Frequently Asked Questions About Fly Fishing In Canterbury

typical back country hut

When’s Best To Go Fly Fishing in Canterbury?

Our fishing season here in the South Island commences October 1st of each year and runs until the end of April. Some areas are not open until November 1st each season. The best fishing is generally thought to be had from late November to mid March. In my opinion, true summer here is December through to February - with the most settled weather over Jan/Feb and March (great dry fly months) so I recommend coming to NZ then. Early season fishing (October or November) often sees unsettled weather and high water levels in our rivers...but if you get the weather and conditions right it can be spectacular.

Do I need a Licence?

A licence MUST be purchased for each angler that will use a rod. The licence cost is nominal - an adult non-resident license entitles you to fish for a whole year from October 1st. A 2019/2020 season is NZD$165.00 for a non resident.  Our winter licence is only $76 an adult if you want to target the colder months.I suggest buying your licence before you arrive, that way it is here when you arrive, and comes with a newsy magazine and information booklet with all the rivers and their seasons in there - you can get it online by clicking here. It is mandatory to have a licence to hunt or fish in this country. If you run out of time before you get here, for a small admin fee (charged by Fish and Game) we can buy a license over the phone on the way to the river using your credit card

Are you a registered guide?

There is one national register for fishing guides in New Zealand - The NZPFGA - New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association. For a professional service that will meet your expectations, be sure your guide is a current member of the association. It goes without saying, that I am a current member. New Zealand has a reputation for large fish. This is still true, although with increasing angler pressure it becomes more difficult each season to target 'big fish'. The fishing here is technically quite difficult, our rivers are very clear. DO brush up on your casting skills before you hit the river. A good cast in challenging conditions can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of our fishing. Our fisheries are under constant pressure, so more and more guides are looking to travel further afield to maximise their client's fishing experience.

What kit do I need? Can you supply it?

If you want to winter fish for the trophy trout in our canal systems then you will want specific gear.. the technique is different to how we usually fish, the boys at The Complete Angler here in Christchurch can kit you out with what you need.. and we can tie your trip in to a school on how to target and catch BIG doubles if that's your goal.

If you haven't got the gear then leave it to me, I'll get it sorted for you! Rods, reels, camo gear (I have quite a bit here...it's worn, but it's always clean and I have most sizes covered.) I can supply flies and tippet if you haven't any or the ones you have are not quite right for our conditions. We favour catch and release, although when on a trip I have no problem taking a small fish of 3-4 pound for an evening meal if it is permitted in the given fishery.

Will You Teach Me How To Find The Fish?

As we tend to favour 'sight fishing' here in New Zealand, your guide will assist you in learning how to spot fish, and how to cover the most likely water and raise fish to the fly. Part of this is wearing appropriate gear. We wear subdued tones and colours, we DO NOT wear reds, whites or bright colours as these do spook fish, and will reduce your catch dramatically. Felt soled boots are now banned in all New Zealand rivers... so do consider this when packing your gear. Breathable waders using fabrics such as 'gore-tex' can also make early and late season fishing more comfortable in the cold conditions.

What Should I Wear?

Many fishermen favour camouflage gear with broken contours to further reduce the chance of spooking fish. For the same reasons it is recommended to use subtly coloured fly lines - where possible avoid white/orange lines (I doubt you could even buy one in New Zealand!! We don't use them here.) Pale greens and tans are best suited to our challenging conditions. Always wear a cap/hat as this also improves visibility into the water. Polaroids are essential on the river or lake...you won't see the fish unless you are wearing them. Bolle have an excellent range at your local stockist. I personally find the amber or orange toned lenses ideal for fresh water, with the blue and grey lenses better suited to salt water.

What’s The Best Equipment For Fly Fishing In New Zealand?

The rod weights most commonly used are 5, 6 and 7 here in the South Island (with 6's and 7's being favoured). With 8's and 9's being more common in the North Island systems over winter months for the rainbow spawning. Personally I carry and use Sage rods. I have several on hand that you may use as part of your day/trip. We predominantly fish dry flies, and nymphs. The local fishing retailers will happily share with you the more successful patterns for each area.

When I leave a camp, be it from a day-trip or overnighter, I always aim to leave just our footprints behind. Keeping NZ 'clean and green' is something I'm committed to. Its good to respect the back country environment and wildlife...some of the flora and fauna here are delicate - and they are part of what makes it such a vibrant yet especially tranquil place.

