Fly Fishing The South Island

I just got back from a trip down to New Zealand’s South Island. If there’s anywhere in the world that represents my happy place, it’s New Zealand. The people constantly blow me away with their kindness, sincerity, and self-effacing humor. It’s the land of 40 million sheep and only 4 million people. Roughly 75% of the total (human) population lives on the North Island.

It goes without saying, that New Zealand is also absolutely stunning. Mt Cook (12,218 feet) essentially rises up from sea level. That’s nearly twice the relief of our highest point in Idaho. It’s green. Super green in many places. There’s wine country. Glaciers. The rivers vary from tiny spring creeks, dry and windy Canterbury freestones, to wild blue-green glacial fed rivers. There’s a huge variety.

The fishing is the icing on the cake and the South Island is without a doubt my favorite place to trout fish. The fish population is not high by North American standards. The browns can be very, very wary. The brown trout can also exceed 12 plus pounds.

If there’s a problem—besides the sand flies—just knowing the fish get so big can set unrealistic expectations. Couple that with the fact that many South Island watersheds don’t have consistent prolific hatches like we do in the West. Sure there are mayflies and caddis but not to the extent that one can expect to see rising fish on any given river on any given day.

My advice to anyone, this really applies to fishing anywhere, is to first really appreciate who you’re with and where you are. I’ve found that if you truly appreciate both of these these things then the fish will often follow.

Scott Murray seconds before landing a nice South Island brown. Scott is the co-owner of River Haven Lodge located near Murchison on the South Island. I was fortunate to have just spent 7 days on the water with Scotty where there were plenty of shenanigans and nonsense. As a guide myself, I cannot say how much I’ve learned from fishing with Scotty over the years.