The Land Down Under

Turning 40 is a great excuse to go fishing…Well, actually making good on a small kitchen remodel and turning 40 allowed a couple of family guys to fulfil a dream of chasing big browns in the backcountry of New Zealand.

Todd and I have been fishing partners for almost 30 years and logged a lot of Pacific Northwest River miles together. Unfortunately on this trip we only had 8 full days in New Zealand to make as much fishing and exploring as possible happen. Here are a few things we learned:

Go on overnight trips into the backcountry

Don’t bring a 20 year old tent. We spent our first couple of days hiking into a remote river on the South Island with a guide. After a 45 minute walk with our packs we were at the river and it was game on. We both got schooled on our first fish, but my first fish to the net ended up being a 9 pound brown! It became very apparent throughout our trip that the key to these monsters was finding unpressured fish. We didn’t see a soul and camped riverside about 7 miles into the spectacular backcountry. The memory of our epic first day did help us survive a very wet night as our rainfly didn’t hold up to the overnight downpour.

Hire a guide for part of the trip 

As a fall and winter steelhead guide on the Klamath and Rogue rivers, I am well aware of how a guide can shorten the learning curve on a new piece of water. This is especially true in New Zealand as sighting and stalking these fish is really unlike anything I have experienced in the states. The water is clear, they feed in much shallower water and there are no real predators in New Zealand (no osprey, eagle, bear, otter ect.).

Fish without a guide for part of the trip

After acquiring some vital knowledge, my favorite days were the challenge of figuring it out on our own. We had a skunk day, but we also had a couple of incredible days working as a team to hook fish.

Cover a lot of water, but don’t give up on a feeding fish

We would often hike 8+ miles a day to allow multiple chances at big fish. If a found fish was feeding, we spent up to 15 minutes working that fish with different flies until we got a take. The Kiwi’s pointed out that Americans tend to be short on patience.

Practice casting with long leaders before you go. 

Fifteen foot leaders are the norm and we had one guide put us on almost 20 foot leaders

Sandflies are for real 

Buff and gloves are pretty much mandatory for sweet American blood on the South Island.

New Zealand beer on tap is terrible

We found a few ok bottled beers, but sorry Kiwi’s, you have a beautiful country and spectacular trout, but the Pacific Northwest has a huge leg up with brewing.

Written by Ryan Allred - High School Biology Teacher and Owner of Jefferson Flywater guide service.