TRAVELTRULY | AUTHENTIC TRAVEL

As the year comes to and end in New Zealand, the season is only just kicking into gear, the days are getting longer and warmer as the sun hangs high in the sky. It is also the last chance to make the most of the popular rivers before both locals and tourists alike flock into the area for their summer holidays.

December marks the transition of spring into summer and provides numerous options for great fishing, river levels have dropped and most of those affected by snow melt have now cleared. I really enjoy fishing in December, everything is open, the weather is more settled and the trout have not yet been hounded by the summer tourists. You can explore almost any region in the country and fill your boots with some great fishing, but as mentioned, I like to target those waters that I know are going to receive the most pressure over the peak of summer and may not fully recover until the following season.

My month started off on a rough note, after arranging a backcountry trip for my birthday we ended up getting smashed by a huge storm which blew out the river and had us hut bound for a few days. We still managed a few fish though and the adventure alone was worth it, check it out in this short video;


Last season, in the weeks leading up to Christmas I got out and about mostly around the lower south, just before I took off to the North Island for the seasonal celebrations and to revisit the waters I grew up on. I was very interested to see how the challenging and difficult fishing conditions in the South Island had improved my skills and if it would increase my success back up north, the short answer is yes, yes it did!

There is a perception that the North Island is a sub par fishery to the South, particularly by tourists and touring anglers. This comes from the notion that due to North Island waters having a higher concentration of fish in comparison to their South Island counterparts, they are on average smaller and therefore will be less satisfying to catch. The reality is that the majority of clients I guide are absolutely beaming after they catch a fish around 3-5lb and even more so if they get multiple in a day, something that is usually a forgone conclusion when I’m fish in the North.

There is no doubt that the South provides a more pristine environment (apart from the Canterbury plains) especially in the lowland streams which in comparison to the North Island are of enviable quality and clarity. However when it comes to back country fisheries the North will be as good and sometimes better than the South any day of the week. They are generally more accessible and have high numbers of fish, with trophy brown trout likely being the only void but one that is easily filled with a trophy rainbow.

I love the South, and moved here for the fishing but there are also sections of the North Island that I wish I still had on my doorstep. All I can say is just keep in mind when your arranging your trip to New Zealand, there is another half to the country, another half that may give you the biggest surprise of your life!


I started my trip back up north exploring my old locals, a couple of small stream and spring creeks around the Waikato before heading down to have a flick at the stream mouths on Lake Rotorua and then over to Taupo for a trip into the deep dark central north island bush to chase swarms of Rainbows. Checkout how good the North can be i the little edit I made:


So if your planning a trip for the next season, get around, explore different areas, especially those where you aren’t going to be falling over someone at every bend as they hunt out the same trophy that was caught a day before. Move about, don’t just camp in one spot, NZ is an amazing place with incredible environmental diversity and the more you move the greater your kiwi experience will become!


If you have any questions or would like to chat about a trip to the North, South or both just get in touch below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November in the South Island of New Zealand ushers in a second opening season following the first in October. From the 1st of the month the remaining rivers, mostly around the lower half of the South Island open, these include all those in the tussock basin that is Mckenzie Country and the ‘Backcountry’ rivers around Queenstown, Wanaka and Te Anau. The 2015 opening day came on the morning of the All Blacks winning the Rugby World Cup, a record back to back title that I just had to mention!

To kick off another new beginning I went for n express overnight trip into one of these freshly opened backcountry waters with my mate Dave before he took off overseas. The fishing proved to be tough with the mostly rainbow trout, being very spooky and difficult to deceive. Although we did get into a few fish they were mostly a consolation to a memorable trip into a spectacular valley that lasted only 24 hours!


The ‘backcountry’ rivers that open on November 1st are basically classed as any semi-remote waterway that enters the major lakes in the southern regions, with many of them being well known and heavily fished, especially those surrounding the tourist resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka.

