Tony’s Blog

Book some guide days with me and fish the beautiful rivers around the north of New Zealand’s South Island


Prospects for the Upcoming 2017-18 Season

After an excellent finish to the 2016-17 season (which saw good numbers of prime conditioned trout in many rivers), followed now by a benevolent winter with no huge floods here in the north of the South Island, the odds are on for a great start to the 2017-18 season. A reasonable snow-pack on our mountains should ensure consistent river-flows through until Christmas and provide good fishing on both our local ‘front-country’ rivers as well as more remote back-country waters. With many other areas of the South Island experiencing severe flooding over this past winter, the Nelson-Marlborough district could very well be ‘the place to fish’ this coming season .

At this stage I’m not aware of any ‘burgeoning’ mice populations, which means a more ‘normal season’, fishing for regular sized trout. However, regardless of whether or not there is extra protein available, our trout will still maintain an average size and quality, the envy of most other places … and as always we’ll manage to find a trophy or two somewhere, as there’s always some ‘big boys’ around whose size isn’t totally dependent on a rodent-diet.

With less than 30 days to go to Opening Day (October 1st), the countdown to the new season is truly on. Bookings at this stage (particularly out of the USA) have been unusually light. Whether or not this slowdown in bookings is due partly to the current turbulent times in US politics (as some have suggested), remains to be seen, but many guides are witnessing the same phenomenon. In an age of instant communication via internet and social media, the trend also seems to be for bookings to get later each year.

In case you may have heard mischievous rumours that I have retired … I can assure you they are totally untrue! After my ‘sabbatical year’ two seasons ago, I am back boots and all guiding over 100 days last season, and anticipate doing so for many more seasons yet. There’s no water in the top of the South Island I haven’t fished on a regular basis for the last 37 seasons … and I’m looking forward to keeping the heat on our resident trout populations for a while longer. I have plenty of Available Dates open for most months, so checkout the options and give me a call … fishing by myself is only half as much fun!


It’s becoming a bit of an early season tradition  …

… So … here’s some opportunities for anglers who might consider coming early and want a good buy on guide days
… Check out the following deals…

Four Days – October 16th to October 19th … Total guide rate   $2900.00NZD
or Three Days – October 25th to October 27th … Total guide rate   $2175.00NZD
or Four Days – December  18th – 21st  … Total guide rate  $3200.00NZD

(As always accommodation, licences, campout costs and charter fees are additional to these guide rates)

Summary of the 2016-17 Season

 Last season was one of the most unusual I have guided in 36 years and one of the wettest on record. We started out with very high river levels which persisted then right through into the autumn.  Normally we would be crossing the likes of the Motueka River quite easily by late November (if not earlier) but last season, because of consistently high water, the river remained difficult to cross right through until late February-March … in fact it was never really easy. This was the same pattern for most rivers in the district, but more so for western rivers which remained quite challenging for the entire season. Some stretches on helicopter rivers like the Karamea, were often too tough to fish for long periods because river crossings were frequently difficult. This all conspired to make our fishing even more challenging than normal, but no doubt many trout appreciated escaping the harassment from anglers for sometimes weeks on end.

Nice OneEarly season showed a lot of promise with localized mice populations on a few rivers, which always catches our attention. As was to be anticipated we found a few trophy fish in these locations, only to be frustrated by wildly fluctuating river levels on many of our forays. While we did manage to bring a couple of DDs to net, it wasn’t really our season for the biggest fish … rather more like ‘Trout 9 – Anglers 2’ … as the big boys mostly got the better of us, either busting us off or dropping the hook part-way through the fight. There was one monster (potentially 13 – 14 lbs) that we pursued on a number of occasions from December – March, hooking it on three occasions and missing the strike once. I suspect he eventually got a little ‘annoyed’ by our attention as he moved on in March and I couldn’t locate him again for the rest of the season. He was truly a sight that got the pulse pounding while he was around though. Hopefully he’ll return to his old haunts this season … and maybe we’ll have better luck.

W_3The high water did have some benefits however. River temperatures remained in a very comfortable range for trout throughout the season (11′-20’C) and thankfully there was no period when water temperatures rose to critical levels around 23’C, which is not uncommon on some of our local low-country rivers from around midday in the height of summer. The favourable temperatures helped our local trout maintain and build condition, and everywhere we fished the brownies we caught were in great ‘nick’.

Because there was more water in the headwaters, trout also pushed further upstream in better numbers than I have seen for the last five years. While overall trout numbers were still not up to historical highs (because of the succession of damaging floods affecting many of our rivers over that period), they did show promising increases on some key rivers and hopefully the positive trend for our local trout populations is set to continue. The following table on the Motueka River is from the Nelson-Marlborough Fish & Game Council’s Annnual Fisheries Report for 2016-17.

