No doubt you have been looking at some magical photography and film making on the Internet while planning a trip to our wonderland. It's all true and it's all right here. Of coarse not every region has it all so it pays to do a little research and ask your guide a few questions before you get here. Mostly we can plan to deliver exactly the experience you want. The weather can be a real bitch at times tho so not every trip goes to plan. I think back to a trip I had been planning for two awesome English gentlemen last season where we had options A,B and C. They were here for two weeks and on the day they arrived a weather bomb appeared in the forecast. The guys had booked with me and another guide to fill in their trip and I was meeting them for the last three days for a backcountry trip before they went home. That weather bomb turned into a tropical cyclone that decimated parts of the South Island. None of the plans we had made were options but we did manage to find three days of clean fishable water with my knowledge of the areas I guide and by following the rainfall data on the internet. We are pretty lucky to have these aids now days and they certainly help a lot when things go pear shaped. Now back to the "Location" bit! Here in Canterbury we do have all basis covered. Freestone rivers are all along the east coast and they all hold good numbers of brown trout. We have easy access to the high country rivers and spring creeks that boast the most challenging trout one can find and then within 2.5 hours we can be fishing on the west coast in gin clear spring creeks and mountain streams. So as you can probably tell by now, when you book some guided fishing with me I have a huge number of locations to choose from as a first option and a very large area to fall back on if we need to travel to a better location. This is why multi day trips work better. Less time on the road means more time on the water. Camp outs are the best because we can just load the car with supplies and go where ever the sunshine takes us. So do some research, let me know what appeals to your style and lets go fishing. Nothing is a problem.
With an increase in the number of anglers visiting each year and the huge amount of images and videos on social media, I feel like I should write a few words about what Id like to see more of done.
We really are up against it fighting to protect our no longer so "clean and green" Image. Its fair to say that this country is quite far behind the leaders of the world in terms of how we respect our natural resources. When I was a boy its was safe to swim pretty much any where and you could drink the water from any stream without getting sick.
Now less than 30 years later the situation is far from ideal. The huge growth of the NZ dairy industry has seen agriculture expand to unspeakable levels. Pure water is sucked out of the ground in order to water pastures and feed cows. All of this is so a few people can get very wealthy by supplying China with milk powder for their ever growing population. We as the residents of this country are paying a huge price for this. Our low land fisheries are seeing the effects from water pollution and many a small stream has dried up completely or turned so toxic that fish won't survive in the water any more. I could go on and on about this but really I just wanted to make a point of saying what we do have left is very important and worth every effort to look after.
Once you drive a wee way out of town and into the hills you will see less and less evidence of farming pollution and as you reach the head waters you should see next to none. Its only when we go to places protected as conservation areas or that are too wild to farm that we see the kinds of places you see in all the videos and photos. Even in the headwaters of the eastern braided rivers you will find numbers of cattle free ranging and shitting all over the place. The sight of it makes me sick to my stomach. So my point here is there is enough damage being done without any more human influence adding to it.
Lets take a look at rubbish on the river bank. It's illegal to leave rubbish on the ground and if you are one of those people who just drops shit everywhere then honestly, "YOU SUCK"!. Every time I go fishing I'm picking up empty bottle and food wrappers. Plastic seams to be everywhere humans can reach. If you can pack it in you can sure as hell pack it out. This goes for spent tippet too. Don't just cut it off and drop it for some bird to get caught up in. Take everything you bring in with you home and dispose of your shit correctly. Enough said.
Freedom campers who can't dig a hole to bury there number twos really piss me off. It's so wrong to pull up at an anglers access and find wads of toilet paper all over the ground from a camper who just couldn't be bothered to turn over a rock and cover it up. Leave things how you found them. I'm pretty sure you would hate it if someone walked into your backyard and took a shit then just left it there for you to look at. Enough said.
My final grizzle is about poor fish handling.
KEEP THEM WET!
When a fish has been fighting for its life it is fair to say it has been working very hard and needs to breath to relax before release.
How would you like to finish a 2 kilometre run then have your head held under water so you can't breath while you are gasping for air?
