When to fly fish in New Zealand?

June 06, 2016

The question I get asked more than any other is “What is the best time of the year to fly fish New Zealand?

It’s a tough question to answer, as there are so many variables. Probably the easiest way to answer this perennially asked question is to take you on a guided tour through the fishing season.

October and November are considered early season in these parts. This is spring time in New Zealand, and in a usual season; the rivers will be running high.
The rivers in this region are fed principally by rain and springs rather than snow melt, so you don’t need to worry about snow melt making your favorite New Zealand trout stream run dirty.

September and October are considered wet months, which means there is a fair chance you will experience rain, if you plan on fishing in October &/or November.

On the very positive side, our closed season is May > September, so that 6 lb wild brown the guide has spotted for you, probably hasn’t seen an angler for at least 5 months. The other standout advantage of early season is the fact that there are very few foreign anglers about.
60 > 70 % of your fishing with be fishing to sighted wild brown trout indicator nymphing – usually a 14 or 16 tungsten weighted bead head. Early season dries are the ubiquitous parachute or standard adams or cadis, typically size 14 or 16. The mornings are usually quite cool with the days warming up : expect average day time temperatures around 16 > 20c (62 > 70f)

December is without doubt the most underrated time of year to fly fish New Zealand. Typically the rivers have dropped a bit and are running very clear. It’s late spring/early summer in this region.

The longer days mean average day time temperatures have warmed to low to mid 20c (70>75f). Your fishing will probably be evenly split between nymphs and drys, with the chance of some early terrestrial fishing thrown into the pot ! It’s also a time of the season, that due to the upcoming Christmas holidays and thanksgiving, see’s fewer anglers on the rivers than almost any other time of the year.

January, February & March
High summer in this part of New Zealand means average day time temperatures in high 20 to low low 30c (75 >90f). Forget about wearing waders, it’s wet wading time in New Zealand !

It’s the driest time of the year and consequently the rivers are running low and clear. There is nothing like the thrill of casting to a big bruising brown trout in a crystal clear mountain stream and see him come up to the surface and inhale your big bushy cicada !

It is classic New Zealand dry fly/terrestrial fishing at its best. Summer in New Zealand coincides with the European & North American winter, so its no surprise that it’s also the busiest time to fish New Zealand.

The go to flies for summer in the Nelson/Murchison region are Cicadas, blow flies and flying ants.

The start of April signals the beginning of autumn (Fall) in these parts, the sun has lost its intensity of summer, the days are shorter, the mornings noticeably cooler. Generally we get a little rain which helps freshen up the rivers after the long hot summer.

All these changes to the environment send the brown trout in the Nelson/Murchison/Marlborough region into feeding overdrive as they stack on condition as they prepare for the spanning season. The vast majority of foreign anglers have departed and you can pretty much guarantee to have your favorite river all to yourself.

As they days are cooler, mayfly activity increases thus you should expect to target some rising wild browns on rivers such as the Maruia and Owen. You can expect average day time temperatures around 16 > 20c (62 > 70f).

For additional reading, please visit http://www.owenriverlodge.co.nz/fly-fishing/season/

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Awards & acknowledgements

Owen River Lodge NZ: “Fly fishing at its very best”

Ph: +64 3 523 9075 Address: Owen Valley East Road, Murchison, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand

Email: fish@elevenangling.com