DIY fly fishing in New Zealand-trip of a lifetime

So you want to go to New Zealand and catch the biggest brown of your life on a small dry in crystal clear water. That’s what brought me to New Zealand and so many other anglers. It’s a trip of a lifetime for most anglers and is defiantly the worlds best brown trout fishery. There are more streams and river than one angler could explore in a lifetime and most are full of golden butter browns, or fat rainbows.

With so many streams and rivers, it can seem very overwhelming when planning your trip. North Island or South Island? what weight rod? what kinda flies? what rivers should I fish? how do I get around? how do I find the fish? With so many questions DIY fly-fishing in New Zealand can be very overwhelming but with some thought out preparation, you can set up a trip will be way more successful and productive.

Research, Research, Research

The first step to any proper DIY trip is research. Pull out that computer and spend the time to figure out what areas you’re going to be in. Where your flying into, your transportation, the rivers that are in your area, how long you’re going to be here and the number of days you will be fishing. New Zealand is not a very big island on the map but once you get here you’ll see how big it really is, so making a plan for the areas you’re going to be in are very important.

These are all crucial parts of your trip, you don’t wanna show up and find out that the rivers you were looking at fishing are hours apart. The south island is split up into five main regions. North Canterbury, South Canterbury, Nelson/Merlbouge, West Coast, and the South Lands, if you’re here for less than a month your best bet is to pick one region and determine the rivers that you wanna fish. If you’re planning on traveling around the islands pick your rivers and set a type of route to your travel. Being flexible is also important because the weather plays a huge part in fishing in New Zealand.

Researching time of year is also very important if your going to come in the early season make sure you put together a good selection of nymphs, with high flows and colder water most fish are caught on subsurface flies at this time of year. If you’re coming in the middle of the summer, and fall dry fly-fishing is very productive.

One book that I found to be a must-have while in New Zealand was John Kents South Island Trout Fishing Guide. This book helps with finding access to over 400 rivers and streams, this book is a must-have if you’re planning a DIY trip. Make sure you get a copy before you get down there, because finding one on the island is much more difficult then you would think. If you’re planning a trip to the north island I would recommend picking up a copy of John Kents North Island Trout Fishing Guide. These books will make your trip so don’t go without it.

Understanding New Zealand Techniques

Fly fishing in New Zealand is different than fly-fishing in most parts of the world, the water is generally clear and success is based on stalking and accurate casting, rather than blind fishing to what looks like productive water. So making sure your in tune with spotting fish is crucial.

Another major difference is the length of the leaders, knowing how to cast a leader that’s as long as 20 feet can be a difference in landing fish or not. So make sure you practice at home before you head over, or your first couple days will defiantly be a challenge. Having the right fly line was very important as well so make sure your setup is going to work for you.

One more difference in NZ is the beat system and not fishing on the same water as other anglers. If someone is already on the beat you should find another section or a different river. With limited fish, if you follow behind someone your chances of finding fresh fish are limited.

Fishing the same beat over and over is also not something that is recommended, so make sure you’re trying new sections and exploring different zones. This is also probably one of the best parts of New Zealand with so many rivers you can literally fish a new section every day your in NZ.

Hiring a guide

Depending on how long you are going to be in the country hiring a guide for at least one day can be the difference in your success. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and will help with the learning curve on the rest of your trip.

They will also be able to help you find other potential rivers that would be a good place to start. If you have the money, hiring a guide in each region that you’ll be fishing will go along way.

If you are broke like me and don’t have the money to hire a guide, getting in touch with a guide and asking as many questions as possible is another good option.

I was there for almost two months and that gave me the time to figure things out on my own. If I was there for less than two weeks though I would have defiantly hired a guide to get myself started on the right foot.

Staying connected

Managing your expectations on your trip is very important, fly-fishing in New Zealand is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Some days you’ll hike for miles and miles and only get shots at one or two fish. This is also my favorite part of the experience the challenge of finding that one special fish.

Staying in town was another way to keep your energy up and was a crucial part of my trip to NZ. staying on the river was nice and all but with the constant need to keep up with the weather and researching rivers and access points it was nice to have internet access and to be able to charge my phone.

Being out in the middle of nowhere was awesome and is probably the whole reason I came down to NZ but I found being connected helped a lot with research and keeping me in the right region based on weather.

Chasing the sun is very important on your DIY trip in New Zealand because rain is one of the major factors for success the water levels can rise at an extreme rate. Also, having the sun can help with spotting fish so trying to stay ahead of the weather is very important.

The Pay Off

After all the challenges with weather, the research, the money, the miles and miles of long walks on the water, when it all comes together and you finally find that perfect trout, the one of your dreams swaying back and forth eating over and over and you get to make that cast and it lands good and he comes straight up for it and slowly sips down your dry.

That one magical moment that we all dream of comes true and all your time and money pays off. and you get the chance to fight a wild brown on a remote river in the most beautiful country in the world.

For me personally, I couldn’t have done it any other way. The reward of landing these fish on your own and working to get what you want on your own is like no other feeling in the world.

DIY fly-fishing in New Zealand can be very frustrating and can also be the most enjoyable thing in the world. The hunt for the trophy brown is something that drives people back every year and certainly will bring me back to this beautiful country.

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.

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