New Zealand’s waterways offers some of the best fly fishing opportunities in the world, from remote mountain streams to gorgeous lakes. Fly fishing New Zealand is something every fly fisherman dreams of doing – the crystal clear waters, the stunning backdrops, the monstrous brown and rainbow trout! Need we say more?!
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! We’ve covered everything from the regulations and license you’ll need, to the best flies to stock up on, and the top spots for fly fishing in this unique and beautiful country.
New Zealand Fly Fishing Licenses
You’ll need to buy a license to fish for trout, salmon, and other species of sport fish in New Zealand. If you don’t live in New Zealand, you should buy the Non-Resident License (NRL which allows you to fish 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 certain rivers.
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 Fishing License for $169 and $34 for children. The cost of a Back Country License and a Controlled Fishery License are included in the price of the Whole Season license, although you do need to apply for them separately.
You can buy your license in many of the sports and hunting stores, motels, and garages near fishing waters. 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.
New Zealand Trout Fishing Regulations
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 waders are completely banned in all of New Zealand to stop the spread of harmful 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 it to be cleaned before you can use it. When fishing in NZ waters, take care to clean and dry your 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, and 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 fishing is prohibited between midnight and 5am. Check out the full Taupo regulations for yourself at this link.
New Zealand River Fishing Reports
Before setting out, it’s a good idea to check on the water conditions on the river or lake that you’re heading to. This way, you’ll know what the conditions are like, from water level and conditions to access points and what the fish are doing.
The best resource for this is the Fish and Game NZ website, where you can find out detailed information about each spot. Just zoom in on your destination on their handy map to find out the latest river reports!
Best Flies for New Zealand
When you’re planning your NZ fly fishing trip, don’t forget to stock up on some new dry flies, nymphs, and streamers.
As with fly-fishing anywhere, you’ll want to keep a beady eye out for what the fish are eating and what’s hatching right now where you’re fishing. Native forage can vary from location to location and from season to season, so this is the best way to decide which flies to use. When fishing New Zealand waters, use flies that resemble the native bugs as closely as possible.
Beautifully large trout live in New Zealand’s rivers and lakes. If you want to stand a chance of landing one (or several!), here are our recommendations for the top New Zealand trout fishing flies:
Firstly, make sure you pack the ever-popular Parachute Adams, as well as CDC Emergers and Blue Duns. If you’re fishing in the evening, it’s a good idea to have some Elk Hair Caddis and Caddis Emergers to hand.
Some effective flies for summer fishing include the General Terrestrial, the Royal Wulff (a rainbow trout favorite), and the eye-catching Crystal Stimulator.
For late fall or early winter fishing, take some Green Beetle flies – you’ll be bound to see them flying all over the place around then, and the trout go crazy for them.
Some effective nymphs when you’re fly-fishing in New Zealand include the Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Damsel Caddis, and the Dragonfly Nymph.
Both the Hare and Copper and the Hare and Pheasant nymphs work wonders all over New Zealand, so these are must-haves for your fly box.
Wet flies come in especially handy during the evening or night. If you’re after the big browns, tie on a Green Woolly Bugger or a Standard Night Fly. Alternatively, you could try using some luminous streamers, like the Black Marabou or the Doll Fly.
The Mrs Simpson streamer is also a hugely effective wet fly that is sure to get you some bites. It imitates the native cockabully fish that the trout love to eat.
Best Fly Fishing Lodges in New Zealand
Booking a stay in one of New Zealand’s fishing 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. You’ll find that the lodges range from basic, rustic lodges to high-end, luxury experiences.
Many NZ fishing lodges even have their own helicopter to take you to those out-of-the-way locations, 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 fishing lodges:
Owen River Lodge
The Owen River Lodge is a five-star lodge which 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.
But most importantly, this lodge is in the perfect location 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.
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 helicopter 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. If you’re after a bit more indulgence after a long day of hiking or fishing, opt for one of the comfortable bedroom suites or private cabins at the lodge itself.
One of the smaller fishing lodges in NZ with just four rooms, Cedar Lodge has a wonderfully homey and welcoming feel to it.
