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My New Zealand Fishing Trip 2006

New Zealand Summer 2006 fly fishing Adventures  

Where do I start? Well at the moment I have just rocked up (Kiwi slang for arrived) in a small back packer hostel in central Otago, middle of nowhere. Probably not the Mecca for South Island fishing, but it’s on the way to somewhere and its certainly one of the most laid back places that I’ve ever stayed.  And hey, everyone’s allowed some time off. This is their summer but the rain is falling on the metal roof and now it’s dripping through a hole onto my hand. Out front, the Cocky (Farmer) is working the sheep.

new zealand hostel

New Zealand Hostel

Another backpackers hostel, The Asylum! Yes, really. It was once the largest public building in New Zealand. There’s not much of it left and now and its run solely as a backpacker hostel. There are still the old cells and a morgue and the guy that runs it has a collection of 50 un-restored vintage cars. You’re probably asking what this has got to do with the fishing. Nothing! But when the weather’s bad or I need a break I check into one of these places. (Some may say I should have checked into one of these years ago and not been let out.)

So what’s the fishing been like?

The weather this summer (our winter Northern Hemisphere) has been quite mixed compared to previous years. I thought for a change I would look at some of the high country rivers on the East coast of the South Island, places that I’ve not fished before. The real down side is the North West wind that normally comes up about mid-morning in the summer. The tell-tale sign is a ridge of cloud on the divide which means that the west coast is getting a pasting with the warm moist air crossing the Tasman sea and dumping it on the coast. This makes it a very changeable fishing prospect as the rivers are then often in flood.

There are two quite different fishing environments in the South Island. The West coast with its beach forest and its mostly fast boulder strewn, relatively short rivers and the East coast with its big braided or open tussock flats.  Both types are stunning and challenging in their own ways.

There are also the spring creeks which can be found on both coasts, the lower sections which meander through farm land and are quite often willow lined and not forgetting their tail waters below the big hydro dams and the lakes of course.  You name it - its over there, some type of water for everyone.

New Zealand Trout River

Highs and Lows 


First “rocking up” at a high country station, I was lucky that the cocky let me stay in his musterer’s hut - a very nice one at that, with all facilities and not your basic sharers’ quarters and with the river all to myself.



New Zealand trout river



For a change, the next day I headed off down river with the intention of walking a couple of miles downstream and then fishing back.  My usual ploy on braided rivers is to head for bluffs where the river runs against the side of the valley giving you stable bits of water where you find the fish. The first one I came across with a pool at its base was not from one of the braids but an inflowing stream, more exactly a spring creek, about 4 meters wide. Sitting in the tail of the 30 meters long pool was a nice fat looking  rainbow of around 5lbs in probably just 12 inches of water. Now I’ve come across this before. Sometimes on hard fished river you get maybe two trout in a pool.

One sits at the head of the pool merrily feeding away while the other sits in what you would think is the craziest of places, in water that sometimes barely covers the body.

This is a sort of “guard” trout which invariably is not feeding and is nearly always a waste of time. If you try to get yourself into a position to have a crack at the feeding trout you inevitably end up spooking the sentry who bolts up through the pool and it’s all over. Time to walk on to the next pool and you can end up doing a lot of walking!

new zealand trout river
New Zealand trout

This time I had a crack at the trout on guard duty with a big dry fly. Up it came, engulfed the fly and round the pool he went, giving a good account of itself. I lost the next couple and landed the last so that was four fish hooked and two landed all in the first pool and all between 4 and 5lbs.  This was turning into one of those red letter days and I ended up taking another four rainbows from the stream before it started to peter out some 200 meters further on.

So, back to the main river, which was very fast water with very few pools and not easy to sight fish, but a dry and nymph combination worked a treat. Quickly reading the water and blind fishing the likely spots, hooking fit 5lbs rainbow trout in fast water is like hooking into a train and some trout could end up taking you 100 meters or more downstream. That day I ended up with nearly 20 fish. What a day!

new zealand river

A few days later I fished the same river, finishing where I had started a couple of days previously, this time accessing from a public road or to be exact a metal road (gravel). All I had that day was “slab”, the Kiwi name for a badly conditioned fish and lost another, it just shows how the fishing can vary so dramatically over a short distance.

