Forrest Gump’s mother once said: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”, a saying that in a way, sums up the fishing experiences for Stefan and I, not least when in the backcountry of New Zealand.
Our previous visits to these infamously cloudy lands, mostly offered us persistent rains, harsh winds and chilling temperatures. The exact opposite of what we always hope for in the pursuit of successful sight fishing. Especially here. Where we have the most exceptional quality of sight fishing for Trout, than perhaps anywhere else in the world.
New Zealand dry flies
We should mention at this point that endlessly casting streamers is something that doesn’t appeal to us at all. So while it may seem strange to travel all the way to the other side of the globe to fish a limited amount of time and not even fish at all if conditions are not perfect, or strive even harder to catch the fish with a method that we want to catch with, this is our personal preference. We know that it is not a very sensible approach if you want to catch both numerous and large fish. This however is not important for us. We now want to catch these fish in the most spectacular way, where we both see it rise and slurp down a dry fly.
For those of you yet to go to New Zealand we must also warn you. It’s a mind-sickening addiction. If you’ve been there once, you can never stop thinking about the possibility of going back there again. Through the period of November to March, anxiety will set in every year if you can’t go. You just know from personal experience. No matter how successful and from the delighted faces in social media picture posts that appear daily, that the fishing is just fantastic and out of this world!
However, this is not our only warning. Think about it. What does a classic fish picture from New Zealand look like? Most would visualise a stunningly bright sunny day. Extremely beautiful surroundings and a lucky individual posing with a giant fish. This however is a slim reality we can attest to. If you are unlucky, just as we always seem to be, you are caught in a period of unstable weather. This leads to precipitation and wind. However, if you are lucky with the weather, congratulations and make the most of it by fishing as much as you can!
God save the queen
Besides the weather, which can either make or break an entire trip, there are other important factors that may affect your fishing in general, both positively and negatively. One of the most important factors is to find a river that has had a chance to rest a few days from fishing. Once there if you have spotted a trout in the water, you should fish on it quickly. They are smart, have seen many fisherman and in pristine clear waters can almost certainly see you coming if you make them to aware of your presence.
The longer you wait, the more likely it is that they will discover that you are there and therefore become harder to catch. The first cast is incredibly important. Work carefully on mastering a great first cast in all the different types of situations you may encounter. If the trout rises and takes your dry fly, remain calm and controlled and try not to hook the fish to early. Make it a habit to always say, “God save the Queen” when the trout takes the fly and you will almost always have the fish well hooked.
On the spot
This time our trip started off in the worst way possible. First, there was a drought and then as if by magic an onslaught of rain ensued. It took an entire week before we finally found a clear river in which to fish. Felling a little stressed, with friends back home sending us messages asking how many huge Trout we had caught so far. It was beginning to feel a little bit embarrassing. Telling them that so far we had none. Nevertheless, once in that particular small and beautifully clear stream, a tributary to a larger river system, which was running high and dirty, we finally had a game changer.
It was barely visible. But we could clearly a fish that was actively feeding beneath a fast current in a long run. I was lucky enough to be the one who turn it was to cast. While Stefan watched over the fish with great anticipation. No question about it. This was the moment I had been waiting for. And I knew exactly what to do. I hastily tied a small Parachute Adams fly to my leader. I cast out just a few meters above the fish in the fast current.
There was no hesitation, the trout spotted the fly and instantly rose fast and determined from its feeding position. As the fish dove down with the fly, I uttered the Trout’s most fatal words. On setting the hook, the surface exploded. Fish on! That was a game changer for sure. This finally got our blood pumping again for some new adventures.
New Zealand is fantastic, but remember only sometimes and with realistic expectations. The few fleeting moments when everything is perfect are the moments we truly live for. Remarkable surroundings. An un-fished river, with active and lively trout under the gleaming sun. Try not be fooled by the pictures of our trip here. This is the result of a long pursuit for perfection. This time thankfully paid off. There has been a lot of hard work, perseverance and sometimes tears behind each fish and snapshot you can see of our time there. It is what New Zealand is all about… you just never know what you’re going to get.
5 top tips for fishing New Zealand
The list of things to pack when hiking is highly personal, but here are some items that are a must have.
1. Waders are a yes or no question.
I personally did not bring waders to ease the trekking considerably. Without waders I found it easy to dry clothes on the go. With a pair of wading boots with rubber soles (felt soles are prohibited) that are comfortable to travel a considerable distance in was more than enough for our expedition. To get to the backcountry we would recommend a high quality comfortable hiking boots. Cool garments that protect against the sun, a warm jacket, Gortex jacket, hat and headlamp. The ozone layer is thin in New Zealand. So it is particularly important to have full coverage of clothing most of the time and sunscreen with a high SPF.
2. Be prepared for all weather conditions;
Always check weather forecasts before the planned mission into the lonely valleys. www.metvuw.com is extensively used in New Zealand by all farmers and fishermen. Also if it’s not the wind that gets you there are plenty of sand flies to contend with. So always come prepared with repellents.
3. Where are you fishing?
As you can see, we have not revealed even a single stretch of water. Believe us when we say it is much more fun if you travel around and find your own favourites. First and foremost, rules, access, and fishing license information is available on www.fishandgame.org.nz and www.nzfishing.com. Then from www.doc.govt.nz website you will be able to find all the maps you may need to find your new favourite water. Another vital resource we can recommend is: fly Bible – John Kent – Classic guidebook. It is a must have out there.
4. Hire a fishing guide
It is typically Swedish to think that you are best fishing and working out the waters by yourself. But the first time we went to New Zealand we hired a guide for a day and it saved our whole trip. For those of you who are travelling to New Zealand for a limited time and may not have good experience of sight fishing then a guide can be invaluable. For those of you who think you already know what you need to know and you can handle the changeable situations thrown at you daily then absolutely, the best of luck to you, but we guarantee it will take a little longer to truly get into the swing of things.
5. Check out Instagram for some inspiration: