New Zealand’s waterways offer some of the best fly fishing opportunities in the world, from remote mountain streams to gorgeous lakes of both the north and south islands of New Zealand.
Fly fishing in New Zealand is one of the destinations every fly fisherman dreams of going to.
With the abundance of crystal clear waters, the stunning backdrops, the monstrous browns, and rainbows there are many reasons to plan a fly fishing trip of a lifetime to one of the best fly fishing destinations on the planet.
Whether you’re planning your first New Zealand fly fishing trip or you’ve already fished in New Zealand and you’re coming back for more, this guide should help you prepare!
Best Fly Fishing New Zealand Lodges
Booking a stay in one of New Zealand’s fly lodges is a sure-fire way to make sure you have an amazing holiday.
With top guides, amazing locations, and comfortable accommodations, you’ll get the best out of your time in NZ.
Many NZ fly lodges even have their own helicopter to take you to those out-of-the-way destinations, where you’ll be guaranteed world-class fishing and almost exclusive access to the waters!
Here are our quick reviews of the top 5 NZ fly lodges:
Owen River Lodge
The Owen River Lodge is a five-star lodge that leaves nothing to be desired. You’ll stay in a cozy cottage suite set in the garden of the lodge and eat delicious meals prepared with fresh, organic produce and wine to go with it.
But most importantly, this lodge is in the perfect spot for your fly fishing expeditions, with many of the best trout rivers in easy reach by car. You can also make use of the lodge’s helicopter service to reach those remote wilderness spots.
With a full team of professional, experienced guides on hand to help out, you’ll be all set for a spectacular fly fishing holiday to remember.
Where Is The Lodge?
Set in the South Island, the lodge is remote, secluded, and an amazing place to hook your first fish in NZ from.
Poronui Ranch is the ‘Premier Sports Ranch’ in New Zealand, according to their website – and it’s easy to believe!
Set in the Taharua Valley on the North Island, you’ll find 25 miles of world-class fishing rivers on the property alone. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the chopper service to reach the most remote mountain trout streams.
As far as accommodation goes, you can choose from rustic camping (with fully functioning toilets and showers) to recreate that old-time fishing trip feel.
Where Is The Lodge?
Sitting in the middle of the North Island, this lodge is one of the top NZ destinations for sight fishing in North NZ.
One of the smaller fly lodges in NZ with just four rooms, Cedar Lodge has a wonderfully homey and welcoming feel to it.
Located in the Southern Alps near the Mount Aspiring National Park on the Southern Island, you’re just a short hop by the lodge’s private helicopters to the best fishing locations around.
You’ll have daily access to remote waters, with no risk of disappointing days on overfished, overcrowded rivers, and excellent guides.
Where Is The Lodge?
Tucked in the heart of the Southern Alps, this is one of NZ’s best and most exclusive fly fishing destinations.
After those monster browns? You need to get yourself to Riverview Lodge!
The waters around here are home an average size of 5-pound-plus beauties, and the lodge guides will help you catch that trophy trout you’ve been dreaming of!
Located in the Hanmer Springs region of New Zealand’s South Island, Riverview Lodge is close to the Hanmer, Waiau, and Percival rivers.
Owners Robin and John will make you feel right at home – they’ve been running the Lodge for over 25 years. With just 4 rooms, there is a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and great memories will be made here.
Where Is The Lodge?
Dropped in a valley around high country rivers that aren’t fished often, the quality here is undeniable.
Nokomai Valley Lodge
You’ll find the Nokomai Valley Lodge just an hour south of Queenstown, near the Garvie mountains on South Island. The countryside is spectacular here – a 12-mile stretch of the Mataura River runs right through the Nokomai property, well-stocked with browns throughout.
There are cozy little cottages to stay in, and the restored stone homestead where you will take your meals gives a real rustic feel to the place.
As well as the obvious trout fishing possibilities, other activities are on offer, ideal if you’re holidaying with non-anglers. If you want more trout fishing opportunities, you can visit new mexico rivers as it offers great places for trout fishing.
