New Zealand Self Drive Adventures

September 15, 2019

Catching trout in New Zealand is possible for fishermen of all skill levels and is permissible using most of the common methods.

New Zealand is best known for its abundance and size of trout and the large variety of locations where trout can be found. Most New Zealand lakes, rivers and streams south of Hamilton hold trout. Rainbow trout and Brown trout are the two varieties and both grow to considerable size given the right water and feed conditions.

The legal size limit is 30 cm but a trout that size is considered not worth mentioning in New Zealand. Fish in most streams grow to at least 1 Kilo and many streams and rivers have trout that can grow to well over 4 Kilos. The popular fishing locations that are relatively easy to access hold fish in the 1-3 Kilo range with the occasional much larger fish. More remote locations can hold a good number of large trout.

Most New Zealand stream allow both fly fishing and spinning but it is important to check because a few only allow fly fishing. In the lower reaches of some of the bigger rivers bait fishing is also allowed.

All three types of fly fishing can be successful in the right conditions. Dry fly fishing of course, needs to be timed with the summer period when there is a hatch of insects. Parachute Adams and Royal Wuff are popular dry flies but as any experienced fly fisherman will know, its best to try and match what is hatching at the time.

Unless you are an advanced fly fisherman, wet fly fishing works best in water that is moving and preferably not crystal clear. Wee wets work well in streams. In bigger rivers, lakes and stream mouths, the woolly bugger is a very popular fly.

Nymphing works all year round and is by far the most used and most successful method of catching trout in New Zealand. The most commonly used nymphs are the pheasant tail and hair and copper. Smaller versions of these nymphs work best unless you are fishing deeper water and need something weighted to get down to the fish.

Spinning can be remarkably successful in most waters but like wet fly it is better when you have some disturbance to cast into. Many streams are gin clear and have still sections where you can spot trout. Unfortunately you are also easily spotted the trout if unable to disguise yourself and your cast. Stealth and good presentation of the fly or spinner will dramatically improve your chances. If you are a novice it is better to fish rippled water and even then to try to avoid running your line over places where fish might be lying.

In lakes you can; fly fish, spin, jig or go harling. Most Lakes that are known for trout have guides with boats that can hired for full or half days. Most areas that have several well known well known fishing rivers also have guides that will provide transport, equipment, advice and anything else required.

If you are an intermediate to expert fly-fisherman chasing a trophy trout there are several lodges and wilderness guides that will take you to the locations where the chances of catching something really special are high. If you are a novice or if you just want to have the opportunity catch trout in the 1-4 kilo range, a guide is probably not required. Check out our self-drive fishing itineraries on

Tight Lines,


Author: David Turner