Fishing in New Zealand can be tough, but can also be the most intense and immersive fly fishing experience you will ever encounter. Being a guide, it is my job to deliver the best day possible by not only selecting the right places to go but also by ensuring I have the gear to help me (and you) do what we do. Trout fishing in NZ is more akin to ‘Trout Hunting’ as we spend the majority of our time (where possible) spotting and stalking individual fish in which to cast at. This comes with its own set of skills and gear required to not only find the fish but ensure we deliver the cast in the most discreet way possible as these fish can be notoriously spooky!
The following is my basic go to things that I need to make a decent day on the water, starting from the ground up.
I like to keep a neutral light layer beneath any jackets I wear as we are usually walking many kms in a day and you heat up fast and need to de-layer quick. Also being in the sun all day I’m a big fan of SPF protection clothing such as the range from Simms, I’m basically a walking Simms billboard these days from head to toe. Headmasks (Buff) and gloves are a must if you in the backcountry as the mini vampires (sandflies) bring on suicidal tendencies if your not covered up!
It is popular in NZ to run with a 6wt rod and WF floating line because of their versatility amongst our wide range of waters. However personally I prefer to run with a 5wt, it’s still viable to use in 90% of situations and much nicer to handle on those small streams. My go to rod is the Epic 590c, made right here in NZ this puppy is the finest thing i’ve ever casted. However if we are being hounded with the all to regular gale force winds, I will bump up to a 6wt and some times a 7wt if I’m desperate!
I’m a religious user of knotless tapered leaders, usually 9-12ft on which I tie my chosen tippet for the day. When you’ve got limited chance for fish in a day you have to make each count and the less knots I have in my line the more comfortable I am, so even though they may be more pricey than tying your own, knotless is the safest option! Also when it comes to tippet I almost exclusively use fluorocarbon unless I’m stripping big streamers, generally running in the size range from 3x-5x and very rarely 6x. Trouthunter is my go to, just cant beat the convenience of colour-coded click-together spools!
This is really up to personal interpretation but I’m a big fan of simple, and dull flies, especially for fishing to finicky browns in ultra clear water. I’m usually carrying a bunch of varieties of brown/green mayfly and caddis nymphs with the odd flashy or big ugly things if things are a bit tough, most with tungsten beads. With dries I stick to mayfly and terrestrial varieties with the odd caddis imitations. I also have my fly boxes split categories for different river types, a lowland stream nymph box and backcountry freestone nymph box for example. This allows me to keep it simple and just carry what I need for the day whilst always having in my bag the ‘Mother’ box for backup and refills.
Of course there is my polarised glasses, probably my #1 asset because without them I can’t see shit! Go for a good pair from the get go, with amber/orange tinted lenses that bring out the most contrast of colours, they will go a long way improving your spotting efforts. I run with Smith Chromapop lenses, the best I have ever come across. Last but not least is all the little bits that are essential to make life easier and my main go to is the ‘New Zealand Indicator Tool’, this little gadget is a revelation and attaching indicators to your line has never been so easy, no kinking or sinking and better yet you can slide them up and down on a whim to ensure your always in close contact with your flies!
So thats the foundation of what you’ll need for a day on the water in NZ and probably anywhere else you will fish for trout. Just remember, gear isn’t a substitute for practice or skill, it just enhances what you already have. So invest in your learning and hire a guide if your fishing new waters, it will cost much less than all the new kit and will go a long way to making you a much better angler in the longterm.