Why fly fish New Zealand ?

February 22, 2019

By Felix Borenstein

Why fly fish New Zealand ?

Why do people come from all over the world to fly fish New Zealand—a little country tucked away at the bottom of most global maps (if it’s even included at all)?

As with most questions in life, the answer is made up of many parts.

Clarity of the water

New Zealand rivers, especially those in the South Island, typically run clear. Very clear. Gin clear. In fact, some are so clear the wild browns (and a few rainbows) can appear to be floating in mid-air. It’s this water clarity that allows the skilled angler to stalk and target a specific fish, rather than blind-fish a river. It’s akin to hunting with a fly rod. Once you’ve tried it you’ll instantly become addicted to stalking fish!

At Owen River Lodge, we have some of New Zealand’s most pristine and remote rivers right on our doorstep. And that’s no accident.

Size of the fish

What can I say—size does matter.
There’s nowhere else on earth where you can catch an enormous wild brown trout in crystal clear water. I’m often asked why there are so few New Zealand browns and why they’re so large. Well, it’s complicated, but the easy answer is that they are so big because there are so few of them.

Landing one of these aristocrats is a true achievement. Our trout don’t get to be the size they are by being stupid. They’re wily and they’ll fight you every step of the way. But I figure if you weren’t up for a challenge, you wouldn’t be here reading about them.

When our native beech forests flower and seed en masse, there’s always a spike in the local mouse population. In late 2018 we had just such an event, which means there’s plenty of food around for the mice, and hopefully the trout. Expect to see some real monsters next season.


New Zealand is a benign place to visit; we’ve got a stable government and the rule of law is respected. You can relax while fishing in the backcountry as we don’t have any bears, mountain lions, cougars (of the four-legged variety), wolves, snakes, alligators, crocodiles or panthers. Yikes, even our deadliest spider won’t kill you!

Most of New Zealand’s two-legged inhabitants are non-threatening too. Kiwis don’t usually carry guns or knives unless they’re chasing deer, chamois, goats or wild pigs in remote parts of the country.

Don’t let this lull you into thinking that fly fishing in New Zealand is a total walk in the park, though. There’s plenty of rugged country, unpredictable weather, biting insects and wild, fighting trout to make it all worthwhile.

The People

Kiwis are a really friendly lot. We enjoy sharing our country with visitors, especially if they’re open to absorbing some of our unique culture and heritage. Meet and chat with some of the locals—our population is a melting pot of European, Maori, Pacific Island and Asian influences. You’ll see these at play in many aspects of New Zealand life, particularly our cuisine, our art and our easy-going, relaxed approach.
We’re an outdoors culture. We love to spend time outside, exploring and enjoying everything this beautiful country has to offer. We’ll always warm to anyone who appreciates it as much as we do.

The Land

The youngest country on earth has some stunning geography packed into a relatively small area. Take some time out from your fishing to look around and be amazed. From the stunning beaches of Golden Bay to the temperate rainforests of the West Coast; from the wild Kaikoura coast to the majestic Southern Alps—our landscape is truly epic. And that’s without even mentioning incredible Fiordland.
An old nickname for New Zealand is “Godzone”, short for “God’s Own Country”. Visit and you’ll see for yourself why so many people come here from all over the world to fly fish. These people may not broadcast the fact too loudly because they want to keep it all to themselves. But we’ll invite you anyway.

This might be the perfect time to book yourself a unique Kiwi trout fishing experience. Be quick, though—if there’s one thing I know for sure about our huge, cunning browns, it’s that they’re definitely not going to catch themselves.

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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