Tony’s Blog

Our ‘eye’ is firmly fixed on the new trout fishing season starting October 1st.

Less than 50 sleeps to go …

… and we’re back into ‘it’, with our new fishing season commencing October 1st.

It has to be said … “things are looking good” for the new fishing season. We’ve had a mild winter in our area with good steady rainfalls to keep the river flows topped up. Thankfully there have been no major floods and our brownies are now drifting back out of the spawning streams and packing on condition ready for this season’s influx of anglers. Bruce (my labrador) and I have walked a couple of local rivers recently and are encouraged by both the size and numbers of the trout we’ve seen. It’s true that in the last two seasons on some rivers in our district, there hasn’t been the numbers of fish that historically we are used to fishing for, due largely to a series of significant floods in recent years. However as fish populations ultimately rebuild, there remains no doubt that the quality and the average size of the brown trout in our rivers still remains among the best in the world.

Update on Available Guiding Days

From an outsider’s perspective the upcoming US elections are proving to be ‘intriguing’ to say the least. In my previous newsletter, I suggested bookings from the US might be a ‘bit slow’ prior to the elections, and so they are … this is my 9th US election since commencing guiding in 1980 and the trend has always been the same. What it means however is that right now there are still a few excellent opportunities to fish with me in October and early November.

Think of the advantages … there won’t be many other anglers about, the trout will be hungry coming into the new season and they won’t have been fished over much  …  so someone needs to steal a march on ‘all those serious voters’ and enjoy some early season action!

However, the downside for anyone looking for guiding days after the elections, is that a lot of  space has already been snapped up and there are now only a few days available with me in December, January or February … which leaves just March for any significant guiding opportunities. March is one of our best dry fly months, generally characterised by lower water levels, lovely warm days (but with temperatures starting to cool again) and some great angling opportunities on big browns in peak condition. It’s a lovely time to fish and enjoy the NZ ‘pace of life’ … so if you are tempted to come later in the season, don’t leave your run too late … give me a call asap and book your spot.


As I was drafting this newsletter, the manager of Nelson-Marlborough Fish and Game has just emailed with information’ on some new regulation changes …

” I would like to take the opportunity to give you all an early ‘heads up’ on the introduction of two new back country fishery designations within the NM Region, plus also alert you all to two that are also coming into force this season within the West Coast … The two fisheries that have been formally designated and subsequently approved as back country fisheries within the Nelson/Marlborough Region are: THE GOULTER Rv upstream from its confluence with the Wairau, and the TRAVERS Rv upstream from the Coldwater / Lakehead Hut track crossing marker.  Additional back country fisheries may be added in future but it was considered prudent to start with a low number initially until we have a feel for the additional resourcing requirements needed for compliance and the like. Please be aware that to obtain a free endorsement to enable a licence holder to fish within these waterways, they need to be the holder of an Adult Whole Season, Family, Loyal Senior, or Local Area licence (or a Non-Residents Licence). 
Holders of day licence, short break or long break licences will not be eligible to obtain an endorsement, so I would appreciate it if you could reflect this advice to your clients where possible.  Failure to obtain an endorsement legally falls into the same offence category as fishing without a licence, so our ranging team will be required to issue offence notices where this is encountered (something we would prefer to not have to do).
To obtain an endorsement:
1)  purchase the correct licence category (not day or short/long break);
2) visit the FG NZ website and enter your licence number/date of birth;
3) select the region(s) you wish to visit back country fisheries in;
4) obtain a re-print of your current licence with the appropriate free back country fishery endorsements and take this with you when fishing the back country fisheries.”

