity is how big fish are won.

Summoning all my still water experience gleaned from fishing backwater in rivers, I plopped on an indicator rig, selected a couple of tiny #16 nymphs and presented the flies as delicately as I could to the cruisers. My change to a tiny fly made the difference, as splashing a damselfly nymph fly onto the water was just spooking the fish. I noticed the trout had become more comfortable with the line in the water.

Lake O has hundreds of fish cruising its shallows and my little weed-bed was no exception. Two large browns and a rainbow were sharing the flat, hunting down a smorgasbord of insect larvae. I watched for a while as the rainbow cruised past on its beat. As the fish left the general area, I quickly cast and let the fly sink into where the fish had been. Back along the mud the rainbow came. I let the fly sit still as the shadow neared the indicator. Plop—it’s under. Strike!

The rainbow initiated its afterburner and my reel smoked to the touch. Straight along the weed to the left and straight back around quickly to my right. The trout tail walked into the air before find what it had been looking for—a nice patch of weed to bury its head in.

Knowing that I was on 6lb tippet, I worked the fish steadily out of the weed with as little pressure as I could get away with. With the fish now out and in the clear, I steered it towards the muddy shoreline. Protesting hugely, the fish was beached and soon released. The rainbow had dipped the scales down to 7.5lbs. A flats’ beast.

The next fish took the fly in similar fashion but ran much harder, straight out into the lake. My backing was really singing on this one. With time almost up, I beached the final fish of the day; a rainbow of 8.6lb or almost 4 kilograms.

Tangling with fish in this lake has been spectacular over the last few years. The 30 hours of effort was worth the wait to finally land a couple.

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