Unfortunately these rivers no longer provide the quality of fishing seen in past decades, as observed by anglers much older and wiser than myself. They have become some of the most regularly fished rivers in the region and although they may take a little more time and effort to get to, I would no longer consider them of ‘backcountry’ status because it is unlikely there will be a day in the season where they are not fished. I am almost inclined to suggest we refer to them as designated ‘tourist’ fisheries as they receive some of the most foreign and guided angler pressure in the country and require a management approach that reflects this.

On one of these rivers the national authority (Fish & Game)  has even gone to the effort of trying to drip feed the angling pressure over the peak season periods by enforcing a exclusive booking system. This means you must book in advance the section of river you wish to fish on a certain date, although free it can prove inconvenient. This is not something I am against and is possibly the foundation of a approach that should be considered for all these sensitive rivers when it comes to non-resident anglers. The notion that non-residents may only fish these waters with a guide is becoming more popular and something I support for the future, not because I am a guide but because I believe in the sustainability of a fishery for all New Zealander’s and one that can provide economic value to our country.


Anyway opinionated rant over, later on in the month I decided to do another road trip, this time to Mckenzie Country, a region that is basically situated at the centre of the South Island. This barren windswept tussock land is reminiscent of the desert in a 1960’s western movie and is surrounded by towering mountains and river carved plateaus. There are several interesting freestone rivers and spring creeks to explore and it is also the location of the famous hydro canals, supporting mutant trout that regularly exceed 30lb, but I won’t go into that.

This was a short trip to visit 3 rivers in total after the others I intended to fish were still too coloured with snow melt and i’d had enough lake fishing over the winter to ensure it was would not be on my agenda for this trip. A nice even mix of browns and rainbow came to the net including one day where all 8 were on the dry, a welcome surprise early in the season. The video below is a quick wrap up, checkout the amazing turquoise water at the beginning, a result of the lake being glacial fed.


Tips for fishing in November

November welcomes in the wonders of spring with wildflowers blooming, baby lambs littering the paddocks and the days becoming longer and warmer. This however does mean that November is one of the main months when snow melt will cause higher, dirtier rivers and tends to turn the water a milky colour inhibiting sight fishing prospects. Some rivers are affected by this worse than others and a recent rainfall/snowfall can immediately enhance the negative effects on such waters.

Here are a few tips to help with getting the best out of fishing in November:

  • Search for rivers which are not overly effected by snow melt, these include those: that flow out of smaller/shallower valleys,  that spawn from lower elevations, that are partially or complelty spring fed.
  • Target lake tributaries, these will still hold a good stock fish left over from the spawning months and those that have a late opening usually still have a large stock of rainbows hanging around.
  • Mix up the regions you fish, now that everything is open take some time to travel and explore different areas. Experiencing the diversity of our waterways and landscape is what can make a trip most memorable.
  • Start experimenting with dry flies, spring brings a whole new cycle of life for most plants and insects so there is usually activity in the air. Most fish I came across were more than happy to suck down a size 12-14 parachute adams.

If you have any questions or would like to chat about a trip, jut send me a message below;

 

 

 

 

 

Its that time of year in NZ when things begin to change dramatically, the leaves transform into a symphony of colour and the trout join in, showing of their spectacular vibrancy in preparation for spawning.

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Rainbow in full colour

I have spent the last week in the North Island, visiting family and fishing my old local streams as well as spending a couple of days chasing big trout in small streams around Rotorua. These small spring creeks that feed into Lake Rotorua are as captivating as they are frustrating, most of the time you do not have room to swing a cat, not to mention a fly rod. Hooking a fish is the easy part but managing to guide them to the net may be your biggest achievement of the day.

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Cant beat the flight out of Queenstown

Although I have fished these streams before, on day one I was not prepared for what I was about to see. I found a suitable access point and scrambled down the slippery bank littered with acorns to find a tiny stream, no more than 2m wide and covered in fallen trees and debris. I peered through the buses to see a brown trout, no less than 8lb, just swaying back and forth in the current. With literally nowhere to cast I decided to head downstream a few pools and make my way up in the river, however the next pool I came across took my breath away. No more than 1.5m wide and 1m deep, this pool was holding 10+ fish around or over the 10lb mark. I dropped an offering from where I was hiding on the cliff above and after a few attempts with no interest I decided to move back upstream. As I stood to walk away the ground rumbled and the pool erupted into whitewater as the monsters realised my presence and shot off downstream. In awe, I carried on upstream and finally managed to hook into a large brown, but as I said, the hooking proved to be the easy part when the large jack galloped off upstream, my delicate 4wt no chance of reigning it in.

