February 27, 2020
The short answer is New Zealand.
Large trout in rivers
Depending on what you consider big, there are a variety of rivers and streams in New Zealand that will meet or exceed your expectations. Most waterways that hold good populations of trout produce “large compared to most places” sized trout. There are also rivers that produce “large by any standard” sized trout. More importantly there are hundreds of rivers in the first category and tens of rivers in the second. Incredibly, the smallest streams can often produce very large fish and sight fishing opportunities are abundant.
Good sized resident trout are present year-round but during the lead up to spawning season fish are moving upstream and the quantity of larger trout increases noticeably. The fishing season in spawning streams closes as spawning gets into full swing but in the weeks leading up to this point the fishing can be incredible (if you know where to go). Early in the season when fishing has been closed for months can also be exceptional but, many fish are still recovering from spawning and can be slab-like while they regain condition. Mid-summer often sees river levels drop and water temperatures rise making fish seek out cooler more oxygenated water. Spring and Autumn are ideal fishing times in New Zealand IE: early October – early December and late March - late June
New Zealand rivers and streams hold Rainbow and Brown trout. Rainbows are more prevalent in the North Island and Browns are dominant in the South Island. Although Rainbows are more common in the North, there are also plenty of Browns. However, there are only small pockets of Rainbows in the South.
Most streams known as worthwhile fishing locations hold a good population of 3-4 lb fish. There will also be fish in the 5- 7 lb range which require a higher level of skill and a bit of walking to get away from areas that are under regular angling pressure. There may also be potential for something even larger in some of these waterways but, the majority of fish will be under 5 lbs. By most standards that is still a large trout from a stream.
Then there are those special places that hold a good number of 6 lb plus fish as well as a moderate number of significantly larger fish. In New Zealand; a trout weighing over 10 lbs, caught in a river or stream, is considered trophy size. This is something serious local anglers strive for and only occasionally achieve. These fish are mainly in remote locations and are wily, they haven’t grown to that size by being careless. Some wild trout can grow up to 20 lbs but rarely and usually in very remote locations. Anything over 12 lbs would be a lifetime catch for most serious anglers in NZ. Those same anglers will have caught countless fish over 5 lbs.
There are some true monsters to be caught in the canals near Twizel in the South Island. The canals have salmon pens and the resident trout gorge themselves on food pellets that have escaped. If you are prepared to do some drifting with imitation eggs and brave the cold there are some enormous specimens. 30 lb - 40 lb trout have been caught in this location.
Large trout in lakes
If you prefer to be sedentary and not to spend time hiking, then wet fly fishing the stream mouths in certain lakes can produce large numbers of big trout during the right conditions, particularly at night. Lake Rotorua and Lake Taupo are famous for this and an evening where 10 or more 6 lb plus fish are caught is not unheard of.
In summary:If you want to fish waterways that are relatively easy to access and have the prospect of catching something over 5lbs, New Zealand is the place to do this. You won’t need to hire a guide or jump through hoops to get permission from land owners etc. However, you will need some basic local knowledge. If you want to target something approaching double figures then the same applies but you are better to have a guide or at least do some serious research and be prepared to make the effort to walk in to areas that are not heavily fished.
Check out our self-guided fishing itineraries on www.selfdriveadventures.co.nz
Author: Dave Turner