At the end of that day I ran into a local guide with his clients and we passed pleasantries, the usual stuff, how have you done and so forth. He was a friendly chap, he told me about the river and that his clients had caught four trout and asked me how I'd done.  When I told him he looked at my big dry saying “that’s too big, you want to try a size 12 humpy”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I'd taken maybe twenty trout a couple of days before, mostly to the big dry and off the same water.


After driving for an hour up a metal road, I turned up at a high country station looking for permission to access their land to fish. Now the homesteads up in the mountains are always surrounded by pine trees to protect them from the wind, and this particular one seemed to be surrounded by a forest with no obvious way in and tracks leading off in all directions.   I took what looked like the main one but which instead lead to the station’s school house. That’s how remote some of these places are, they have to have their own schools. Doubling back on my tracks, I took another road from where I could see the main homestead through the trees. The only way in was through a garage porch to their rear yard. The only trouble was that I forgot that I had my raft, or to be more exact, American pontoon boat, on a roof rack which didn’t quite make it through the opening , “totalling” his electrically operated garage door.

New Zealand




I thought “this is going to cost me!”  It did, but not in monetary terms.  I spent the next day rebuilding it. So now I can add panel beater and pop riveter to my CV. (That’s Kiwi practicality for you) I ended up staying there and even had a flight over their property in one of their guest light aircraft as a lot of these stations have air strips.

It was an amazing flight; not possible in the UK as the CAA restricts flying lower than 500 feet and we were more like 50 feet from the valley side and then landing in a field. The best way of checking out the lie of the land and the fishing potential.

Big Fish, Doc huts and the one that got away  

Well my mate’s on a mission.  A former guide and as organised and methodical as they come (Swiss). He’s on a mission to catch big fish, or more exactly trophy fish. Me, I’m more laid back. If it happens it happens. We had just driven from a river purported to hold trophy rainbows, which in reality held some of the smallest browns of any river I fished in New Zealand, - the size of trout you could expect to catch in the UK. Fun though! It was peaty water so sighting was pretty much out of the question.

We’d had some small trout on more conventional nymphing methods so I thought that I would put Czech Nymphing to the test as it does work over there in the right type of water. This somewhat surprised my mate as he had never seen the method used. I think it’s just starting to filter in via the New Zealand World Fly Fishing team as its not generally practiced, but find the right type of water and it’ll work a treat.

Plan B consisted of a 3 hour drive that, as the crow flies, should have taken an hour, but let’s say I wouldn’t be doing it again in a hurry, definitely not for the faint hearted, and as for the gradient, I couldn’t get out of second gear in low ratio.   

So we arrived at another river which neither of us had fished before, but we had heard good things about it.

It was supposed to hold big trout. We were going to spend some nights camped out in a Doc (Department of Conservation) hut.

There had been some rain over the previous couple of days which had freshened up the river.  When we got to the hut our hearts sank to see that there was already someone there, probably a fisherman!

Doc hut

More competition and spooked fish! Luckily it was only one guy and he was heading off. So we hit the river the next day reasonably optimistic. We’d heard good things about this bit of water.  The jungle drums had said, “few big fish but spooky”, so the plan was that we would take it in turns to sight each other’s fish. The first few trout were sitting in the strangest bits of water with no obvious advantage to them, near the tails.   They were very spooky and weren’t feeding but as the day and river warmed the trout seemed to respond better.

It’s a good bet to start off the day with nymphs, or nymphs and a dry until the water and air temperature starts to rise. It’s surprising how cold it can get over night at these altitudes, even in high summer.

So we were taking in turns. I sighted a fish which he caught, probably about an hour into the day. A nice trout of about 7lbs (brown). Then it was my turn to take another of about the same size, maybe slightly bigger (I would say that wouldn’t I?)   At this stage they were all on nymphs.  Then we had a few refusals and spooked trout and by now it was lunch time and I had swapped to big dries.