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My second day I wanted to tackle another water so I caught up with Miles Rushmer, a local guide in the area, famous for chasing trophy fish and featured in the Gin Clear movie Leviathan. Luckily he had a new piece of water to explore so the anticipation was right up there and it did not disappoint. We were on another tiny spring creek and this time although their hadn’t been much rain in a while there was still a large amount of fish holding in shallow water and more than happy to devour an egg pattern. Miles got was the first to get into a big boy after one broke away from the school at the bottom of a small pool to take his fly. We then carried on upstream, exploring a few gorge sections, peering into the crystal clear water surrounded by native bush but found that not as many fish had made it up this far yet so we returned to the start and nailed a double, I managed a large brown and Miles a large rainbow, at the same time!

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Miles and his monster brown

I have seen a bit of banter online over the past few weeks about the ethics or morality of fishing to those on their spawning run and my opinion is this;  If the stream is legally opened for fishing it is as fair as any other time of the season. The seasons are set at particular times to reflect the sustainability and pressure on the fishery, some may finish late and start late, others the opposite, however it is important to understand that there is always a period where fish are left to do their thing and this ensures a majority of them spawn effectively. I think the only thing that should be concerning is the allowance of taking spawning fish, especially those large spawners and I think a maximum size limit needs to be considered, similar to that operating on trophy fisheries where no fish over a certain size (say 40cm) can be dispatched. Spawning runs are an important part of an angling season and as long as the seasons are managed correctly, there should be no issue.

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The double up

The next couple of months provide some of the best spawn run fishing you will ever see in NZ and it is a good possibility you will come across many large browns, however being able to catch them is a different story. If your looking for a guide to help you out, Miles can access some spectacular water through private land so you will have the place to yourself and I know first hand that Miles knows how to catch these beasts!

Now is a perfect time for you to get out and explore the lake fed waterways, wherever you are in the country (provided their open), just keep in mind that rain is the key, getting in after a good fresh will increase your chances considerably and you never know, you may just come across that fish of a lifetime.


 

If you have any questions or just want to have a chat, feel free to message me below.

 

 

 

 

October 2015 to April 2016, 7 months of another great fishing season has passed in the South Island of NZ and its time to reflect on how great it was.

During the season I explored over 40 new waters, all amongst amazing landscapes and accompanied by several first times and incredible experiences. Some days were tough, some were challenging, some required marathon length hikes, some a just short helicopter ride, but at the end of the day when passion is driving what you do, every day and place becomes unforgettable.

This blog series is intended to be both an insightful wrap up of my season and as a reference for you to better understand NZ waters, what to expect and a few tips to hopefully help you plan your trip of a lifetime. If you would like more detail or help with your specific trip, feel free to flick me a message and I will see how I can help.


October – A new season begins

For me, this season was particularly special as it earmarked the beginning of a new direction in my life, becoming a full-time angler. I intended to spend the majority of my days either on the water or planning my next, all peppered by delving into the industry and learning as much as possible. It would also drive my decision to officially enter the guiding industry, something I was initially tentative about but became more comfortable as opportunities presented themselves. I began to better understand the value it adds to New Zealand and the fact that it is not as detrimental as many anglers believe. If managed correctly it could well become one of the important tools that sustains and protects our fisheries for decades to come.

My season started like a dream.

One of my season goals was to catch my first trophy trout of over 10lb. Thinking that this would be a season long endeavour I planned my first opening trip to an area which would hopefully help me on the way and at least give me the chance to practice on a few likely candidates.

