New Zealand

Trout Hunting New Zealand

Brian Gies December 14, 2023

For a number of reasons, I consider the New Zealand angling experience the most distilled and rewarding trout fishing in the world.

Over the years I have primarily seen it described as challenging and technical…a game for advanced anglers, but I see it differently. My take is that this is a fishery where short accurate casts matter most, as does a desire to truly hunt fish. New Zealand is rarely a numbers game, but rather a place where walking, stalking, teamwork and exciting visuals come together to produce what I feel is the most exciting trout fishing imaginable.

Even though New Zealand has a relatively small land mass it has a seemingly infinite number of rivers. Depending on the source and what is defined as a “river,” New Zealand has well over 10,000 that run 100,000 to 200,000 river miles. Given the sheer number of systems it is hard to generalize about the character of these waterways but from an angler’s viewpoint a vast number of them would be classified as smallish freestones that are short in length, gin clear and are easily covered by a moderate cast. They run through every imaginable landscape from rough and tumble mountains to open highlands, to pastoral valleys, to braided coastal plains. A good number of these rivers run along lightly traveled country roads and even more of them lie hidden in the mountains, behind ranchers’ properties, or down long grown-over logging roads.

Typically, days play out like this: Anglers and their Kiwi guide (most often a hearty affable fellow dressed like a bow hunter) don their backpacks that are loaded with the day’s supplies, hoist a 5- or 6-weight rod and walk upstream attempting to spot the country’s abnormally large rainbow and brown trout. Once the quarry is spotted, a plan is hatched as to how the angler will set up for the cast and the guide will describe where the fish is lying and where he wants the cast to land. Once the angler is in position the guide will give the signal and the angler will attempt to do as instructed. Typically this will entail casting the fly 30- to 50-feet and landing it somewhere in a three foot diameter. Despite the long leader, it is a reasonable enough request.

The problem is not so much the actual task as it is the fact that the angler has just gotten a glimpse at one of the largest trout in his or her life and is having trouble walking let alone delivering the fly to the appointed target. Ultimately the most challenging element boils down to keeping a grip on your emotions so your body can perform the relatively easy task at hand. For me the act of hiking these streams, spotting fish and watching a trout move to the fly is one of the most visually and emotionally enriching angling experiences in the sport.

I have had the opportunity to participate in this hundreds of times and have yet to tire of it. On my last trip I was able to cast to a particularly large fish from a bird’s-eye position that allowed me a better than normal view of the scene: My fly landed four feet upstream of the fish and immediately drifted downstream. When the fly was six inches from the target, the fish slowly moved up to sip it in and then, just when its nose was creating a bulge and slight dimple in the water, the fish slid back down to the bottom of the river. As I released the breath I had apparently been holding for some time, my fly continued to drift and I started to relax. Then quite suddenly the fish turned again and swam directly at me with its substantial mouth agape, fully out of the water. In a moment the fly was engulfed and I was so out of breath and charged with emotion that I let out a terrified scream, stumbled into the river and was barely able to keep control of the fish, which was now firmly attached to the end of my line. For me, these types of visuals are what both define and exalt the New Zealand angling experience.

Experience New Zealand

Experience the magic of sight fishing for large wild trout.