Cold rainy days. Flooded and murky rivers. Big hungry trout in the slower water. It was autumn in the South Island of New Zealand, and only the die-hard fanatics were out swinging their fly rods. Luckily for me, I had the pleasure of being one of them. I didn’t meet any other fly-fishermen in any of the rivers I fished during the last part of my NZ season. But I did end up catching a lot of nice trout, having a great time despite the horrible weather.
The rivers fished best on the way down after a big flood, just when the water started to clear but was still a bit murky. One day during such conditions I experienced some great trout fishing. The trout were stacked all the way up along my side of the bank and I spent a whole day fishing my way no more than a couple of kilometres upstream. I fished a big #10 PTN and they just couldn’t help themselves when they saw it drift by. When the day was over I had caught double digit number of fish between 4-7 lbs / 1,8-3,2 kg, and probably spooked just as many or more. The weather was crappy, but for the trout it seemed just about perfect.
Between the rainy days were a few brilliant nice ones with clear skies and warm temperatures. I spent those days along some beautiful spring creeks that I knew had a lot of trout in them. I had fished them before, but had spooked all the fish I saw, not landing even one. But this time the trout were on the feed, focused just a bit more on eating and less on the lookout for fly-fishermen. I did spook plenty this time too, but I also managed to trick some nice specimens. One situation was highly memorable. I spooked the fish while walking up on the bank heading upstream. The fish, obviously equipped with motion sensors, came zooming down from a big deep pool and swam right up to me, before cruising back up into the deep pool again. Some hours later and on the way back, I decided to sneak up to the pool once again. The trout was now visible at the tail of the pool, feeding on both nymphs and dries. A feeding trout is a lot easier to catch than a non-feeding trout. I got my chance and presented a #14 PTN at the end of a 2x rod length leader & tippet. The trout went for it and I set the hook. The fish then went straight into a hole between some boulders. I could still feel the fish, but it seemed like a doomed fight. Somehow the 4x fluorocarbon survived 5 minutes of pulling and in the end yanking the fish out from its hole. It was a good almost spotless brown trout weighing in at 6 lbs / 2,7 kg.
The last days of fishing before many of the rivers closed were of the rather wet and cold variety. But I kept at it, enjoying some more great late season fishing. Spotting was difficult that late in the season, both because of the weather but also because the sun was so low on the horizon. The rivers were on the rise because of the rain, and that forced the fish into the shallow and slower water once again. I had a great time casting to fish close-up, as I sometimes didn’t see them before almost stepping on them! The last fish of the day was in a small pocket between long glides of rapid water. I hoped there was something there, while approaching carefully. I almost stepped on the fish and quickly flicked my nymph out in front of it. It was a very nice 7 lbs / 3,2 kg fish and a great way to end my South Island trout season.
Before flying back to Norway, I just had to stop by one of my favourite North Island jungle rivers. I had experienced some amazing up-close action with feisty rainbow trout there some months earlier. When I got to the river I saw that the water levels were much lower than during my last visit. But the fish were still there, now holding in deeper and preferably aerated pockets of water. During the next couple of hours, I ended up catching a bunch of rainbows up to 5 lbs / 2,3 kg, both on nymphs and dry flies.
It was the end of an epic trout season in New Zealand. From just before the New Year and into May, I had been out there exploring and getting to learn the people, the lay of the land and rivers of this amazing country. It had been a very educational journey with many aspects of my fly-fishing improved, in particularly most things involving sub-surface fly-fishing. The great visibility lets you see so much more of what is going on underwater, how your nymphs move and how the trout react to them. Before I mostly fished dry flies to rising fish. Now I also search for fish feeding below the surface, something they seem to do most of the time, even when you cannot see it. It will be interesting to see if the tactics that worked so well in New Zealand also work back home in Norway.
Thank you New Zealand!