Freshwater Fishing: A "how to" guide

New Zealand's trout and salmon fishing is rightly regarded as the best in the world because of the beautiful scenery, well-conditioned trophy fish and the variety of the New Zealand fly fishing experience.

New Zealand also offers coarse fishing and great salt-water fly fishing.

Getting around
New Zealand has limited public transport so hiring a car is a necessity if you are to access the best fishing. Vehicles can be hired from any airport using this form which compares car availability from a number of reputable companies.
  Finding the best places to fish
Some of New Zealand's best fresh water fishing spots are well known and popular, others are under-fished but equally deserving of the angler's attention. For a selection:

  • See best places to fish or
  • Order one of our travel guides with suggested fishing trip itineraries and our free guide to planning a New Zealand fishing trip
  Getting to the fishing

Unless you are hiring a guide, you will need a vehicle to get to the fishing on most lakes and rivers. You can hire a rental car, motorhome or campervan. Travelling in a motorhome or campervan allows to travel independently and flexibly, at your own pace. A 4-wheel drive vehicle may be needed to drive to the more remote fishing over unformed roads and tracks.

Freedom Fishing

Much of New Zealand's best fishing is able to be easily reached by vehicle. And to increase the range of waters able to fish, a good four wheel drive is recommended. Many rivers and lakes are remote but do have tracks to them suitable for a 4WD vehicle. Combined with a tent and camping equipment, the numbers of rivers and lakes open to the intrepid angler is huge. There is nothing more frustrating than having to leave a great fishing spot because you have to get back to your accommodation in daylight hours and so miss the best evening fishing times. A tent and a good vehicle allow you to really experience the best of the backcountry fishing available.

Four wheel drive vehicles can be hired through New Zealand 4WD Hire which has offices at the two major international terminals at Auckland and Christchurch. New Zealand 4WD Hire can also arrange for the hire of tents and other camping equipment to save you bringing these bulky items in as part of your baggage allowance.

And do remember that New Zealand has extremely strict bio-security procedures and any camping equipment brought into the country that border control suspects has been used overseas and may contain unwanted organism will be taken away and cleaned. A process that can take a few days thereby shortening your fishing time considerably.

* As of 1 September 2011, Councils and the Department of Conservation will have the power to restrict freedom camping from specific areas, and fine people $200 for breaking the law; a heftier fine of up to $10,000 can be sought for more serious breaches such as dumping waste.

The Freedom Camping Bill 306-2 (2011) is a response to community concerns about pollution and waste left behind by freedom campers travelling the country.

Backcountry fishing
While a number of rivers are easily reached by car there are many places where the best fishing is found after some effort is expended in getting there. This can involve walking for a few hours or taking a mountain bike or even a horse to the fishing area. Due to their remoteness they get less fishing pressure and so often provide the best fishing.

Note: Some of the best and most popular back country rivers require a special licence to fish.

Wilderness fishing
There are many rivers in New Zealand that require considerable effort to get to (or the expense of a helicopter or jet boat). To walk in can take a day or longer but the angler is usually rewarded with pristine water that is seldom fished and in pristine condition.
 Using a fishing guide
An experienced New Zealand fishing guide can provide invaluable expertise, transport, and often fly fishing tackle as well. Some New Zealand fly fishing guides even offer a "no fish, no pay" policy when trolling for trout. Many professional New Zealand fly fishing guides are members of the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association, NZPGA.

To find a fly fishing guide in any region, first select the region from the New Zealand fly fishing regions map, then select Fishing Guides from the menu.

  New Zealand fishing methods

In New Zealand, fresh water fishing is permitted using the following methods:

  • Fly fishing
    • Dry fly fishing
    • Wet fly fishing
    • Nymphing
  • Spinning
  • Bait fishing
  • Boat fishing
    • Trolling
    • Harling
    • Jigging

See  New Zealand fishing methods for more information.

  Flies and lures
Trout are an introduced species to New Zealand. Since their arrival in the late 1800s they have successfully adapted to the conditions in this country. And as New Zealand is a long country stretching form the north to the south the conditions they encounter are different in each area. likewise the food they can depend upon to eat is also different both in regards to their location and time of the year.

A typical New Zealand fly box: Find out about and view pictures of commonly used trout flies and the food they imitate.

Index of trout flies and lures: Browse a huge selection of New Zealand trout fishing flies, spinners and lures.

  The New Zealand fishing year

Most New Zealand fishing waters are open during the warmer month from October to April, while some New Zealand lakes and rivers are also open for winter fishing. See the New Zealand fishing year for a month-by-month description of New Zealand fishing.

  Fishing etiquette

A code of expected behaviour governs the way anglers interact, particularly in popular New Zealand fishing spots. Please see New Zealand fishing etiquette.

  Boat fishing guidelines

New Zealand boat fishing guidelines

Please see New Zealand boat fishing guidelines for some common sense rules to follow when launching and retrieving a boat at busy boat ramps.

  Help prevent didymo

Please check, clean and dry your equipment after fishing in New Zealand waters to help prevent the spread of didymo (also known as rock snot).
See preventing didymo spreading in New Zealand fishing waters for further details.

  Further information
  • Fish & Game New Zealand fishing access pamphlets:
    What Fish & Game New Zealand fishing access pamphlets are available, where to get them, and links to online versions.
  • Fish & Game New Zealand contact details:
    How to contact the regional offices of Fish & Game New Zealand with queries or for advice about freshwater fishing.
  • A glossary of New Zealand fishing terms:
    A glossary of terms relevant to trout and salmon fishing in New Zealand.
  • Fishing Events
  • Kids fishing is the complete guide to New Zealand trout and salmon fishing.

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