After planning for months,  I headed north with my mate Dave for a hard-core back country adventure to bring in the new season. However the weather gods had different ideas and decided to pound the whole South Island for opening day, I thought that my dream trip may be over before it began.

Rather than reading about the whole trip, watch the video and see my dream come true!


I then spent most of October exploring my local waters as you really need to make the most of them before the farmers suck them dry for the benefit of grazing cows in a desert. This process is just unsustainable madness if you ask me and I pray for the day where we collectively agree the point and make a stand against public resources being plundered for the benefit of the few, going against everything we hold dear in New Zealand.

Anyway…. as the season started to get into the swing of things I decided to hit the road and explore some new waters, this time with just on my lonesome. I setup a bed in the back and headed south for a week, it was still damn cold, windy and snowed on the second night which turned the lower rivers high and dirty

After getting hammer by the weather, I made sure it did not dampen my spirits but instead went on the hunt for more remote rivers that would be less effected by the conditions. I was eventually rewarded with a perfect day of no wind, no clouds and crystal clear water all amongst a magnificent valley. This proved to be one of the best days of my season and defiantly my best on that particular water. Checkout some of the awesome browns I got into in this short film


Tips for fishing in October

The first month of the season can be one of the most rewarding. Most fish have gone about their business and been undisturbed for up to 5 months, combined with their desire to recondition after spawning all you really need to do is get your fly in the right place and it’s on. The downside however is the unpredictable and gnarly weather that can come out of nowhere, turning the river to mud and destroying your hopes to even get a cast out.

Here are a few tips that will help your success in early season conditions:

  • Target waterways that have a smaller catchment area, or areas that provide access to multiple catchments should it all turn bad and you need to seek refuge in a tributary or smaller stream.
  • Don’t underestimate the weather, even though winter is over horrendous storms and snow are still possible to low levels, you don’t want to get caught out on a bad day unprepared
  • Fish big, make the most of being able to get out those size #8 – #12 nymphs, these fish will not be as selective early on and it is important to for you fly to be seen in water that may carry some colour or snow melt
  • Plan a slightly longer trip to allow for bad weather days and/or additional travel to get to those unaffected areas.

Overall October is a great month for fishing in the south and if your willing to adapt and make the most of all situations there are some great fish to be found, they can be as hungry as ever and there are generally less anglers trying to hunt them down.

For more info or to talk about a trip flick me a message below:

The onset of Autumn is a noticeably spectacular time especially in Otago, as the trees provide a symphony of colour and there is a tinge of winter in the air, changes are beginning beneath our beloved trout waters.

Sadly we have to say goodbye to those giant cicada flies for another year but there is still plenty to be excited about. As we prepare for those cold nights, trout have one thing on their mind, heading upstream and finding a mate. During April and May the lake dwelling browns will pack their bags and start the journey into the upstream tributaries, hunting down their spawning grounds, destined for stable waters that provide fine gravels to lay their eggs. The Rainbows are generally not far behind too so these waters provide great opportunities to target fish as they make their way through waters that can usually be devoid of fish.

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A fresh lake run rainbow in prime condition

Even though the majority of the our South island season finishes on April 30th, Otago still provides multiple backcountry waters to explore, most of which feed into lakes Wanaka, Hawea and Wakatipu. It generally takes some time and effort to access these waters but it can be worth making the most of as they can provide some magnificent late season action. If you are not to keen on clocking up the miles, the same waters can provide great fishing in their lower reaches where they enter the lake. Here fish will sit in waiting for a decent fresh to raise river levels and aid their arduous trip upstream. Targeting these fish with low profile galaxis or smelt patterns can be effective as these bait fish will also gather  around deltas and can be a great food source for fish packing on condition for spawning.

Autumn is also a perfect time to dust of those deadly egg patterns and whether you love them or hate them, there is no denying they work! Importantly you need to make sure your getting down deep, these fish on spawning missions sometimes need a bit of persuasion to take your fly and may only do so out of aggression or by having their space invaded. When double indicator nymphing deeper runs, I will go large with my top fly usually a #10-#12 and trail a small, natural 16 size orange or pale peach egg pattern around 1 foot off the back of the hook. If I need to get down further I also use a small split shot placed about 6inches above the top fly. This gets you in the strike zone quicker and hopefully results in more hookups.