Motueka River Trout Abundance

Golden Bay Kingfish

BS_5Mike S_2Following on from our initial sorties the previous season after southern Yellowtail Kingfish (Kingies) on the Golden Bay flats, we ventured over there again this season on a few occasions with mixed results. On a couple of visits when water temperatures were noticeably cooler than the previous season, we struggled to get onto many fish. However when we did strike favourable water temperatures the fishing was productive. We caught a mix of nice kingies and large kahawhai on our early ventures in January, while the best morning in early March saw 15 kingies hooked and 9 landed between 65 and 85cms. It appears that consistent success in this fishery is very dependent on finding warm enough water temperatures, but when it’s on this is certainly a fun fishing option. While my guiding focus will remain very much on fly fishing for our wonderful brown trout, if any angler is interested in getting after kingies I am happy to discuss options with you. If it works out as a nice backup day to our trout fishing I am happy to work with you, but if you’d prefer to focus on several days pursuing kingies I can detail options and put you in touch with other guides who are specialising in fishing for them.

Buy Your Non-Resident Trout Fishing Licence OnlineFishing Licence

The Non-Resident Licence category is now a well established requirement for anglers visiting from overseas. A Non-Resident is defined as a person who is neither a New Zealand citizen nor a permanent resident (more details here). The cost of a NRL Full Season licence for the coming season will be NZD$165.00 and is required by anglers wishing to fish for more than 6 days. They cover all of New Zealand except the Taupo Region. For those fishing for less than 6 days, purchasing the appropriate number of 24 hour licences is a more cost effective option but I suspect most of you will be keen however to support Fish and Game New Zealand, as the only funding they receive to manage our great fisheries is from licence sales. In fact many of you over the years generously previously purchased a Whole Season Licence, even when you were only fishing for a few days.

For those anglers anticipating fishing any of the following rivers; Travers, Goulter, Upper Wairau, Upper Matakitaki, Karamea Catchment or Mokihinui Catchment, you will also need to apply online for the Backcountry Licence Endorsement  to go along with your fishing licence before we can fish in these areas. Purchase your Non-Resident Trout Fishing Licence here.

2017_KW_Logo_72‘Keepemwet’ Fly Fishing

BacW_5k when I first started guiding (sigh … in 1980), it was common for most anglers I knew to kill a fish or two. However as our fishery became more popular, particularly with anglers from the USA, we were increasingly encouraged to practice Catch and Release. For a while a small group of us led the cause and promoted catch and release to the wider New Zealand angling public. By the late 1980’s Catch and Release had been adopted by the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association (NZPFGA) in their Code of Ethics and despite fisheries regulations that still permit the killing of trout, it has now become the norm among most serious fly anglers across many fisheries in New Zealand. Newsletter_header17

The key to successfully releasing fish to ensure their maximum chance of survival is to employ safe handling techniques, and to this end we always followed the best protocols in fish handling that we could glean from science and the wider angling community … e.g. use a landing net, land fish quickly, wet hands, avoid fingers in the gill area, don’t squeeze trout around their vital organs, minimise handling time and exposure to the air etc.

For many years I thought we were doing a pretty good job and I guess, given the accepted practices of the time, it would be hard to criticise our efforts too severely. However even though most trout might individually survive the process of careful catch and release, recent science suggests its sub-lethal effects can also have much wider implications including:

EH_17If planning to release fish, extra care becomes crucial when handling larger (trophy) trout, trout that are close to spawning or trout caught during periods of higher water temperatures, especially with respect to limiting their exposure time to air. Science clearly indicates that we still need to do more to up our game with respect to our handling techniques.

I sincerely recommend everyone take the time to look over the Keepemwet Fishing website, The website is a wealth of information on tips and research into safe fish handling in both fresh and saltwater. Keepemwet is about releasing fish in the best condition possible. It’s a motto for minimizing air exposure, eliminating contact with dry surfaces, and reducing handling. It’s a movement to empower  anglers to take small, simple steps to responsibly enjoy and share fishing experiences. The goal is to minimize the impact of catch & release angling onEH_1 fisheries by uniting conscientious anglers, organizations and companies to promote science based practices for handling fish that are released. At this year’s annual conference of the NZPFGA in Queenstown, member guides resolved to adopt Keepemwet Principles.

From now on, when my anglers and I ‘Catch and Release’, we will be even more conscientious in returning our trout to the river with the minimum of stress. The ‘Grip and Grin’ photos we commonly took will become a thing of the past and we will concentrate on taking a new style of photograph of our successes … photos where the fish remains in contact with the water or is only exposed for a period of less than 10 seconds. … we need to do it for our fish.

Keepemwet is the evolution of releasing fish. Our fish! Your Fish!  

