Species
Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout
Destination Type
Lodge
Fishing Style
Dry Fly, Sightfishing, Wading
Season
October - April
Fishing Days
4 - 10+
Rate
$$$
Why We Go
  • Helicopter fish each day with New Zealand's top fly-out only lodge
  • Experience amazing food and hospitality
  • Enjoy world-class scenery and amazing rivers
  • Take advantage of virtually private rivers and 30 years of experience
  • Enjoy robust travel companion programs
Overview

New Zealand’s premier helicopter fly-out lodge.

Located along the banks of the Makarora River in the South Island’s stunningly beautiful Makarora Valley, Cedar Lodge is New Zealand’s only pure helicopter fly-out lodge. The valley is surrounded by prime fly fishing territory in Mount Aspiring National Park. Recently purchased by Eleven Experience, Cedar Lodge features four rooms with views of their rugged surroundings and a comfortable lounge and dining area where gourmet meals are served.

Cedar Lodge, New Zealand’s only pure helicopter fly-out lodge, sits along the banks of the Makaroa River in the South Island's stunningly beautiful Makaroa Valley. The valley is surrounded by the spectacular Mount Aspiring World Heritage National Park. Established in 1979, Cedar Lodge is comprised of four rooms, all with views of the rugged surroundings. When anglers fish at Cedar Lodge, they are following in the footsteps of famous anglers the likes of Ernie Schwiebert, Jack Nicklaus, Doug Swisher, Lefty Kreh, Del Brown, Russell Chatham, and other fly fishing luminaries.

Each morning, after a hearty New Zealand breakfast, the lodge’s helicopter and fixed wing aircraft arrive at the paddock to whisk guests away to some of New Zealand's most remote trout streams. Flights into the mountain valleys are an awesome experience where beech forests, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, glimpses of glaciers and tarns, and gin-clear streams abound. Guests at Cedar Lodge experience some of the most impressive rivers and streams in New Zealand including the Dingle Burn, Albert Burn, Hunter, Wilkin, Young Rivers and others.

Cedar Lodge is best suited to active anglers that can hike a few miles per day in the backcountry. It is also a natural fit for parties with outdoor interests beyond fly fishing. For those that like truly remote fishing, a range of outdoor experiences and true creature comforts, few places compare to Cedar Lodge.

Fishing Program

The West Coast of New Zealand is defined by the Southern Alps, a steep mountain range that goes all the way south to the Tasman Sea. Cedar Lodge has a unique helicopter concession that allows them to fish both the eastern and western sides of the Southern Alps. The west coast rivers, such as the Okuru, Cascade, Moracchi, Thomas, Clarke, and the Te Nahi, hold almost entirely brown trout. While west coast rivers may have fewer fish per mile than some of the eastern drainages, they hold a higher percentage of large brown trout. The west coast is classic New Zealand fish hunting; sighting, stalking, and casting large dry flies to large, intelligent brown trout.

Many of the rivers on the eastern drainage of the Alps wind their way through Mount Aspiring National Park. Cedar Lodge is the only helicopter operator that has a fly fishing concession within the park itself, and that gives them access to a lot of untouched water. The Young, Wilkin, Hunter, Dingle burn, Albert burn, and the Makarora River are just a few the drainages that the lodge can access. The east side of the Southern Alps is characterized by more braided glacier rivers that hold large populations of trout. Rainbow trout outnumber brown trout by about two-to-one in most of these streams, with both species growing upwards of 10 pounds.

Cedar Lodge's fly-in helicopter concession affords guests total mobility to remote waters where the lack of pressure permits unencumbered angling and numerous fishing options. While New Zealand trout are not easy to catch and can be quite spooky, long casts are not the norm. Most casts are 50 feet or less. The first cast is always the most important as the odds of catching a sighted, wild New Zealand trout diminish with each additional cast. The expert guides at Cedar Lodge carefully position and coach anglers so that they can make an optimal presentation.

Nowhere else in the world can large, wild, rainbow and brown trout be caught on a dry fly in such a pristine environment. Guests fish for trout that are consistently in the 5-pound range with some trout pushing the 10-pound mark. With so many varying beats of water to explore, there is something for everyone at Cedar Lodge. If a guest’s rock-hopping days are behind them, the South Island’s wide-open river valleys offer easy walks and comfortable fishing. For the fit angler, rugged beats are on the menu as well. Using the lodge’s helicopter, the guides find the best option for fishing success each day. Cedar Lodge is the only heli-fishing exclusive lodge on the South Island, and their pilots and guides collaborate each morning to find the best water for the day.

A typical day begins with early coffee and an ample breakfast. Beginning around 8:45 AM, the lodge's helicopter begins shuttling guests from the helipad located just a few feet away from the lodge to spectacular locations for the morning session of fishing. At the end of the day, the helicopter picks up guests and guides streamside and they are returned safely to the comforts of the lodge. Shortly after arrival, guests are greeted with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and dinner.

