Fishing in New Zealand

Fishing in New Zealand

New Zealand has a great reputation for recreational fly fishing. We have world-famous inland river, lake fisheries, and coastal saltwater fishing. All types of fishing are practiced here but it’s fly fishing in New Zealand that gets people popping down to paradise.

Here is a brief summary of our better fishing spots.

Nelson Marlborough: I’ve had some wonderful sea fishing adventures including jigging for blue cod and around the Outer Sounds and D’urville Island, floundering and snapper fishing in the inner sounds, and scallop dredging in Golden Bay. I’m keen to try with a fly in the boiling Buller River and experiencing the variety of conditions offered in the Clarence and Motueka Rivers. Beautiful rivers flow through pristine native bush, and some lakes have bush right down to the water’s edge.

West Coast: There are lots of rivers running from the Southern Alps to the Tasman Sea that are the playground to sea-run trout and salmon. The rivers are mostly accessible by vehicle and are lightly fished. While the scenery is excellent, the rivers can be moody due to the high rainfall so it’s best to prepare for all eventualities.

Southland and Fiordland: Fiordland is one of the grandest, most rugged spots in New Zealand. There will be blue cod fishing in the deep, cold sea waters for sure, but the trout waters (Eglinton, Cleddau and Hollyford Rivers) are bountiful and the fish are comparably untroubled by anglers. A good opportunity to try drift and spin fishing and harling, as well as fly.

Southland’s deep, glacial lakes: Wanaka, Wakatipu, Te Anau, and Manapouri, offer challenging salmon and trout fishing. It also has smaller, less accessible lakes like Mavora. Mataura River and its tributaries offer over 150km of easily accessed waters with brown trout and the occasional salmon. It’s a top dry fly river system.

Otago: Mataura, Clutha, and Taieri are rivers of my youth and I’m keen to get back for some more.  Brown trout, rainbow trout, sea trout, chinook salmon and perch are at home here.  These rivers offer a wide diversity of terrain and waters that make it suitable for all methods and skill levels.

Central South Island: I’ve fished the hydroelectric lakes, Ohau, Pukaki, Benmore and the remote Colleridge by trolling, but with more time on my hands, I’m keen to work the waters by the fly. I’ve spotted big trout in the clear snow-fed water of the Ahuriri River, and there is brown and rainbow trout, and chinook salmon in the mighty Hakataramea River. Some very big rivers (Rangitata is meandering, Waitaki is braided) flow into the Pacific Ocean and have good populations of Quinnat salmon, brown and rainbow trout.  Smaller rivers like the Ashburton, Opihi and Waihao River offer blind fishing for sea-run brown trout in the lower reaches and sight fishing in the upper reaches.

North Canterbury: The larger braided and meandering rivers, and the smaller rivers and streams all offer excellent fly fishing. Rakaia and Waimakariri are known as excellent salmon rivers, and Hurunui and Ohau offer a variety of conditions with wily browns at the headwaters, and sea-run trout and feisty salmon in the lower reaches.

North Island


Bay of Islands: Great opportunities for saltwater fly-fishing in Bay of Islands. It’ll be an excellent reason to invest in some heavier gear – a 12 weight rod and all-aluminium reel, should do the job. The Bay of Islands also has marlin, kingfish, kahawai, and terakihi, so I am banking on a month or two in my retirement plan. Maybe I’ll hire a launch and head for the river mouths, reefs and bays, and target shoals in deeper waters. I hear there are some excellent charters available…

Taupo Region: Tongariro River is the place to get to grips with raft fly fishing and experience some untouched pristine water, and it’s a spawning river for Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is a large, cold lake is home to a huge population of both brown and rainbow trout and if I am to get a trophy fish I suspect it will be here. Heli-fishing makes the less accessible reaches available.  I’d like to fish the great Wanganui, River, and the Mohaka, Rangitkei and Ripia Rivers.  All are rainbow and brown trout territory.

Taranaki Region: Central west coast of North Island appeals for its volcanic landscapes and sub-tropical rainforest but also its unpressured fishery. Mount Taranaki is the source of over forty small to medium sized rivers and streams with stocks of rainbow and brown trout.

North Eastern Region: I hear Te Urewera National Park and Lake Waikaremoana have spectacular wilderness fishing. After that, there are the 13 fishable lakes in around Rotorua with a wider range of species like tiger trout and brook char as well as brown and rainbow trout. There is a lot of shoreline in the Bay of Plenty for some more sea fly-fishing.

Hawkes Bay: I’ve heard the exposed coast of Hawkes Bay and the lightly-fished beaches around Porongahau are a great diversion for a bit of surfcasting for lemonfish, kahawai, kingfish, red cod, trevally and moki, and flounder around the river mouth. There are rainbows and sea-run trout in Tukituki, Tutaekuri and Ngaruroro Rivers, and brown trout are established in Lake Tutira, north of Napier, where they grow to over 4.5kg. Bliss!

Wellington Area: Rangitikei River has a reputation as a trophy fishery and a backcountry licence is needed for the backwaters. Apparently, the fish get very big and very cunning. That and the crystal clear water appeals to me. Rainbow trout predominate in the large and small waters around Wellington City.

Fly Fishing NZ

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