Do You Have Biting Insects Or Other “Wildlife”? 🙂

Some anglers still enjoy wet fly fishing at river mouths and in the evenings. We have a native insect called the 'sandfly'...a pesky brute with a nasty bite. Do carry insect repellent for your fishing comfort especially when in high country areas and when lake fishing in the South Island. In extreme back country areas, you may find a 'head-net' a great accessory as the sandflies can be prolific in these areas.

New Zealand is fortunate to have no dangerous animals such as snakes and only two mildly poisonous spiders - the domestic 'whitetail' (usually found in curtains, will give you a small swelling) or the Katipo (I personally have never seen one). Apart from the sandfly, about the most noxious pest you are likely to run into is the odd Australian tourist spouting off about the rugby and cricket! New Zealand is a very safe and healthy place but I do suggest drinking bottled water unless advised it is cleared to drink from the wild. Please make sure you tell me if you have a medical condition....I'd rather know now, than when we are 200 kilometres from the nearest town!

Does It Take Long To Get There?

New Zealand appears quite small on the maps. Don't be deceived though... it can take a lot of travel time to get to some of the better/more remote rivers and lakes. Even what appears to be a short 100 kilometre trip can take a couple of hours dependent on the roads.

Much of our fishing is accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicle. Overnight stays are commonplace for many, eliminating the need for daily travel to-and-from the river. Tents or cabins are the most common sleeping arrangement. Of course there are hotels and lodges...but these are not always near the river!! The cabin pictures below are typical of the Canterbury region. Talk to me about any accommodation requirements or preferences that you may have. Helicopter adventures can further optimise your experience if you have the money to invest.

Do You Also Offer A little Hunting?

I am always happy to carry a rifle or two along on a trip if you so desire. New Zealand has many animals to hunt: rabbits abound, ducks, geese, pheasant, quail, possums (a pest here in NZ), wild pig, deer...these are all part of the natural habitat if you wish to go looking for them. I do not charge extra to include this as I am not a 'hunting guide', (although am a keen hunter myself) but am happy to help you have a go. It's all part of YOUR adventure - you just have to let me know what YOU want to do. I can even throw in a clay-bird thrower and shotguns - there is a small charge for the clays ($40 a box) and the shotgun rounds for claybird days. This is a lot of fun for corporate days and parties of several people and makes a great alternative to live hunting.

How Do We Find The Fish?

Fishing our New Zealand rivers is VERY different to fishing elsewhere in the world. Most fishing here is sight fishing… we don't do much blind fishing AT ALL. I am not being critical...but it is my experience that most visiting anglers just do not 'see' the fish in the rivers here, and so they don't catch them!!

I know anglers that have visited NZ for many seasons that will walk past fish because they just can't see them! It takes time and practice to read our rivers - 99% of visiting anglers will spook many fish and never know it. The fish are big...but they are found in different habitats over the river. It is not uncommon to walk 500-600 yards/metres between fish. There will not be a fish in between!!! I see anglers who don't understand this waste valuable time and effort thrashing water that I can 'see' has no fish in it. As a rule, you will not find multiple fish in a pool or run...there will be one big fish, maybe two if you are very lucky. We then walk upstream to the next fish, which we 'spot'. This is why it is not uncommon to walk 5 miles in a day (8 kilometres) or more.

Do I Need Prior Experience With Fly Fishing?

It helps YES, but if you don't, then at least practice before you arrive. I cannot emphasise enough the need for you to be able to cast... I can get you to the fish... but you have to be able to cast to it. The time to learn is not when you are about to cast into the wind to a nine pound trout...PRACTICE before you get here...or invest a few dollars in a casting clinic. Often you get ONE shot.

Are The Rivers Crowded With Anglers?

These fish spook easily, and once spooked, will be 'down' for the rest of the day (at least) and very reluctant to play for a couple of days. This is why it is important we are on water that has no other anglers. If there is another angler on the water in front of us that water is now 'dead' to us. It will not fish well for a few days. We would be wasting our time (and your money) to follow in someones footsteps...remember this, whether you use a guide or not - you MUST be fishing 'untouched' water to have a good chance of catching fish. (Untouched water to me is anything that has not been fished for at least 3 days before our arrival...preferably a week or more!) I have had many anglers express great surprise at this fact so am posting it here on the front page of my site so you know that it doesn't matter who guides you, you need unfished water to do well when fishing for big trout in back country rivers in New Zealand. The exceptions to this rule are rivers like the Mataura in Southland that has a prolific evening rise, this can handle multiple anglers over several days running.