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Mick Hall goes to New Zealand to discover variants developed by Jim Cree in Lilydale, Australia!
"Fly Talk" Freshwater Fishing Magazine Issue 102 May/June 2010

The Copper John, as designed by that great Colorado fly tyer, John Barr, has a worldwide reputation and has spawned many variations.  I suppose this is just another version but it works and works well enough to deserve this article.


I have known Jimmy Cree for over thirty years; he runs a second-hand car yard in Lilydale on the outskirts of Melbourne.  I often call in for a coffee when I leave the mountains to whatever sort of business that is needed in the big smoke.


For years now Jim has been saying, ďYouíve got to come fishing in New Zealand with me.Ē  He keeps on flashing photographs of some monster trout that he tends to catch so regularly in that magic place.


Jimís fishing is comprised of four or five week long trips to New Zealand each year and nowadays he rarely fishes elsewhere.

This January he finally talked me into it and I am a little sorry I didnít take up his offer earlier to join him fishing the North Islandís Lake Otamangakau, which is regarded as one of New Zealandís trophy waters.


Left:  Jim Cree with just one of many such Rainbows that he caught on his Variant of the Copper John, which Jim calls his ĎHare and Copperí

We caught Rainbows up to 11.5 pounds and Browns to close on ten pounds; amazing for a relatively small lake that is not stocked.  Thatís right, all wild fish, ranging from about 4 pounds up to that 11.5 pound brute that was caught by our New Zealand host, Royce Dowling.  Over the week that we spent on this amazing lake we saw fish that would have been a lot larger than Royceís big brute, in fact the locals say there are Browns in there that must be close to the twenty pound mark.  Many fish are lost due to the thick and extensive weed beds that cover the bottom of this lake. 

In most areas these weed beds are just a few centimetres under the surface and most anglers seek out the clear channels that run through this system.

Lake Otamangakau in New Zealandís North Island not far from the Town of Turangi on Lake Taupo

Royce Dowling with his 11.5 Rainbow that is on its way to the taxidermist

The lake may be a little on the small size but it is an absolute food bowl, with the key food forms being snails, midge, caddis and damsel flies in their millions.  As a matter of fact at times on a sunny day there are so many damsel flies that they can create a red glow over the surface of the lake.  They land all over you whilst you are trying to fish.  With a food source like this, no wonder the fish are so big and healthy.

Mating Damsels are everywhere as soon as the breeze dies down

Fishing this water from the shoreline is very difficult due to the swampy nature of the terrain, however the inlet channel is one spot that is very productive for the land based flyflicker.  Without question, to obtain the best results, you need a tinny or float tube to fish this water.

page 2 - the flies, patterns & fishing methods