Brown Trout Fishing in the Top of the South Island
Since the early 1980s, Nelson / Marlborough and the upper West Coast regions of New Zealand’s South Island have become favourite destinations for anglers who love clear waters and wild places. It is now a must-do for any fly-angler serious about their sport. Now’s the time to come fly-fish and explore the amazing rivers at the top of the South Island and catch some of the best quality brown trout in the world.
- The Open Season for trout fishing in the top of the South Island is from October 1st to April 30th on all rivers.
- November to March is historically the most popular period for overseas visitors to fish here, but there is excellent fly fishing at any time during the season.
- There are limited areas open for fishing from May 1st to September 3oth (Winter Season), which provide opportunities to fly-fish beyond the peak season.
- Typically the highest average daily catch rates are achieved prior to Christmas, before trout are fished over by many other anglers.
- Peak months for dry fly fishing on mayfly hatches are mid-November to mid-December and mid-February to the end of April.
- Good nymph fishing is available throughout the entire season.
- Dry fly fishing using cicadas peaks from mid-January to early-March. Willow-grub dry fly fishing peaks Jan-Feb and Passionvine-hopper is from mid February to late-April.
- The best opportunities for trophy trout (in excess of 4.5kg / 10lbs) usually occur from late-November onwards. Catchability varies considerably from season to season.
…. I encourage anglers to discuss the prospects for a trophy trout directly with me … I’ll give you an honest appraisal based on recent observations in the field … you need to give me an honest appraisal of your skill levels, experience with large trout and your ability to get around some of our rougher rivers. Big trout don’t come easy!
- NELSON-MARLBOROUGH FISH AND GAME … ANNUAL FISHERIES REPORT 2017-18 … Follow this link for a summary of the 2017-18 fishing season, produced for licence holders of Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game region.
Every person who intends to go fresh water sport fishing in New Zealand must first purchase a licence.
Fishing Licences are issued by Fish and Game New Zealand who are the statutory managers of freshwater sports fishing and game bird hunting in New Zealand. Licence fees were originally spent on increasing fish and bird populations but the priority changed in the 1960’s and became focused on protecting important habitat against development. Habitat advocacy remains the major focus of Fish and Game Councils and a significant percentage of the councils’ money goes into advocating habitat protection.
All non-resident visitors to New Zealand must purchase a Non Resident Licence so please check out this link for more details. A Whole Season Non-Resident Licence will be required if a visiting angler at any stage wants to apply for a Back Country Licence or a Controlled Fishery Licence. (NB … At this time the following rivers require a Back Country Licence in the Nelson-Marlborough and West Coast Fish and Game Districts where I guide most of my anglers;
Nelson-Marlborough: Travers River, Goulter River, Upper Wairau River, Upper Matakitaki River.
West Coast: Karamea River, Mohikinui River.
For more details on all Licence Categories and to purchase a Fishing Licence Online, click here – Fish and Game New Zealand
Fishing Techniques and Gear
Fly fishing techniques vary throughout the district according to the time of year, the size of the stream fished and flow conditions.
- The most successful methods we use are nymph and dry fly, on hook sizes 8 – 18. Small dries and tiny nymphs are used on the smaller creeks while larger dries and weighted nymphs are successful on some of the larger, freestone rivers.
- Rod / Line combinations are best in the AFTMA #5 – #7 range, in rod lengths 8′ – 9’6”. For more experienced anglers lighter line weights from #3 – #4 are fun during the lower water flows from mid- Jamuary to mid-March.
- Floating lines are typically used for 99% of the fishing, although sink-tip and full sinking lines are useful at times. The choice of Weight Forward or Double Taper is a matter of personal preference.
- Line Colour is however of significant importance. For daytime fishing the use of green, olive, earth-tone or grey coloured lines are recommended. While bright coloured lines such as yellow or white have a place on very dull days or for evening fishing, they can definitely be counter-productive the rest of the time … I know this from extensive experience so please leave the flouro-orange line at home!
- Leaders are generally 12′ – 17′. Bring nylon leaders that are 9′ – 12′ long, tapering to a minimum of 2-3X … we can refine the taper from this base. Tippet sizes range from 3X – 5X depending upon river flow, water clarity and trout size.
- Fishing clothes and hats should also be in subdued colours … (beware blues and yellows as you will become a focus of interest for bumble bees and wasps.)
- Good quality breathable waders and rubber soled wading boots are recommended in the cooler waters of our rocky streams. N.B. Felt soled wading boots are banned in New Zealand and will not be allowed through Customs.
- Ensure that you have a top quality, water and windproof rain jacket.
- To learn the secrets of spotting trout, polarised fishing glasses are essential.
- Wearing a wide brimmed hat is useful for protection against our sun and is an aid in reducing glare to assist in spotting trout.
- Using a quality sunblock is important in New Zealand.
- Through the height of summer (Jan – mid March) many anglers choose to wet wade. Polypropylene long underwear under cotton wading trousers or shorts are great for wading wet.
- While I have a range of quality Sage rods and Rio lines for my customers to use, I have only a limited amount of wading gear (boots and waders). There’s a good chance I can help out with some items, but anglers are generally expected to provide their own equipment. I do supply whatever flies you’ll need at no extra charge, but if you have your own favourites that you wish to try that’s great … bring them along … between us the trout will be in trouble!
New Zealand is a sub-tropical island chain, lying across a westerly airflow in the Roaring Forties, in the South Pacific Ocean. Nelson Province lies at latitude 41′- 42’S. New Zealand has a variable temperate climate and while the climate in the northern area of the South Island is generally quite pleasant boasting New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, visitors are still likely to experience extremes of weather at times and therefore should ensure they come prepared. Over very short periods of time NZ weather may range from very warm to quite cold, or from dry to very wet and frequently windy. Wise anglers come prepared for change.
You may have heard of New Zealand’s infamous ‘sandflies’, which are similar to ‘blackflies’ and can be a nuisance in some fishing areas, especially at evening time or just prior to rain. They can be controlled to tolerable levels by the regular use of a good insect repellent, which is readily available in local stores; gels, liquids or roll-ons are better than sprays. Use repellent liberally and sandflies are seldom more than nuisance value. For anglers who do get bitten, hydrocortisone creams 0.5% – 1% are excellent for taking away the inevitable itch and are a useful addition to the travelling first aid kit. Unlike ‘No See-ums’ … at least these little guys are big enough for you to get your own back!
From late Januray to late April, wasps (yellow-jackets) are around in many areas of native beech forest, some years in large numbers. Wasp stings are very unpleasant and anyone who is allergic to either bee or wasp stings should ensure they carry their medication with them at all times and be sure to advise their guide of their condition. Mosquitoes are rare and seldom a nuisance. They carry no disease and are only around at night in some remote wilderness areas.
Kept in perspective, New Zealand’s insect pests are small fry compared to many of the ‘insect and animal inconveniences’ you might experience while fishing other destinations.
NO SNAKES – NO BEARS – NO LEECHES – NO DEADLY SPIDERS … NO WORRIES
… but plenty of trout.