Lessons From A New Zealand Fly Fishing Guide

February 10, 2021 4 min read

Eliminate The Hassle - Lessons From  A New Zealand Fly Fishing Guide

As a fly fishing guide working in the South Island of New Zealand our normal clientele would be international anglers - but with the whole world wide pandemic our client base has changed to the domestic market, the Kiwi angler.

A lot of these anglers get in touch and say “hey I just want to get a bit of fine tuning, learn a few things”. 

Some of these people have been fishing for 20-30 years and you think "hell, how am I going to teach them something" but I guess we sometimes take for granted things that become natural or instinctive after fishing 120-130 days every season.

Let’s face it, there is a lot to fly fishing and a lot of hassle and questions - especially when you're beginning - so for me I try to eliminate as much hassle and heart ache as possible 

Here are 5 tips towards hassle free fly fishing and more time actually fishing.

Fly Fishing New Zealand

Fly Fishing Gear

I see some pretty crappy reels and lines.

I’m not sure I’d like to go to all that hassle of finally hooking that fish of a season to have my old reel let me down, I’m not saying you need the flashiest reel in the world but, if it can’t hold all your line or the drag just doesn’t quite work like it should you're going to loose fish.

The difference between a top fly reel and an average one is like 50-60 bucks.

Let me put it to you like this, if I put a set of race tires on a nice Subaru that thing feels like a race car right but if I put a set of shit tires on a Ferrari it’ll never perform like it should..... just think about it for a bit.

Fly Fishing New Zealand

Your Setup

Fly line, leader and tippet knots 

It’s frustrating getting that fly line out your guides trying to make that cast to a feeding fish eh.... why would you run a set that makes for hassle every time you actually find a fish.

First thing I do to my new fly line is cut that bloody welded loop off.... yip you heard me.

If you don’t have a nail Knott tool get one, tie your leader to the fly line with a nail knot, a drop of UV glue and trust me, you won’t worry about that knot running through the guides while you're trying to land that fish by yourself any more.

For walking around cocked and loaded put your fly on one of the last 2 or 3 eyelets on the rod , run the leader down the rod around the reel and back up so you have some fly line already out the eyelets, when you want to throw a cast just take the loop off the reel, place it in a friendly spot, strip the required line out and with a gentle tap of the rod the fly will fall off and you're good to go.

A lot of people struggle at tying their tippet knots, especially people with ageing eyes, tie a surgeons knot, I show some people that and they are like "what, how easy!" and I’m like Yeh how easy...

New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides

Reading water, fishing fishy water

Fish aren’t everywhere, they are in fishy places.

You can spend a lot of time looking into and fishing non productive water.

The skill of spotting fish and reading water is a massive advantage here in New Zealand.

One quick hint is to fish up stream it’s pretty cringy seeing people fish down stream.... just saying.

Goes without saying you want a good pair of shades but they will only do so much especially if you aren’t looking at fish.

Sounds crazy but I’m not on the river looking for an actual outline of a fish.... huh.... na I’m looking for that colour, movement that smudge in the water that if you keep looking at moves from time to time.

My eyes follow those clear windows that sometimes run down that fishy seam line or over that drop off, we call them windows for a reason.

It’s a skill that you improve on exponentially the more you do it... you kinda have to see a fish to see fish and listen to your gut. There's nothing wrong with casting at a rock, it’s the rock that swims away that you didn’t cast at that hurts.

Fly Fishing In New Zealand

Footwear and Sticks

You can pound out some miles in a season so why not do it in comfort.

There are loads of top gear on the market these days and having to break in any boots is just something you don’t have to do anymore but spend that little more it’s not a massive upgrade to get those boots that are going to last a little longer and feel a bit better.

Collapsible walking sticks are everywhere these days and for a good reason, they are light, store away, and can hang off your belt. They aren't just for the old either, they can make a hairy crossing with a 3 day back country pack on your back not so dam hairy and have other use if like a fly poke etc

Give It A Go!

In many cases the biggest mistake can be to not try

Sometimes you're just going to find yourself in a position where there is just no conventional way to have a go, or you assess a situation and think I know what that book said but this feels right.... well have a go. It might work and you learn a lot from those situations no matter what the outcome. If it works it’s a very rewarding feeling.

I could go into fly selection and all sorts of bits and pieces but this is a few easy tips to take a bit of pain out of your leisure time.

One more thing to remember is the best fly fisherman is the person with the biggest smile on their face so let’s ditch the hassle and turn that frown upside down.........and spend more time actually fishing

Gordy Watson is a highly regarded New Zealand Fly Fishing & Hunting Guide - You can enlist his services via his website https://gordywatson.co.nz/

New Zealand Trout Fly Fishing


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