Lake Dunstan (Te Waiwere) was formed as a result of the Clyde Dam development on the Clutha River (Mata-au) and covers an area of 26 square kilometres.
Easy access is available to most parts of the lake. The entire length of the eastern shoreline is easily accessed of SH8. The Clutha Arm is the most productive part of the Lake Dunstan fishery and can also be accessed directly off SH8 (Wanaka-Queenstown), and through Pisa Moorings and Smiths Way.
Main boat ramps can be found at Dairy Creek, Champagne Gully, Bannockburn Inlet, Old Cromwell, McNulty Inlet, Lowburn Harbour and Bendigo. Several rest areas are provided around the lake, complete with barbeques and picnic tables. Those situated at inflowing streams provide the convenience of fishing and leasure for families.
Lake Dunstan has extensive aquatic weed beds that provide a beneficial habitat for fish and wildlife, but does require anglers to apply some thought to their angling techniques and equipment. For example, try fishing from a drifting boat amongst the weed beds, floating a bait, presenting a fly or casting a lure and you can be guaranteed good fun.
This is the most popular method of angling on the lake. If using a leadline stay out in the more open water, targeting a depth of 3-6 metres. Run 2-4 colours of leadline with a trace of at least 10 metres in length. Favoured lures are the King Cobras and Tasmanian Devils in vary colours. For clear water try the King Cobra No 63 (Traffic Light), No 75 (Gold with a red strip) and if fishing near the weed beds the No 52 (Frog Pattern). For fishing in discoloured water try bright colours such as fluoro pinks, reds and greens. Rattling lures such as the Rat-L-Trap brand in Rainbow and Glow Trap patterns are also worth having in the tackle box. The sonic vibrations they emit will sometimes entice fish to strike when all else fails.
An excellent method for fishing in and around weed beds and is a successful method on the lake all year round. A fly rod and reel is generally used but it can be adapted to any fishing rig. The reel is loaded with backing of Dacron to which is attached 5 metres of leadline (1/2 colour) and a 10 metre trace. Feathered lures such as Mrs Simpson or Hamills Killer work well, but Woolly Buggers are the pattern of choice for many successful anglers. The addition of a reflective or luminescent bead placed in front of the lure can increase the strike rate. Troll slowly and use your spare hand to draw and release the line to pulse the bait through the water, simulating a baitfish. The local tackle shops can provide more details on setting up a Harling rig.
Note: The boat operator plays an important role in both these methods by keeping the boat in the required depth of water, varying the direction and speed or by keeping close to the weed beds.
Lures such as Tobys, Veltics and other similar lures should generally be kept as small and light as possible for fishing from the shore. This allows the angler more control over the lure as it is retrieved. Colour selection varies with conditions, but as a rule Green, Gold, Black and reds work well. Rapala CD5’s and CD7’s in brown and Rainbow patterns are exceptional lures for deceiving trout. Floating lures such as the RTB Legends and Rapala Originals are very effective when fishing in weedy areas and minimise snagging. Alternatively try using a Killer pattern fly such as a Woolly Bugger on a short trace with a small amount of weight to facilitate casting. Fish are frequently only metres off the shoreline, cruising the weed edge, so a long cast isn’t required. From May through to November target the Clutha River inflow, and inflowing creeks.
Fishing the shores of Lake Dunstan with fly rod in hand is an excellent way to spend the day especially around the Clutha Arm. A 5 to 7 weight rod with a floating line, a selection of Stillwater fly patterns and a good pair of Polaroid glasses will allow you to target cruising trout in most situations on the lake. Pattern selection should imitate the many aquatic insects that inhabit the weed beds, try patterns such as Damselfly nymphs and small Woolly Buggers early in the season. Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tails and Snail patterns in sizes 12 to 16 work well throughout the year. Early summer sees the brown beetle imitation. Through the summer and autumn month’s dry flies such as the Royal Wulff, Black Gnat, Humpy and varied Caddis patterns in sizes 12 to 14 work well. If the fish are being fussy try a lightly tied size 16 black Parachute pattern. If there is a ripple on the water and visibility is limited, try suspending a Snail pattern 15-20 cms under a visible dry fly such as Royal Wulff.
As Lake Dunstan is a weed based fishery it requires a change in technique to increase your chances of taking a fish or two. By replacing the sinker with a float, the bait can be drifted along the edges of the weed beds and not become buried deep in the weed. Also try a bait with little or no weight and drop it a mere rod length out from the shore just inside the weed edge. This is where fish cruise looking for food and provides the added exhilaration of witnessing the fish approach and take your offering.