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Some streamer action on a chrome rainbow

For those really tricky fish that just won’t eat, out comes the dirty ol streamer, generally a large wollybugger in black or green. Standing slightly upstream I will cast across on a particular angle that will allow the swing to occur right onto the nose of the fish. Mending line upstream allows you to delay the swing and then as it comes around to where the fish is holding I will give a couple of short, sharp strips to catch its attention or hopefully just piss it off enough so that it attacks!

So don’t let the colder mornings prevent you from getting out this Autumn, no matter where you live there are always interesting options for targeting migratory fish and this can also be a great time to get into those big boys that are usually holding much larger waters. Just don’t forget to fix the holes in your waders before you go!

Lastly, some Autumn dryfly action from last season on fresh run rainbows!

 

Having the ability to spot fish will become important, if not vital to the level of success you will achieve when fly fishing rivers in New Zealand, particularly in the South Island.
Our waters are famous for big fish, but not surprisingly there are not masses of them, nor are they easy to catch. You need to prepare yourself for possibly the toughest fishing you will encounter anywhere and in addition to having a decent cast, being able to spot your target before they spot and understanding how to align yourself to make the cast will be the difference between success and failure.

The S&M method (not what your thinking) is something I came up with a few years ago and use to spot fish on any water I fish. Most of these points have been discussed before on their individual merit but I find a methodical system gives a clearer sequence to follow for those just starting out or when fish are not in plain sight. In some instances the actual sequence in which each point ins observed may change depending on the particular conditions faced, but generally I follow these upcoming steps: S-S-S&M

S = Structure

Trout have an efficient mindset, some say lazy, particularly browns. So when it comes to where a trout is situated in the river there are a those spots that are favoured by the fish more than others and these can become very predictable.
It is therefore essential to begin your spotting endeavour not in  search of a fish itself, but looking for those likely places in the river where they will sit or feed.
Trout will generally look for a break in the main flow or a slack current in which to shelter whilst picking out food as it passes, this may be in front, behind  or to the side of obstacles such as boulders, trees, cut banks or just the softer edge current at the eye or tail of a pool.
It is important to also recognise where the likely source of food will be coming from. When feeding a fish may venture out (or up!) from this structure before returning and may remain here for a considerable length of time unless disturbed. Take the time to step back, watch and observe the trouts behaviour and its feeding pattern. This will then go a long way to helping you decide how your approach and method. When little or no current exists, trout will happily cruise in search of food. Back waters are a great example of this and can sometimes hold many fish at once, especially if the main river becomes dirty.
You can read many articles out there the lines and circles pointing where fish ‘should’ sit, however we are in the business of hunting and stalking trout, not just fishing likely areas. Once you have identified the structure that looks to be a good home for a fish, approach with caution and move about to get the best view through the glare which may require you to cross the river. A fish may not be immediately apparent if the water surface is obscured, however this is when our next point comes in – Shade.
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2 Fish holding behind the structure of a large boulder

S = Shade (shimmer/smudge/shadow)

Once you have found where the fish ‘should’ sit, now its time to decipher if a fish is actually there or not, the quickest indication is usually a shade/smudge or shadow.
Brown and Rainbow trout can be very different in this aspect and the signs they give away. Also different water/riverbed types can provide varieties of contrast and even the colour of the fish itself. In my experience a trout will never be 100% camouflage into its surroundings (or I haven’t seen one that is!), so your always looking for something that doesn’t look ‘quite right’,
Because a trout has unique colour and body characteristics compared to its surroundings there will be some irregularities to hone your sense on. Sometimes all you will see is a smudge, just a small irregularity in the water that doesnt look quite right.
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The colour giving away this fish in the lake

