I was invited to fish for 4 days on a private 70,000 acre property. As I was a guest, I won’t go into too much detail, except to say we were located up high in the central North Island of New Zealand.
The property is stunning, consisting of thousands of acres of pasture, and many more of natural scrub cascading dramatically into several rivers and tributaries. This property is the size of a small country, shaped by volcanic activity. There are vast, scarred high plains, gentle rolling hills and dramatic peaks that reach for the sky.
The rivers and streams vary from challenging, gorgy, boisterous streams that resemble some of our north-east Victorian rivers, to meandering highland streams surrounded by tussock bushes and springy moss, to more typical New Zealand ultra-clear, blue-tinged rivers. On the river banks, the only footprints you are likely to see are from the healthy population of deer!
The trout here are plentiful, big and unmolested. However, visions of trout that probably hadn’t seen a human being for months jumping all over your fly, were to a degree just a mirage. We had to work hard for our captures. Trout will be trout and every trip adds a new chapter on how to catch them and what to catch them on.
We caught some beautiful rainbows and browns on a variety of flies; sometimes on typical New Zealand go-to patterns such as Parachute Adams and Hare & Copper nymphs, but more so on a variety of guide inventions such as spider imitations and big, leggy nameless attractor flies (which I called ‘Terminators’).
Some trout were very cooperative, taking our offerings without reservation, while others required many fly changes to tempt. Trout size ranged from around 4lb, to some bruising 6lb rainbows – and a trophy brown that was despairingly unstoppable. Into the backing and then wrapping the leader around a rock, leaving the flyline floating limply in the current and the angler hunched over, head around his knees, cursing his misfortune.
Our fifth day was spent back down on earth fishing gentle, narrow meadow streams that you might literally drive past without giving any thought. What lurks within these streams however is nothing short of breathtaking. Despite their lack of water clarity due to a slip or recent rain, we were able to target big browns, ranging from 4lb to trophy size. Accurate casting and nerves of steel were a prerequisite. The trout here were being incredibly selective. We won some and we lost some.
New Zealand continues to be the Mecca of trout fishing. Combine this with great friends, skilful guides, some good cuisine, fine wines and a shot or ten of fine whisky and rum and you have a recipe for instant withdrawal symptoms when you leave, which I’m presently suffering from! The only cure? We have already booked our next trip.