5 Tips to Get Hooked Up in the New Zealand Backcountry

Had the pleasure of fishing in the South Island back country with Shelen Boyes and top South Island guide Chris Dore, who kindly invited us down for a fish with him over a couple of days he had off from work. We jumped at the chance, and the resulting video is one of many spectacular dry fly takes we had whilst surrounded by some of the best scenery New Zealand has to offer! The fish (a nice rainbow jack) was nymphing and rising hard in a foam line dropping off a shallow pebble shelf and had zero hesitation in eating a size 10 Parachute Madam X.1. Casting
It is absolutely vital that you are able to get your fly in the zone and make that first cast count. Fishing long leaders (18-20ft) is common in the crystal clear waters, so make sure you get some substantial practice in before coming over! Set hoops up on the ground at 15-60 feet and cast a variety of weighted, unweighted and different sized flies at them until you are landing them inside the hoops – this will set you up well for most situations you will come across.

2. Fly selection
Having a variety of sizes and different bead colors is also a must in the South Island backcountry. One particular fish on this last trip really showed how changing the bead color of your fly can make all the difference. In this case, a size 12 pheasant tail with a gold bead was being refused every drift by a nice brown which was nymphing hard, moving aggressively a good distance across the run to eat. Chris suggested the same fly with a dark bead, first cast and he smashed it!

3. Take your time
While walking the river, don’t rush! You’ll only end up spooking those fish that emerge at the last second and you’ll also walk past a lot more hidden amongst the rocks on the bottom! When you’ve spotted a fish, take the time to plan. Choose where to cast from, gauge the distance and locate reference points. That way, if you are helping to spot a fish for another angler it is easy to convey to them were to adjust their cast to if the fish moves while they are out of sight of the fish. You might only get a couple of shots at fish during the day so make them count!

This is a major, read the signposts on the river access points! Most anglers have notes written as to where they will be fishing for the day, how many of them and what time they expect to back so check the car windows in the car parks as that can save a confrontation on the river. Jumping another angler is a surefire way to ruin their day, and there is no shortage of rivers to fish so if in doubt, fish somewhere else!

5. Be prepared!
The New Zealand backcountry is not a place to be taken lightly. The weather can change from hot and sunny to raining/snowing, windy and cold in a matter of minutes and if you aren’t ready for it, exposure and hypothermia can quite easily put you in hospital, or worse. Make sure you have sufficient food and water, clothing for all situations, and that someone knows where you are going to be fishing and when you expect to be back. A personal locator beacon is also a very good idea (I don’t go backcountry without one) they can be hired over here if you don’t own one personally.

Hopefully, these tips can give you a bit of an insight into what you need for the trip of a lifetime! See you out there.

Connor Andrew is an angler who specializes in the New Zealand Backcountry. Check him out on Instagram @newzealandflyfisher

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