I'VE JUST returned from another trip to the land of the Long White Cloud, and am still fired up by the fabulous fishing over there!
This year's trip was different from the others in many ways, including being faced with stricter air travel restrictions. Some of the new regulations are pretty severe, and apply to domestic travel as well, so it’s important that you plan ahead to avoid being disappointed at the last minute.
The first thing is to consider is your fly rods. Yes – those lovely, expensive four-piece travel rods we adore aren’t allowed aboard the cabin as hand luggage. Your rods will have to travel with the general baggage. Before you leave home, tape the cases together with a couple of pieces of solid dowel, such as broom handle, into the bundle to strengthen and reinforce it. A robust name tag on the package is smart thinking.
Once booked in as luggage, you’ll need to take your rod package to the 'Oversize Baggage' counter. There it will be weighed again, checked for luggage registration tags relating to a boarding pass, and often given another X-ray. I put a ‘Fragile’ sticker on my rods last trip with the blessing of air line staff. In all fairness, they do try to help.
Your fishing gear is next. If you want to take your fly vest aboard the plane in a backpack, it will get a lot of X-ray scrutiny. Objects such as hook removal forceps, line cutters and the like will be closely examined and assessed for their potential as weapons. They may be removed and kept for you to pick up when you return. Scissors, small pocket knives and the like will definitely be removed and held for your return. The best option is to pack your fly vest in a travel bag with the rest of your clothing.
Once you arrive in New Zealand, the quarantine people will take a keen interest in your fishing gear. They’ll want to inspect your landing net, your waders, felt-soled shoes and possibly your flies. This is because, when you fill out the New Zealand entry card you receive on the plane, they’ll see the ticked boxes for ‘Sporting equipment’ and/or ‘Material involving feather and fur pieces’. If you don’t tick these boxes to declare your gear, the X-ray machine will catch you out.
The quarantine folk will survey your fishing gear after you clear initial customs entry and have collected your luggage. These helpful folk don’t try to put obstacles in the way, and often like to talk fishing.
Bear in mind that you can’t bring bits of fur strip or feathers on skin into New Zealand, and the same applies in Australia. Tools, hooks, and thread are fine.
Once you have a fishing license for the relevant period, it's all go to the nearest stream. Look out, trout! A family fishing license for Mum and Dad and a child under 16 is a far better option than buying licenses for each. There are good savings there.
My last trip was in late November and, unusually, the Winter weather was trying to hold on. The locals grumbled that the weather was “simply lousy”, and after three weeks there I had to agree. The weather changed every couple of days, with rain, strong winds, and snow on the hills at Twizel. On November 20 at Omarama in the South Island we experienced 5ºC at midday. Ten minutes later it started to snow. Not much fun.
But the fishing was simply brilliant on days when it was a bit warmer. On one memorable day, two young blokes I guided had a ball on rising fish in the Ahuriri River at Omarama. On two cool and windy days they picked off rainbows up to 1.5kg from the runs at the head of pools just for practice. This was in the river above town, where there were three or four fish per pool.
The following day we woke to a fine and foggy morning with little breeze. Sensing the weather change, I headed straight to the Ahuriri River near Lake Benmore. On the first big pool with a gentle glide in its tail, some serious brown trout were gently sipping from the top water. Tennis ball sized heads were just breaking the surface with barely a ripple, so gentle and deliberate was the feeding session. One angler landed a brown trout over 2.6kg, and his mate scored two over 3.2kg. These are massive trout by Aussie standards, but over in New Zealand they hardly rate a comment!
What was exceptional was the manner in which these fish were sipping small caddis around the size 18 mark, and yet were duped by a well presented size 14 mayfly imitation – the trusty Adams. My clients scored more than 20 fish over 1.5kg that day. That's world class fishing, and it’s what fly fishing New Zealand is all about.
1) This scenery is pure New Zealand… rugged hills, a gravel-bedded stream fringed by a few willows, and an angler holding a fat brown trout taken on fly.Reads: 769