Do-It-Yourself New Zealand, Part IV

[Editor’s note: This is the last of a four-part series by Toby Swank (originally published in the early days of to help the adventurous angler with planning a self-guided trip to New Zealand’s South Island.]

New Zealand is really a special place to me, and I hope that every angler with an adventurous streak gets the experience…hopefully just not when I’m there! The information that I have provided over the last few days is by no means complete or definitive; the intention has been to give you a place to start. Regardless of the catching that you might experience in New Zealand, the fishing and country itself are worth the trip in their own right.

Getting the most out of a do-it-yourself trip of this scale is as much about managing your expectations as anything. I have personally fished over 100 days in New Zealand and have honestly only hooked a handful (one hand) of fish over 9 pounds—and zero have come to the net. I’ve only seen one legitimate, wild 10-pound brown trout landed in all of my days fishing New Zealand streams. Very skilled anglers who literally dedicate their time in New Zealand to finding and catching this class of fish land most of the monster double-digit browns. 


The long hike and hours of frustration melt away when 
you finally bring a big brown to hand, and the release is 
just as satisfying.

photo by Toby Swank

The lure of New Zealand trout fishing will always be the chance of catching that once-in-a-lifetime wild trout on a dry fly in a picturesque setting. The fishing in New Zealand is difficult and leaves little room for error. In general, fish numbers are considerably lower than one would expect. These trout have very few predators and a relatively long “growing season,” so they get large and live a long life-which means that they become wise and very aware of their surroundings (especially when something is out of the norm, such as an angler waving a stick at them). The odds of success are not good for the average angler, and it’s amazing how quickly one can feel like an average angler in New Zealand.

The reality of trout fishing in New Zealand is that the experience is about much more than just the fish. There is no place that I’d rather be right now than standing on the bank of a backcountry stream, surveying the next run. The sense of being alone with the trout in this enormous landscape may be a little too esoteric for some folks, but it is the reason I return year after year to this fantastic place. The waters of New Zealand are the places that I go to get my soul cleaned after a season of chuckin’ split shot and indicators.

The Crawl

There’s nothing better than the anticipation of finding the next fish around the bend.

photo by Toby Swank

There is no place that I could recommend more than New Zealand for an amazing fly-fishing experience. Allow yourself to experience the local culture, the uniqueness of the scenery, and the multitude of trout-fishing opportunities that are only available there. If catching lots of double-digit fish is the primary objective, Alaska may be a better choice. However, for a firsthand account of what fly-fishing for trout is really all about, New Zealand is the place for you!

Previous installments in the series:  

Do-It-Yourself New Zealand, Part I

Do-It-Yourself New Zealand, Part II

Do-It-Yourself New Zealand, Part III.

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