 Your Chance to Help Freshwater Fisheries Research in New Zealand

Cawthron Foundation

In Nelson we are also lucky to have our own special team of dedicated scientists providing world leading research programmes for freshwater ecology and fisheries. The Cawthron Institute delivers world-class science to develops practical solution and make a real difference to the future of our natural environment and resources. The sustainable management of New Zealand’s freshwater, coastal and natural environments is one of Cawthron Institute’s top priorities. The Institute was opened in 1921 thanks to a bequest from Nelson businessman and philanthropist Thomas Cawthron, to focus on finding research-based solutions to develop and shape our nation. Today his bequest is represented in the Institute’s extensive research facilities and 200 highly qualified staff.

Over the years Cawthron has been successful at obtaining funding for research through contesable central government bidding processes, but increasingly research is vulnerable to government priorities which change over time. As with many places in the world New Zealand’s freshwaters and fisheries are degrading in response to various environmental pressures, foremost being intensive agricultural land use. People’s enjoyment of freshwater is increasingly curtailed due to poor water quality and diminished flows, and largely unregulated recreational usage.

Cawthron Foundation is a registered charity (charity no. CC28711), established to support the world-class, independent research developed and delivered by Cawthron Institute to benefit New Zealand and our global environment.  It is overseen by an independent trust board chaired by Dr Morgan Williams – current chair of World Wide Fund for Nature in New Zealand and former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Recently the Cawthron Foundation has established a funding opportunity for donors interested in supporting long-term research that will help stem the consequences of unsustainable exploitation of our freshwaters and fisheries.

Cawthron Foundation provides an opportunity for you to play a part in developing science for a better world. Donations and gifts to the Foundation help Cawthron to deliver research into areas important to New Zealanders, and to support talented New Zealand scientists.

I would urge all of you who are interested in the future protection of New Zealand’s special freshwater fisheries through the delivery of top quality science, to  support the Cawthron Foundation in any way you can … Click here to Donate

Keep up to date with Cawthron Foundation events and work, on the Friends of Cawthron Facebook Group


Catch and Release Opportunity     …  * Special Offer to buy a Rusler Landing Net like I use for guiding *

BigboyOne of the principles when planning to release our catch, is to play and land our trout quickly and efficiently with minimum stress. A landing net therefore becomes essential equipment which also helps heaps when handling our catch. A rubberised net bag with a suitable mesh size is also important to reduce damage to the trout’s protective layer of mucus.

RuslerI have been a supporter of NZ-made Rusler landing nets for over 15 years now and have always been impressed with the finished quality, functionality  and durability of all their products. I’ve used many net brands over the years, but nothing matches the latest addition from the “Rusler” stable … the ‘Extreme’ … in terms of strength, balance and ability to handle our large trout. During last fishing season I field tested the new all stainless steel Rusler `Extreme`, under the range of demanding conditions that our fishery poses. It performed superbly in all facets and remarkably, looks as good after 120+ days in the field, as it did when it was just out of its original package. The new net-bag material is made from a rubber-coated braid fabric which is extremely hard wearing. It’s sufficiently deep for our largest trout while minimising water drag due to the 1” mesh.

The ‘Extreme’ has been a pleasure to use and so I’m pretty pleased to advise that I have been lucky enough to negotiate an exclusive price offer with ‘Rusler’ for any of my angling friends looking for a high quality landing net.

Our special price of just $NZ130.00, includes a set of digital scales and free postage anywhere within NZ, (postage for northern hemisphere friends will be around $NZ25.00).

If you are serious about good gear this is an investment in a great piece of equipment that will serve you well for many years to come. It’s an opportunity to own a Kiwi fishing icon; designed, developed and manufactured in NZ.

To get yours, contact me at to confirm your interest with postage costs and payment options.This offer will remain current for the entire 2017 -2018 trout fishing season.

 New Zealand’s Popularity as a Wine Tourism Destination Growing

Wairau winesA little news for my wine aficianados. New figures published by trade body New Zealand Winegrowers show New Zealand’s popularity as a wine tourism destination is growing, with nearly one in four visitors including a visit to a vineyard or winery on their itinerary. NZ Winegrowers has launched a website, to cater for the international interest which includes a directory of over 450 places to visit including wineries. Nelson and Marlborough are home to some of NZ’s finest wines and I’m always happy to ‘get distracted’ from our angling endeavours if you should fancy a winery escape or two as a break from the fishing.

“There is a growing tendency among anglers to release their
fish. Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once”
( Lee Wulff, 1939).

“The successful practice of C&R also requires knowledge and good practice … the right handling of the fish depends on knowledge. That knowledge has, thanks to the practice, grown over time, and all anglers today benefit directly from that knowledge, which would not be available without C&R.”   (Arlinghaus et al (2007) ‘Understanding the Complexity of Catch-and-Release in Recreational Fishing’).

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