New Zealand Flyfishing


Fishing info: The back-country wilderness rivers do not hold huge numbers of fish. Rather, people stalk solitary large trout holding in gin-clear waters. Sight-fishing.

Rarely do they catch heaps of fish. The fishing is challenging and a reasonable level of fitness for walking, one to three miles is sometimes necessary.

Sight-fishing: The difference between fly fishing on rivers in New Zealand and those of the USA has mostly to do with the gin-clear, back-country rivers that NZ is noted for.

Because of the clarity of the water, the name of the game is to spot the fish first. This is in contrast to fishing blind - working a section of river with either a dry-fly, nymph or streamer without seeing the fish.

Blind casting is practiced in New Zealand, there are heaps of rivers on both the North and South Island where you can just wade in and begin fishing. However, on back-country rivers the method used to fish relies heavily on spotting the trout, referred to as "sight-fishing," before making a cast. These back-country rivers, generally speaking, don't hold many fish. Instead, they have large, solitary fish and they are often spaced far apart.

A lot of walking may be required in the course of a day. The rivers have good tracks alongside but a moderate level of fitness is needed to be successful.

Gerson Kavamoto

Fiordland rivers: When I take an angler who's a newcomer, to one of these back-country rivers, their response is usually a gasp of delight at the sheer beauty of it all. These rivers run through valleys of native beech forests and all is framed by rugged mountains.

Back-country riverOne look, and you can't help feeling you've arrived at trout Valhalla. The runs are so pristine, the pools a deep jade colour.

But what most anglers have a hard time grasping is that the river isn't jammed with fish. There are entire sections of back-country rivers that are devoid of fish.

That's why blind casting is pretty much a futile exercise on gin-clear rivers. You could cast yourself silly for hours and never be near a fish.

Technique: Once a fish is located, the angler stealthily takes position downstream of the trout. While the guide monitors the movements of the fish, the angler begins to cast. Stalking trout

With the guide watching where the fly lands, he instructs the angler as to the next cast: more to the left, more to the right, more distance etc. The thing about casting to the big ones is stealth, not distance.

Gin-clear riverIdeally, given the clarity of the water and sunlight, you too will
see the fish; but this doesn't
always occur.

There are situations when you will have to follow the guide's instructions as to where and how far to cast and when to set the hook. We usually start with a dry fly, particularly if the fish is a rainbow - but we will often change to a nymph if the fish doesn't respond. Browns are notorious for ignoring dries.

This kind of fishing - teamwork, is magic when it works. So in a nutshell, when fishing back-country rivers in New Zealand you need to know that:

Spotting fish is vital and blind casting is unproductive. A lot of walking may be required and casting has more to do with line control rather than distance.


The last day of fishing for the back-country rivers of Fiordland was April 30th. I fished the Eglington River on closing day under spectacular sunny skies. Several large rainbows released within 3hrs of fishing. The alpine lakes can be fished year round, located a 1 hr drive from our lodge.
The Upper Waiau River, a 10 min drive from the lodge, is a freestone river with vigorous rainbows that love to smack large dry flies. This is a wide, fast, river that meanders beside Fiordland National Park.

Fiordland rivers are not stocked with hatchery fish, the rainbows and browns are strong, healthy trout.

Flies: Royal Wulff, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, Black Nymphs (with/without bead-head) Wooly Bugger, Caddis, Green Beetles. Sizes 12, 14 and include size16 for nymph patterns.

Kate O'Donoghue

Back-country wilderness rivers: Weather permitting, a trip to the Clinton River never fails to disappoint. Fishing upstream with nymphs gets results.

Every day is a good day on the Clinton where flyfishing often takes a backseat to
the majestic views. Non-anglers welcome to hike along the trail that parallels the river.

No matter where you fish in Fiordland, always you are surrounded by unforgettably beautiful scenery.