Where Is The Lodge?
Sitting in NZ’s South Island’s heart, this is a place where you’ll catch fish and never want to leave.
Best Spots for Fly Fishing In New Zealand
Both the North and South Island offer some amazing fishing spots with crystal clear water and great big fish.
With so many fly fishing locations available, it’s easy to find a quiet spot to enjoy a tranquil day on the water as most rivers will provide some excellent freshwater fly fishing.
Finding the best destinations can be tricky, however, unless you’re in the know. So here are some of my top destinations to get you started!
Although many people rave about the South Island fishing, especially the west coast, don’t overlook these great locations on the North Island!
When you think of fishing on the South Island, big browns will probably come to mind! It’s worth brushing up on your techniques first, however, as the trout here can be wily and tricky to catch.
There’s nothing like the excitement of snagging that lunker in the clear waters of South Island though!
The Mohaka offers easy access by car to rainbow trout waters on the lower reaches of the river. If you’re after a wilder experience, make the hike to the secluded upper stretches which are home to trophy-sized brown trout.
Some areas can only be accessed by a chopper with an experienced guide. Landing a fish here can be a challenge – but this makes it even more rewarding when you do!
Sight fishing for these whoppers in the pristine water is an exciting prospect that makes the journey worth it.
Where To Fish The Mohaka
For trips on the Mohaka, base yourself where the map shows below, and then hike as far up as you can for the rest of the days. You can spend many days on this river.
Recommended Flies For The Mohaka
- Baitfish streamers
- Caddis dries
The name of this beautiful, deep lake translates to ‘the sea of rippling waters’, and it offers excellent opportunities to hook and land both big browns and rainbows.
Around the edges of the lake, you’ll find brown trout weighing up to an impressive 10 pounds. You can sight fish for these beauties amongst the stunning scenery of the native bushland.
If you’re after rainbow trout, your best chance will be boat fishing in the center of the lake. The likelihood of landing a nice-sized rainbow is high, but take extra care, as the water conditions can rapidly become treacherous.
Many of the tributaries around the lake also offer great dry fly and nymph fishing, especially the Aniwaniwa, the Mokau, and the Hopuruahine rivers.
Where To Fish Lake Waikaremoana
The outflow is always one the best place to start and if it’s not working, the rest of the shoreline and the other side are great places to be.
Recommended Flies For Lake Waikaremoana
- Copper John
- Hares Ear
- Pheasant Tails
The Tongariro is one of Newzealand’s world-famous destinations, especially popular during the winter migratory runs when the trout are spawning.
Your prospects are good year-round, but the Tongariro draws the biggest crowds during the migration season in fall and winter, so there is not a lot of room to fish unless you go into the sticks.
A powerful, fast-flowing river, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a safe and secure spot on the banks when you’re fishing. You’ll mostly hook rainbows here, with the odd brown trout too – both species tend to average at least 4 pounds.
We recommend kitting yourself out with an 8 or 9wt rod, large, weighted nymph flies, and a long tippet for the best success on the Tongariro.
Where To Fish The Tongariro
The map below shows the perfect place to park so you can fish the outflow into the Tongariro, a great spot if you’re in search and many are caught during the fall here.
Recommended Flies For The
- Cicada patterns
- Green Beetle
- Hares Ear
- Copper John
- Pheasant Tail
The Clutha offers some of the finest “big river” angling in New Zealand. It runs from the Lower end of Wanaka in a southerly direction eventually making its way to the sea in Molyneaux Bay near Balclutha.
Here you’ll find healthy stocks of both rainbows, browns, and salmon!
The upper reaches of the Clutha are best suited to dry fly fishing with a trailing pair of droppers. Especially late summer evenings where the rises can be spectacular.
However, make no mistake, this is big, powerful water. You’ll need to take care while wading and plan your day carefully.
If you’re uncomfortable on large water we recommend experimenting with some of the smaller tributaries such as the Pomohaka or tackling the lower reaches.
