Brown Trout Fishing in the Top of the South Island

Web_15Since 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. 

Fishing Licences

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.Web_2


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.

Insect Pests

sandfly_1You 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.


… but plenty of trout.