Lake Hawdon - High Country South Island

Lake Hawdon is a High Country lake located approximately 130 km from Christchurch and offers the fly fisherman the opportunity to land a good sized brown or rainbow trout.  Lake Hawdon is one of three High Country lakes that you can access along Craigieburn Road, the other two lakes are Lake Sarah and Lake Marymere. The high country surroundings are simply fantastic, but what enhances this even further is visiting this lake on a bright sunny and windless day as you walk up and over the track to catch the first glimpse of the lake with its beautiful clear water and extended shallow silty/weedy shelves, it will undoubtedly have any fly fisherman chomping at the bit to get down to the waters edge.




The northeastern side of Lake Hawdon

This entire northeastern stretch can be easily fished with the most northern end offering a generous silty/weedy shelf and a bank that supplies a great vantage point for sight fishing. As you progress further south down this northeastern stretch the shelf does not extend as far adopting a more abrupt drop-off, and the hillside becomes too far away from the lake edge to supply any elevation benefits.  Regardless of the lake edge contour variations, fishing is successful anywhere along this side. Keep in mind there is a deer fence in the most northern corner that is hard to walk around when water levels are high and the farmer has asked visitors not to climb over the deer fences. I prefer to fish the whole lake anticlockwise from where the walking track finishes. I do the full loop in a day and once I hit this deer fence (on the south side) I head back up the hill to rejoin the walking track.

The south side of Lake Hawdon

Like the northeastern side this is also easy to access with only a few sections of scrub to work around.  The drop-off is fairly immediate with some of the shoreline made up of medium/fine gravel. When the predominant Norwest wind is blowing waves are whipped up producing heavy foam lines right across the lake that end up building a layer of foam along this shoreline. Aside from that, the wind also makes hard work of casting at this end of the lake.

The southwest side of Lake Hawdon

The entire length of this stretch can be fished however it is slightly more difficult to access due to the dense scrub along the hillside.  Some sections can be easily accessed, some involve a little ducking and diving through scrub, while many sections force you to wade through the water as the scrub is simply too dense to walk through.  Although the scrub is thick behind you a backcast is possible with care. The shoreline material is made up of medium to large rocks with a relatively short shelf to an abrupt drop-off following the contour of the steep hillside of Mount Saint Bernard behind you.


The northern end of Lake Hawdon

This stretch is predominantly boggy hosting a variety of wetland plant life.  Access to the lake in some sections can be achieved however extreme care must be taken as sinking chest deep or further is a definite possibility. This end has a generous shelf offering good sight fishing on calm days.  There is an outlet channel exiting from this end of the lake leading out into a large area of water holding swamp land.  There is a small walking plank approximately 50m down the outlet used for crossing as it is too wide to step/jump over.  Fish do patrol this outlet but it can prove to be hard fishing due to the amount of overhanging flora, especially if you hook a fish that really wants to run.

Foot access plank across the outlet approx 50m down the outlet

The outlet channel leaving the lake

Looking out to the swampy area that holds fish depending on sufficient water levels

General fishing on Lake Hawdon

Like all three lakes along Craigieburn Road the fish numbers are not high so duck days can potentially occur.  If you strike this lake on a calm day then sight fishing can be great fun and will considerably increase your chances of hooking up.  Unfortunately this lake is very vulnerable to a Norwest wind which in turn chops up heavy foam lines making sight fishing almost impossible, and adds difficulty to keeping an eye on an indicator when blind fishing.  Fly selection can also be challenging with patterns varying with success throughout the open season.  Choosing a fly that both the rainbows and browns will accept can be a difficult task, on a number of occasions a fly that proved to be successful on rainbows had browns nosing up to inspect it but then followed with a rejection, and vice versa. The tough challenge however allows for great satisfaction when you do get a hook up.

Accessing Lake Hawdon

Driving instructions are detailed below however this is a note on making sure you don't drive past the walking track as it is easy to do considering how small the signs are.  Ideally you want to set your odometer at the start of Craigieburn Road and travel 12.1 km.  At this point you will see a four-wheel-drive track and a couple of posts with information signs. Like Lake Marymere, vehicle access is not available to the lake edge so you have to park your car by the signs and then start the 10 minute walk up and over the hill.

Please Note: Farmers used to allow vehicle access over the 4X4 track leading from the road to the lake (both Lake Marymare and Hawdon), but due to drunken idiots ripping up paddocks with their 4X4's, leaving beer bottles everywhere and recklessly using firearms this has ruined it for the sensible people. The final straw was one of the farmers beasts cut up its foot so badly after stepping on a broken bottle it had to be put down, so, understandably the farmer no longer allows vehicle access. Astonishingly even the big signs saying “No Vehicles” fails to stop these idiots, just last week another group of idiots decided to drive in, camp up, spin fish in a fly fish only lake, then proceed to drink and use firearms. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people!! Please help us make public spectacles of these reckless idiots by reporting their registration plates to Fish and Game plus the Police so they can be dealt with and stop jeopardizing land access for the considerate sensible people.


The Lake Hawdon car park, easy to miss if you are not keeping a careful eye out

The only signs indicating the lake's presence

10 minutes of following this 4X4 track and you're there

Lake Hawdon General Information

Lake Hawdon Camping and General Facilities

Lake Hawdon Fishing Information

Lake Hawdon Cautions and Safety Information

Author of this article: ADVGD(366)