New Zealand

New Zealand fly fishing is one of the best chances for trophy trout during our northern winters.

Certainly, Argentina offers a more prolific trout fishery than New Zealand, but there is nowhere on earth where the average size trout runs larger.

Fish of 4-7 pounds are the norm, and double digit trout on dry flies are a real possibility for any angler. Combine this with the rainforest scenery of the West Coast, or the drier agricultural valleys around Nelson, and you will have the trout fishing trip of a lifetime.

There are a number of things to consider before booking a trip of New Zealand fly fishing. Season, choice of lodge or guide, and angler skill levels are the most important considerations.

The staff here at Sweetwater Travel has collectively spent a number of years exploring New Zealand's trout fishing throughout the last ten years. Our knowledge of the region's rivers and guides will help steer you in the right direction at no added cost.

The Area

New Zealand is probably the finest destination in the world for sight fishing to large trout with dry flies and nymphs. Aside from that aspect of a flyfisherman's journey there, one should not forget that even without the trout that its wildly scenic country, friendly people and laid back pace make it a truly world class setting. At Sweetwater Travel Company we consider it to be simply one of the finest places in the world to visit…period. We have spent a number of years exploring New Zealand with friends and family. After hitchhiking and exploring the islands of New Zealand, we have some strong feelings as to where and when to visit.

New Zealand is a small country with a diversity of climates, country and experiences that few would expect from a small island in the South Pacific. Certainly any visitor should plan on spending several weeks in New Zealand. There is far more than the fishing to explore.

Both the North and South Island are worth visiting. The South Island is our personal favorite. The hiking possibilities are endless. Tramps into the Greenstone, Milford Track, and along the coast are a fun add on to any fishing vacation.

There are also few cities in the world as safe, manageable, charming and fun as Christchurch or Queenstown. There are great pubs, restaurants and gardens to explore in each of them. Gore,Te Anau, or about any other small town on either island, are a great bet for an enjoyable post fishing pub visit. Other great add-options include the Malborough Sounds, whale watching in Kaikora, Lake Taupo…the list is truly endless. The key to New Zealand is to take the time to really explore it. Let us know your interests and we will truly customize your journey to include both great fishing and a true Kiwi experience.

The Lodges

Most fly fishermen immediately want to know where to go. To endorse one destination for every angler is certain disaster. This is where our knowledge of the New Zealand fly fishing guides and lodges becomes a factor. We will take stock of your skill levels, interest, and budget, then tailor a trip to suit you. We work with a rigorously selected group of guides and lodges throughout the North and South Islands who will insure that your time fly fishing in New Zealand provides great fishing and wonderful company.

In general terms, New Zealand fly fishing is most easily divided into the North Island fishery and South Island fishery.

It would take a lifetime of fishing to explore the trout fishing resources of both the North and South Island. Clients interested in seeing both islands in one trip will need at least two weeks just to scratch the surface.

The main fishing area in the North Island of New Zealand is around Lake Taupo and Lake Rotorua. These lakes are fed by a number of rivers and streams that are all great New Zealand fly fishing. Trout in the North Island are predominantly rainbows. During the fall and early winter, large rainbows from the lakes run up the rivers to spawn. This can be a great time to sight fish to rainbows into the double digits. There are a number of great lodges in the north island which combine helicopter, raft, and jeep access to rivers that are unpressured and pristine. Our network of New Zealand lodges and guides in the North Island will customize your fishing itinerary to match your interests.

The South Island of New Zealand is big brown trout country; though a number of rivers have good populations of rainbows. No matter the species, the South Island is probably the greatest winter fly fishing destination for trophy trout on the planet. The resources are vast and leave an American angler wondering why our rivers won't support fish in the New Zealand class. The South Island is divided into six main areas. These are: Nelson/Marlborough, Central, West Coast, Otago, and North Canterbury. Taken individually, each of these regions could provide an angler with a lifetime of exploring. The Nelson area for instance has over 75 primary fly fishing rivers. The options are endless.

The Fishing

As most anglers are aware, the trout-fishing season in the Southern Hemisphere runs from October until April. Each month has its own attractions and downfalls, and, of course, the general rules set forth below are subject to the vagaries of weather and water conditions.

The spring (October/November) in New Zealand is a great time to enjoy fish that are a lot more forgiving than later in the season. However this comes at the price of less predictable water conditions (due to run-off) and less dry fly fishing. Most of the spring fishing is done with weighted nymphs to sighted browns and rainbows.

By December, the weather is often drier and warmer. These conditions bring the first hatches of terrestrials that N.Z. trout love. The first three weeks of December are prime time. Manuka beetles, ants, caddis, stone flies and mayflies begin to appear. This means the first real dry fly action of the season to relatively unpressured trout. In late December, New Zealander migrate to the countryside for Christmas holidays, and anglers can expect a few more people on the better known rivers until the middle of January when most Kiwis go back to work. If you are traveling during this time period, be certain to fish rivers with limited access.

Late January and February are the most popular times for the globetrotting angler. Terrestrials and cicadas are out in force. This means fantastic dry fly fishing opportunities. March and April are good months in terms of water conditions and weather. Low, clear rivers and sunny weather mean pleasant fishing though again spooky fish. Dry-fly fishing begins to taper off in early April. Nymph fishing is good and rising rivers in late April often mean hungry trout.

Do keep in mind that if you are concerned about your casting skills, lodge choice is particularly important. Helicopters mean added cost, but forgiving trout. Reasonable expectations will keep even beginners happy. The countryside is beautiful beyond description, and the fishing, while challenging at times, is spectacular. Just witnessing 5-10 pound browns and rainbows in crystal clear water gulping down beetles makes the trip to New Zealand worthwhile. Most clients return to winter and work with the memories of a lifetime.

For more detailed information, please call 888.347.4286 or email

We look forward to fishing with you.

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