Tribute to Southern Monsters

Some fishing trips are memorable for the fantastic fish you caught while other trips are memorable for the incredible fish that you lost. My latest painting is a tribute to the latter.


I managed to squeeze in a couple of sessions chasing trout during a family touring holiday down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

One early morning sortie turned into an encounter that I’m unlikely to forget. I awoke to a landscape cloaked in grey with smudges of low cloud clinging to the hills behind a small lake. Overnight heavy rain had left everything saturated, but the storm had now passed and the air was still, leaving the surface of the lake like a sheet of polished glass, reflecting every detail in the bush cloaked backdrop.


I carefully approached the lake, examining the edges of weed beds about three metres out. Despite the low light levels the clear water allowed me an excellent view. Suddenly a large shape caught my attention… not three metres away but in the shallow water to my left. No more than 10cm from the waters edge! A sweep of it’s tail and the big brown trout accelerated to engulf a tiny coroxia (water boatman). The trout saw me and immediately turned towards deeper water. This was my first look at a southern monster.

Over the course of the morning I ‘covered’ in excess of ten big trout ranging in weight from 5 to 10lbs. My early efforts weren’t up to scratch but I responded by using longer finer tippets and smaller flies. My casting also became more focused, with the fly placed further ahead of the fish – anticipating it’s patrol route.

When the takes came they were brutal affairs, with big fish generating bow waves as they hurtled towards the fly. My ‘South Island education’ however was to continue… striking too soon, too hard, too late… over 30 years fishing experience and these fish had me behaving like a newby!

Any frustrations however, simply paled when I considered the incredible fish and the stream of opportunities that were presented. Eventually things came together.

A few open drainage channels entered the lake from the surrounding paddocks. They were providing rich pickings for a couple of very large trout, the largest of which, was patrolling an area so shallow that the water barely covered his back. His patrol route saw him regularly return to the discharge point where water from the two metre wide swollen drain entered the lake.

My cast was made and the trap was laid. My nymph was sitting on the sandy bottom a metre out from the drain mouth.  As the fish returned I tweaked the small nymph, triggering an aggressive feeding response. This time the strike was considered and well timed – I hooked a monster fish. My moment of triumph was short lived as the big bruiser of a trout had no intention of hanging around. He took off like a train, heading straight for the sanctuary of some flooded trees. Bugger!

I got a good look at the huge Brown Trout. He was a fierce looking warrior of a ‘Jack’ with a distinctive hook on his extended bottom jaw… the inspiration for my painting.