tEN tIPS FOR vISITING NZ
Get it right. Our conditions, let alone our fish are tough on gear. That flimsy K-Mart fly flinger you bought as it looked near enough wont cut the mustard. Good quality 5 and 6wt med or medium fast action rods with preferably a spare in the pack will help you seal the deal. Reels must be robust and up to the job. A top end sealed drag system or similar quality equipment will give you piece of mind when you're a long way from the fly shop and that wilderness rainbow bolts down the rapid. Choose a good quality fly line. Airflo's mew Super Dri Bandit and Stealth models are designed specifically for New Zealand, by NZ anglers for our local conditions and angling challenges. Supple coatings perform well in cooler, mountain water and an aggressive taper is also perfect for bowling over our longer leaders and wind resistant flies.
Likewise with clothing systems: your base layer needs to be warm when called for, and able to whick away the sweat on a long hike. A decent base, mid / insulation and outer layer is essential, as well as quality socks and boots. You simply wont function effectively with out them.
Your 'near enough' 20' cast may get you fish at home, From the drift boat in riffly water with 2000 fish per mile, but here our big fish in gin clear water are a different story. You must be able to present your fly accurately, often into the wind, with minimal false casting and often in tight surrounds. Pactise PULD and rolls at various targets out to 50' BEFORE you get on the plane. Cast on different planes, off both shoulders. Practise with kiwi style flies and leader systems as below. Seek your local FFF Certified Instructor and get a lesson if possible. Its worth it.
3.Handle the Kiwi jandal.
You will often have to do things a little differently here than what you are probably used to in order to score fish. Fish longer leaders than you are used to, employ stealth as you sneak upstream in search of fish, throw heavier tungsten one cast, and maybe a big, wind resistant dry the next (sometimes a combination of both at once, a-la the kiwi dry / dropper combo). Sight fishing is the big one. Our fish are big enough and water clear enough that combined with low fish per mile, blind fishing is not often the best option. You must learn to read the water, recognise NZ trout lies, realise that they wont always be in the deeper water on the far bank. With no real predators NZ trout will be found often right out in the open, away from cover, in often super shallow water. Learning to read this water and searching it visually is a real key towards success. And don't neglect the fast stuff. Spotting trout in fast water will put some of the bigger fish in your net. Look for subtle hints: shape, movement, shadow and colour, anything not quite in synch with the riverbed. The more you are out there, the easier it will become.
You need to be able to walk to get to where the fish are. Sure, we have locations where you are rarely ever 1km from the car, strolling grassy banks, but if you want the real backcountry and big, bruising browns and bows, its best you get in condition. Fitness can play an important role in enjoying your all round NZ experience: it can ensure you are steady / focussed enough to make that first cast count after a strenuous march across boulders, it can ensure your mood stays positive as the day gets on and it ensures you are ready to get up and at em bright and early the next morning, day after day with total concentration and bringing your A -game. Put on that pack and put a few miles on those boots before you come out to get NZ fit. Its not always a cake-walk!
Clean, check, dry. Make sure you dont bring in any invasive nasties, and please ensure you play your part in not spreading them whilst here in Aotearoa. Check out Biosecurity New Zealands website for more information how not to be a dick.
Do your homework before coming out. Check out the NZ Fly Fishing Forum on www.flyshop.co.nz and make yourself known. Almost every river, stream and creek you see here will hold fish somewhere along its length at some point of the season. Pick a few reputable streams and really get to know them rather than running around in circles fishing here, there and everywhere without really becoming in-tune with the river. But don't be afraid to explore.
Accomodation and travel within NZ is pretty safe and easy to manage, but its often advisable to book ahead, especially with guides: good guides book up months in advance. Theres often a reason why some wait by the phone the night before with an empty schedule. Do your homework. Get references and reccomendations. Make a good choices. This can make or break your trip.
7. Catch and release.
Whilst many rivers are regulated with a daily bag limit it is important to realise the importance of C&R on our more fragile headwater streams. Many of these waters may only host a handful of fish per mile, and these are often older, more established resident fish. Release the headwater fish, particularly the lunkers. Ensure there are fish there for your next trip.
Quick C&R tips: Wet your hands prior to handling fish * keep the fish in the water * avoid touching the gill area or squeezing the stomach * get him back in the water pronto * always use a net.
There is a saying true of many of our wilderness areas: "you don't get lost in there - you just never come out".
Do the map work prior to going in and know where you are at all times. Always let someone who knows the area know where you are going, when you are going in and when you are coming out. Also who / when to call for help if you no show. Carry a Personal Locator Beacon and know how and when it is appropriate to use it. Hire one if you don't own one. Don't take risks, and be very aware of the weather forecasts and conditions. Google the NZ Mountain Saftey Council website and familiarise yourself with safe backcountry travel.
9. Angler etiquette.
There are a lot of local quirks / customs here in NZ, particularly relating to angler encounters on the river. It is a mortal sin to enter the river above another angler there before you, even if you think you have given them enough room. Some rivers require many miles of undisturbed water to enjoy a days fishing. If you see another vehicle check the windscreen for a note as to their intentions and abide by them. Leave a note on yours advising wether you are fishing upstream or downstream. Make your self familiar with the angling etiquette guidelines on Fish and Game New Zealands website and keep the day enjoyable for all.
10. Share your tales but not locations.
Many of New Zealands smaller streams, particularly in our more remote, headwater areas are rather fragile in terms of the fishery, particularly our trophy producing streams. They simply cannot take a lot of pressure without suffering, or declining in quality. If you happen to come across one of these hidden gems on your travels, or are given a hot tip from a local, please keep these to yourself to ensure the health of the fishery in the future. Fish them sparingly (ie: dont camp on and fish the same peice of water day after day after day) and dont advertise them to everyone you meet. Locals are pretty protective of their headwater fisheries, and advertising a little known find is the quickest way to fall out of favor.
So share your photos and tales - just do as Kiwis do and suffer a touch of brain - fade when asked where you were :)