NZ Fishing Trip

Work offered an opportunity to travel to the South Island of NZ and a once of a lifetime opportunity to boondoggle a fishing trip. I always imagined NZ as fly fishing nirvanna. In the end, I got a true NZ fishing experience and I am intrigued.

I tried to explain to my wife that NZ was like the graduate school of fly fishing. A fisherman evolves through the stages of: A) catch any fish, B) catch as many fish as possible, C) catch big fish, and D) catch fish in the particular way you want. NZ fishing was the latter where the game is spotting, stalking, and presenting your fly to the fish. One could potentially take more fish blind fishing the deep waters, but that is not the NZ way.

The trip started with a conference in Christchurch, a hub for backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts. The city has English roots including the Avon river that meanders through the city. I spotted a few browns in the downtown.

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Weather did not cooperate as the high country got slammed with a Northwesterner with heavy rain and strong winds. Our plan B was to head to the Waitaki River, which is fed by a series of hydrodam lakes and wouldn't be chocolate milk. My first realignment was just how windy it can be. My guide talked about the hope of getting windows of time between Northerly and Southerly pushes of weather to have periods of low wind.

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The Waitaki River is a high volume river with many braids. The strategy was to find slow back channels and back eddies of slow water and look for cruising browns. Weather was windy and cloudy making spotting very difficult. Sun would pop behind the clouds and it was like lights out.

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My first shot came early in the trip. My guide made a quick view of some backwater and came back saying yep they're in there. We set up with a dry fly and spent about 1/2 hour trying to figure the cruising pattern. We'd see the fish and lose it many times. The fly was presented and the brown rose to the fly. With a hawking big beak breaking the surface and taking the fly, I panicked like a school girl and I struck too fast and too hard for a 6x tippet. It broke and I watched a 6 lb brown trout disappear.

I had a couple of more shots at spotted fish, but I blew those too. I couldn't get a proper cast upwind without the fly blowing back to the line.

Next day proved better for sighting, but the wind was even stronger. The guide spotted fish in a deep backwater that I could not see it for the life of me. It was described as the slightest of gray smudge. The fly was presented. The fish rose, but last minute the fish didn't like it and porpoised to the side. Luckily another fish was found. A size 14 parachute adams was presented and we watched the gray shadow slowly move and rise to the fly. Fish took the fly and I struck right. The game was on. With 6x tippet, a delicate fight was needed. The fish fought magnificantly with amazing runs and three giant leaps that I would swear rose 6 feet above the water. My Hardy reel screamed into the backing in seconds. Surprisingly, the fish was a rainbow instead of a brown. A nice fish that sparkled in the bright sun.

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I had a few more shots at sighted fish but I ripped them out of their mouths with early strikes.

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I went to NZ with a few misconceptions. First, misconception was the number of fish. NZ is a place of few trout, but those trout are often big. One can potentially walk 10K of river and have a shot at only 6-10 fish. But each could be a fish of a lifetime. The second misconception is images of fishing over placid pools. Wind is very much an element to contend with. Nevertheless, in the end I was intrigued with the challenge of spot fishing. I hope to return. I like this stage D of fishing


Rick Todd

Active Member
Nice report Joe-I had similar experiences in NZ a year ago, with lots of wind most days. I did have between 1 and 5 fish each day, but we had to walk miles and stalk them very stealthily to have a chance. I too find this kind of fishing very rewarding! Isn't NZ a great country! I found the people very charming and the countryside is beautiful! Rick

I couldn't agree more. Beautiful country. Hugh open valleys. Treeless mountain ranges. Unfortunately, I could not see the alp-like mountains behind it all because of the weather. Great down to earth people. However, I will have to admit, I often found it hard time to understand my hosts even though we were all speaking english. I had an interesting conversation with my guide about pre-conceptions about nationalities. Americans are often expected to be loud-mouth know it alls. That has been the farthest from the truth with the Americans he has guided. I, on the other hand, expected New Zealanders to be down to earth and openly gregarious people, and that is what I found. Big outdoors and people who enjoy it.


Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
Very descriptive and informative report. Well done. Congrats on your beautiful fish and great fishing experience.
Thanks for the report. I had a chance, also after a conference in Christchurch a few years ago, to fish the Waikato during the shortest days of the austral winter. I caught one beauty of a searun brown and hooked/lost a couple more in two days of fishing. But the wind, oh my, the WIND!!!

I'd love to go back when the days are long and the weather a bit mellower.

I thought I could cast pretty good.... but my guide kept saying things like.... "one foot longer and 4 inches to the right, Mate".......
I couldn't even see the fish. LOL LOL LOL
Wonderful people, and loved those cookies.

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