Flyfishing in New Zealand
If you are planning a New Zealand fly fishing trip, you need to be aware of the most successful techniques to catch that long-dreamed of trophy trout. Yes, there are still plenty of trophy trout in NZ but you will need to be proficient in a variety of techniques. Trout fishing NZ requires skillful presentation but with a variety of techniques. The techniques will vary considerably between the North Island and the South Island and part of that will be whether you are fishing to brown or rainbow trout. If you are not sure of the best technique for a particular river, I have written several ebooks that specify the best technique for fly fishing on that particular New Zealand River. You can check out that range of books here or on Amazon.
If you want to know more about the range of techniques that are commonly used when fly fishing New Zealand, then have a look at my book 101 Troutfishing Tips here or on Amazon here
Fishing a dry fly downstream
One of the most common techniques used to fish to sighted fish in New Zealand is the Skues technique. Below is an extract from a chapter in my ebook: Fishing for Trout - Flyfishing New Zealand. You can buy that book here
Tales & Techniques
The Maraetotara is a quiet, leisurely stream and the tactics used should be similarly orientated. I find the more time I spend observing on this river, the more success I have. There is probably a lesson there somewhere! The first observation came many years ago as I watched an older angler trying to subdue a hard-fighting brown. We were in the middle reaches, not far up from the Waimarama Road and I had been wandering along the banks, trying to spot trout. The wind was howling overhead and the ruffled nature of the water made spotting hard. I saw the angler up ahead and was walking up to him for a yarn when he hooked the fish. By the time I reached him, the fish had gone.
“Bad luck!” I consoled.
“More like bad thinking.” he replied. “I’ve hooked him before and knew that he had that bolthole under the bank. I just didn’t turn him in time.”
“It sounds like you fish here a lot. What are they taking?” I asked.
The old fisherman cocked his head and looked at me for a second or two; seemingly weighing up whether to give away vital information. In the end his ego or generosity got the better of him.
“Willow grub,” he finally said.
“Willow what?” I enquired.
The old fellow sighed and reached down to retrieve his fly. Without comment, he passed a tiny, yellow, slim-bodied nymph to me.
“Never seen one of those before,” I said.
“Well, if you want to fish this river on a windy day, you had better get some,” he advised. “They are being blown out of the willows and that’s all the trout are interested in. Here have one,” he offered, taking a nymph from his flypatch.
“Gee, thanks,” I said, as he moved off up the river.
I studied the tiny fly. It was a size 16 by the look of it, admittedly with my very new flytiers eye. It seemed to be just ribbed yellow floss with a twist of peacock herl at the top. It didn’t look much but I tied it on anyway and moved downstream to a slow patch of water under a mass of overhanging willows. The fly lasted three casts. No, not taken by some huge 10 pound brown, but securely fastened to a willow branch, three metres high above the pool. The howling gale had exposed yet another casting deficiency.
Pulling out my fly box, I rummaged through the contents. The only thing that looked remotely yellow was a Greenwell’s Glory dry fly. It was about a size 14 so would not be too large but wasn’t much use with all the wings and hackle. I decided to reduce the fly to its bare essentials. Stripping off all the unwanted adornments, I was left with a greeny-yellow body and a black head. It didn’t look very exciting but it would have to do. Moving up to the head of the pool, where the willows were less frequent, I spotted a bulging rise on the far side. A rough sort of roll cast delivered the tatty fly within a metre of the fish. Another boil came near my fly and I struck. A strong 1.5 kg Maraetotara brown shot up the pool.
After a couple of circuits, it then pulled off the best escape trick I have seen in many years of fishing since that day. The trout raced up the far side of the pool, alongside the bank. It went under a half-submerged branch and then leapt straight up a metre in the air. The flimsy leader snapped immediately. I felt like giving the performance a standing ovation. I’m not sure whether he had used this escape technique before but it was extremely effective. Having exhausted my supply of anything resembling a willow grub, that was the last fish for the day. No matter what I tried from then on, the fish were super selective and didn’t want anything else. Naturally, on subsequent summer visits to the river, I have always ensured I had a large supply of the tiny flies. It is a very simple pattern:
Hook: size 14 – 18, short shank
Body: yellow floss, starting halfway around the bend of the hook
Ribbing: black thread
Head: one herl of peacock
The willow grubs are taken by the trout just below the surface so there is no need for any weight on the fly. It can be fished as a dry fly however the better method is the one made famous by G.M.Skues and detailed in his book, Nymph Fishing for Chalk Stream Trout. Skues is recognised as the ‘father’ of nymphing through his use of patterns that imitated the subsurface insect. The success of this highly productive fishing method led to many heated debates between the new ‘nymphers’ and the traditional ‘dry fly only’ flyfishers led by F.M.Halford. Some of the more famous English trout streams even went as far as banning nymphing as the method was regarded as being morally inferior to dry fly fishing. After a few years, everyone had accepted that nymphing was based on the exact matching of the natural subsurface insect and so required even more skill than dry fly fishing. Still, Halford went to his grave insisting that nymphing was cheating and against all the principals of honest flyfishing. What he would have thought of fishing with weighted GloBugs cannot be imagined.
The Skues’ method involves greasing the leader up to 30 cm or so from the nymph and casting above a ‘bulging’ trout. Bulging is a rise to the fly where the trout does not break the surface during the take. The fish is always sighted and the angler casts sufficiently above the trout to allow the nymph to sink to the depth of the fish. The take is detected by the movement of the greased part of the leader. This ‘greased cast’ method is ideal for use with the Willow Grub fly. Whenever you are on a willow-lined river on a windy day in summer, this fly should be your first choice. If the trout are feeding on these, they tend to ignore everything else being offered, which can make for a frustrating day.
Using the Skues technique on the Little Wanganui River
I just finished your book Fishing For Trout - With The Nymph. Good information and was easy to read. I would like your pattern for your killer nymph.
You can buy that book on Amazon here