So, what do you want out of a trip to New Zealand? Wait!!! I already know the answer – a double figured fish, preferably a brown trout, on a dry fly. A parachute Adam’s. On 4lb tippet. In a back country stream. That’s only 4 feet deep…
How did I do? Did I leave anything out?
This type of fishing really does exist in this country. People do exactly what’s written above every year in the South Island. Is it a realistic request that everyone can for fill? No! It’s simple not that easy to put all the ducks in such a straight row.
So instead of coming here loaded with that type of pipe dream, just get off the plane, put your rod together and start fishing. You want to have some fun? Well you’ve come to the right place!
If you do catch that monster – good for you. I’m sure I’ll hear about it…not!!
South Island on a Stick
New Zealand is a small country. You can fit 2.6 of them into Texas. Broken into two islands, the country is skinny and quite long – it also has a mountain range running right through the middle for the most part.
Tall snowy mountains give way to rivers and lakes, so you can’t really go wrong regardless of where you land. It’s a tiny place. You’ll work it out!!
The two-main airport found in the South Island are Christchurch and Queenstown International. Christchurch will have you landing on the east coast just north of half way down the South Island. From there, you’re better off hunting in the upper half of the island – Nelson, West coast, Canterbury.
From Queenstown, you’ll land in the middle of Central Otago. Dead set trout country. This is your stop if you want to pull the chute and fish Otago, Southland or Fiordland.
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter where you land; the trout fishing is good all over. One word of advice – yes this is a small country but don’t make the mistake of travelling too far. Pick a destination and fish it. You can waste countless hours chasing good weather and better fishing only to find it’s not any better than what you had to start with!
Be in one spot more and less everywhere. It makes sense to learn about the fish in a destination rather than grasp at straws hoping to find easy time. Time is what you don’t have. Use it wisely!
To me, one of the most amazing things about this place is that if it’s freshwater and relatively clean, there will be trout in it. From a road side culvet to an ornamental lake in a park. Rivers, lake, canals, dams, stream and creeks. Trout, trout and more trout!
The two main players in this neck of the woods are brown and rainbow trout but you also can tangle with kokanee sockeye, king salmon and a small amount of brook trout.
The South Island is a renowned brown trout fishery but don’t let that stop you from putting the brakes on a rampaging rainbow. Yes, browns have a slightly stronger hold on the south and the reason is probably both geographic and environmental. But don’t be surprised to see them swimming side by side.
The water is clearer in more of the waterways than most other places you’re likely to fish in your life. Being this the case, some simple tactics can be employed to help you increase your catch rates.
Learn to cast accurately. This is the most important thing you can do. From zero line to 40 feet with as minimal number of false casts possible and it needs to be on the money. If you can do this every time, every cast – then look out trout!
Next would be your leader. Keeping your fly line away from the trout is important so a standard of 14 feet for a leader is not uncommon. A 10’ knotless leaders in 3X with 4 foot of 5X tied to the end is a good start.
People will also try to tell you that your clothes need to be drab and earthy in colour but to be honest, movement is far more important than the colour of your strides! What I’ve found is you need to keep it broken up. Don’t wear all the same colour clothes. A red T-shirt, blue cap, grey buff blah, blah, blah. That sort of thing! Small and different will break you up into the backdrop rather than one big blob of something.
Insect repellent. You need it or you will die. The end. Seriously though, the sandflies (no-see-ems) are out of this world in some places. Don’t go anywhere without it.
Waders are not needed. As a matter of fact, if you’re coming in the summer time (and quite frankly why would you come any other time) it’s easier, more convenient and much more comfortable to wear thermal pants and shorts. Wading boots are still a good idea though. Keeping in mind that felt sole wading boots are illegal in NZ. Plus, you’ll have the border security up your bum on the way home if your stuff is still wet. Which it is, because you were fishing 3 hours before you got on the plane!
The weather is a factor but you can always find clear water somewhere. Lakes for instance are a go to if it pisses with rain. Because of the nature of most of the rivers here, the high, dirty water doesn’t last long. Twenty-four to forty-eight hours and the river will be mint again!
Expect wind! Learn to cast into it with accuracy. The wind however does offer some advantages with regards to getting closer to the fish. You can generally close the gap to 20 or so feet with a stiff 25 knot northerly blowing.
Some of the best fishing you can have is when the elements are against you. Learn to deal with them and stay on the game and on the water.
Flies are one of the most talked about and considered elements of fly fishing. Truth be told, your presentation is much more important.
The basic 5 dry and 5 nymph combos looks like this –
•Tail & Hackle Dry
•Bead Head Pheasant Tail
•Hare & Copper
•Green Stone Fly
•Damsel Fly Nymph
With these flies and the right presentation, you should catch 90% of the fishing that didn’t see you coming!
If I could add just one more thing it would be that smaller is better than bigger. So, we are talking 14 – 16 and the normal. Except for backcountry southland. The stoneflies there will bite a hole in your wading boots!
NZ is designed for travellers – it always has been. So finding a place to stay is as easy as finding a town or if you’re of the camping varity, you can pitch a tent almost anywhere.
Kiwi people are a very friendly bunch and in no time, you’ll probably be staying in someone’s spare room if you’re that way inclined. But other than that, there is accommodation for Africa so don’t worry too much about your digs.
You can Rent-a-Bomb type car in heaps of place if you only intend on using it for A to B work. There really is no need to get a flash car. And a 4×4 is totally out of the question because you’re not allowed to take them off road anyway!
Camper vans or RV’s are ‘ok’ but can be a real pain in the ass to get around in. But they have advantages such as no need for accom!
Food is not cheap but beer is … that’s a win in my book. Also, fuel might as well be liquid gold it so expensive, so try not to run around like an idiot. Do some research and find a place to fish for the whole time your here. Trust me. I’ve been ‘that idiot’ before and blown a lot of cash…there might have been some beer involved?!
FISHING LICENCE!!! You need one. You can get them online before you go and I highly recommend it. The Fish & Game officers are very mobile and very good at catching people without one. They will fine you first time no question. Don’t think for one second you can get away with it because you’ll end up spending good beer money on a stupid fine. They don’t F#%k around!
The two months before Christmas are notoriously windy but the fish are much fresher and less pestered now – a good casters paradise!
After Christmas, the wind settles and the terrestrials kick into gear. Cicada’s are one of the major food sources from Feb to Apr. Keep in mind they’re a small model – about a size 8 or 10.
Like with most fishing articles there’s always someone better suited to pen it out. I’m a travelling expat Australian now living in Central Otago, New Zealand. I’ve done my time here as a traveller since 1994. The bits and pieces above are only what have worked for me.
Don’t over think it. Don’t over dress it. Don’t over pack and don’t strike too early.
Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that define us. Like fly fishing.
Contact Details: https://www.instagram.com/adamroyter