Here the Clutha forks into the Koau and Matau branches. This will allow you to practice being on the water before tackling the main flow!
You can see the special Otago Fishing Regulations here for more information on the size and number of fish you’re able to take from the river.
Where To Fish The Clutha
Here is a great place to start as many big fish are landed in the estuary portion and the river is easier to access.
Recommended Flies For The Clutha
- Baitfish streamers
- Hamill’s Killer
- Parson’s Glory
- Craig’s Night-Time
- Black Gnat
- Dark Greenwell’s Glory
- Green Adams
A 3-hour drive from Dunedin, the Mataura is a dry-fly fishing hotspot! You’ll have your pick of over 150km of waterways with easy access to most stretches.
Head to the upper sections where you’ll find fewer anglers and healthy brown trout populations.
The daytime fishing is consistently good and in the summer, you can have a lot of success with dry flies in the evening, too.
Home to swarms of midges, mayflies, and other insects, you’ll watch fish feeding on the surface, and have no trouble drawing the fish to the surface to feed on your dry flies.
Just be prepared with plenty of insect repellent on your trip so the bugs don’t take the opportunity to snack on you too!
Where To Fish The Mataura
The upper reaches are best fished as they see less pressure. Drive to the spot on the map below and then fish upriver as far as you dare.
You might just land a giant and it doesn’t happen, you’ll see fish feeding on the surface and love the surroundings.
Recommended Flies For The Mataura
- Dad’s Favourite
- Blue Dun
- Parachute Adams
- Twilight Beauty
- Wickham’s Fancy
Just two hours from Blenheim and Nelson, you could be fishing this impressive brown trout river.
Although it can be difficult to access, as it’s a fast-flowing river and bush along both sides, it’s worth persevering as the angling here is second to none.
If you’re up for a challenge, the upper section of the river holds a lot of fish averaging 2-3 pounds. Take extra care here due to the dangerous terrain, slippery rocks, and turbulent waters.
An easier option is to head for the middle reaches of the Buller, which are slightly more sedate but still offer good prospects. Although there are fewer trout in this section, the ones you’ll find tend to be big ‘uns, weighing 3 pounds or more.
Where To Fish The Buller
State Highway 6 pretty much follows the whole of the Buller so access is easy. The spot on the map below the gorge is a great place to search for a big fish before exploring more of it.
Recommended Flies For The Buller
- Greenwell’s Glory
- Mole Fly
- Green Beetle
- March Brown
- Dad’s Favourite
- Hares Ear variants
- Stone fly variants
Three hours by car from Dunedin, you’ll find the Ahuriri. Experienced anglers looking for a challenge can head to the upper reaches to try their hand at landing one of the legendary 10-pound trout that lurk in the deep pools here.
If you’re after an easier day of fishing, stick with the middle sections where you’ll find higher stocks of trout.
You could spend many a pleasant afternoon fishing for browns and rainbows in this top location, with the stunning mountain scenery as a backdrop.
Your best bet for abundant trout numbers is between Lake Benmore and the SH8 Bridge. You can access these areas from the SH8 Bridge or the Clay Cliffs on Hepburn Road.
If you’re all about sight fishing and you don’t mind getting into the water, head for the Motueka. The scenery here is beautiful, the waters are amazingly clear, and the fishing is good!
If you want to fish in a secluded area, go for the upper reaches. You’ll have to wade here, as the vegetation along the banks is thick and dense, but the calm, peaceful setting and the healthy fish population make it worthwhile.
Although less densely populated, the average trout size is 3-5 pounds here, and you’ll have a good chance of catching a trophy-sized fish too!
This river offers different experiences depending on where you fish – you’ll find still, smooth stretches, deep pools, and turbulent rapids.
New Zealand Fly Fishing Licenses & Regulations
You’ll need to buy a license to fish for trout, salmon, and other species of sport fish during your trip to New Zealand and to follow the regulations too.