S = Shape
The shape of a trout is unlike anything else in a river, although at times rocks and sticks can be very (very!) close. Analysing shape is the best way to be sure wether a shade you have spotted is actually a fish or just a fishy looking rock (these are more common species). It is good to understand the average size and proportion of the fish you are targeting as this will allow you to recognise if a shape you see is too long and skinny, short and fat, or a mix of either. Sometimes you will be faced with something that goes against the norm, this can happen when you have mix of currents, poor lighting/glare or you just cant believe how big it is! Most of those ‘fishy’ looking rocks/stick/weed in a river will give themselves away if you look closely enough, and if your really not sure it may be worth showing out a ‘hail mary’ cast.
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The defined torpedo shape giving away this trout

M = Movement
Most information on spotting I have come across puts this first however unless movement is clearly obvious, I look for it last or remain aware of it during the other steps. This is because movement can be too subtle to pickup at first glance, especially with brown trout and it will not be noticed until you have zoned in on the target. Movement can come in many different forms and you need to keep an eye out for Trout that may move up, down, sideways and all around to intercept food, or in some cases actually chasing it down. It is also import to watch for surface disturbance, a telltale sign of fish feeding on, or just below the surface. Depending on your angle, actually seeing a fish on close to the surface can prove difficult. In faster currents, after recognising shade, movement is what will give a fish away, especially if it is hard to make out it its exact shape.
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A brown ranging wide to feed at the tail of a pool


I believe the key to successfully spotting fish and getting more chance in a day is the ability to work out what is not a fish as efficiently as possible so you can move onto the next, I have found that these steps allow me to do this quickly without too much thought.
This system works well for me, but all eyes are different so when you are out on a river be open to trying different methods and experimenting to see what suits you.
Just remember the name of the game – See it before it sees you!

 

Fishing New Zealand is up there on the bucket list of many anglers from around the world, however some struggle with the cost of doing so and go for the full ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) or ‘trout bum’ experience. This is not a problem in itself and most locals do condone it, however if your dream is to fish New Zealand, and do so on a budget, it is important to consider the following points to ensure you have a smooth trip and positive trip here.

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1. Understand our methods

Unsurprisingly,  fishing in New Zealand can be very different other fishing around the world. We have a wide variety of water types and sizes, with most having moderately clear to gin clear water. Much of your success will rely on your execution rather than luck. Your ability to read water and spot fish will go a long way to getting your line in the right place, but it is also very important to practicing your casting, especially the ability to rollout 12-15ft leaders, sometimes in strong winds. There are obviously many more techniques unique to NZ that are worth understanding before you hit the water, these can be found online or talking to a local angler or guide.

2. First – Hire a guide or fish with a local

Now I’m not just saying this because I’m a guide, I am mentioning it because even if you are on a tight budget, hiring a guide for even just one day can mean the difference between you having a successful DIY fishing trip or a mediocre one. The skills a local will introduce you to will go a long way to assisting you on your own fishing travels later in your trip. Whats the points in spending $1000’s on airfares to get here and then just chuck and chance your fishing success?  Reach out to guides and locals and see where you can get help, kiwi’s are known for their friendliness and may be willing to help you or take you out on a guide day to learn the ropes.

3. Base yourself in a town, not on the river

One of the key issues with international DIY anglers in NZ is their tendency to base the majority of the trip on the water itself, sleeping, eating and shitting there. This is highly contentious with locals and should be done with care a consideration for the fishery. Multiple days spent fishing one river or piece of water can be detrimental, especially for your local kiwi who only gets his weekends to fish and turn up to find out it has been hammered all week by one group. By basing yourself in a local town, you not only have comfortable accomodation, you have more options of water to fish in multiple direction , giving you a wider variety of water and experiences. The key to all this however is you contribute to the local economy, which can be very important in our smaller regions with some towns relying heavily on fishing tourism. This option doesn’t need to be expensive either, many campgrounds offer tent sites or cabins from only $10pp with all the facilities and usually a local supermarket will provide affordable food options.

