Peninsula Fly Fishers
  

New Zealand Flyfishing

a first encounter

by Mike McGuire

February 2010

Stalking a Trout
Stalking a Trout
(click picture for a pointer to the fish)

New Zealand is a fabled place for fly fishing.  Stories and rumors abound of the difficulty and challenge of it.  They are true.  The picture above shows a number of aspects of it.  The waters is gin clear. It's a big fish, the only one in the pool. It's a South Island brown trout. It didn't get big by being stupid. If it sees me before it takes my fly, it's game over. That meant I had to see it first. The only possible approach and cast out of the fish's field of vision is from downstream.

There are some small mercies for the fisherman. The, fly if it takes it, won't be anthing too exotic--size 16 or larger and likely something simple like a Parachute Adams or a Pheasant Tail. Tippet won't have to be too delicate either--4X or 5X at the finest. However it will be at the sharp end of as much as an 18 foot leader. One prays for an upstream wind or at least no downstream wind casting that much leader. This keeps the flyline well away from the fish so that it doesn't notice the impact of it landing on the water. It also helps if the flyline is a subdued color.  This usually allows a number of presentations to the fish, perhaps a change of flies before there is either a take or the fish spooks. One fish spooked when my cast slightly ticked a bush in its field of view.

Notice I am wading wet. Finding fish takes a lot of walking in proportion to the wading. The water is not that cold, and the summer weather is mostly warm enough. Waders are an encumberance.

Braided River
Braided River

Speaking of finding fish, where would they be in a huge braided river like this, typical of many South Island rivers? It floods regularly moving its channels around. This is tough on aquatic insect life which feeds the fish. But the fish are in the river. They are few and often far between, but they are big and worth catching. They are of course where the bugs are. Stable sections near vegetated banks are a good bet. Otherwise the main channel is more likely than evanescent side channels. Some algae on the rocks is a hint. Turning over those rocks and finding bugs suggests a productive location. Beyond that the topography of the pool, riffle or run will suggest where a fish might be spotted. In the end spotting the fish is the key. Blind fishing, fishing the water is a poor second choice. Clear as the water is, spotting fish is not easy.I had the help of a couple of superb guides for some of my fishing. Paul van de Loo and Kevin Payne. They upped my percentage considerably. Often catching a fish is a team effort. A good casting position may not allow a good view of  a fish. The guide looking down from the bank spots and corrects the cast--"a couple of feet longer" or "a little more to the left" or "it took, strike!"

Grip and Grin
Grip and Grin

So with all those difficulties outlined above, did I catch fish?  Oh yes!  I hooked and lost a number of fish too. When first hooked a big brown is going to run, usually downstream, sometimes a long way. Before casting to a fish, one looks downstream to see just what sort of steeplechase it might take to follow it. More than once it seemed that a fish had a well rehearsed escape procedure. It would not only unhook the fly from itself,  it would snag it in a unrecoverable place.

 A lot of little things matter. In the beginning I had difficulties with the very long leaders required. Casting them wasn't the problem, so much as getting set up to cast. A bulky line-leader connection made it hard to get the leader and some line out  of the tiptop. Messing with this from the casting position spooked a good fish or two.  Matters improved when I cleaned that up. To sum up, it was the most interesting and challenging fly fishing that I have done.

Some credits: Don Muelrath of Fly Fishing Adventures put together the trip arrangements for me, connecting me with the guides and some very comfortable pleasing accomadations.


Waimakariri River
Waimakariri River


Opuha River
Opuha River


Cloud Forest
Cloud Forest


Waterfall, Milford Sound
Waterfall, Milford Sound


Wetland, Waiau River
Wetland, Waiau River
Peninsula Fly Fishers 1976-2016
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