NZ is an anglers paradise, just ask fly fishing guide Matt Butler. When he’s not working on his adventure brand KEA Outdoors, Matt loves fly fishing all over New Zealand, and he wants to help you plan a trip!

If you’ve ever been to New Zealand or heard people talk about it, you’ll already know that it features an abundance of wild places carved up by gin-clear rivers and lakes. Granted, these are a feast for the eyes, what’s more interesting though are the monsters that lie within.

We’re not talking about the Loch Ness monster or the infamous native Tuna Kuwharuwharu long fin, the world’s biggest freshwater eels that grow metres long.

Instead, somewhat surprising to many, are the humble trout, a fish that haunts a keen angler’s dreams as it thrives amongst New Zealand’s pristine waterways.



New Zealand is often heralded as the ‘El Dorado’ of fly fishing for wild trout and has lately grown in popularity amongst curious Aussies looking for a snake free riverbank to wander.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that trout here not only grow to impressive (even world record) sizes, but they live in some of the most beautiful places on earth. This, combined with ease of public access, makes NZ one of the finest examples of intrepid angling on the planet.



If you’ve ever considered touching a fly fishing rod, NZ may be the place for you. This often-mysterious pastime can be tricky to plan for, so here we’re going to break down the what, when, and how of chasing trout in NZ.

You’ll be fully prepared when it’s time to tick it off your bucket list next time you cross the ditch!

The Basics of Fly Fishing

At the foundation of fly fishing are a few important skills and some local knowledge. Now, you can hire the latter but the first takes time and practice.

These skills can be taught by a guide on the water, however to get the most out of your experience it’s best you learn the fundamentals first.

The key part of this is learning to effectively and accurately cast a fly fishing rod, as trout in NZ are often smarter than even the most skilled angler.



Mastering the art of casting will go a long way to making your trip a lifetime memory, but will require focused time and effort to learn. Grabbing a cheap rod from your local store and practising in your backyard is a great way to start.

Read more: The Majesty of a Day Spent Fly Fishing in Kosci

It’s also important to understand the seasons and time of year that you’ll be planning your visit. The normal trout fishing season runs from October to April, however some areas may have this extended until May or even June (particularly on the North Island).

In reality there are fishing options available all year round, but as trout are cyclical and finicky creatures, you want to target them when your chances are best. Depending on the region this time can range throughout the whole season, a good rule of thumb is to target early and late seasons when the fish are in a transitioning period.

Mid-summer fishing can be spectacular, however it’s often best suited to more experienced anglers as low water levels and warm temperatures make fish wary.

Decide on Your Purpose

The best way to start planning your NZ fly fishing trip is to understand what you want to get out of the experience. When working as a professional fly fishing guide, my clients ranged from first-timers to life long anglers. However one thing always dictated the ‘success’ of their trip – the expectations they entered with.

The key is to not be hard on yourself (or your guide) when things don’t go to plan. If you’re using a guide, be honest and upfront about where you’re at and what you want out of the day. It will help them plan better and they’ll also tell you if it’s realistic.



By nature, fly fishing is unpredictable, so just put yourself out there with a great attitude and you’re guaranteed to have a great day. In order to have the best experience, start by keeping your expectations relative to your skill level and then plan your adventure accordingly.

Choose Where in New Zealand You Want to Fly Fish

Now you’ve set your expectations, you can move onto selecting the best region to meet them. New Zealand has an incredibly diverse landscape and environment, from deserts to rainforest and everything in between.

These sharp changes in landscape also impact the rivers with everything ranging from gorge lines creek to huge open and braided river valleys. Even more amazing is the variation in water colour, at times sparkling emerald green and others being pure ‘gin’ clear.



The wide variety of landscapes and water features also makes for a diverse range of fishing options and even species. For instance, North Island rivers are dominated by Rainbow Trout whereas South Island rivers are dominated by the Brown Trout, some exclusively.

Keeping all this in mind, there are regions of the country better suited to your specific goals. Locations that best suit certain skill levels, single anglers or multi-angler groups, easy access or remote waters and for the most adventurous, even some heli-fishing options.


Prepare For Everything – Pack Gear for All Conditions

When heading over to NZ, people often underestimate the gear required, especially during summer when they expect it to be ‘warm’. The reality is that the weather here can be unsettled at the best of times, with wild winds and even snow possible in summer.

Prepare for the worst and you’ll enjoy the best is my motto.

If you’re heading into even semi-remote locations, do not count on cell-service and ensure you’re carrying sufficient weather-proof clothing and a PLB (personal locator beacon). If you don’t own one, these can be hired from DOC (Department of Conservation) offices around the country.

Read more: PLBs and Satellite Messengers – Everything You Need to Know

Now back to fishing. Most guides will be able to provide you gear if you don’t have it or want to bring your own. But if you’re looking to deck yourself out for a fishing trip, it’s best you head into a local fishing store on arrival and grab what they think will suit your chosen region. Fly fishing gear can vary wildly depending on the circumstances and you don’t want to be bringing a knife to a gunfight (or the opposite!).

Read more: What To Wear When Hiking – A Beginner’s Guide


Find An Expert at Fly Fishing

When it all comes down to it, fly fishing is a pursuit measured in years or even decades, not days. So if you’re on a trip to New Zealand and you can spare a day or two to get on the water, a guide is essential. I’ve seen many anglers attempt the ‘Do It Yourself’ trip without realising the specific nature of fishing in NZ. They then scratch around at the last minute in search of a guide, only to be disappointed as most are booked up well in advance.



Guides in NZ aren’t cheap, nor should they be. Becoming one is a huge undertaking of both skill and time spent on the water, learning the area like the back of their hand.

They’re worth their weight in gold! If you find a good one, you’re likely to improve your skills more in a few days than you would in a whole year fishing alone.



There are now many guides throughout the country and your best bet to ensure quality is hiring a registered NZPFGA guide. You can find a list for those in your chosen region on their website.

One thing to keep in mind is that using a guide will go a long way to helping you reach your goals, but they can’t manufacture things to exceed high expectations. Take things with a grain of salt, listen to them, and enjoy the time learning together.

Start Planning Your Trip!

A trip over the ditch is a chance to explore some of the finest waters in the world. Whether you’re a keen angler or just an outdoor lover, New Zealand can offer you the experience of a lifetime, and maybe even encourage you to begin a love for fly fishing you never knew you had.


Looking to kit out an adventure locally, or across the ditch? Check out the innovative products at Matt’s company KEA Outdoors.