4. Understand angler etiquette

Nothing disgruntles a local angler more than someone that doesn’t understand river etiquette or common courtesy on a river. Considering the majority of our fishing here is an upstream method, never, ever start fishing in front of another angler. This ‘Jumping’ is intolerable, even if you are not seen. Depending on the waterway, where no accesses are marked it is best to give an angler at least 4-6km of river before you start fishing (this is up for interpretation by each anglers), or better yet, talk to them if you can and agree who will be going where. As mentioned above it is also important to understand that the river is for everyone, each getting a fair amount of time to fish it and therefore it is important that you keep your camping and/or stays in backcountry huts to a reasonable length of time, this time varies on the area and/or waterway and can be determined by chatting with a local or just some common sense. You can read more on NZ angler ettiequte in the booklet that accompanies the purchase of your fishing licence.

5. Be careful what you share with the world

We all love to share our experiences and show off our catch, I am known for this as much as anyone else. However the key to this is to be discreet. With the global reach of social media it can be great to show off your kiwi experience and show others whats possible if they travel to NZ, which we love you to do. However just keep in mind that the essence of fly fishing is the exploration. Keep your video and photo content discreet, try not to show obvious hints of locations, road signs and of course don’t mention the name of the river! This is in no way meant to prevent others from experiencing the same, it just means that like anyone else, you need to put in the effort to find the special places.

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It must be understood that fishing in NZ is not easy, particularly in the South Island where waters can receive significant pressure from both international and local anglers over the key summer months. To be successful in NZ you must take into account not only the fish you catch but experiencing and respecting all that our magnificent country has to offer

So if your planning to DIY fish NZ, please be conscious and considerate of the above points and hopefully you will have a trip that you will never forget!

The South Island of New Zealand is split by whats referred to as the ‘main divide’. Named the Southern Alps, this majestic mountain range runs for 500km down the western side of the island, separating the east and west coast water catchments, providing a contrasting and diverse range of fisheries. Over 2 days I decided to challenge myself on several different waterways, observing and absorbing the variety of methods required to be successful in each.

 

 

It was the end of February when I had plans to visit Christchurch, so I thought I would seize the opportunity to travel home via one of the mountain passes that cross the main divide and explore some of the waters I had been hoping to fish for a while.

I met up with Matt, a previous client who was still in the country travelling and brought him along on the adventure. After a long and bumpy slog up a gravel road we reached our first destination to be treated by howling winds and some monster fish taunting us under the bridge. Being so tantalisingly close we put our bodies on the line to get to them, including a very borderline river crossing, only to spook them all away in the process!

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Resting up for a big day tomorrow

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The eastern water shed

After a rough night tenting in some strong winds we made a long hike up the valley to find some nice fish but struggled to tempt them with mirror like glare on the water. As the weather turned to a gale southerly we pondered the sanity in continuing and decided to make the long haul back, stopping at potential holding spots on the way. This resulted in a hook up to a stunning rainbow which moved a mile to intercept one of Stu’s Ninja Stonefly nymph, providing a heart racing battle to the net and weighing in around a chunky 8lb

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My largest rainbow of the season!

It was looking as though the wind would not relent, so we packed up the cars and decided to head west, over the divide and spend a night on the coast before exploring a very different style of waterway which would prove challenging but rewarding.

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West Coast sunset

We arrived at the desired spot to find a recent fresh had been through which got us perked up, only to find another anglers vehicle parked on the river and the place devoid of fish! All was not lost as we bailed further downstream where we began to find plenty of browns as hungry as they were spooky, with many sitting deep in the gin clear water and tough to access amongst the overgrown banks.

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Preparing for the assault

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This brown was munching in the weeds

Persevering up river, the banks finally cleared and the fish became accessible. In relatively swift water a correct drift was essential so each fish took some work in order to fool, however we soon had several on the board. The first fish was taken on a size #22 (yes 22!) nymph behind a dropper which made for a challenging fight amongst the weed beds.

 

The west coast fishery, provided exclusively brown trout, all of a impressive size and condition, feeding in crystal clear spring fed glides. This was in contrast to our experiences on the east coast where browns were heavily outnumbered by the presence of large rainbows in a big, bouldery snow fed river prone to flooding and exposed to gale winds.

