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Fly fishing etiquette

Purpose of observing fishing etiquette when fishing New Zealand waters

The accepted rules of behaviour when accessing and fishing New Zealand waters are based on consideration for other anglers and for the land owners who permit access through or to their land. Observing these rules will also ensure you stay within the law, avoid conflict, and help maintain the good reputation of anglers generally. It is especially important that you are aware of good angling manners when fishing heavily-fished rivers such as the Tongariro and the smaller backcountry rivers where each angler requires good space to explore the rivers.

Rights of access

Most rivers cross private land and the rights of the land-owner must be respected. Do ask the owner permission before crossing their land (and use this opportunity to check if there are any dangers to be aware of eg large bulls). Very rarely is permission denied when asked for. Respect the landowners property. Leave everything as you found it. If a gate is open leave it that way. Likewise if it is closed. Our ability to continue to have free access to cross land is dependent on farmers and other landowners being able to trust that we, as anglers and guests on their land, will behave responsibly.

Using boat ramps

For guidelines about launching your boat at a boat ramp, see Boating Etiquette.

Fish disturbance

A fisherman on a back country river will not appreciate the trout being scared off by a disturbance. Especially on a small stream, give other anglers 3 km of undisturbed river. It may be better to find another stream.

If you need to approach someone who is fishing, do so quietly, keeping well back from the water, and signal your intentions. Even your reflection on the water may spook the trout.

Fish disturbance is not such as issue when fishing for fish on a spawning run in Taupo rivers and pools.

Good manners on river and streams

- Respect other anglers already on the water.

- Inquire politely about their plans.

- At stream mouths, join a line of anglers at the end unless there is a large gap.

- Ask if it's okay to join an already occupied pool.

- If a pool is full, wait on the bank or move somewhere else.

- If you join others fishing a pool, don't fish the water someone is just about to fish.

- Do not monopolise a stretch of water, even if you're catching fish there, while others are waiting.

- Move upstream or downstream with every few casts unless you are alone.

- When sharing a pool, accepted practice is to take a step every time you cast.

- Leave plenty of room for your neighbour to cast, and to play and reel in a hooked fish.

- Do not fill a gap left by an angler landing a fish - let them return.

- If other anglers offend through inexperience, have a gentle word with them.

Upstream and downstream fishing

- If a pool is being fished downstream by wetfly anglers, start upstream of them.

- If a pool is being fished upstream by nymph anglers, start downstream of them.

- Start your angling in the opposite direction.

- Don't start fishing a pool downstream when someone else is fishing it upstream

- Don't start fishing a pool upstream when someone else is fishing it downstream

- If in doubt, ask where to fish so as not to cause a disturbance.

Good manners on lakes

- Give plenty of room to anglers who are trolling or harling to avoid cutting their lines

- Try to "go with the flow" which is usually to troll parallel to the shore.

- When you meet another boat head on, leave them plenty of room to manoevre.

- When parking your boat for jigging or flyfishing, give other boaties room to cast & fish.

- Avoid anchoring in popular trolling runs.

- Allow other anglers peace and quiet; avoid fishing on top of other boats.

- Avoid making a lot of noise unless you are well away on your own somewhere.

Access etiquette

These rules apply to accessing fishing waters via private land.

- No dogs

- No guns

- No camping

- Request permission to cross private land

- Offer thanks on leaving

- Leave gates as you find them (open or shut)

- Stay within the river margins

- Do not litter

- Be aware of fire risk

- Respect private property

- Avoid disturbing stock or damaging crops

- Do not park vehicles in gaterways

- Be courteous to local landowners and others

Fish refuse and litter

Please take all litter away with you and note that it is an offence to leave any fish refuse on lake or river banks. The Freshwater Fisheries Regulations state that no person shall leave any fish or any cleanings or offal from fish, lying unburied on the bank or margin of any waters.

For further information

For more information about fishing etiquette:


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