Located 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 to make sure you land more of those cunning and wily New Zealand trout, skilled guides will be on hand to spot the fish and help you perfect your cast and presentation
Combine with hearty, gourmet meals, and simple but comfortable bedrooms, and you’ll have all the ingredients for an amazing fishing holiday!
After those monster browns? You need to get yourself to Riverview Lodge! The waters around here are home to plenty 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 the 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 here.
Nokomai Valley Lodge
You’ll find the Nokomai Valley Lodge just an hour south of Queensland, near the Garvie mountains. The countryside is spectacular here – a 12-mile stretch of the Mataura River runs right through the Nokomai property, well-stocked with brown trout 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 fishing possibilities, other activities on offer include mountain biking, hiking, skiing, horse riding, farm tours, and helicopter trips. So if you’re holidaying with someone who isn’t such an avid angler, there’s something to keep everyone content.
The Best Trout Rivers and Lakes in New Zealand
Both the North and South Island offer some amazing fishing spots with crystal clear water and great big browns and rainbow trout. With so many rivers and lakes to fish, it’s easy to find a quiet spot to enjoy a tranquil day on the water for some excellent freshwater fly fishing.
Finding the best locations can be tricky, however, unless you’re in the know. So here are some of my top fly fishing locations to get you started!
Top Trout Fishing Locations on the North Island
Although many people rave about the South Island fishing, don’t overlook these great locations on the North Island!
The Mohaka River 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 helicopter with an experienced guide. Landing a trout 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.
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 rainbow trout.
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 opportunities, especially the Aniwaniwa, the Mokau, and the Hopuruahine rivers.
The Tongariro River is a world-famous fishery, 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.
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 this river.
Top Trout Fly Fishing Locations on the South Island
When you think of fishing on the South Island, big brown trout 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 a South Island river, though!
The Clutha river offers some of the finest “big river” fishing 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 rainbow and brown trout as well as salmon!
In the upper reaches of the Clutha River, 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 fishing carefully.
If your uncomfortable fishing large water we recommend experimenting with some of the smaller tributaries such as the Pomohaka River or tackling the lower reaches. Here the Clutha forks into the Koau and Matau branches of the river. This will allow you to practice fishing 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 trout and salmon you’re able to take from the river.
A 3-hour drive from Dunedin, the Mataura River 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 of the river, where you’ll find fewer anglers and healthy brown trout populations.
The daytime fishing is consistently good all along the river. In the summer, you can have a lot of success fishing your dry flies in the evening, too.
Home to swarms of midges, mayflies, and other insects, you’ll have no trouble drawing the trout to the surface to snack on your dry flies here. Just be prepared with plenty of insect repellent so the bugs don’t take the opportunity to snack on you too!
Just two hours from Blenheim and Nelson, and you could be fishing this impressive brown trout river. Although it can be difficult to access, with fast flowing river and bush along both sides, it’s worth persevering as the trout fishing opportunities here are second to none.
If you’re up for a challenge, the upper section of the river has large trout populations 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 River, which are slightly more sedate but still offer good prospects for trout fly fishing. Although there are fewer trout in this section, the ones you’ll find tend to be big ‘uns, weighing 3 pounds or more.
Three hours by car from Dunedin, you’ll find the Ahuriri River. 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 of the river where you’ll find higher stocks of trout. You could spend many a pleasant afternoon fishing for browns and rainbows in this top fly fishing location, with the stunning mountain scenery as a backdrop.
The best spot for abundant trout numbers is between Lake Benmore and the SH8 Bridge. You canccess these areas from the SH8 Bridge or the Clay Cliffs on Henburn Road.
If you’re all about sight fishing and you don’t mind getting into the water, head for Motueka river. 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 of the river. You’ll have to wade here, as the vegetation along the banks is thick and dense, but the calm, peaceful setting and the healthy trout 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. As the water is so clear, you can easily sight fish on any stretch of the river. The trout population is booming, and you’ll find many larger specimens, too.
The Wrap Up
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 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!
Whether you’re planning a self-directed New Zealand fly fishing tour or a luxurious, all-inclusive week at a top fishing lodge, New Zealand has something for everyone on every budget. If you’ve found this article helpful, make sure to share it with your friends! Drop us a comment or a question below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!