So you have saved your money and the time has come to board the plane on your dream fly fishing trip to New Zealand.
You have seen the pictures on the internet of the huge brown trout being held in front of amazing scenery and rivers that look as though they have been poured straight out of a bottle of gin.
As a guide in the Nelson region of the South Island, I see anglers of all abilities come down to New Zealand to sight fish for our large brown trout. There are several observations I have made around the preparations that anglers could have made which would have lead to better fishing success while on their trip.
I have listed some things below that I feel will prepare fishers to a level that will help them to consistently catch New Zealand trout.
Along with line management this is the biggest area I feel fishers could improve.. Accuracy is key here. Our populations of fish are small compared with rivers and streams in the United States. What we do have is large fish and clear water which gives us the ability to sight fish. We see the fish and it is just as easy for them to see us. They see not only the anglers but also fly lines and even leaders as well! So when it comes to casting it is important that we are accurate. To be consistently successful I think that an angler needs to be able to put the fly within 3 feet of a target from a range of 30 feet, also to be able to do it 9 out of 10 times. Sure we get easier and closer chances than this but we are talking about consistently being hooked up.
Along with accuracy we also need to have more than just an overhead cast. It will be an advantage to have mastered a double haul for windy or distance casting situations. Roll casting from beneath trees or where a back cast is obstructed. Probably the cast that would be the biggest benefit to fishermen is the reach cast or reach mend. The ability to perfect this cast/mend off both shoulders will see far more fish to the net.
Line management is often an area of weakness among visiting anglers. This subject covers a large range of aspects. Even the simple task of retrieving the slack line as the fly line travels with the current back towards the angler is often overlooked. The idea of the upstream fishing with a nymph or dry is to keep the amount of line between the rod tip and fly as short as possible while keeping the drift of the fly as natural as possible. Mending needs to be as early as possible as not to alert wary fish. A poorly timed mend will see trout bug out for cover very quickly. The reach cast or reach mend that was mentioned above is the ultimate weapon to achieve the perfect drag free drift.
We also use a very long leader. In the typical South Island scenario we are using a leader of at least 14 feet and sometimes well over 18 feet. The only way to get used to this is tie one on and get out there and practice. The more often you can get this leader to straighten and hit your targets the better off you are going to be.
The main thing to remember here is that presentation is king! A lot of these are one cast fish so make that cast count!
The fish we have here will test your gear to the limit so bring the best rod and reel your budget will allow. A reel with a good smooth drag is essential. Most fish here are large enough to rip decent amounts of line off a reel. A capacity of 100 yards of backing will also be a helpful feature.
Most fishing is done with a #5 or #6 rod. For windy days or when nymphing, a faster actioned rod will be your best option. In a days fishing however we may employ a wide range of tactics including dry fly (both terrestrial and small mayflies), nymphing with double tungsten weighted nymphs and across and down with a streamer. My best choice would be carbon fibre fast actioned 5 weight if I could only pick one.
You can leave your fluro orange, green and blue lines at home. The best line colours here are forest green, brown, grey and even lines with a clear tip. The trout are so spooky that even one false cast with a fluro coloured line will send them packing. The lines we use are floating with an aggressive forward taper. This taper will assist us to cast large wind resistant dry flies and turn over the line into the wind.
3. Safety and Research
New Zealand is an island nation, which even in the height of summer can experience 4 seasons in one day. Come prepared with plenty of warm clothing. I prefer to wear merino wool under layer beneath my fishing shirt and quick drying pants.
I find it quite easy to carry a gore-tex waterproof shell style jacket in my daypack.
The important thing is to stay warm not only to enjoy your fishing but more importantly to keep you alive!
Before undertaking any overnight trip into the New Zealand wilderness it pays to do some thorough research into the area you are venturing into. This means studying topographical maps and also talking to local experts who have been in the area before. Before leaving make sure you let somebody know where you are going and when you are due back. To be as safe as possible it pays to carry a personal locator beacon so if the worst was to happen you could be found quickly. A hand-held GPS with extra batteries should stop you getting lost.
Trout in New Zealand Rivers and streams can be some distance apart. Fitness becomes an import part of stalking backcountry trout. The ability to walk a riverbed for about 4km a day will benefit you greatly. Trophy trout are seldom found next to the road. Covering some distance is what you need to do to find these large fish.
5. Hire a guide
This will you save time and money. They know where the fish are and how to catch them at any given time. They will also be first aid trained and carry all the safety gear you should need. They will provide you with all the flies and have spare rods and reels for you to use.
There you have it, my list of things visiting anglers should be considering before travelling to New Zealand. With the casting and line control it’s a matter of getting out there and practicing until you have mastered accuracy and slack line casts and or mending. Presentation is everything!
For those who come prepared the rewards are worth it. Just imagine a 30 inch brown trout gulping a hopper off the surface 20 feet from where you are, that’s what New Zealand can offer a prepared angler.
See you out there soon,