In a covering note West Coast Manager Dean Kelly also advised that;
“the internationally significant Karamea and Mokihinui River fisheries (will be designated ) as ‘back country fisheries’ for research purposes.
(and Fish and Game wishes to) … encourage a ‘best-practice’ guideline for catch and release of no more than six fish landed per person per day to limit damage to popular fisheries from fish handling and stress.
The ‘back country’ designation will require all anglers intending to fish the Karamea and Mokihinui cathments more than a day’s fishing upstream from the lower river access points to get an additional free licence specific to the river being fished. The purpose of this licence is to provide a list of anglers using the fisheries so that they can be surveyed and Fish and Game can then implement regulations in response to the requirements of this user group.”
So … this is another major step forward in the  management of fisheries in this region of New Zealand. What it means however is that those of you who are non-resident NZ anglers and plan on fishing in the Goulter, Travers, Karamea and Mokihinui catchments this coming season, will need to first purchase a full Non-Resident Fishing Licence (NRL). This allows you to get the free Back Country Licence endorsement, which you can apply for online as per the above instructions, or I can help you apply for it when you get to New Zealand, as and when we do decide to fish any of the above rivers.

As more details become available from Fish & Game, I’ll keep you all posted on developments  See also (click here).


Turangi Winter Adventure

I have just returned from my annual Turangi fishing adventure, chasing winter-run rainbow trout as they run up the Tongariro River and other Taupo tributaries on their annual spawning run. These trout are descendants of Russian River steelhead originally from Sonoma Ck in California. The timing of the peak runs isn’t an exact science and this year it seems we were a bit early. The size of the fish was also smaller than last season, but those we caught were all in excellent condition. Once again I was with a group of friends from my local Nelson Trout Fishing Club and while the fishing was slower than last season we still landed ‘a heap’ of fish between us for our week, most from the Tongariro but also some from the smaller Tauranga-Taupo Rv nearby.T_ab

One of the highlights of the trip was also attending the first Sporting Life Winter Fly Fest in Turangi as a member of the NZ Sage-Rio-Redington Pro Team. Tore Nilsen (FlyTackle NZ) and Rene Vaz (Manic Tackle Project) joined forces with the boys at Sporting Life to showcase a first in NZ angling, with demonstrations and an opportunity to test their latest fly rods and lines from Sage,Scott, Rio and Airflo.

And, I fell in love … with the new Sage X series of rods that is. These new offerings from Sage featuring their KonneticHD technology, were a dream to cast and are set to make a huge impact on our New Zealand fisheries, where accurate presentation and the ability to play large fish on fine tippets are crucial elements in a rod. I tested the 890-4 X during the week on the Tongariro, ‘chucking’ the big bomb rigs that are so effective on that river … and the X made life easy. I have always enjoyed casting my Sage One 890-4, but the X is seriously a better rod, both in casting and playing fish.  However my dream rod was the 590-4 X … which could well prove to be the ultimate rod for our local fisheries around here. In describing it, “easy-to-cast, lively, precise, finesse, accurate, smooth, delightful” … all come to mind. So now … just add fish … I weakened and ordered both the #5 and the #8  … (and was also sorely tempted by the #6, but in the interim have at least shown some restraint)!


Now Some Boring Administrative ‘Stuff’ …

Deposits and Payments
Prior to Sharon and I heading off on ‘sabbatical’ last season I closed down our credit card facilities to save on fees (and ensure more cash was available for ‘essential fishing needs’), which has meant I haven’t been in a position to accept credit card payments for deposits again until now. Over the next couple of weeks I will be sending out deposit invoices for all current bookings for the new season, which will provide my anglers with a number of ways in which they can pay the deposit. I will personally email anglers first to confirm that an invoice and email request for payment will be sent using a new mobile GetPaid app via my Westpac Bank account, which will allow anglers to pay either – via a secure hosted payments page, by direct credit into our bank account or by calling me to process the payment using their credit card. The GetPaid app has been tested to ensure it meets Westpac’s security standards, transactions are processed in accordance with all required industry security standards and no credit card information is stored on my device.
Safety Management Plan
In recent years with the substantial growth in the Adventure Tourism Industry in New Zealand, safety has become an increasing concern. Recently new legislation was introduced in the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015), which sets out new work-safe requirements for most businesses in New Zealand. While the guided sports fishing industry was not specifically included in the final Adventure Tourism review (think bungy jumping, jet-boating, ballooning, parachute jumping, mountain biking etc), our New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association (NZPFGA) is taking the lead in ensuring members upgrade their current safety practices to comply with the Association’s Department of Conservation group concession. It is not really new ground, because back in Strike Adventure days with Zane Mirfin, we were among the first guides in the country to have an audited Safety Plan, which I subsequently continued to use.
Now in accordance with the new NZPFGA Safety Management Plan I will be continuing to take all practicable steps to ensure a safe angling experience for my anglers. The most visible manifestation of this new system will be when finalising a booking … I will be asking all my anglers to complete a  Participant Angler Declaration, which will provide me with useful information on medical or health conditions, dietary needs, next of kin, previous fishing experience and an Acknowledgement of Risk Declaration.Your support and indulgence in filling out this form for me at the time of booking will be greatly appreciated and will help me meet my legal obligations under NZ law …
… but far more importantly it will help me provide you all with a  …
Safer and more enjoyable New Zealand angling adventure.