Accommodations

Cedar Lodge’s five-acre property lies along the banks of the Makarora River and is within striking distance of the amazing Mount Aspiring National Park. The lodge is easy going and laidback while still providing a world class fishing experience and a high level of hospitality. There are four lodge rooms, and each is well-appointed with a full bathroom, closet, and split king bed. Each room is also equipped with Wi-Fi and a beautiful South Island view.

Guests of Cedar Lodge can expect “Frontier Cuisine” incorporating Kiwi, European, and Asian influences while bringing together farm to table ingredients and flavors. All meals are prepared on site using locally sourced ingredients and vegetables grown in the property’s garden. Cedar Lodge employs some of the finest chefs in New Zealand, and they can accommodate any dietary restriction with advanced notice. Meals here can be best described as fine dinning in a laidback setting.

Breakfasts are hearty and filling while streamside lunches are served amidst the rising, bush clad mountainsides, spectacular waterfalls, and the lush native beech forests of the river valleys. Dinner is typically a three-course meal made of fresh produce and amazing local meats and seafood. All dinners are paired with a selection of award-winning New Zealand wines from some of the region’s finest wineries.

Additional Experiences

Cedar Lodge has lots of activities for travel companions or anglers on a day off from fishing including world-class wine and culinary tours, cycling, and spa and wellness treatments. In addition, there are great helicopter hiking and trekking options around Mount Aspiring National Park.

Rates & Details

2023-24 Rates: Per person based on double occupancy

  • 7 night/6 day package: $11,410
  • 4 night/3 day package: $6,520

Included: Accommodations, guiding, all meals, liquor, access fees, and daily helicopter fly-out (weather permitting).

Not Included: Transportation to and from the lodge, gratuities, items of a personal nature, including fishing tackle and any other items not specifically listed in the inclusions.

Species: Rainbow trout, brown trout

Season: December to March

Lodge Capacity: 8 anglers

Fly Water Q&A

Who is best suited to this destination? Fishing in New Zealand necessitates covering water. It is not uncommon for anglers to cover three to five kilometers per day and sometimes more. In New Zealand, some level of mobility is a necessity to have success. Also, the clarity of the water here provides for world class sight fishing opportunities. This means the fish are often very aware of their surroundings and very able to detect a bad presentation. Having some prior fishing experience and being in decent physical shape is advised.

Where is the lodge? The lodge is located about one hour by car north of Wanaka, New Zealand.

The address of Cedar Lodge is:
74 School Road
Makarora, Otago 9382
New Zealand

How do I get there? To get to Cedar Lodge guests will need to fly to Auckland (AKL) and then to Queenstown (ZQN). Once in Queenstown guests will need to either rent a car and drive two hours to the lodge or take a shuttle for a fee. The rate for the shuttle is NZ$ 330 each way. Most international flights to Auckland arrive early in the morning and the connecting flight arrives in Queenstown in the early afternoon. The lodge asks that guests contact them when they arrive in Queenstown to schedule their arrival and all guests should plan to be at the lodge after 4:00PM.

When should I go? The lodge is open November through April with December through March typically being the best fishing months.

  • December can have many hungry fish emerging out of the lakes for the start of the summer season.
  • January typically features the Cicada hatch, an event which causes big fish to become very active on the surface.
  • February is typically the best weather and hottest month, with many beautiful sunny days.
  • In February and March, the fish can be larger after a full summer season and will be aggressively feeding on the last active bugs before the fall season begins.

How will I fish? All fishing at Cedar Lodge is walk and wade. Guests will access a different river by helicopter each day, but fishing will be done by wading. The fishing itself is predominately done with nymphs and dry flies. Sometimes streamers can be effective as well.

Is there wade fishing? All fishing at Cedar Lodge is wade fishing.

Where will I fish? The West Coast of New Zealand is defined by the Southern Alps, a steep mountain range that goes all the way south to the Tasman sea. The lodge has a unique helicopter concession that allows them to fish both the eastern and western sides of the Southern Alps.

The west coast rivers, The Okuru, Cascade, Moracchi, Thomas, Clarke, and the Te Nahi, hold almost entirely brown trout. While west coast rivers may have fewer fish per mile than some of the eastern drainages, they hold a higher percentage of large brown trout. The west coast is classic New Zealand fish hunting; sighting, stalking, and casting large dry flies to large, intelligent brown trout.

Many of the rivers on the eastern drainage of the Alps wind their way through Mount Aspiring National Park. Cedar Lodge is the only helicopter operator that has a fly fishing concession within the park itself, and that gives them access to a lot of untouched water. The Young, Wilkin, Hunter, Dingle burn, Albert burn, and the Makarora are just a few some of the drainages that they have access to. The east side of the Southern Alps is characterized by more braided glacier rivers that hold large populations of trout. Rainbow trout outnumber brown trout by about two to one in most of these streams, with both species growing upwards of 9- to 10-pounds.

