Fly fishing

Brown trout fishing at the Poolburn dam

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Monty and brown trout at Poolburn Dam.

Brown Trout Fishing at Poolburn Weir – part of the Old Dunstan Trail from the Styx Basin

History of Poolburn Dam

Poolburn Dam or Reservoir is located on the Ida Valley side of the Rough Ridge Range. It was completed in 1931 as a storage area for irrigation water to supply the fertile lands at the bottom of the Ida Valley. It covers over 300 hectares when full and is administered by the Ida Valley Irrigation Company. The area now covered in water once had five hotels along this famous goldfield route. The most famous was the Drunken Woman Inn named by travelers after its owner. The dam has had both brown trout and rainbow trout introduced to its water, but has evolved as a brown trout fishery. The last recorded rainbow was captured by Andrew Hayes in 1953.


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Poolburn Dam or Reservoir. Double-click or tap on the map to enlarge and zoom in and out. Click the back button to return to the article.

Getting There

There are two water access points. The most popular is the Poolburn Hotel on the Ida Valley Road. Walk up Moa Creek Road and turn left just past the old school into Webster Lane which is a gravel road. The dam is signposted from this point past the old Moa Creek Hotel, where a right turn is made. There are usually no gates, but please drive slowly as there is stock on the road from this point to the dam. This is part of the Styx basin Old Dunstan trail. The Styx road is not recommended as it is not gravel and has several gates.

To access

There are several access points around the lake that can be used (see map), some of them cross private land and many can only be used by 4×4 vehicles. Please

respect this land and the livestock on it. Also, take your trash with you.

Fishing Methods for Poolburn Dam

All methods can be used. The worm is popular, but flying and spinning seem to give better results. Boats can be used. but there are so many slightly submerged rocks that trolling is difficult and can be expensive on propellers and lures.

There are two methods of bait fishing. The traditional method is to use one sinker, and the other is a running float with the bait hanging one meter below. This latter method is used when fishing with the wind at your back. If using the traditional method, fish close to shore as trout often feed in about a meter and a half of water. Please don’t dig for worms around the edges of the lake.

Anglers have the most success fishing along shallow margins. Normal sized lures are used at the start of the season, but as the weather gets warmer smaller lures are used such as Black Wedges and Tylos.

Rapalas work very well around rocky areas, with the Rainbow and Perch patterns having the most luck. Also try the lures suggested for trolling.

Trolling can have great results when there is a breeze or light wind at the surface of the dam. When the sky is dark, use silver or light-colored lures and when it is bright, switch to darker shades. It is common to fish a feathered lure 50cm ahead of your main lure on this water. The ones mentioned in the fly section are the best.

Other lures used are Copper Zed Spinners, Silver and Banana Tobys, Black and Yellow Mepps and Veltics, Brown Trout and Frog Pattern Rapalas, mixed colors at Cobras and Tasmanian Devils. Most trolling is done with surface lines and around 100 yards of line.

Fly anglers start the season with Green Woolly Bugger, Hamill’s Killer, Monsum Bully and Mrs Simpson Yellow or Red caught with float line.

The dry flies used at the beginning of the season are the brown and green beetles, Royal Wulff and Coch-Y-bondhu. Later the cicadas make their appearance and at the end of the season, the Black midge and the Peveril du Pic are used to imitate the adult diving beetles.

A beautiful butter colored brown trout from Poolburn Dam.
A beautiful butter colored brown trout from Poolburn Dam.

There are amazing midge hatches and a range of mixed color pupae emergence should be carried.

Small Hares Ear nymphs and Casual Dress lures are used when young bullies move through shallow water.

The damsel and the boatman come into their own in warm weather in shallow water.

Otago Fish and Game Poolburn Dam Access Pamphlet.pdf