The most common question I field about fly fishing here is probably …
“When’s the best time to fish New Zealand?”

And I think this answers that question most succinctly …

“The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t.”
– Patrick F MacManus

Sabbatical is over and it’s back into guiding for the upcoming 2016-17 season

My A Team

Our sabbatical is over and it is time to get back into guiding mode again. Our year ‘off’ was a lot of fun but I’m excited now to be back in the business of taking bookings for the 2016-17 fishing season and hatching plans for getting out on our beautiful rivers to chase some wonderful trout with anglers from all over the world.

The year’s break from guiding was definitely good for the soul and Sharon, Bruce (our Labrador) and I enjoyed exploring a heap of new places, catching up with old friends and making many new ones. We didn’t really travel very far spending our time around the South Island in various areas, mostly camping out in our Austrack Camper. In fact there were so many places we wanted to see but didn’t as we simply ran out of time and we still have plenty to do on future adventures. If there’s one thing we learned it’s that “a plan is only a reference point to see how far one can deviate from it’ … some of our most enjoyable times were when circumstances conspired to lead us slightly astray.

JoshThe highlight of the summer was spending time saltwater fly fishing for southern yellowtail kingfish in Golden Bay. It was a spur of the moment adventure with friends Josh Gallivan and Bob Bourdon, when we decided to take a break from chasing trout and wade the sandflats instead. Josh’s previous saltwater experience proved invaluable in getting us on the right track even though our equipment and fly selection was a bit limited. Early successes were hard won but as we grew in understanding, so did our success rate.

Kingies may not leap but they are brutal ‘street-fighters’ who simply don’t know when to quit … there are few things in fly fishing as exciting as being hooked up on 10-20 lb kingie that peels 100+ yards of backing off your #6 weight on their first run! Whether this exciting new fishery expands or not will be interesting to watch, but if local summer sea temperatures remain higher than the historical average there’s a good chance that there will be more saltwater fly fishing fun to be enjoyed over the next few seasons.
BobKingie on a #6 weight

My greatest frustration for the summer was timing our break with the poorest run of salmon ever. Modest runs of quinnat (chinook) salmon run up many east coast (and a few west coast) rivers here from late November to April … nothing on the scale of Alaskan or Canadian runs but fun nevertheless. As a kid growing up in South Canterbury I chased salmon with my father and his friends on the Rangitata River, landing fish from 12 – 30 lbs on spinning tackle. On a quick trip home in January 2015 I managed to catch my first salmon in years and set my ultimate  goal for the ‘sabbatical’ to land a fly-caught salmon on my two handed ‘spey’ rod. It was humbling getting back to basics and learning a whole new way of casting and fishing and while I’m certainly no expert yet, it was very satisfying as new skills evolved. However after two, week-long trips in January and again in March, my goal remained unaccomplished … such are “Promises of Silver’ sometimes. I know I can’t wait another 35 years for the next sabbatical!

A whole lotta troutFor a full visual record of our summer on the road check out the “Sabbatical Year 2015-16” photo gallery, but some of the many highlights of our time away include: a 20lb rainbow trout on #14 nymph and 4X tippet from the hydro canal system near Mt. Cook; helping my guiding mentor Gary Joll to his first dry-fly fish from the Macauley River (at Lilybank Station where the seeds of my guiding career were sown 40 years ago); watching my lovely wife develop into a confident spin angler and occasional fly-fisher and being able to spend time with friends and family, including a series of weddings (especially our eldest son Nick’s in February).

