New Zealand Fly Fishing

Thanks to Fred and Pam Meier for the following fly fishing report from a Fall trip to New Zealand.

We travelled to New Zealand in early November for two weeks of flyfishing, a week on the North island and a week on the South island. Although it had snowed in the week prior to our arrival, during our stay the weather was warm and sunny with only a day lost to rain and wind. On the North Island, we stayed at the Poronui Ranch and on the South Island, at Lake Rotoroa Lodge.

Fly Fishing New Zealand for Brown Trout

The fishing experience in New Zealand is different from that in the Americas. As there are few natural predators, trout are generally found in open water rather than in riffles, under a cut bank or under hanging tree limbs. The water is exceptionally clear. Both the rainbows and the browns were large, between 4 and 6 lbs.; and a net is needed for landing these wild fish.There are smaller fish, but our program was “fewer and better”.There was very little blind casting- the game in New Zealand is sight fishing. Where we were fishing, there was usually several hundred yards between the sighting of fish. Including entering and exiting the rivers through bush (dense vegetation and forest ), we were walking all day. Unlike Patagonia where there is an hour to an hour and a half for a leisurely stream side lunch, we would eat a sandwich in about 15 minutes and continue following our guide upstream. Because it was early in the Season, we fished nymphs most of the time. With a six weight rod, we were throwing a double rig of a size 12 green caddis nymph trailed by a size 18 pheasant tail. The leaders were long- 18 feet ending with 3X and occasionally 4X tippet. Casting accuracy was essential. Throwing a long line was necessary only a few times. We usually had at most three attempts to put an upstream cast in the slot, i.e., 3 to 4 feet directly in front of the fish. Spooking a fish is not uncommon.

New Zealand Scotch Brown Trout

The fish we caught were large, fat and strong. Once hooked, they do RUN. Although the North Island is known for its rainbows, we were fortunate to catch a lot of browns on the North Island. In particular, on the Taharua River which looks like a spring creek and is a tributary of the Mahaka river, we were catching large browns which the guide referred to as Scottish browns. We thought they looked like tiger trout. Finally, we did several days of heli-fishing. A helicopter would pick us up at the lodge and after a 35 to 50 minute flight over spectacular mountain scenery would place us in river which was otherwise accessible only by three to four days of hiking through rough wooded terrain. Because we were early in the Season, the fish were seeing a fly for the first time in six months.

Heli-Fishing New Zealand

We had expected New Zealand to be simply a more technical version of Patagonia where we have fished for 15 years. But New Zealand was very different and very wonderful-its fish gods left us both humbled for lack of skills and elated when we fortunate to hook and land one of the beauties. We hope to return.