If you don’t live in New Zealand, you should buy the Non-Resident License (NRL) which allows you to fish in all areas except the Taupo region, which is regulated by the Department of Conversation. You may also need a special back-country license to fish in certain waters.
You have the option of a One Day NRL, which costs $34 for adults and $20 for children, or you can buy the Whole Season License for $169 and $34 for children.
You can buy your license in many of the sports and hunting stores, motels, and garages near the rivers and lakes. Another option is to purchase it online here.
Make sure you carry your license with you at all times out on the water, or you could be at risk of a fine of up to $5,000!
Find out more details about which license you’ll need here.
The New Zealand fishing regulations vary from region to region, so make sure you read up on the specific areas you’ll be visiting.
Firstly, felt soles and felt-soled boots are completely banned in all of New Zealand to stop the spread of harmful invasive species like didymo that could upset the New Zealand ecosystem.
When you fly into New Zealand, make sure all of your gear is dry and clean – it should look almost brand new. Otherwise, Biosecurity will take your waders, nets, etc – to be cleaned before you can use it.
When on NZ waters, take care to clean and dry your waders, boots, and other gear before switching waterways.
There are regulations on fish lengths, bag limits, and the type of baits and lures you can use. Learn more about the full national and regional regulations here.
Taupo Fishing Regulations
There are special regulations to fish in the Taupo area, which includes Lakes Taupo, Moawhango, Kuratau, Otamangakau, Rotoaira, and the Waikato River.
Daily bag limits of six trout apply in most places, with a minimum size of at least 35cm (with just a couple of exceptions).
Only one rod and reel may be used or carried with you, and angling is prohibited between midnight and 5 am. Check out the full Taupo regulations for yourself at this link.
Recommended Fly Shops In NZ
You’re always going to need some advice when going DIY on the fly in a new country. Here are some great shops to get some advice from and some local bugs too.
Recommended Guides in NZ
When on all trips to all destinations it pays to have a great guide with you showing you the ropes, at least for a day or two – here are some great ones in NZ.
- Aspiring Fly Fishing – South Island
- South Island Adventure Fly Fishing
- Dream Trout New Zealand – North Island
- Wild Trout Adventures – North Island
Does New Zealand have good trout fishing?
Yes, New Zealand has excellent trout fishing in its many rivers, streams, and lakes. The country is known for its excellent brown, rainbow, and brook trout fishing. It is one of the best places in the world for fly fishing.
How do I start fly fishing in NZ?
To start fly fishing in New Zealand, you will need to get a freshwater fishing license from the New Zealand Fish & Game Council. You will also need to purchase or rent the necessary equipment such as a rod, reel, and flies.
You should also consider taking a fly fishing lesson or course to learn the basics. Finally, research the local fishing regulations, so you can fish safely and sustainably.
Why are trout so big in New Zealand?
Trout in New Zealand are large because the country’s rivers and lakes are home to abundant food sources and provide excellent spawning conditions.
The abundance of insects, fish, and other food sources allow trout to grow to large sizes. The cold and clean water also helps to keep the trout healthy and vigorous.
Do you need a license to fish for trout in NZ?
Yes, you need a license to fish for trout in New Zealand. The New Zealand Fish & Game Council issues a range of fishing licenses for freshwater fishing, which can be purchased online or at fishing stores.
How many trout can you keep in NZ?
The number of trout you can keep in New Zealand depends on the region that you are fishing in. Generally, the bag limit is two fish per day and the size limit is 300 mm. It is important to check with the local fishing authorities before fishing to make sure that you are following the regulations.
Have we inspired you to grab your gear, book a plane ticket, and set off for New Zealand yet?
It’s true that the fly fishing here is some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the world. There’s just something about the place that gets people coming back to New Zealand again and again.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to fly fishing in the amazing country that is New Zealand! With all the info here, planning your trip should be easy, from choosing which flies to bring to buying your fishing license and deciding which locations to visit!
Drop us a comment or a question below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
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