New Zealand Self Drive Adventures

August 08, 2019

Where is the best fly fishing in New Zealand?

That’s a very complicated question but the good news is there are many excellent trout fishing locations in New Zealand. The answer for you personally depends on: What style of fishing you are comfortable with or enjoy, what time of year you are coming plus weather and river conditions at the time. There are ample opportunities for world class fly-fishing and spinning in New Zealand and if you are able to be flexible and mobile based on the conditions at the time, you are likely to have the fishing trip of a life time.

From a technique perspective; Nymphing is the most popular and most widely successful in terms of number of locations and types of conditions. Dry-fly is dependent on the hatch which to a large degree is season and weather dependent. Wet-fly can be very successful in certain types of water and spinning is very productive in all but still water.

Aside from the when where and how you want to fish there is also a degree of dependency on what you want to catch. There are both rainbow and brown trout in New Zealand and both can grow to impressive sizes. In the Central North Island there is a mixture of both species in most rivers with a bias towards rainbows. In the South Island there are both species in some rivers and Browns in virtually all.

Most good fishing locations have large trout populations that range in size from 2-5 pounds and a more modest population of 6 and 7 pound fish. If you are happy regularly catching strong fighting 4 pounders there is a vast choice of places to fish. If you are wanting to catch a trophy size fish (over 10 lbs) you will need elevated skill levels or the budget to hire a top level guide and be prepared to spend several days searching and adapting. The really big trout are usually in more remote locations and not just a gentle stroll from the car. Most trophy seekers target the large browns in South Island back country streams and rivers and are happy catching one or two good size trout. If you want volume then the central North Island is a better bet.

So all that said, where are the best fly-fishing rivers in New Zealand? In the North Island; the region around lake Taupo has multiple rivers feeding to and from the lake and is considered the most predictable and productive. It is also open all year round and has good winter fishing. Lake Rotorua also has a large number of rivers but this is more of a summer fishery. The lake is shallow and gets very warm in the summer so there are large numbers of large trout migrating into the cooler streams.

In the top of the South Island around Nelson and Murchison there are a large number of streams and rivers that are renowned for large brown trout. This has traditionally been a favourite destination for overseas anglers wanting to catch a large brown trout in a rural location. A series of floods in the early 2010’s and pressure from anglers has made fishing this area much more difficult recently. The trout numbers have started to rebound from the floods but they are spooky and a high level of skill is required.

For a unique experience, there are canals near Twizel that have salmon pens and resident trout scavenging for the food that escapes from the farms. These trout grow to monstrous sizes in the 30 – 40 pound range. Here is my list of easily accessible and favourite rivers to fish when the conditions are right: Tongariro, Mohaka, Nongataha, Wangapeka, Owen, Motueka, Tauranga-Taupo, Hinemaia, Twizel canal.

For a more detailed and exhaustive list with directions on how to get there check out our do it yourself fishing adventures on

Author: David Turner