My mate spotted a good trout lying deep in about 8 foot of water, I covered it with the big dry and I mean big, (size 6) and up it came! Now when you spot trout lying deep it’s hard to tell just how big they are, you can normally gauge length reasonably OK, but not depth. When it started coming up through the water it was a like a scene from a WWII movie where the Submarine tilts up and starts to ascend.  It was only then did I realise what a hog it was and, when it sucked in the dry I nearly wet myself. I can’t say it was the most spectacular fight, maybe just 10/12minutes on my Orvis 6 weight Frequent Flyer.

Kim Tribe New Zealand Trout

What a Battle

It’s the memory of the tussle with the next fish that’s going to stick with me forever. If you are wondering how come its my turn to have a go again, well my mate had just landed a 9lber when I got to him.  All credit to Silvi as he had already spotted the next. This trout was lying in medium paced water about 5 foot deep in a pool about 70 meters long. One of those pools where you have a fast confined flow in at the head and a good long push of water all along the far bank until it starts to widen and shallow out at the tail, in other words a perfect conveyor belt of food.  It was also not a particularly difficult pool to fish, so out went the big dry, which had just accounted for the last hog, right over its head….. not a twitch, it didn’t even blink. Was I going to cover it again or change flies? No!

I shout over to Silvi, “Let’s have a go with your rod”. He was using a 9.5 foot  7wt Sage set up with two large dries (the greedy git) and he passed me the rod, out went the flies, up came the trout, no hesitation, and took the point dry after the dropper had gone over her  head. “One, two, three lift” and it’s on. Now it’s all over the place, up and down the pool for maybe 15 minutes by now. I started to think that I was winning the battle as the trout was in the middle of the river towards the tail of the pool.  I turned to Silvi and asked him to get the camera and my peaked cap out of my bum bag which I was wearing  as my sponsors, Orvis, wanted some good photos.  Maybe in hind sight this was a bit premature but I thought I was in charge at that stage. How wrong I was! The trout got a second head of steam from somewhere and with raw power it took off across to the far bank and started running upriver with half its back and tail out of the water for 20 meters or more. By the time I woke up Silvi was shouting at me

“Stop fannying around with bloody hats and put some pressure on it”  

“What do you think I’m doing?”

I could see what that crafty old trout had got in mind. She was heading for some roots near the head of the pool. “Give her more stick!” This I did, just before it got to the snag. I couldn’t give her any more than this as something would have to give - and it did! The tippit of 8.5lbs Umpqua fluorocarbon parted and strangely not at any of the knots, now that takes some doing with a rod arced over the way it was.

“That trout was 2lbs bigger than your last” said Silvi, and then there were a lot of expletives and recriminations. I think that Silvi had to go on the attack because his kit had let me down at the last minute. I had lost the trout of a life-time but I didn’t care because the scrap that had taken place would live with me more vividly than the now biggest ever brown that I had landed just a few minutes earlier. It just goes to show that the old cliché about the one that got away is as true as ever. Well the story doesn’t end there and I know you are not going to believe this, but I do have a witness.(name supplied).  I could see the trout that I had just lost, across on the far side of the river near the surface, tucked in against the bank in between some tree roots. So I found myself wading across the river, up to my chest, and I don’t know what I’m thinking other than I hate leaving hooks in a fish and this one was dragging two around. I can’t believe that I am getting closer and closer, I didn’t know if the fish was feeling safe amongst the roots or was just knackered.  I think the latter was more likely, but I got right up to within an arm’s length, still up to my chest in water, arms outstretched. The trout’s fixed gaze watching my left hand.  I slowly brought my right hand up behind it and grabbed it by the tail, (I wear gloves and hand tail my fish)  It was having none of it and nearly pulled me into the water.  That’s twice I’d lost that trout just wasn’t to be!     

Going to New Zealand?  Why not try my Pre-NZ Briefing Sessions


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