New Zealand's Best Fly Fishing Locations
New Zealand's South Island offers you a fishing paradise – the combination of large wild trout, sparkling mountain rivers, and spectacular scenery draw fishermen to this area like trout to fly!
A handful of locations in the South Island are held in high regard by both local and travelling anglers for various reasons. There are a few districts, valleys and rivers that stand out from the rest: the fishing hotspots of Te Anau in the Deep South, Queenstown, Wanaka, and Canterbury's renowned backcountry which extends to Hanmer Springs and north west to Murchison, and the Nelson Lake Districts. These areas undoubtedly offer some of the South Island's best fly fishing opportunities.
As a guide that has fished and guided extensively throughout these regions, I can honestly say they are all incredible in one form or other.
New Zealand’s Best Kept Secret: The Central South Island’s Backcountry
This location is known as a fisherman's utopia. It is a seemingly infinite trail of winding rivers and streams through some of the most picturesque mountain landscapes of New Zealand. This is what we’ve chosen to start our list with because it is absolutely compulsory on any South Island trout fishing vacation.
There are two distinctive altitudes in this region, the first being the lower scenic foothill rivers – featuring an enormous variety of waters to fish in; it is also one of the reassuring locations, with largely predictable and stable weather patterns. Fish size in many of these waters average 4 to 5 pounds, with a good number of these rivers holding larger trout, weighing in at 5 to 7 pounds… and as you may imagine, we regularly encounter substantial catches that weigh in excess of 8 pounds.
The second unique setting in the Central South Island is what is referred to as the Back Country. Flanked by the South Island’s majestic Southern Alps, this fly fishing domain is quite possibly New Zealand’s finest, offering sensationally glacier waters, easy access, warm local hospitality, and fantastic accommodation options. We’ve chosen this sanctuary as the heart of our fly fishing operation.
Small, character towns such as Omarama, Twizel, Lake Tekapo, Fairlie, Timaru and Geraldine not only offer great fishing opportunities but also amazing accommodation options including large high country sheep stations, private farm huts, Department of Conservation huts, or luxury lodges and resorts. Staying at these small towns allows you to experience the whole package; great trout fishing, memorable accommodation and sharing a meal with locals and other like-minded anglers.
South Island Locations
Canterbury’s back country and foot hill streams are our main fly fishing locations due to the high number of river options we have within this very scenic district, but our fishing expertise extends throughout the greater part of New Zealand’s South Island. Our knowledge of the surrounding districts and their ever-changing fisheries and moods is extensive. Tours to these prime fly fishing waters are available upon request.
Otago has some fantastic rivers and streams to fish both in the lowlands and back country and around the months of December to late February you will strike the cicadas out in good numbers which can make for some big bug action on the surface. Hard hitting rainbows can be very aggressive at these prime cicada times and blind fishing rainbow waters can be both very productive and exiting.
On the West Coast, this site is extremely isolated, and in most cases requires a helicopter charter to access. River conditions must be favourable for this excursion, as high water can be quite challenging.
This is another fantastic location; we regularly head down to these parts as conditions allow. There are a handful of fine rivers which we access by jet boat and heli charter.
North Canterbury and Hanmer Springs
Numerous rivers in this region hold some very big fish; early and late season are highly recommended. Fly fishing can be a little finicky in this location, but your patience will be suitably rewarded. Access is by four-wheel drive and helicopter charter.
Fly fishing around Queenstown offers a selection of highly regarded waters, such locations as the Greenstone and Caples rivers are both stunning catchments to fish and mainly hold hard fighting rainbows. Queenstown is a very popular spot due to all the other drawcards it offers in the tourism market, not forgetting its very scenic location. Using a guide will help you find those lesser unknown streams that regularly produce great fishing opportunities.
Paul McLauchlan’s Location Advice
- Canterbury's Foothills for trophy brown trout.
- The Back Country of New Zealand’s Central South Island is as good as it gets – dry fly madness.
- The remote rivers of McKenzie Country are rainbow trout heaven.
- Lake Wanaka’s head water streams are simply superb.
- Queenstown is a busy yet charming town, with extraordinary fishing opportunities.
- Be prepared to be humbled by the trophy brown trout of North Canterbury.
- Murchison’s remote wilderness streams are perfect for fly fishing.