And so now … back to the guiding

I’m now taking bookings for the next 2016-17 season and it is very pleasing to advise that the calendar is filling fast. January and February are now completely booked and December has only limited space available.

Typically with an election year in the US, bookings from the States are slow prior to the election. However with fewer anglers coming to New Zealand in the first part of the season there is an excellent opportunity for those willing to travel early to have more water to themselves … “first in, first served”.

As an early season ‘sweetener’ check out these two budget opportunities:

October 12 – 15 or October 18 – 21

 4 Days Guided Fishing … 3 nights accommodation and food … NZD$3650.00 (1 or 2 anglers share).


As many of you will attest, our trout fishing can be challenging enough at times even with a guide … let alone without one. It simply makes no sense to me for anglers to go to all the expense of coming to New Zealand and expect to be able to hire a guide ‘by chance’ when they arrive. But it happens a lot …

Already there is considerable interest in our fisheries after Christmas and I would sincerely urge those of you wanting to fish here to make your arrangements as soon as possible, especially for the guiding. There are still some good spaces in October, November, March and April.

JB_2Following another significant beech-mast event again this last summer the Department of Conservation is expecting another year of abnormally high rodent numbers. After the beech-mast of 2014 and the ‘Year of the Mouse’ in the 2014-15 season, it is unusual (but not unknown) to have another beech-mast event again so quickly. It maybe that these events become more common with global climate change, but whatever the reason, if the rodent population does expand, it will definitely benefit to anglers with another year of big trout in many of our rivers. The 2014-15 season was exceptional and it is exciting to contemplate the carryover of some still very large trout in our rivers again gorging themselves on a diet of furry protein pellets!!

End of an Era … A mate moves on

It’s probably no coincidence that my two best trout this season were caught in the company of guide-mate Peter Carty … the first on my first day out for the season and the last … well on my last day. Carty has since moved on from Murchison up to Turangi (Lake Taupo), and I’m going to miss ‘the ol’ bastard’.

Pete joined my guiding company (then Nelson Lakes Guiding Services) back in 1985, when the Nelson/Marlborough fishery was just starting to excite visiting anglers. For a few years Pete worked for me as an assistant guide and became my Chief Guide from 1995-1998 … but mostly he has been a great mate and fishing companion. We shared many evenings recounting our day’s guiding adventures and conspired in the downfall of many unfortunate trout. Undoubtedly among Pete’s greatest guiding triumphs was a large trout which we simply referred to as “The Great Unknown”, because the scales weren’t big enough to measure it. For many years we said it was ‘over 15lbs’ but with subsequent experience of many big fish landed it was clearly bigger than that!

Pete’s contribution to guided fishing has been immense in helping popularise our fishery and develop our industry … his professionalism is impeccable, his guiding skills outstanding and his fly-tying skills sublime. Hell … I’m actually going to have to get back to tying my own flies now! Life here is  going to be a whole lot poorer for Pete’s moving on. I wish you all the best mate … it was a great adventure and your help has always been greatly appreciated. Those North Island trout should be trembling in their boots. Thanks for everything big guy!

I’m looking forward to this next season and October 1st can’t come soon enough for me … I’m particularly excited at the prospect of joining many of you back on the water. In the meantime if you are lucky enough to be getting out onto the stream with the start of a new season in your part of the world … I am very envious .

Tony E

As always please check out my website for details on the Features of our Brown Trout FishingGuided Fishing Options, Available Guiding Dates, Guiding Rates and Conditions of Booking and Payment.

“If fishing were simply a matter of catching fish or forming and testing angling theories, I think I should have given it up long ago. Nor is it simply a matter of exciting and beautiful surroundings, the splendor and loveliness of running water and the attraction that rivers have for creatures of all kinds, including man. These are a large and important part of it all, but one can enjoy them without going fishing and I often do. Perhaps the lasting charm of fishing is in the pace of the sport and in the fish themselves.”

Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman’s Fall