Fighting fish build up toxins in the blood that get excreted from the body through the gills. If your holding it out of the water the toxins can't flush away and the fish is most likely going to die later on from blood poisoning.
Warm temps reduce the amount of available oxygen available in the water for fish to breath. You will find fish in warmer water will not fight as hard or for long. They will also need a longer rest time after having their oxygen supplies depleted.
So here is hows its done.
Trust your knots and fight fish hard.
Net them in deeper water so they stay wet in the net and are safe from hurting them selves on the rocks.
Use a release tool like a stonfo quick release or a Ketchum release tool. These things are very simple to use and eliminate a lot of handling time.
Rest the fish for a minute or so while you get the camera ready. Keep it in the water, in the net in a position that water can flow through the gills so it can recover quickly.
Sort the camera settings before you handle the fish. Don't stuff around while the fish is gasping for oxygen.
Use wet gloves to handle a fish. These make them a lot less slippery.
Keep in deep enough water that if you do drop the fish it won't hurt itself.
Lift up above the water for a quick snap NEVER keeping the fish out of the water form more than 5 seconds at a time then return to the water/net and rest for 30 seconds or so if you think you need another shot.
Don't stuff around now. Get a couple of snaps and then return the fish to the water for release.
Hold it and support it until it swims away happy. You owe it to the fish to look after it and insure it is recovered enough to be released. When done correctly a fish will usually spray you with water as it rushes back to the depth. This is a good sign. It's not rocket science and when these steps are followed correctly a fish can be caught and released many times over and still live to fight another day. I have caught and released many fish that I caught again year after year so this is proof that catch and release works. Enough said.
So now I have said my bit you will know what I mean when I say "Take only pictures and leave only footprints".
If we all work together we can sustain a beautiful back country environment with a healthy population of happy fish.
I would like to begin by telling you there is no such thing as an easy brown trout in this country.
But that is not entirely true. If trout were that hard to catch then I would be out of a job. What we do have however, are rivers which change from pool to pool and many different kinds of rivers to fish. This requires the stalking angler to be able to adapt to the varied techniques required in order to be able to deceive trout in a variety of situations.
Think about the rivers you fish at home and the way you fish them. How often do you change your fly? How often do you change your rig to suit the speed or depth of the water you are fishing? I'm guessing perhaps not as often as we do. For the one simple reason that we can for the best part "see the fish". This enables us to begin to start to solve the problems that each fish presents us with. It's not a game of rig up, bang it out there and hope for the best. It is more a game of solving each problem at it presents its self and doing so quickly because this fish is not likely to wait around for you to sort your shit out.
I'm fortunate enough to be able to guide anglers from all over the world each season. From a varied level of ability and fishing experience. All the same these fly fishers learn very quickly that "room for error" in this country is very small.
I don't mean small, I mean "very small". Casts must be made accurately followed by good line management skills and hook setting ability. Fighting our large trout requires technique that must be learned correctly in order to limit dropped fish and break offs. How can you expect to have these skills when you have never fished this way before? Well, you can't. The reality is no matter what your background, when you come to New Zealand for the first time you will be in for an eye opener and a crash coarse in learning how to get things done. None of this is impossible to achieve and certainly no one needs to be elite. The decision to hire a guide for a few days will make all of the difference in how successful your trip will end up being. Learning from a professional will improve the odds in how man fish you hook and land on your trip And you will walk away from your time here a better angler then you were before. Without a doubt. A solid guide will be able to teach you and help you to improve your skill set as a fly angler.
I have started these articles with the intention of offering sound advice to those who seek it. With the intention to better prepare anglers who are coming here for the first time or who are looking for more information to improve the way they fish here. The reality is that very few are prepared for what is involved in sight fishing in New Zealand. So follow me as I share genuine quality advice to get you into more trout and help you to better understand what you will be up against when you fish in New Zealand.
There is so much information on the internet these days and when it comes to fly fishing there a plethora of both good and bad advice . I would like to offer information to those seeking to fool large brown trout in New Zealand. My knowledge is based from experience as an obsessed fly angler, hard working professional trout fishing guide and fly tier.