No place on the planet more richly rewards a trout angler when he does everything perfectly–and more harshly penalizes him when he does not–than New Zealand. It is, by far, my favorite place to fish.
I wrapped up the last three days fishing out of Stonefly Lodge, with a sampling of everything from big water, to a small spring creek flowing through an apple and Kiwi fruit orchard, to choppering deep into the Kahurangi National Park to fish a river that would take two days to reach by foot. Needless to say, we saw plenty of fish, and even tricked a bunch. The “Top of the South” region is epic.
So, since you asked, let’s talk a little about flies and gear.
Flies: It’s hard to peg a hot fly, or even several key patterns, since we switched it up so much, and everything seemed to vary by river. The system would go like this: Show them a dry fly (#14 Adams, or a Cicada). If they refuse that, size down to a little CDC mayfly #18. Refuse that, try a nymph, usually a beadhead Pheasant Tail. If they refuse that, try a tan San Juan worm If they refuse that… find another fish.
Most of the eats happened on the bead head nymph. Interestingly, bright beads were a no-no. Everyone fished either tarnished copper, or black beads. This is the bug that caught my 10-pounder, which turns out, was the biggest fish of the trip, caught the first morning of the first day.
Rods: I fished 95 percent of the time with a 5-weight. Most often a Scott Radian or a Sage One. I did fish the Cabela’s Glass 5/6, but when it came to turning over long leaders, the fast-action graphite was a must. I never felt the need to go to a 6-weight, even when fighting such big fish. In fact, I think the sensitivity of the slightly lighter rod was a plus. What’s going to break, if anything, is the tippet, and you want to feel every head shake to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Reels: Hatch Outdoors 3-Plus. Cabela’s WLx
Fly lines: RIO Perception 5-weight, and Cabela’s Prestige WF5F, all muted, dull colors.
Boots: Probably one of the most important considerations of the trip. I brought some Patagonia Foot Tractor wading boots with the aluminum bar technology. (You aren’t allowed to wear felt in New Zealand.) The first thing the guides made me do was unscrew the aluminum bars off my boots because they feared they’d spook fish. Also, they warned me that we’d hike a lot, and we did (sometimes 5 miles or more a day). That said, these boots are hands-down the most comfortable and rugged boots I’ve fished in. I’ll be taking them home, reattaching the aluminum for my slippery home rivers, and fishing them as my go-to treads.
I didn’t fish in waders except one day.
Sunglasses: Smith Techlite Glass Low Light Ignitor lenses. I wore this near yellow almost every day, unless it was super bright out (when I switched to Costa 580 glass in copper). These lenses offered the right contrast to pick up the colors of brown trout.
I’m sure I’ll be pulling bits and pieces from this trip for different stories and blog posts for quite a while, so this isn’t the end of the discussion. And if you have questions, please just let me know.
I would say, if you have any inkling at all to visit New Zealand someday, do it. I’d come back, even if there were no fishing at all. It’s that beautiful a place, and the people here are that nice. If you want to look into it, you should start with some expert advice. There are a lot of different wrinkles, and dialing in on the right trip, and the exact type of fishing you seek, is a complex deal that demands some been there-done that perspective. See www.bestofnzflyfishing.com for starters.
I’ll talk to you all again, Stateside.