the best of fishing… It was the worst of fishing...
New Zealand fly fishing guide Dean Bell says that the key to enjoying
NZ fly fishing is to manage your expectations. Fish are bigger, but harder
to find. A good day of fly fishing could mean only two fish are caught,
but they might well be over ten pounds each, over five pounds is common.
(Click on thumbnails to see larger fish)
While it is possible to “fish the water”, the classic fly
fishing adventure in NZ is to helicopter or hike into a remote area, then
crash through the brush to clear green streams as your guide looks for
fish. When one is spotted, you may only have one shot at it before it
spooks. “Match the Hatch” is not an issue as the fish are generally
not that selective, and insect hatches are sporadic, with the result that
classic attractor patterns like Royal Wulff, Stimulator, Humpy, etc in
sizes 12-14 work well. If the fish won’t take a dry and hasn’t
spooked, a heavily weighted Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear will usually
Jane and I spent 27 days in NZ. The original plan was to travel with
club member Jimmy Toy and Cathy Noonan, but they had to
cancel at the last minute. While this was principally a sight seeing trip,
as neither of us had been to NZ before, we had faxed CVFF speaker David
Lambroughton for fishing advise, and he set us up with excellent guides:
Peter Fordham on the North Island and Dean Bell on the South.
We rented a car in Auckland on the North Island and drove south, taking
the ferry to the South Island. We saw farmland, glaciers, mountains, lots
of sheep, beautiful beaches and coastline. We visited NZ wineries.
Their wines are definitely competitive with the best California wines. We
sea kayaked in Tasman National Park and pursued independent beer research.
Guided Fishing - Day One
We met guide Pete Fordham at Carric,
a delightful b & b in the Lake Taupo area. We headed toward Hawke’s
Bay and fished a section of the Waipunga River. Pete spotted fish while
Jane and I took turns casting to the feisty rainbows. These descendents of
California bows fought well, some exploding straight out of the water like
silvery Poseidon missiles. Jane landed a couple of nice fish on dries, I
fished dries and nymphs, landing eight fish. We didn’t realize it at the
time, but this was an extraordinary day by NZ standards.
Guided Fishing - Day 2
Pete’s 4-wheel-drive SUV was out of commission due to a mechanic’s
mistake, so we drove in his wife’s station wagon to a tributary of the
Waipunga.. Pete had had reports of lots of big fish, especially in the
pool below the waterfall at the top of the creek. We spent the next 3.5
hours crashing through the semi-rainforest brush following a small creek.
Pete spotted three fish—I managed to nick a small one, but that was it.
Skunked. We spend some time at the pool at the bottom of the waterfall
trying to catch the 10 pound brown that was clearly visible cruising his
pool. Trying to double haul directly into the wind created by the fall was
a reminder that I needed more lessons with Jan Kurahara… Fishing in New
Zealand will definitely expose any defects in your casting ability.
A 10 pound brownie lives in this pool.
When we got back to Pete’s wife’s car we found that the car had
been broken into and cell phones were gone, the stereo was wrecked, and my
boot bag with Jane’s wading boots, my hiking boots, staff, etc was gone.
Apparently this is a common occurrence on the North Island, especially
near Taupo or Raga Rota. Pete had been broken into 5 times in 5 years,
others at the tackle shop had had similar stories. If you fish this area,
do NOT leave ANYTHING in your car. Period.
Independent Fishing—South Island
We drive to the Lake Brunner Lodge and were in time for the nature walk
to a waterfall. The fishing guides at the lodge were booked, which was
probably a good thing as fishing was tough, the guided couples were
averaging .5 fish… We tried the Grey River and the Crooked River on our
own but only saw one fish and no takes. We drove to Lake Moreki, a very
pretty spot on the West Coast and had fun paddleing a canoe and saw a few
fish jumping and one cruising the banks, but no takes.
Guided Fishing—Day 3
We had booked with Dean Bell for two days. When we met up with Dean, he
suggested a helicopter fishing day as the weather was good, but forecast
to get rainy and blustery the next day
After a fairly long drive we hopped aboard a helicopter which took us
into a beautiful valley.
Secret River Number 1, South Island
Large brown trout lurked in the runs and pools. I managed to spook the
first few in a glassy smooth run. Fortunately the water further up was
more riffled, and the fish less nervous. Dean was walking ahead, fish
spotting, while Jane and I tried not to get eaten by the sand flies. Dean
pointed out a nice brown, I managed to cast a dry into his lane, and was
rewarded with a take and a nice 5+ pound fish.
Bill and guide Dean Bell (r)
We carried a 5 wt rod rigged for dry flies, and a 6 wt set up with
indicator and weighted nymph. If the fish didn’t take the dry after a
decent presentation, we tried the nymph. I managed to land six browns out
of eight or nine takes, all big (to me) fish in the 5-6 pound range.
All too soon (but not for Jane who was a tasty morsel for the hard
biting sand flies) the helicopter came to pick us up.
Guided Fishing - Day 4
This was to be more of a fish the water day for rainbows. Dean was able
to work with Jane, who caught a couple of very nice rainbows, while I
flogged the water from the other side of the river. I managed a fair
number of hookups, but lost most fish in the fast moving water. I landed
two nice rainbows, including one that took me a quarter mile downstream
(aerobic fishing) until I could move it into some slower water.
The books we had read before the trip were accurate, this is sight
fishing, the guides have an amazing ability to spot fish. About half the
time I was able to see the fish, the other times it was “cast three feet
to the right of the yellow stone.” It helps to wear muted clothing, and
avoid high visibility fly lines. If two people sight fish, you need to
take turns as all the presentations were upstream to avoid spooking fish.
Many fish were willing to move quite a ways to take a fly. If you are
tired of tying microscopic midge patterns, this is the country for you,
flies used were size 10-14.
New Zealand will also challenge your casting ability. It helps if you
can cast 50 feet into the wind with accuracy. Dean was always saying, “A
bit higher up…”.
If you go with reasonable expectations, enjoy hunting for trout, rather
than just fishing for them, are a decent caster , are reasonably fit, and
have the time to hike into remote, less pressured areas, or can hire
helicopters, and bring lots of bug repellant, this is trout fishing
If you go
Contact David Lambroughton at http://www.fishingdreams.com
for ideas about fishing in New Zealand (he lives there half the year).
Mention you are a member of CVFF.
North Island Guide
PO Box 954, Taupo, New Zealand 2730
Fax 64 7 378 8494
Telephone 64 7 378 8454
South Island Guide
P.O. Box 198 Te Anau Fiordland
telephone/fax: 64 3 2498330
We liked the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand. Also the Friars’
Guide to New Zealand Accomodation.which lists many nice bed and
breakfasts and lodges. Available in NZ in printed form or on the web at http://www.friars.co.nz
The most comprehensive guides we found for fishing were the North
and South Island Trout Fishing Guide(s) by John Kent.
We used Ace Rentals (cheap).
Pete Fordham has a good page on what to bring at his website. Gortex
waders, drab clothing, 5 and 6 wt floating and sink tip lines in stealthy
colors, wading boots are the basics. A day pack to carry extra clothing
against the changeable weather is a good idea. If you want to fish like a
Kiwi, just bring your boots and a pair of long polypro underwear and wet
wade. Bring lots of insect repellant if you plan to fish on the West
Coast, especially the southern part, as the sand flies are a plague. Don’t
leave anything visible in your car when you park, lock it in the boot. On
the North Island, especially around Lake Taupo, don’t leave anything in