Both sides of the divide provide unique and challenging experiences in their own right, both hold a good amount of fish, but much is reliant on the conditions encountered on the day. The east hammered us with wind and showers, contrasting to the usually wet west coast putting on a stunning clear day and this showed in our level of success.

Regardless where you go in the South Island, expect the unexpected as things can change at the flip of a hat. But most of all be willing to tough it out, your never going to catch fish sitting on the couch reading the weather forecast!

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A chunk spring creek brown

Perseverance in testing conditions reaped rewards for Matt and Jakub after they spent a few days down south exploring new waters. Heading deep into untouched water meant a gruelling 20km round trip, followed by another long walk into the Fiordland forest the following day.

Wind, rain and glare all tried it’s best to hamper spotting but slowing down and taking time to cover the water proved effective. Several nice fish came to the net, all whilst soaking in the surroundings and some special water that dreams are made of.

If you’ve come so far, and your legs are screaming to turn around, sometimes its worth persevering for just that little bit longer and going beyond the limits of most other anglers and the rewards can be worthwhile!

 

 

The New Zealand ROBIN! They are friendly and trusting, often coming to within a couple of metres of people. 

The New Zealand Robin, They are friendly and trusting, often coming to within a couple of metres of people. 

 

The yellow Parsons Glory fishes the best when the sun is up and especially if there's a ripple on the water.

When all else fails in tough currents, throw in a streamer and watch the magic unfold!

 

Access into the backcountry is made easier with the well maintained tracks and bridges

 

A healthy 7lb brown with some amazing detailed spots!

Absolutely amazing spots on this fish! 

Written by Matt Butler

Photography by Jakub Kanok and Matt Butler

Once again We decided to go for another trip! Matt has been fishing pretty much everyday day since the last time we saw each other, I haven’t had a chance to escape this busy period at work for three long weeks. The weather looked promising for an over night trip to camp riverside and clear the mind!

 

After a couple of hours in a truck we arrived to a strong gale, we were forced to take shelter in a deep gorge. After getting battered and bruised we decided to face the elements, we were rewarded with several decent Browns willing to rise.

 

Day 2 saw the wind die and the sun come out for what was to be an epic day of rising Browns in gin clear water. In the 28 degree heat we both landed several healthy fish averaging 5-6lb all on dry/nymph droppers.

 

Whatever I do Wherever I go! Friends for life!

For a section of river we had never fished before we were pleasantly surprised, the long hike in hot weather was well rewarded. Another special water chartered and one we will surely come back to visit by the end of the season, but for now it`s onto the next adventure!

 

 

Most definitely one of the best days on a river so far!  

 

Text and Photo by Matt Butler & Jakub Kanok

Fiordland, the fly fishing destination that`s on every anglers wish list. It is as brutal as it is beautiful with huge canyons, fast, deep waters and swarms of sandfly that pester you all day long! The river valleys that have been carved through the magnificent peaks are home to big crystal blue waters, big boulders and fast runs. Spotting can be a challenge in even the best of conditions with huge volumes of water disguising the chrome camouflage of good conditioned fish.

 

After many hours of driving we set up camp for the night, cracked a few beers and laid off early so we could ensure a prompt start in the morning. We travelled 3 rivers over the 2 days and came across some good sized rainbows, a few browns all willing to rise to huge terrestrial flies. The fishing was tough, but the landscape alone entices you to continue to hike up river and explore what is around the next bend.

 

The final day saw us getting liberal with our methods in the afternoon as we made our way to the mouth of the river where fresh meets salt and can provide some surprises. As seals cruised just meters out in the bay we stripped streamers, not sure what we would find but ended coming across over 25 Spotty`s.

 

As we made our way back to civilisation the heavens opened and waterfalls became cascading down the mountains, only to join the waters that had provided us with much joy and admiration. This is a special place and one that all should experience in a lifetime.

 

Written By: Matt Butler
Photos by: Jakub Kanok & Matt Butler