How long does it take to reach the fishing grounds? Some rivers, like the Wilkin, are close to the lodge and take only a five-minute helicopter flight to access. Most rivers are a half-hour to one-hour flight away.

What type(s) of fish will I catch? The fishery is primarily a rainbow and brown trout fishery.

How many fish will I catch? This varies greatly depending on many factors. Which river guests are fishing, what the river and weather conditions are like, the time of year, and the ability of the angler to cast and cover ground. Guests should expect to catch a few quality fish per day 16-inches and larger. Double digit fish days are possible, but New Zealand is a quality over quantity fishery.

Will I see other anglers? It is very rare to see other people out on the water. The helicopter access, along with the number of different streams the lodge has access to insures a private fishing experience. It is very rare to have encounters with other anglers.

What are the guides like? All the guides are local New Zealanders who know the rivers around the lodge extremely well. The head guide, Paul, has been with Cedar Lodge for over 15 seasons and knows the rivers of the South Island extremely well.

What are the physical demands? Guests need to be able to hike a minimum of two to five miles per day while fishing at Cedar Lodge.

Are there any special skills required? Guests that can make a good presentation with their fly on the first cast and control the line through the drift will often have more success at Cedar Lodge.

Does the lodge provide equipment? The lodge is fully stocked with all sizes of wading boots, wading socks, hip waders, chest waders, rods, reels, extra clothing, and all tippet and flies.

What is your favorite setup for the trip? A fast-action 5- to 6-weight rod with a dedicated floating trout line and a 15-foot leader.

  • Rod: Sage X 690-4
  • Reel: Sage SPECTRUM LT 5/6
  • Line 1: RIO Gold
  • Leader: RIO Powerflex 15-foot

What are the top flies? Flies are generally straightforward, depending on the time of year. Large attractor patterns are effective. Size 12-14 parachutes work well, along with beetles and stimulators. During the cicada hatch, which usually occurs in January, fish tend to key on larger cicada patterns. Small hairs ear nymphs work well on dry dropper setups. Streamer patterns can also be effective.

What are the options if water conditions become challenging? Typically speaking, if weather conditions allow for helicopter transport, the lodge can reach water that will remain fishable despite inclement weather. If the helicopter cannot fly, there are drive out fishing options available.

Additionally, the nearby town of Wanaka is home to museums, world famous vineyards, and many other non-angling activities that are included in guests stay.

What is a typical day like? Every morning coffee is ready at 6AM, and breakfast is served at 8AM. The lodge manager will come in during breakfast to detail the day’s plan.

What is the general vibe, atmosphere, and style of the lodge? Cedar Lodge is very easy going and laidback while still providing a world class fishing experience and a high level of hospitality.

Is there an on-site owner, manager, or other point-person at the lodge? Yes. There is always an on-site manger on the premises.

Where do we eat, and what are the meals like? Meals are prepared onsite, and they can best be described at fine dining in a laidback setting. Dinner is typically a 3-course meal, proceeded by an Après after guests return from fishing. All ingredients are sourced locally, and all vegetables come from the garden on the property.

What is the alcohol policy? House beer, wine, and hard alcohol are included in the package. If guests have something specific that they would like they are encouraged to bring it themselves.

Where do we stay, and what are the accommodations like? Cedar Lodge is a four-room lodge. Each well-appointed room is complete with a full bathroom, closet, and split king bed.

Is there internet and/or cell service? Satellite internet provides plenty of bandwidth for Wi-Fi calling and emailing. The area around the lodge does not have any cell reception, but the lodge itself has a land line that guests are welcome to utilize.

Are there other activities? Yes. Cedar Lodge has lots of activities for travel companions or anglers on a day off from fishing including world-class wine and culinary tours, cycling, and spa and wellness treatments. In addition, there are great helicopter hiking and trekking options around Mount Aspiring National Park.

Are there any other expenses? Guests will need pay a tourism levy and buy a NZeTA (see below) in addition to a New Zealand fishing license. Guests will also need to either rent a car or pay for a shuttle to get to the lodge. Once guests arrive at the lodge everything is included.

Do I need a visa? Most visiting guests to New Zealand do not need to acquire a visa but will need to buy a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) and pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). A NZeTA can be acquired for NZ$ 9.00 if you use their ap or NZ$ 12.00 if you do it online. The IVL is purchased at the same time and costs NZ$ 35.00.

Are there any health concerns, dangers, or annoyances? Not really. Guests will be fishing and hiking in remote backcountry areas and an evacuation can take several hours. Guests have the responsibility to disclose any health or dietary concerns to the lodge. Guests should consult the U.S. Department of State and Center for Disease Control websites for information before traveling to New Zealand.

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