Conejo Valley Fly Fishers

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It was 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.

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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 fool it.

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.

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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.

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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

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After a fairly long drive we hopped aboard a helicopter which took us into a beautiful valley.

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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.

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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 heaven.

If you go

Contact David Lambroughton at  for ideas about fishing in New Zealand (he lives there half the year). Mention you are a member of CVFF.

North Island Guide

Peter Fordham
PO Box 954, Taupo, New Zealand 2730
Fax 64 7 378 8494
Telephone 64 7 378 8454

South Island Guide

Dean Bell

P.O. Box 198 Te Anau Fiordland
New Zealand
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 

The most comprehensive guides we found for fishing were the North and South Island Trout Fishing Guide(s) by John Kent.

Car Rental

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 the car…



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